French Doors vs. Bi-Fold Doors: A Practical Guide

June 04, 2020

couple deciding whether their closet should have French doors or bi-fold doors

Building a custom closet or cabinet gives you a lot of room to make decisions. You can choose the wood grain and the finish. You can choose the compartments, the shelf height, and — if you want — a hanging bar. You can choose to add drawers and specify your favorite handles. For larger cabinetry like a custom closet or an armoire, you can also choose unique types of cabinet doors. Wide apertures allow a double-door style and your choice between French doors or bi-fold doors. But what exactly is the difference?

What Are French Doors?

French doors are a breezy style of double-door that is very popular with verandahs and front doors with porches. In a french door configuration, the two doors are mounted so that they latch against each other when closed. Handles face the center, often with a lever or bar designed to be easily opened in a single two-handed gesture.

French doors for cabinets and closets always open toward the operator, requiring enough space for both doors to swing outward.

French doors are often considered romantic and are a classic style for cabinetry and homes. French doors are typically paneled and often include panels of clear glass when used for external home doors.

What Are Bi-Fold Doors?

Bi-fold doors were designed for tight spaces. They work in singles and doubles, and a double bi-fold door can smoothly open up a cabinet or closet without room for the doors to swing.

Each bi-fold door is two vertical panels that fit together when closed. The panels are hinged together. One end is mounted on the door hinge and the other on tracks. When the door handle is pulled and pushed toward the outer frame, the front end slides outward on the track and the middle buckles forward.

This sounds complicated. But in practice, it is elegant. Your doors fold in half and slide outward to take up half the space, with none of the sweep-area needed for swinging doors. A pair of bi-fold doors can open up a wide space smoothly while taking up very little floor space or swing-space.

So, What’s The Key Difference Between French And Bi-Fold Doors? 

They both open from the center and usually do not have a post in the middle. However, French doors swing outward while bi-fold doors fold on themselves and push toward the edges. Deciding between will depend on your floor space and how you plan to use your new cabinetry.

Bi-Fold Doors or French Doors for Your Closet

Are French doors or bi-fold doors better for your project? To find out, ask yourself a few simple questions.

How much sweep-space do you have?

If your closet is in an open room with plenty of floor space, French doors can be both practical and elegant. Consider not only the sweep-space but also where your French doors will "dock" when they are open and the cabinet is in use. If you are in a smaller space, bi-fold doors can more neatly reveal your closet without taking up a lot of room.

Do you want to step back to use the doors?

French doors also need a bit more space to open, so you'll need to step back. If you don't want to step back, bi-fold doors are the better option. This can be preferable if you have limited mobility or a tighter space. If you prefer broad gestures and don't mind taking a step back, French doors are an elegant alternative.

Do you care for doors on tracks?

Some people really like tracked doors like pocket and bi-fold doors. Other people strongly prefer a simple hinge. If you have a strong preference in one direction or the other, naturally, let this guide your decision.

The difference between French doors and bi-fold doors is simple. One swings open toward you. The other folds in half on tracks. Both reveal the interior of your closet swiftly and efficiently. The best choice depends on your preference and your space. Browse our selection of French door and bi-fold door options for your own Murphy door.

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