When it comes to making home improvements to your home or commercial project, choosing the right glazed door solution is a vital factor in the final aesthetic and functionality of the space. As the most popular options on the market, the choice often comes down to bifold vs sliding doors. 

Both of these create a stunning focal point, protect you from the outside elements, and provide an additional element of safety and security. A way to maximise natural light and connect with the outdoors, the right glass door can help to create a real statement within your design for even more of a visual impact.

Making the correct choice is imperative for the success of your project, and will impact the final look and functionality, but it can be hard to know which is the better option - particularly when it comes to finer details such as cost, thermal efficiency and ease of access. This article will help you to understand the differences between both glass door solutions and the benefits of each, so that you can make a more informed decision when it comes to choosing between sliding or bifold doors.

What is the difference between bifold and sliding doors?

The main difference between sliding and bifold doors is essentially the way in which they operate as they open and close: bifold doors ‘fold’ into a concertina, whereas sliding glass doors slide one large pane of glass over another.

Bifolds are formed of multiple, hinged panels that slide to stack at one end (or both sides) in a concertina-style fold. This means that they can open up an entire wall, so are perfect for those looking to create a seamless transition between rooms, or between your home and patio or garden area.

Meanwhile, sliding doors perform literally as the name suggests, with two or more large panes of glass that move to the side, one sliding behind the other, to sit seamlessly alongside one another on two, three or four tracks. These doors provide an almost uninterrupted view of the outside, and offer the perfect solution for those who wish to enjoy as much natural light as possible. As one door slides back against the other, one pane is always visible - although pocket doors can help, as these provide hidden pockets within external walls to open a larger area.

In terms of configuration, sliding doors can either be fixed or moving and these can be arranged in any number of configurations (but at least one of the panels has to slide). Similarly, bifolds  can be configured in any number of ways, ranging from different panels, openings and fold direction.

Visually, when it comes to concluding which glass door looks better aesthetically, the answer is that it really depends on personal preference. Whilst some people like the completely unobstructed view that bifold doors create when folded back, others prefer the uninterrupted view sliding doors offer when closed.

Do sliding or bifold doors offer better views?

Both sliding and bifold doors offer fantastic views, although sliding doors offer more of an expansive view when closed, whilst bifold provide an uninterrupted view when open.

As bifold doors can open up to 90% of the aperture (in other words: the majority of the opening), they are perfect for smaller openings - helping to connect indoors and outdoors and create a more open-plan feel. They offer unrivalled panoramic views when open, as they completely remove any obstruction between indoor and outdoor  environments. Bear in mind that when closed, bifold doors will feature a more visible framework - although this isn’t necessarily a negative thing, as it can, in fact, create a contemporary and on-trend look.

Sliding doors, however, tend to offer fantastic views of an outdoor area when closed, as the individual panel sizes are often very large, and are typically made up of more glass and less frame than other glass door options. This allows you to take advantage of unobstructed views of the garden, as your view isn’t hindered by the framework when closed. 

Whilst sliding doors work well with larger apertures, maximum opening will tend to be around 75-80%, as there will always be one fixed panel (unless using a pocket to conceal the door). Depending on the sliding doors you choose, you may still be able to benefit from a widescreen view into your world though, as the glass can be custom configured: sliding all the way to the left, all the way right, or staged intermittently. 

With both options, a cohesive look between indoors and outdoors can be achieved when doors are open, if you’re able to attain a level threshold, with similar flooring inside and out. This not only provides an enviable view and seamless connection to your garden, but also creates extra space for dining and entertaining.

Does a bifold door or sliding door provide better ease of access?

Bifold doors can completely open up by folding back on itself, so they offer ease of access between the indoors and outdoors. Plus, with a variety of configurations to choose from, bifold doors have the option to include an access or traffic door, which provides increased ease of access between indoors and outdoors, without having to fold back all of the doors each time. This is ideal for houses with pets and young children. 

