If you’re looking for ways to both improve access to an outdoor space like a patio, and bring in more light to your home, two of the most popular options are Bifold doors and sliding doors. But what are they exactly and how do you choose the best option for your home? Here’s a look at the pros and cons of Bifold vs Sliding doors.
What is a bifold door?
Simply put, bifold doors fold in on themselves as you open them, similar to the way an accordion works. They are installed on a track and the door panels fold in when you slide them open. Bifold doors involve multiple glass panes. They’re sometimes also called glass walls or folding glass doors. The number of glass panes required depends on the size of the opening where they are installed.
What is a sliding door?
Sliding doors are also installed on a track, but instead of the separate panels folding in on themselves when opening, one panel slides behind the other to allow for access. Sliding doors are sometimes referred to as gliding patio doors.
Let’s see how they stack up.
Bifolds are an excellent option if you have a large wall you intend to convert to an outdoor opening. Bifold doors allow you to create a wide access point to your outside space. Not only does this bring a lot of light in to your home, it also can create a dramatic views to the outside, allow for a more open feel, and improve traffic flow between your indoor and outdoor areas.
In general, bifold doors will be more expensive than sliding doors. Some factors contributing to this are the mix of materials needed to install them (a series of glass panels, door frames, sliding track, and more) and the relatively complex installation process. The total price of bifold doors will vary depending on the size of the opening you’re filling, but on average they cost about $1,000 per linear square foot. Given that each panel can be anywhere from 9-to-18 feet wide, a complete bifold door system can run several thousand dollars.
Since bifold doors are comprised of several folding panels, there is a greater chance of heat and cold entering and escaping than you might experience with sliding doors. Bifold doors are designed to protect against this, but sliding doors are generally better at keeping unwanted cold or heat from entering the home or escaping it.
These types of doors often feature a modern look, so generally they will complement a more contemporary style home. Of course, they can be custom-designed to align with more traditional homes as well with a stronger use of things like wooden frames and farmhouse handles, but that may increase costs.
Bifold doors can be very flexible when it comes to how you want to configure them. You can select multiple panels, which direction the doors open (in or out), and choose from a variety of materials, from uPVC to aluminum to wood frames. Plus, you can opt for built-in window treatments like integrated blinds.
If budget isn’t much of an object, you can even opt for bifold doors that you can open and close remotely rather than by operating them manually.
If you’d like or require an even transition from inside to outside, where you don’t need to travel over a threshold, then bifold may be your best option. They can be designed where the top of the track rests level to the floor making for a seamless transition. However, you want to take water draining into account in these cases, as water can more easily enter your home if the exterior isn’t sloped away. Therefore, a no-threshold design is recommended for covered areas.
You can also incorporate a weathered threshold that involves a small step but offers more protection against the elements.
Sliding doors can offer expansive views and good access between inside and outside, depending on door size, but the configuration of them can obstruct views when open. Since sliding doors work by having one glass panel slide behind or in front of the other, once it is open, the central frame will obscure the view a bit. And you may end up with more solid wall within the room than you have with bifolds.
Still, given that bifold doors have obstructed views when closed due to the different panel sections, you will need to decide which one better meets your needs.
Typically, sliding doors will cost less than bifolds. Many styles are available without needing any customization, though you can have them made to order as well. The cost will depend on the size of the doors, frame material, and where it is being installed, but on average, they run about $2,500.
In many cases, sliding doors will do a better job of keeping heat in your home than bifold doors. That’s because the former consists of overlapping panels than form a solid barrier when closed, as opposed to folding ones with more openings and potential for air to leak in and out.
Sliding doors can compliment pretty much any type of home. Since generally they take up less visual space than bifolds, it can be easier for the sliding doors themselves to meld into the background of your home. Traditionally, they come in white vinyl, but you can customize them with wood or fiberglass if you choose.
Your options with sliding door configurations will be more limited than with bifolds. They typically consist of two choices: one door can slide over the other, or both doors can slide out from the center over fixed panels.
Unlike bifolds, sliding doors are not available with a seamless threshold. The required track for the doors will create at least a small lip that you will need to step over. But that lip can help protect against the elements and things like water seeping into your home during heavy rains.
Bonus: French Doors
One other option to open onto your outside space is French doors. While some say they lack the visual statement that some bifold and sliding doors offer, French doors still carry several benefits.
They typically cost less than either bifolds or sliding doors. They come in a wide variety of frame and glass styles. And they can also work in many styles of home, though they are most common in more traditional ones like Craftsmans or Cape Cods.
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