Emily Winters: Troubling Bifolds

I think many of us have had love/hate relationships with bifold doors. Sometimes they’re loose. Sometimes they look crooked. Sometimes they just don’t open or close easily. It’s too bad there aren’t many other great small-space door options. There were numerous problems with the bifold door that served to cover the linen closet in my house, and for three years, I’ve been hoping to learn how to correct the issues once and for all.

Ready to install a bifold door?

For the full story, I hope you keep on reading and learn a handy thing or two about common door installation!

Common in many homes, the bifold door comes in many shapes and sizes. When I moved into my house, there it was; white, scratched from what I can only assume were previous homeowner’s animals, uneven in the frame and begging to be updated. Can you see it popping out at the bottom?

Old bifold door.

I removed the white door when I came across a perfectly swell louvered door tucked away in the basement. Stained brown, it was more aligned with the furniture I was moving into the house, and even though it wasn’t installed on the track system, it wedged right into the existing opening just fine. It was easy enough for me to yank out of my way, and it’s not like any of my company was ever needing to explore in the linen closet, and so here’s where I make a huge confession: the louvered door was totally for show, only functional in the sense that it had been wedged into the door frame concealing my beach and bathroom towels for the last several years. Yes, it’s been years since I’ve had a functioning bifold door. And would you have known any differently?

Updated, but still not operational bifold door.

As I mentioned, there were many issues with the old door:

  • The frame on the door was not level
  • Its un-level-ness caused the top of the door frame to be wider than the base
  • It’s funneling shape meant that the top of the door wobbled loosely, and the base of the door needed the jaws of life (a.k.a. my fingernails) to be popped in and out of place

 

Determined to update this door and the frame myself, I set out in a very exploratory fashion to assess the possibilities. Oh, and I went to buy a brand new bifold door, complete with louvers to be identical to the one I found in my basement, but nice, fresh wood, complete with all of the hardware that would be required to install it.

New full louver bifold door.

1. Sized the new door. Because the top of the door frame was level and the perfect width, I actually took it upon myself to prepare a new bifold door right off the bat. It required a little reworking, though; it was too tall for my weird little closet, so I had to take 3/4″ off both the top and the bottom of the door; fortunately, doing these cuts evenly was a pinch with a speed square and my favorite chop saw (as I told you last week it totally deserved MVP status).

Speed squaring the lines on which to cut.

Resizing the length of the new bifold door.

Just like that, it was cut and fit in the slightly-too-short entryway. *Note: While many manufacturers do produce these doors in varied heights, my searches high and low did not yield those products.  

2. I stained the louvered door in the backyard, as I was granted an unseasonably warm day that I couldn’t not take advantage of. I had some leftover Rust-Oleum Ultimate in Kona that I employed for the job; it’s a rich brown in a quick-dry formula that I can’t get enough of (I’ve used it on most of the shiplap paneled walls in my house).

Prepping some Kona stain for the new bifold door.

3. I installed the track in the still-wonky-proportioned closet, and prepped the door for installation. If you’ve never installed a bifold door before, it’s pretty easy; the door itself rests within a track, anchored and pivoting on one end and gliding on the other, and installing that metal track along the top of the closet is step #1.

Installing the bifold door track.

Because I had chopped a bit off the top and bottom of the door, I had to deepen the pre-drilled holes in the top and bottom of the door to accomodate the bits that hold the door into place. Matching up bits until I found one that was thick enough to adequately deepen but not widen the existing holes, the 3/8″ bit was perfect.

Deepening the pre-drilled holes on the bifold door.

It was clearly stated in my door’s installation instructions that the bits would need to be tapped in lightly with a hammer. Tap, tap, all done.

Tapping the hardware into the new door.

4. I installed the door, very easy. There’s one additional bit that holds the bottom of the door in place and allows it to pivot, but with that installation, the new door can be installed.

5. An installed door is great and all, but not if it didn’t close, so I fixed that. I still hadn’t corrected the wonky door frame, which was wide at the top and narrow at the bottom. Something needed to be done, so I took both the lefthand door frame and the inside framework out to expose the original lath and plaster. Good news was that with the trim out, the new bifold door closed perfectly and effortlessly.

