Excerpt from my regular column in the Santa Barbara News-Press.
Question: The closets in our home have folding doors that are screwed onto the sides of the closet opening and fold open and closed. They always seem to be coming off the track and one set in my son’s room is completely broken. I hate these doors and want to know what they can be replaced with.
Your Handyman: The type of door that you are describing is called a bifold door which has a pair of tall narrow doors on each side that are hinged in the middle and fold up accordion style when closed. The older style bifold doors are supported for the most part by a pivot pin fastened to the wall at the bottom of the first door panel that the door swings on, and an open style track on the top of the closet opening that serves as a guide for the doors as they fold and unfold. These older style bifold doors are easily damaged by rough use or by a child pulling downward on the door, the door can split where it receives the pivot pin, or they can sag a little and no longer stay in the top track. There is a newer style of track hardware that solves all these problems by supporting the weight of the doors almost entirely from the top track which is an enclosed channel that has little 4 wheeled rollers that travel inside with an attachment post that inserts into receivers on the top of the doors. This new style track can also be used to refit older style sliding closet doors, can be purchased at most hardware stores for about $125, and is a fairly simple installation project that most homeowners with basic carpentry skills can successfully install on a Saturday.
Another option for your closets is to replace the bifold doors with either louvered or solid sliding bypass doors that can be ordered at a lumber yard or a door shop. Carefully measure the actual opening width and height of the closet without the doors and take that measurement with you when shopping for the new sliding doors. The salesperson at the lumber yard or door shop can help you order the correct size to fit your closet opening allowing for room for the overhead support track that was described in the previous paragraph, and also for a few inches of horizontal overlap between the two doors in the middle when they are in the closed position. Most closet openings are of a size so that a standard door of 32” – 36” wide and 80” high can be used and non standard sizes can be ordered without being significantly more expensive. The support for the weight of the doors is carried entirely from the top horizontal rail but you will need a small plastic door guide to be fastened onto the floor in the center of the doors to keep the doors aligned properly and to not allow the doors to be pushed in or out. If you are ordering louvered doors it is a good idea to have them ordered with a coat of white primer paint applied at the mill which will make the job of applying the color top coat of paint much easier.
Owner, YourHandyman & Construction
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