On the contrary, sliding doors must always be used to their purpose and slide open. However, for quick ease of access, you can open just one door and slide it across as much or as little as you want - this allows you as much control as you like.

Does a bifold door or sliding door offer better space saving properties?

Bifold doors typically open inwards, but can also be specified to open outwards, which is a good solution for rooms where interior space is limited. However, as it does require the space to fold back onto itself, you will need that required space either internally or externally to accommodate this.

A sliding door system is a popular option for those with limited space, as they do not require any space to open up, due to their sleek design where they simply slide horizontally down the track.

Materials used for bifold and sliding glazed patio doors

Whilst there can be a variety of material used for both bifold and sliding doors, there are a select few that are more popular than others. 

Popular material choices for bifold doors are timber or aluminium. Engineered timber is strong and durable, with great insulating values, and can be painted or stained. Meanwhile, aluminium offers a modern, hard-wearing and maintenance-free appearance. 

Aluminium is also a popular choice for sliding doors, as it’s a natural choice for those preferring slim-line frames and sleek, minimal styling.

With both, there are huge expanses of glass on offer, so you should also be considering the type of glass used. For example, a south facing home would benefit from solar control glass, whilst a north facing home might be better using standard glass to increase solar gain.

Sliding vs bifold doors cost

Depending on the configuration and size, sliding and bifold doors can both vary in terms of associated cost, due to the enormous range of options available. Generally speaking, sliding doors tend to be a more expensive option than bifold doors but ultimately it comes down to each specification and design.

One particular factor which might significantly influence cost is when the glass door is big: for example, if a large sliding door is particularly wide or high, the panes get more expensive because large, single units of glass are very costly.

Having said that, there is no real way to give a general answer regarding which option is more affordable, as it comes down to the individual specification, which might vary based on materials, size and insulation choices.

Which has better thermal efficiency out of bifold or sliding doors?

Almost all glazing solutions will need some kind of insulation, to help reduce heat loss and ensure a space remains at a consistent temperature. Both bifold and sliding doors offer excellent thermal efficiency. Neither one will cause dissatisfaction in terms of keeping the indoors warm and eliminating drafts. 

Sliding doors are manufactured using more glass than framework, which means that they are extremely thermally efficient, as there is minimal opportunity for airflow. 

Whilst bifolds require more door profile, and therefore potentially could have lower thermal efficiency, the reality is that high-quality bifold doors (such as those manufactured by Cantifix) are made to ensure that they actually exceed thermal efficient regulations, using glazing solutions such as films, low-e coating or triple glazing.

So, which is better - bifold or sliding doors?

As this article has explained, there are a few key differences between bifold and sliding doors, and ultimately there is no superior option, as both offer their own strengths, and offer solutions to slightly different requirements. 

To quickly recap the benefits of each, we can see how each serves their own purpose. 

Bifold doors can be fully opened to connect indoors and outdoors seamlessly and, with a wide range of configurations, a traffic door option is available for ultimate ease of access. These glass doors can open inwards or outwards to maximise space efficiency, which is handy for smaller, more compact interior spaces. 

Meanwhile, sliding doors take up the least amount of space when open compared to bifold doors, and they also feature slim sightlines which make this a sleek and modern solution. Large glass panels provide an unobstructed view, whether doors are open or closed, and the lightweight aluminium often used allows doors to slide across easily.

Taking into account the size, delivery and installation costs of your doors, as well as the initial cost, will guide you in deciding which door type is best for you. In addition, key considerations such as the style of your home, how much you envisage using your doors throughout the year, along with practical aspects such as ease of use, security and thermal efficiency, should all be considered alongside the price, to inform your decision on which option is better.

Here at Cantifix, our friendly team is happy to talk you through your options, so you can move forwards in making your glass door dream a reality. Whether you’re a homeowner or an architect, we can work with you at any stage of the design process, from conceptual design to installation. Contact us today for more information.

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