Great door, naked frame.

Can you tell in these pictures how it’s still much wider at the top than at the bottom?

Can you see how uneven the doorframe is?

6. I rebuilt the door frame. Upon investigating the frame, I found that the original frame itself was not level, so I decided to fake it. Instead of re-installing the original 1-by board as the inside edge of the door trim, I looked for something even thinner and pulled some pieces of leftover subfloor from Day 10 of the bathroom renovation to do the trick. Cut with the circular saw into strips, I used the nail gun to attach it inside the doorway. Good news is that it was thin enough not not obstruct the door, but still finish off the interior frame. I immediately guessed that with a fresh coat of paint, you’d never be able to tell that it was only 1/4″ thick.

Swapping a one-by for thin subfloor.

I reused the original piece of 1×5 door trim that had been installed as the original frame and saved myself $10, but updated the way it was installed and angled it, or rather, made it rightfully level the way it should have been all along. Correcting this piece of trim allowed me to even how it still looked wider at the top than it did at the bottom, and made everything nice and square again.

Even though I used the same door trim, I did splurge on $13 of new corner guard trim for a nice, thick edge that better matches the trim in the rest of the house.

Updated trim.

With some carefully squeezed paintable caulk, a fresh coat of primer, and straight-from-the-can white paint, it’s really satisfying to know that I made the closet especially easy to access and as functional as it should have been all along. Even if it is another stained brown louvered door that looks only slightly better than the door that was leaning in the doorway last week.

Finished bifold door.

Catching the home improvement bug at an early age, Emily Winters is a now a devoted DIYer living in Rochester, NY. The projects she covers on her blog Merrypad range from painting a wall to building a deck, so it’s only natural she landed at DIYNetwork.com. You can follow Emily on twitter at @merrypad and like her on facebook at facebook.com/merrypad.

20 Responses

  1. e-forex says:

    Incredible! I had no idea that this can be so interesting � thanks to this article I started to do some research by myself :D

  2. Rob says:

    Hey there,
    I’m in a bit of a bind & hoping you might have a solution. I ordered some custom bifolding closet doors & completely forgot to leave space for the door jambs. My concern with installing the hardware directly into the finished drywall is that the screws might loosen overtime with normal use.
    The doors were already run through a table saw and close to the minimum they can be trimmed. I might be able to shave off 1/8″, 1/4″ max from each panel.
    Is there a product you could recommend that is 1/8″ thick that could be used, as a door jamb, to secure the hardware? If so where might I source it? The ideal dimensions of the product would be 1/8″ thick x 4″ wide x 80″ tall.

    Any advice is appreciated,
    RV

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  4. [...] storage space. Aside from in the bedrooms, my little home only has one small closet (the one whose bi-fold door I replaced last summer), and it’s only large enough to hold sheets, towels, and basic household cleaning projects, [...]

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  6. [...] piece of pine corner guard that we’ve installed on our bathroom windows and around the new bifold door trim. Already cut to length, it also sported matching 45-degree angles. I didn’t hate it, so [...]

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  14. Mark says:

    Looks great! Never told you but once when I was dog and house sitting and looking for towels, the old door fell out of the frame and knocked me part way down the stairs.

    • Tee says:

      I've seen doors installed like the door you're describing, and they can be especially dangerous if located near stairways. The good thing is that you're ok.

  15. Elisa says:

    You should receive the official title of Dark Wood Staining Queen. Because this looks awesome, and so much classier than a regular white bi-fold door!

    • merrypad says:

      Thanks Elisa! The louvers were REALLY hard to stain, I'll say that. Next time I have to stain with such accuracy, I'm getting a paint sprayer to get in the little cracks better. Glad you like!

  16. Chelsey says:

    Great timing- this is next on my to-do list. Thanks!

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About Emily Fazio 

204Posts

I caught the home improvement bug at an early age, and now I'm a full-time DIYer living in Rochester, NY. The projects I cover on my blog Merrypad range ...

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