Project House - Bifolds v Sliding Patio Doors

May 22, 2017

Let's talk doors! One of the biggest reasons we wanted to knock down the 1970s kitchen extension the previous owners had built on our house wasn't because it was completely ugly. And it wasn't because it was small and cold and separate from the main living space of the house. Nope, it was to have more of a connection with our garden. To have big glass doors that we could look out of when cooking and step in and out of onto a patio when entertaining. In both of our houses having access to the outdoors has been a major desire in planning the space. We had bi folding doors in our last house and were tempted by them again for this house but in the end went for sliding glass patio doors. It's something we deliberated about for a while. I've discussed my decision with a few of you on Instagram before and while I've touched on it briefly in this post on our building work, I wanted to share more of my thoughts on the pros and cons of both below. And some ideas for pricing/suppliers etc. 

- For our last kitchen extension we had an opening of about 1.8 metres and chose bi-folding doors. I think really bi-folds were the only option for our last house, being a small opening we wanted to be able to open them up the whole way. I don't think sliding would have worked. This was also south facing and the kitchen got warm on sunny days so we wanted to open them up fully to let the outside in. The whole room was smaller so it felt bigger by having the garden as a part of it. 

What I liked about them;
- Being able to open them fully so we had an uninterrupted view out on to the garden and maximum space to step out of. It felt bigger when they were fully open and makes the garden really feel like part of the room.
- There's a definite wow factor when they're open. 
- Being small they were made from wood. I'm obsessed with timber doors/windows, to me they just look so much better than aluminium. 
- They were good value. We bought them from Magnet. But I think they were probably good value because they were only 1.8 metres wide?

What I disliked about them;
- The three relatively chunky frames that blocked some of the view to the garden when they were closed. You get lines cutting the garden up. 
- The space you need outside when they're open to fold them back onto the patio. 
- The view of the hinges from the inside. 
- They're ubiquitous now. Will they go out of fashion? 
- They can be annoying to fold back and lock them into place.

Sliding doors {in this house} - 
We have an opening of 5.6 metres across the back of the new kitchen which would have leant itself to either bi folding or sliding patio doors. We knew that we wanted to maximise our glass and kept going back and forth between the two different options - bi folding would allow us to open the area fully but would leave a lot of lines of frames breaking up the view. It would also be a pain to open them up fully and because this is a north facing garden would it feel cold with the whole area open being a large room? In the end it was a visit to a friend's house at Christmas that swung it for us to go with sliding doors. They had a similar sized opening to ours and when we walked in we were completely wowed by their view and all the glass. We figured that the doors would probably be closed more than they'd be open {Great British summer and all that} so year round the garden would be part of the room more with sliding doors even when closed.

These doors are in three sections and we can open 2/3 at a time. The doors then slide back to whichever side you're not using or you can have all the glass in the middle and the two side panels pushed back. We could have had just 2 sections, giving a greater amount of glass still but this would have meant we could only ever open up 1/2 of the space. So I think three panels was optimum for our space and gives us flexibility on which areas we want to open up.

We found these through a glass company who were recommended to us. We went there to look at bi folding doors originally but then saw they had sliding doors that were fairly new to the market. They're lightweight and slide easily, have catches so your fingers {or childrens'} won't get caught and were a fair price. In hindsight we should have looked around at more manufacturers for sliding doors but we really wanted to get them ordered as they took around 8 weeks and we knew that we wouldn't be able to plaster without them being installed. They're probably mid range, you can get really really thin frames but these would probably be double the price. And you can even get electric doors which have no handles but these are triple the price! It all depends how much you want to spend. {details on costings below} 

We chose these in white because although being a fairly modern door they probably look best in the gunmetal grey aluminium you see everywhere, the rest of our windows and doors in the house are white which was a requirement from the conservation officer being a listed building. I like that they don't stand out much because they're white and we've got timber french doors in white which all ties in. I specified a matt white finish rather than a shiny white to try and make them look as timber like as possible {I have a real thing against plastic shiny PVC windows/doors and were scared these might look like them!}. We haven't actually taken all the green plastic protection off yet that they were installed with. 

Also side note - we built a plasterboard frame around the outer frame and vents of the doors to minimise the amount of white frame on show and make them feel more minimalistic in the room. We'd seen this done on another house and I think it makes such a difference to the overall look. You can see the before and after in the photos below.

