Patio doors: French, bi-fold or sliding?

Written by Super User

Homeowners’ increasing desire to create an open plan, light-filled kitchen or living space has redefined the ‘patio door’ from a simple two-door exit to a standout feature that can deliver unobstructed, panoramic views of the garden.

There are three broad types of patio door available today:

  • French doors – traditional double doors which both open outwards.
  • Bi-folding doors – multiple door sections which concertina back to fully open up the doorway.
  • Sliding doors – two or more larger panes of glass which slide sideways to open.

But within these three categories there are numerous materials, glazing options, operating systems and optional extras to be considered. Deciding which solution is the most cost effective and the best fit for your home can be a challenge. Below we review the three options in more detail.

French Doors

French doors tend to be more popular in period properties because there is a wider range of frames and glass styles available, making them more adaptable to fit with traditional features such as sash windows. Given their smaller dimensions, French doors cannot compete with bi-folds and sliding doors in terms of bringing light into the home. But adding a set of French doors along a wall can look effective, as can combining them with sidelights or featuring them within another glazing arrangement.


The main advantage of bi-folds is that they allow for the whole aperture to be opened up and – because they commonly run on tracks that lie flush within the floor – they can create an almost seamless transition from the inside to the outside.

 Bi-folds can also incorporate traffic doors, a single door that can be opened independently therefore creating quick and easy access to the outside; perhaps a particularly attractive feature for clients with young children!

 A potential downside is that they can be quite frame-heavy, with less glazing than their sliding door counterparts. When open, the stacked (or folded) panels can also take up much-needed space in the more modest-sized home.

Sliding Doors

Sliding doors are a hugely popular choice at the moment and they have come a long way from their 1960s incarnations. They provide the most light of the three - thanks to minimal framework - and are the best option for providing unimpeded views of your garden. Advances in technology have allowed for larger panes, which can be moved effortlessly. Our largest Dutemann sliding doors, for example, can span 6.8 metres on a two-pane slider and 20 metres on a six-pane slider!

Unlike bi-folds, sliding doors have no sections to concertina back so they do not obstruct the space and are visually cleaner. One drawback of the sliding door was that - because one door slides behind the other - you could never fully open the aperture to your garden but more recent designs overcome this issue by incorporating sliding doors that disappear into cavities (pockets) in the walls.

Whichever door feels right for you, there are many aspects to consider before making your final decision. Here are our top tips:

Patio Doors: Top tips to consider when choosing your patio doors

  • Frames
    The thicker the frame the less light enters your home and the heavier the overall appearance.
  • Materials
    Choose a material with good structural stability - such as aluminium or UPVC - to minimise the risk of warping and sticking.
  • Operating system
    Loadings and weight need to be carefully considered for smooth operation. There are two ways in which the weight of the door can be supported and these are called ‘top hung’ and ‘bottom rolling’. Top-hung doors conceal the operating mechanisms in the top of the frame and dirt and leaves are less likely to be an issue. Top-running systems must have a sufficiently strong lintel above the opening to bear the weight of the doors.
  • Installation
    Accurate fitting is vital and the size and style of the door units you choose will impact on the support and architectural work required.
  • Adjustment
    Aluminium and UPVC expand and contract with climactic changes - the system needs to be able to cope with this. Both horizontal and vertical adjustment is important. Any inaccuracies in manufacturing or frame installation will be amplified on larger door sets.
  • Security
    What are the locking systems and are they accredited? All our glazed units offer multi-point locking systems, which are operated by BSI Kite marked key cylinders.
  • Insulation
    What are the thermal properties of the doors? Our products are manufactured to outperform current U value building regulations. The combination of a thermal barrier, multiple weather seals and high performing glass maximises heat retention in your home.
  • Building regulations
    Building regulations are updated constantly, so ensure that the doors you wish to buy pass the current regulations. Ask for documentation and certificates and keep these safe so that, if you come to sell your house, you can pass them on to the new owner.

At E W Grace Glass, we offer a range of products within each patio door category. Please feel free to contact us. We will be happy to help you find the perfect solution for your home.


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 Contact Details

Address: E W Grace Glass
28 High Road
Buckhurst Hill
Essex IG9 5HP


020 8505 5656
020 8559 0714