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External French or Bi-fold Doors?

When you’re looking to install new, modern and secure doors in your home, at the top of your wishlist will be functionality, looks, and perhaps most importantly of all, doors that are going to bring the best out of the living spaces in your home.

Both French doors and bi-fold doors will offer you these qualities, but which type of door should you choose? Modern manufacturing methods mean that both types of doors will be made using high quality production standards, have good levels of energy efficiency and offer security as a key feature.

We’re going to talk you through the benefits and potential disadvantages of choosing either French bifold doors. Hopefully by the end of this guide we’ll have helped you make a decision!

What are French and Bi-fold Doors?

To start off with we’d better define exactly what French and bi-fold doors are.

French Doors

French doors are typically two equally sized doors with glass making up most of the construction to provide a large amount of light to the inside of a property. French doors are also rather confusingly known as French windows. French doors open outwards to give full access to the interior of the room.

Bi-fold Doors

A bi-fold door usually consists of 3 or more door panels connected together than folded either in or out using a track system. A bi-fold door will have a traffic door that opens independently of the other door panels to give easy access without having to open the whole bi-fold door.

What Are The Benefits of Both New French and Bi-fold Doors?

Security and Safety

If you are buying a new door, both types will offer a good level of security, typically with a multipoint locking system. The glass used will be toughened safety glass or double glazing, preventing accidents and break-ins. This means you can rest easy about the safety of your home.

Good Energy Efficiency

Both types of door will also give you good thermal efficiency because of their construction. You should save on heating bills if replacing older doors or windows!

Choice of Styles and Materials

External French and bi-folds are available with wooden, aluminium and uPVC frames. And you can buy both in unfinished wood meaning you can choose a colour option that fits right in with your home.

Aluminium bi-fold doors are very popular at the moment. Wooden French doors have always been a classic choice, particularly in oak for example.

What Is The Difference in View Between French and Bi-fold Doors?

Exterior bi-fold doors can replace a complete wall in your property because of their construction. Bi-folds can give you a wide expansive view as they fold back to give you an uninterrupted view of your garden. The view that bi-fold doors give when closed can be broken up by the door panel frames depending on the size and number of doors.

French doors use a traditional door frame which means you can’t replace a whole wall as such. This means you won’t quite get that panoramic view offered by a bi-fold. The view will be much better than a traditional single door or window.

French doors are limited to two doors that can only safely be of a certain size. For a larger ‘aperture’ (opening) a French door will be supplemented by ‘sidelights’ (side windows).

Bi-folds aren’t generally supplied at anything smaller than 1800mm. French doors start at smaller apertures such as 1200mm. In terms of maximum width, bi-folds are commonly available up to 4800mm. French doors up to 3000mm (with side lights).

Cost of External Bi-fold vs French Doors

French doors are much cheaper than bi-fold. As French doors are smaller, they are more affordable. Bi-fold doors require more materials because of the greater number of door panels and the mechanism that is required for bi-folds to function.

French doors are also easier and cheaper to install in your home because of their simple construction and use of a traditional door frame.

Suitability for Your Property

French doors are a classic look that look great in traditional and older properties. The simplicity of French doors mean that there is a much greater choice of colour, style and glass. This gives you more opportunities to easily adapt French doors to the style of your home.

Bi-fold doors are associated with new and modern properties but are being used more often in traditional homes. An increasing number of bi-fold door styles are available through the powder-coating process.

French and Bi-fold Door Configurations

French doors have a standard configuration of two doors with a frame that can open inwards or outwards. The simplicity of French doors, whilst being a positive also means the number of options available is limited because French doors function just like traditional doors. French doors can be supplemented with non-opening windows either side of the doors.

Bi-fold doors have very flexible configurations with the number of door leaves typically ranging from three to six, opening direction can be left or right and in various ways to suit your needs.

Door Threshold

A door threshold sits at the bottom of the door and is also known as a door sill. With a traditional door frame you will always have to step over the threshold to enter a house.

Bi-folds do give the option of a level threshold, meaning that the interior and exterior can be on the same level. The option of a level threshold that a bi-fold gives removes the trip hazard and also makes it seamless for you and visitors to move between the inside and outside.

French doors do require a door frame so will always have a threshold that you will need to step over.

Where Will You Be Fitting Your New Doors?

Replacing Existing Doors

If you are replacing a small opening, French doors are a much better option. If you have a larger opening and want to maximise the light in your home, then you should consider a bi-fold door.

Choosing Doors for a New Extension

If you are designing a new extension, and size is not an issue, you have the flexibility to choose how wide an opening you want to your garden. So it will be your preference on whether you choose French or bi-fold.

Extending an Existing Opening

If you are planning on an alteration to an existing opening, once again size will dictate if you are able to make the choice between French or bi-fold. A small opening will suit French doors whereas a large opening gives you the option of bi-fold.

What Are the Benefits of Choosing French vs Bi-fold Doors?

The major benefits of choosing French doors are the low cost compared to bi-folds and the suitability of a French door for a small opening. If cost in choosing a door is the main issue, then French doors are the way to go – a French door is also easier and quicker to install than a bi-fold. French doors also suit traditional properties better than most bi-folds, and the range of styles and colours available means that you will find a French door that suits your home.

Here are the overall advantages of French doors:

  • The low cost compared to bi-fold
  • The huge variety of styles available
  • The range of colours available

The overall disadvantages of French doors:

  • Seen as traditional rather than a modern option
  • Have a fixed opening outwards configuration
  • Limited configurations
  • Only suitable for smaller openings
  • Wind can be an issue if the doors are open

What Are the Benefits of Choosing a Bi-fold vs French Door?

Bi-fold doors have that wow factor. A bi-fold can add saleability to a property.

If you want to open up your home fully into your garden then choose a bi-fold to create that seamless indoor/outdoor experience.

The overall advantages of a bi-fold door:

  • Makes the most of a larger opening
  • Adds saleability to your home
  • Can do-away with the need for a threshold
  • A traffic door makes bi-folds easy to use

The overall disadvantages of a bi-fold door:

  • More expensive than French doors
  • The more door panels you have, the more of your interior space will be taken up by the door.
  • Multiple panels can disrupt the view

Should I Choose Bi-fold or French Doors?

French doors are low-cost and most suitable for smaller openings. Bi-fold doors make the most of a wider opening in your home, and with a traffic door offer are highly practical.

Ultimately it will be your choice, and whether you go with French or bi-fold, we know you won’t be disappointed with what will be a valuable addition to your home.


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