What I Like about Them - 
- The uninterrupted view and large amount of glass to bring the outside in. 
- The minimal frame 
- The way they don't take any room outside when open. The glass all stacks on top of each other rather than opening out. 
- They're easy to push open.

What I Dislike - 
- The way you can only ever open up 2/3 of the opening, one panel is always fixed for the rest to slide across onto. 
- Being made from aluminium I worry that they're a little too modern for the house. But hopefully the glass and minimal glass frame hides this.
- The black rubber inserts, apparently these don't come in white which is annoying. 

The plastered frame below, now you just see the glass rather than the frame above. 

Wonky photo alert. 

From the back

French Doors are another option. We've gone for these at the side of the new extension to maximise the amount of glass and minimise the frame. They're timber and I really love them. But they wouldn't really work on a large scale and the doors do open out onto the patio so you need some space for them. 

For bifolds and sliding doors price wise I think you should budget around £1000 per metre of glass and then maybe add a little on top of that. Get a few quotes and for suppliers I'd ask for recommendations from builders and people local to you. You'll need some measurements to get quotes and then a company will come and take a site survey before getting them made. Expect to wait around 6-8 weeks, sometimes longer. We used a company called Window Wise in Hertfordshire but as I said we should have probably shopped around if we'd have had more time. Their aftercare hasn't been great at all.

Deciding how to dress the doors is another dilemma. Because they're doors that you want to step out of and because you don't want the view to the garden interrupted then a lot of traditional blind options that you'd use for windows won't work, likewise plantation shutters aren't any good. I don't know about you but at night I hate not being able to shut out the darkness. You can get blinds built into the doors which you'd need to ask for when ordering but we got quoted £3000 and they looked very officey and cheap. I didn't like them at all, plus they could go wrong if they're built into the glass.

We decided to go for curtains as we've got enough of a retaining wall to house them at either side. We may get pull down roller blinds mounted in the recess but we'll see how everything looks once the room is finished. Given that it's the summer now we shouldn't need to worry about shutting anything until the end of August when it starts getting dark early again. A lot of photos when you search on Pinterest for kitchens with bifolds/sliding doors don't have any window dressings - do these people just live with darkness and the scary idea that people could look in at you?!

Whilst I do really love both types of doors. For me personally I think I would advise people that if you have a relatively small opening {under about 3 metres} I would go for bifolding doors to maximise your opening and be able to slide them back fully. But for anything larger, I think sliding glass doors are a better option, you'll still have plenty of room to step out of them from but you'll maximise your view when they're shut.

What are your thoughts? Has this been helpful {hopefully it hasn't confused you even more!}?

R <3 xx 

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  1. I completely agree re the black abyss. You see it on grand designs all the time. I would need curtains for sure! I'm sure whatever you decide on, it will look fab!
    Tracey x

  2. Great post Rebecca and very useful insight thank you.

    We (my wife and I) had our kitchen extended a couple of years ago and chose bifolds. The opening was slightly wider than your old house (2.6 metres) and we had the gun mental aluminium version you see everywhere. Funnily enough, I actually don't mind them when they're shut and like how the frames break up the glass. My issue is operating them, which I find clunky and annoying. I don't know if it's the same for everyone but once we've folded them open we have to prop something against the doors to stop the wind blowing them back against the wall. The whole thing stresses me out.

    We're now on the cusp of starting a renovation on our new house and like you, we've got a wider space to play with. We both bookmarked your pictures on Instagram because we love your sliding doors so much (and the parquet flooring by the way - very nice) and will likely follow suit. The idea of just being able to slide a panel of glass across is ideal from my perspective, even if you can't open them fully out. I also think when you've got wide panels of glass, they're much more attractive than bifolds, particularly with your clever fix with the surround, which I'll shamelessly steal.

    Thanks again for taking the time.

  3. This is a good read! Just waiting for a glazer to come and price up some doors for our kitchen and remembered your post. I am torn between the two options - we have 2-2.4m that we can use so I am thinking bifold doors could work.

    We can only get into our patio through the utility room at the moment and (first world problem) it drives me mad. How ridiculous! We have French doors onto the back garden, but I don't love them.

    House rennovation looks amazing! x

  4. Thank you for such a nice detailed post. I always love to read your site content as these are really helpful for me.
    - Great post, enjoyed reading it!


  5. Who / where did your order from?


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