The industry really has run away with bi-folding doors over the past few years hasn’t it. They have become a must have product for hundreds of thousands of homeowners across the UK, in the attempt to open up a room fully or really make the most of the gardens. In the PVC, aluminium and timber worlds, there is a glut of choice of bi-fold door products, almost too much. Oddly, last year the bi-fold sector lost 7%, perhaps something not many of us saw coming. Still, the bi-fold market is a massive one, and will probably continue to grow long term.
But lets not forget the humble sliding patio door, one of the products many homeowners have left behind in favour of this new modern folding option. So, which one is better?
Well, when it comes to opening space, there is no denying bi-folding doors come out on top on this one. Whilst a normal residential sliding door can open, there is always a fixed section which you can do little about. You could go down the route of a more commercial or architectural sliding patio door which has the extra runners to allow the normally fixed section to slide away, allowing for the full opening to be used. But that is a much more expensive option. A bi-folding door can easily achieve a full opening, be it two metres wide or six.
When it comes to style though, people often forget how good a sliding patio door can look. Say you have a five metre wide opening facing onto your garden with views that go on for miles. Do you want to have a five section bi-fold, with four uprights spoiling that view? Probably not. But with the higher end aluminium sliding doors you could fit a quite visually impressive two section door, giving you maximum glass, almost uninterrupted views and still a big opening space with it. Can’t say that with bi-folds!
I’m looking at this more from a homeowner’s perspective rather than an industry one. On the surface, a sliding door might be the cheaper option. In the PVC world this is usually the case. Bi-folds require more manufacturing, there’s a lot more to it than a slider. Therefore, logic dictates that bi-folds should cost more.
But the same might not be said in the world of aluminium. If you take the above example of the big five metre aluminium bi-fold versus the five meter sliding patio door, there may not be that much difference. A sliding aluminium door of that size could cost a pretty penny. Could it be much more than it’s bi-fold equivalent? It might not be. I’m sure my friends in the aluminium world can help educate me here – comments welcome in the section below!
Depends on the property
In the end, most homeowners will settle on one side of the fence or the other according to what their property will allow and how they intend to use it. For maximum views and minimal space incursions, a slider will be best. For maximum opening space and creating a visually impressive look, bi-folds are the answer.
When it comes to the industry though, I think we may have ditched the sliding door a bit too early. There has been so much emphasis on bi-folding doors over the past few years, that we seem to have forgotten some of the most useful and reliable products we have been selling for years. I know that Paul Ogle from Olsen UK will agree with me on this. We have talked before about how sliding doors, in the right property, create a visually better look and can be more practical too – I think it was after a 2014 episode of Grand Designs where a house was built to float when the river it was next to flooded!
As always, I would love you feedback and reactions. Please leave all comments in the section below.
To answer your title question, neither are better! Lift & slide doors (ultimately a sliding door with a different operation and method of sealing) are by far the best option for thermal values, wind & water resistance and ease of operability. But like you say, ultimately it comes down to home owners personal preference. A lot of people come to our showroom wanting bi-folds but when they see them next to our lift & slide doors and actually realise that the bi-folds would only be fully open a handful of times throughout the year, they will quite often opt for… Read more »
Great article today, it’s the question we get asked dozens of times a day. With regards to your question on price, you are right that with aluminium sliding doors they work out about the same and some times a bit more. Of course there is less time and material in the manufacture of a sliding door, however the price is driven up by the need to use at least 6mm units over 4mm. Also the glass areas usually fall into the categories from sealed unit manufacturers that can have a 25%, 50% or even 70% surcharge due to the sizes.… Read more »
We have been doing some research on this same problem and we do like The New Wave Door. We have seen them in action and are probably going to get them in our showroom. As a mixture between a Bi-Fold Door and a Sliding Door it is always worth a look!
We have installed a number of 4-pane sliding patio doors and the look it great, able to go up to 6 meters is a bonus and a much cheaper alternative to bifolds. If I had the choice though I think I’d go for a WarmCore bifold door, it’s a great system!
In North America there is a wide variety in terms of performance and quality. If you have either product that is not durable or weather-tight, it is a waste of money. I would suggest that the homeowner, architect, or designer would be best suited decide what product is best for a specific project. Space, lighting, weather, and views can all be different.
We have the same discussions in Australia. Although we would fully open the Bi-Folds more often here, we do have a problem with installing Fly Screens to them, so I tend to recommend sliders.
I think you hit the nail on the head when mentioning that the decision between sliding doors and bi-folds depends on how the homeowner will use his space. I have a sliding door and have to admit that I love it. It makes letting the dog in and out a lot more convenient. However, I do wish I had the extra space the bi-fold doors would give. Not to mention that they do look more classy.
I find that doors are good for several reasons. They allow access to a home and add to the appearance of a room. I like that bi fold doors are good to conserve space and help the room feel more open. Another thing to think about would be if this door is a good option for pets.