How to choose between a sliding door and a bifolding door.

Are you trying to choose between a sliding door or a bifolding door?

The aluminium sliding door is once again seeing a resurgence in the residential sliding door market. Despite the continued popularity of bifolding doors, there are still many great reasons to consider a sliding door instead. A sliding door could even be better than a bifolding door.

Consider a sliding doors as well as a bifolding door.

lift and slide contemporary kawneer doors.
Lift and Slide contemporary Kawneer doors are excellent and ideal for residential and commercial installations.

There is plenty of evidence around that sliding doors are capturing the interest of homeowners and the door fabricators and installers. This website now receives daily enquiries from consumers and the trade looking for the right sliding door product. Many of these enquiries are from homeowners building a large opening where a slim door with big glass panes is required. Here is a typical question and design requirement:

We are building a new dwelling in an exposed position on the north coast of Cornwall.

The lounge has a clear window span of 8 metres which we want to split half fixed and half sliding but finding difficulty locating a supplier. Can you advise please?

Some manufacturers have also been playing their part in promoting the benefits of sliding doors. One of the early adopters of the premium sliding door is Everglade Windows with their aïr suite of sliding doors and lift and slide doors. Aïr doors came to market in 2013 when bifolding doors were very much at the forefront of the market.

Three years on, air sliding doors are hugely popular in the marketplace. Some of the most successful window companies in the UK have chosen to become air door retailers.

The other main manufacturers have also brought out great sliding doors enabling larger, slimmer and better doors than before. They report that their production lines consist of as many sliding doors as they do folding doors. We also know of some well-known systems companies bringing out new sliding doors in the very near future.

What types of sliding doors are available?

large span sliding doors
Homeowners seek better, larger and more impressive aluminium sliding doors. Shown here Air 600LS lift and slide doors.

There are many sliding door models on the market. There are the modern sliding doors that are part of a complete suite of aluminium windows, entrance doors, folding doors and screens from one system or brand.

Other companies specialise only in sliding doors. They have either created a new door scratch or worked with an existing system. This is then modified to make it aesthetically different, technically better and unique to the company.

There are more specialised sliding door products such as ultra slimline sliding doors designed to be recessed into the walls and floor to give a sliding glass appearance. These slimline doors have interlocks as small as 17mm. They are virtually frameless sliding doors.

Then there are sliding doors that can slide completely into a wall. Open corner sliding doors are another product where the doors meet in at the corner of a building, but when open there is no visible metal or structural corner post.

sliding doors at the water tower london.
The Water Tower featured on Grand Designs demonstrates what can be achieved with a bespoke sliding aluminium door.

Then we go to the ultra high end sliding doors designed to offer bespoke solutions for specific designs.

There are even automatic sliding doors available for the home. These are large contemporary doors designed to open and close at the touch of a button.

Are you trying to decide between a folding door and a sliding door?

To make a decision whether to have a bifolding door or a sliding door, centres around three essential factors:

  • The type of property requiring doors.
  • The external space and the views from the home.
  • Your preference on door design.

The best door for the size, style and type of home

Several properties suit bifolding doors more than sliding doors; others lend themselves better to sliding doors. The larger properties, perhaps those with more than one reception room or more than one door opening will have the flexibility to have both a sliding and a folding door fitted.

For most typical properties whether you decide on a sliding or a folding door should be determined by the outside space and to a large extent, your outside space.

Consider your door based on the size of the garden and the views.

Suburban properties, semi-detached or terraced houses having new extensions may only have the one large door out to a typical size garden. This is where the external space and flexible opening of a bifolding door can work better.

This is because occupiers of smaller properties and those in towns and cities desire more from their outside space. A bifolding door opens up the inside of the home to the outside. Bifolding doors may be preferable here. They may also be more suitable if you are just changing old French doors, an original patio door or enlarging a window opening to accommodate a new door.

Sliding doors seem more desirable when the outside space is bigger and the view better. Where properties have great views and aspects such as coastline, open countryside and skylines, homeowners want to enjoy these all year round.

That is not to say that sliding doors are not suitable for smaller properties and gardens. It is the large glass panels possible in sliding doors that make them better where the view matters without the visible mullions of folding doors.

Are sliding doors better than bifolding doors?

Both sliding and folding doors offer different features, and both will add value and a contemporary door to a property. On this website, you will find hundreds of pages about folding doors, so we will concentrate on what sliding doors can provide. Some of the features found in contemporary sliding doors you will not find in a folding door.

Unless a sliding door slides into the wall, no product is better than opening up a space than a bifold. A bifolding door is designed to open up the doorway with up to 8 leaves folding back. In the closed position, a set of bifolding doors will always look segmented. A sliding door will not.

When it comes to U-Values, security, weather performance, colour options and glazing, there is little to separate a sliding door from a folding door.

The design advantages of sliding doors.

sliding stacking aluminium doors.
Sliding doors designed right can also open up enough to link the inside and outside spaces.  Low thresholds are also possible.

What you may not know is that even a two-panel sliding door is possible at large sizes. These doors can span more than four, five or even six metres wide.

The big advantage of sliding doors is that a large two-panel door has only one central mullion (called the interlock). The same can apply to a two-panel bifolding door. However, the interlock on a sliding door is always slimmer than where a pair of folding doors is meeting in the closed position.

This is the one advantage of sliding doors. You can create a virtual glass wall with sliding doors. The slim interlocks and less aluminium required make this possible.

What is an Inline sliding door?

An inline sliding door is usually a two, three or four-panel door. These are doors on a single track only where one or more leaves slides behind the others.

Where inline sliding doors use the single track and their rollers to open a door, lift and slide doors work differently.

What is a lift and slide door?

kawneer sliding patio doors in residential property
Lift and slide patio doors move away from the frame and slide behind it.

Lift and slide doors are operated by the door handle and the door gearing. They sit behind the frame rather than within it.

Rotating the handle moves the door panel away from its closed position enabling it to slide open. The door then slides behind the other panels to the desired position. It is the advanced rollers, handles and mechanism used in a lift and slide door that make this possible. Even the heaviest doors slide with a two finger operation.

A quality lift and slide door can also be locked in the open position at any point along its sliding area enabling doors to be left open for ventilation and locked if required.

When the door is closed the sliding panels seal against their frame ensuring they stay sealed shut, resisting air, wind and water.

Constraints of large sliding doors.

There are considerations to bear in mind with any large size door. Making, transporting and installing large sliding doors brings challenges to an installer from a practical and safety perspective.

  • Doors generally over 5 metres will be supplied in kit form for site assembly.
  • Door frame heads, cills and bottom tracks will be joined if over 5 or 6 metres.
  • The larger the doors, the more likely specialist handling or glazing equipment may be required.
  • Prices may go up depending on the labour, logistics and site conditions.
  • Large panes of glass need specialist handling and care.

These are all considerations that a professional door company will take into account. So check out your installer and look to see examples of similar large span door projects.

Our top tips for choosing between a bifolding or a sliding door.

contemporary sliding doors in new build home.
Aïr lift and slide doors are luxury aluminium doors with an industry leading 25 year guarantee.

The best way to help you decide is to see the products. Contact us and we can put you in touch with local showrooms offering large sliding doors as well as folding doors where you can see the products side by side and try them out.

  • If your home enjoys an excellent view, consider a sliding door.
  • If you want to open up your home to the outside regularly, a bifold may be better.
  • Both bifolding and sliding doors can offer open corner designs.
  • Sliding doors can have larger glass panels than bifolding doors.
  • Sliding doors won’t encroach on the inside or outside space.

Our featured imaged for this article shows the  ‘Uni-Slide’ slim panoramic sliding door