Bifold Garage Doors, Two Types Of Folding Garage Doors
Bifold garage doors are not nearly as common as the overhead sectional door. Like any other type of door, they have their own advantages and disadvantages. If you are looking for something to set your place apart from the crowd, folding garage doors are an interesting option.
There are basically two very different types of bifold doors found on a garage. The first type folds to the sides of the opening, either inside or outside the building. These operate very much like a folding closet door that is found in many homes. The second type folds upward, usually on the outside. These are popular for aircraft hangars because they can be used in really wide openings.
An advantage to both types of bifold garage doors is that they don't reduce the useable height inside, like sectional overhead doors do. Since they don't cover part of the ceiling when they are open, folding garage doors allow you to have overhead lights at that end of the building. With the overhead type, even if you do have room above them for lighting fixtures, the light is blocked by the door when it is open.
An advantage that is exclusive to the type that folds upward is that they provide a little bit of additional shade and shelter beyond the doorway when they are up. If the door is more than 14 feet tall or so, you can also easily have a "man door" added in the lower section, so you can enter and exit through the front without having to open the big door.
Both types of folding garage doors have their own disadvantages, though. The type that folds to the side requires open, unobstructed floor space to operate. If they fold to the inside, this means that a vehicle has to be pulled in far enough to clear the path of the doors. You also can't have anything sitting on the floor in the way. The bigger they are, the more room you need for them to open. If they fold outwards, snow or ice buildup on the driveway can prevent them from opening.
A bifold door that folds upward will put extra stress on the building structure when it is open, so you have to factor that in to your building plans. If you are wanting to add a bifold door to an existing structure, most buildings can be modified and "beefed up" to accept one.
Bifold garage doors that fold upwards also need some room to operate. When fully open, they will extend out from the building by a distance that is half of the door height. For instance, if the door is 12 feet tall, it will extend horizontally about 6 feet from the wall when open.
This doesn't mean that you have to have a full six feet of clearance in front of the door at ground level, though. As they are opened, the "peak" of the fold moves up and outward in an arc. The front end of a vehicle can be within a foot or two of the door without interfering with it.
Both types of bifold doors can be fitted with automatic opening mechanisms. An automatic opener for folding garage doors will be more expensive than one for a conventional overhead type though. This is because there is less competition in the marketplace and the openers are produced in smaller quantities than conventional automatic openers.
The second half of the video below shows a bi-fold door in action:
Bifold garage doors are a neat architectural feature that can make your garage stand out from the crowd. They are not "better" or "worse" than other more conventional types, just "different", with their own advantages and disadvantages. If you are looking for a cure for the boring, conventional sectional door, you have found it!
You also might be interested in taking a look at our page on real carriage doors that fold sideways or swing out. For information on other types, go to our Related Pages menu on the right near the top of this page.