If you’re reading this article, then it’s probably safe to say that you’re a bit indecisive. There’s nothing wrong with that! With so many options on the market for folding door systems, we expect most of our customers to be at least a little bit overwhelmed when they start shopping and comparing brands.
From glass options, door frame materials, custom colors, opening size (large opening vs smaller), and more, it can be tough to come up with a final decision. If you’re making the decision with a partner, it can be even harder.
Thankfully, we’re here to help you answer all of the most commonly-asked-about questions and topics regarding accordion-style folding door systems. Whether you’re looking for an interior door (like a room divider or custom closet door) or you’re looking for exterior solutions (like a patio door or front door), the options at your disposal are nearly limitless.
The Ultimate Glass Door Showdown
In today’s article, we’re going to be breaking down one of the most common misconceptions regarding accordion door and bi-fold door systems. Namely- the difference between the three main types of modern glass doors:
- Bi-Folding or Folding Doors
- Sliding Doors
- Swing Doors
While these are easily distinguishable by experienced glass workers and contractors, the terms may be a bit confusing for first-time shoppers, and are often confused. To confused things, some door companies misname the products they’re selling, and we’ve gotten a lot of customers who’ve come to us with bewildered looks and questions once we start explaining.
The confusion stops here!
Not only will you learn the differences between these types of doors, but we’ll also go over the perspective pros and cons of each type of door as well as the most important considerations you should take into account in regards to your personal space and preferences.
Have you ever taken a moment to appreciate your basic closet door? Isn’t it nice how the door panels can be easily folded to the side like an accordion, or how you can fully open the system without a large door swinging into the hallway and blocking your path?
When window and door designers created the first bi-fold door systems, they decided to imitate the basic functionality. The actual design itself dates back to the Roman Empire and many ancient homes featured wooden doors aligned on small tracks that were easily open and closed to take advantage of the beautiful Italian countrysides.
These large folding door systems are designed to replace areas that would otherwise be blocked-off with a wall or smaller door. They allow the homeowner to completely open up entire sections of a room bringing in more natural sunlight and fresh air. All folding door systems also feature an individual door panel that operates on a swinging hinge for everyday entry/exit so you don’t have to open the whole system whenever you come in or out.
Folding doors are also a great option for those looking for an energy-efficient interior door or room divider.
The main pro of folding doors is that they’re designed to allow homeowners to take advantage of scenic surroundings. The modern glass glazing technology and low-e (low-emissivity) glass panes, these large multi-point doors can fully open up your living area to the outdoors or give you a pristine view while keeping you safe and secure inside.
When designed right, folding doors can be just as energy-efficient as solid core wood doors and walls, so you’ll never have to worry about them negatively affecting your energy costs as long as they’re closed.
The main con of folding door systems is that they can be quite expensive if you’re trying to do a large-scale project. If you’re just using them for interior doors or to replace a small door opening, they’re a bit more affordable, though.
If you end up getting a wood bi-fold door, you’ll also have to be willing to commit to more maintenance. Depending on the wood species you use and the climate you live in, this may have to be done regularly. If this is a concern, though, you’ll usually be able to choose between thermally broken aluminum, stainless steel, or PVC/vinyl door frames- all of which require far less maintenance.
Before folding doors came on the scene, sliding doors were all the rage. Arcadia Steel invented some of the first sliding doors in the late-1950s, and today they’re commonly found throughout suburban construction.
Most sliding doors feature an individual panel that slides across a supporting panel. The door can be easily slid to enter and exit, and many systems come with retractable screens that prevent bugs from getting in.
Sliding doors are made from high-quality materials such as aluminum and PVC and are designed to be opened thousands of times without fail. Modern-day versions are a far sight more advanced than the old cookie-cutter versions you grew up with. They typically feature low-e glass, thermally-broken door stiles, and weather-proof door jambs designed to resist water leaking.
The most commonly-mentioned drawback regarding sliding doors is that the user must slide the entire door system to enter or exit the doorway. These large sliding glass panels can be quite heavy, and the extra effort required to open and close them often dissuades people from choosing this option.
Swing doors are simple systems that involve placing large reinforced glass panels on a series of hinges. Depending on the design of the door, it might open inwards, outwards (single-action), or both ways (double-action).
Modern swing doors are made from single sheets of glass with holes drilled in them to accommodate the hardware. These systems often feature low-e, dual-glazed glass that’s designed to be both thermally efficient and durable.
The main reasons why customers opt for swing doors is that they’re often more affordable than folding door systems and don’t require as many changes to the supporting structure. Also, thanks to the relative simplicity of standard swing doors, finding a contractor to install them is a lot easier.
The disadvantage of swing door systems is that they don’t allow homeowners to open up their house as much. While some swing doors come with hooking or locking mechanisms to keep the doors permanently open, you’ll still have to deal with a large, protruding door panel. They’re great options if you’re looking for a standard entry/exit door, but not the best for exterior patio applications or for those trying to open their space up.
Ultimately, the choice is up to you. What type of door you end up choosing will depend on your budget, the climate of where you live, and your own personal design taste. Our website focuses almost exclusively on bi-fold door systems, but it’s still important to know the differences between the different types of doors since many manufacturers sell all three.
If you’re looking to make a more drastic change to your house and significantly increase the market value, you can’t go wrong with folding accordion doors. Their sleek, high-tech design is unrivaled, and with today’s high-quality engineering, these doors can easily go a decade or more without any major problems or repairs.