When deciding between folding doors and sliding doors there are several things to consider before you can select what best suits your space and usage. To address usage, it’s best to first look at what two spaces the doors will sit between. A person’s most typical encounter with a folding door might be in accessing a closet, but they can also work as a room divider or as a door between rooms. The same is likely true of a sliding (or bypassing) door. Many of us don’t use a folding door as commonly as something like a swinging door but a typical folding system that most people have experience with may be a bi-folding closet door. The space in front of or behind a folding system is important to examine, as the path the doors move through may impinge on something in one of those spaces. Having no space in front or behind would require an alternative to folding. Doors of this type are also typically anchored at at least one end, meaning they always fold to a particular position. If you need the flexibility to move the doors to one side or the other, a sliding door may be a better option in that instance. If maximum opening size when the doors are retracted is your top priority, then there are fewer sliding systems that fit the bill and a folding door may work best. Having an idea of how much of the opening needs to be accessible at any given point is crucial as well, i.e. maybe you need access to only half or a third of a closet at a time.
Frequency of use is an important determining factor in choosing between folding doors and sliding doors – a door system that is operated once a week versus one that it is operated multiple times a day highlights whether or not ease of use matters much. A similar ease of use concern is figuring out who will be operating the system. A child, an elderly person or someone with a disability will have specific concerns when operating a door that may differ from other users. Frequency and ease of use for folding doors are greatly affected by the size of the panels, but in most instances it is easier to operate a sliding door – typically they can be operated with one finger (minimal force necessary) and they don’t require a great range of movement. If the situation is less frequent, then a folding set of doors may suffice.
Choosing between folding, sliding (or perhaps another type of system) may have an effect on the level of privacy or screening you wish to achieve, but they are affected by many other factors as well including how they engage with their surroundings, i.e. does it operate within the opening, in front of the opening, etc.. The type of system will dictate certain things like clearance required to operate and whether or not they can strike a wall, all of which will contribute to or minimize light leaks and gaps for sound to travel through.
And finally, the setting may help you decide between a folding door and a sliding door. In our experience, settings like hospitality and offices where multiple people may be using the door system and where it might see rougher use than it would by a homeowner is an important factor to weigh. A sliding door is typically more durable than a folding door – the stresses acting on a sliding door system’s hardware are less than that of a folding for a given weight of panel. Resiliency in the face of less caring use has proven to be a trait of many types of sliding systems in our experience.
Summing it Up
When deciding between a folding door system and a sliding door system there are numerous things to consider. A room divider (as in a retractable wall) will have very different criteria as a solution as compared to a more basic opening like a closet door. And even beyond that there are numerous things that factor into creating an ideal solution. The best first steps steps are likely to be familiarizing yourself with the options available and consulting with a trade professional to help guide you to the product that will serve your needs best.