Bi-folding doors are here to stay. Thanks to their concertina-style construction, they can be made large enough to replace entire walls – and being mostly made from glass, they’ll allow light to easily circulate your interior, which will further contribute to the sense of space.
That said, bi-folding doors are just one of several types of doors which serve much the same purpose. Are bi-folding doors good or bad when compared with the alternatives? Let’s find out.
Sliding doors, like bi-folding doors, consist of several panels which sit side-by-side to cover the gap when the door is closed. Instead of folding outward as the door opens, however, sliding panels will move behind one another until just a single panel remains.
Whether you opt for bi-fold doors or sliders, you’ll be presented with impressive views of the other side, as they can both be made very large, and they both comprise copious amounts of glass.
Sliding doors are almost always used to separate the home from the garden, thanks to their main drawback: they can’t be collapsed into a space smaller than a single panel. Bi-folding doors, by contrast, can be folded into a much smaller space. Moreover, the more panels, the wider the rails beneath a sliding door must be.
A key advantage of sliding doors over both French and Bi-folding doors is that they can be opened and closed without expanding into the space on either side. Consequently, you’ll be able to place furniture, lights and potted plants right next to the door without obstructing it. As such, sliding doors are an attractive option for homes where space is at a premium.
At the top and bottom of a sliding door are rails, along which the panels move. Folding doors are restricted by a similar rail, with each panel being attached via a rolling carriage. Bi-fold doors can be made to hang down from the ceiling, however, removing the need for a track on the floor. This means you’ll be able to create a level threshold, and a seamless transition between the two sides of the door.
A popular variation on the sliding door formula is the so-called ‘stacker’ door. This specific sort of sliding door comes with more than one sliding panel, allowing greater flexibility and the ability to cover a wider area.
The differences between stacker doors and sliding doors more generally are quite subtle – and the two terms are often used interchangeably. Consequently, stacker doors offer many of the same advantages as sliding ones.
French doors were first used hundreds of years ago, in France (as you might have guessed). The aristocrats of the time needed a means of allowing light into their stately homes while at the same time excluding cold air. The advent of glazing technology allowed this to be achieved, and soon glazed sets of double-doors began to appear on balconies across the country, and eventually the world. As you might expect, this traditional design is a world apart from the more contemporary bi-folding design, even if both sorts are able to cover much the same purpose.
A set of modern French doors is simply a double-door set incorporating large amounts of glass. By definition, they can’t be made quite as large as their bi-folding and sliding cousins, and as such, can’t replace entire walls in quite the same way. That said, it’s possible to augment a set of French doors with special windows built to sit either side of the door. These windows are called sidelights, and they’re found virtually anywhere that French doors are.
One of the biggest strengths of bi-folding doors is their flexibility. They can be arranged in a variety of different configurations. You might opt for a small number of fat panels or a large number of narrow ones. You might go for a single chain of panels which open in the same direction or two equally-sized ‘French-fold’ groups which open from the centre. You might even choose a single door on one side and a series of panels on the other, in a so-called ‘x+1’ arrangement. French doors, by contrast, come in just one type.
Exterior French doors can be either inward or outward-opening. Having them open outwards will free up more room in your interior, but it’ll also put them at risk of being swept around in a strong breeze. In order to hold them in position, you’ll need to use hooked clips, doorstops, or hydraulic door-closers, all of which will affect the look of the door in some way.
It’s worth considering aesthetics before you choose bi-fold or French doors.
When compared to the intricate and elegant mechanism of a bi-folding door, the traditional French style might seem a little on the dull side. With that said, there’s a certain romance to pushing open a set of French doors and stepping out into the garden. Moreover, the style will sit more easily in older properties, for which more contemporary folding and sliding doors might not be suited.
If you’re replacing an existing French door, then space concerns might restrict you to choosing another set of French doors anyway. Though they might be structurally identical, many designs of visually-distinct French door have been devised over the centuries – and so you’ve a great chance of finding one that matches your taste aesthetically.
Another factor worth considering is that French doors are easier on your wallet than bi-folding doors, thanks largely to the fact that they’re much smaller. If you’re conscious of your budget, then the French route might well prove attractive!
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