Bi-Folding or Sliding Patio doors?

The great British summer and all it entails is just around the corner. Playing with the kids in the garden, barbeques and unexpected downpours – it’s all part of the mix.

How your home connects to your garden is more important than any other time of the year. French doors provide a timeless and classical connection between indoor and outdoor spaces but it’s sliding patio doors and latterly bifolding doors, which enjoy greatest popularity amongst homeowners.

Attributed to the ‘Grand Designs’ effect, we’ve seen a consistently growing demand for bi-fold doors. Available in a huge range of configurations and material types, they provide a literal connection between your home and outdoor spaces, rolling back to open whole facades.

But that doesn’t mean that patio doors don’t continue to have significant appeal. Grand Designs has again been a factor. It’s featured numerous high-end projects where property owners have selected large aluminium systems to create and almost uninterrupted vista, regardless of whether doors are open or closed.

So which should you choose? Well as you might expect, there are pluses for each. Ultimately your choice will come down to the type of space, how you use it and your lifestyle but here are some things to consider:

  • The first question is what’s more important to you? Opening up a space in its entirety in summer or enjoying uninterrupted views year round.  The great thing about bi-fold doors is that they will stack neatly away, concertina-fashion at one end of the space. The downside is that there are limits on the maximum sizes of individual door leafs (around one metre), which is why you need more of them.This isn’t an issue in summer when doors are open but can interrupt views when closed. A pedestrian door (one that opens and close like a conventional door) is essential in my opinion, so you can let the dog out or hang out the washing without opening all the doors.  Inline sliding doors can span larger areas leaving views uninterrupted. Triple-track running options means they can also stack neatly on top of one another.

  • Space. Do you have it in the right places? Double and triple track options on inline sliding patio doors are great where space is a premium because they’re almost self-contained, rolling back on themselves. Bi-fold doors are also incredibly flexible and can be set to open inwards or outwards but they will ultimately need space to stack somewhere.
  • Material type is also an important consideration. Timber doors, bifolding or inline sliding, deliver a stunning aesthetic but you need to be prepared to show them a little TLC and maintenance. PVC-U doors are low maintenance and energy efficient and today come in a wide variety of finishes and colours but sightlines are slightly bulkier. Aluminium is the best option for larger spans regardless of door type as it has a greater structural integrity and can span larger gaps, although there is a slight trade-off on energy efficiency.
  • Ease of use - If younger, older or those with restricted mobility are going to be using the doorway you may want to consider patio doors. Ease of operation is greater, with soft touch systems requiring minimal effort to open and close. There’s also less opportunity to trap little fingers! Bi-folding and inline sliding doors will also come with low thresholds but consider the aspect and weather exposure before making your choice.
  • Who you get to fit it! There isn’t too much to go wrong with inline sliding doors, they’re largely self-contained but the professional touch is nonetheless important to ensure smooth running and operation. Bi-folding doors are a far more demanding installation. Anyone who isn’t fitting them on a daily basis and expertly trained will struggle, so if your jobbing builder offers up their services, you may want to think twice!

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