Oo La la, a French door tutorial

I just can’t get enough of these bi-fold to French door makeovers, this is the third I’ve done (two at our house, one at a friends), and I love them! They are so pretty, feel hefty and grand, allow the closet to be more accessible, and update the house, all within a little package of molding and paint. I have had several people comment on them, saying “I want to do that in my house! (Shout out to Bethany, you go girl!) How do you do it?” I thought it would be fun to do a comprehensive step-by-step for anyone looking to classify some bi-folds.


Step one: Decide on your target closet several months prior to this. Paint the doors to match the wall so they will “disappear into the background” because you can’t stand looking at all that dark wood. Realize the paint makes them uglier, but wait four months while staring them down until you can drive to IKEA for handles. <– wait, was that just me? Moving on.

Step two: assemble your supplies. On this closet I used five 1x4s for the decorative framing of the front of the doors, a set of  bar handles, two magnetic catches, some scrap wood for the back, and my standard boards for the trim on the top. I also used wood filler for the bi-fold seam, a sander, and primer and paint, as well as a 5/8″ spade bit (that comes in handy later). A word about wood and trim:  at Menards, you can by 1x3s for $1.05. These are wonderful for garage projects, bracing things, and other stuff around the house. HOWEVER. They are full of knots, warp easily, have rounded corner edges and you can often see the mill saw marks on the wood. Spring for the ‘select’ boards and they will look much more polished in the end.

bad wood

good wood 2

Step three: On the bi-fold door, there is a pin holding the two middle doors into the track, that allows the them to slide in the track. Simply slide your finger into the track, press the spring-loaded pin down enough to allow it to come out of the track and remove the whole shebang from the door. You now have free-floating doors. Except the pins in all of the doors I have done so far in our house do not press down. At all. I have no idea how these doors were installed. And I am not crazy because I was helping a friend a few streets down and her pin/track thing wouldn’t budge either. So, instead, cut the dang pin off with the amazingly versatile Dremel tool you got from your sweetie for Christmas. Loan out to said friends so they don’t go crazy trying to get the pin out too.



Step four: Brace the doors from the back so they become a solid unit. I have tried using metal flat brackets but they didn’t reach far enough across the door to keep the door from bowing ever so slightly. This will drive you crazy trying to fill the seam in the front. You can also remove the hinges, knobs, and the door catch thingy on the bottom. All technical terms.


Step five: Now that you have free-swinging French doors, you will want a way to keep them from swinging into the closet, so when you start nailing the trim on, they won’t move. I purchased two magnetic catches, and mounted them onto the door frame at the top. You will probably need to attach a spacer for them to hang low enough to touch the door. Attach the big part to the door frame behind the track, and the little flat part goes on the door. This is where having a garage full of weird scraps comes in handy, don’t let your significant other take all that stuff to the burn pile. Permission to hoard some wood scraps granted. (I said some. You should still be able to find what you need without an avalanche or an hour long excavation of the garage. Don’t be crazy my friends.)


Step six: Now that the doors are secured, you can start the finishing process. Trim out the front of the doors with the 1x4s. I know how to do mitered corners, but since this project is being painted, I took the easy way out and did butt-joint corners (btw, who came up with that term?) I ran the long pieces from top to bottom so I didn’t have to see any end grain; even I am too short to see the top, and you’ll NEVER see the bottom. Important tip: ALWAYS test your molding by holding a scrap against the outside edge of your door (if you’re going for the shaker look like I am). Then, slowly open the door while allowing the trim to slide out of the way until the door is fully open. Carefully shut the door with the scrap piece in it’s new position and mark how far away the trim is from the edge. Thinner trim will allow for a smaller gap, insetting the trim will eliminate this problem. Also, depending on how your doors were built, installed, and cased around will determine all this. My inset on these particular doors was 3/8″, on others its been 1/8″ or not at all. Attach molding to the door using a nail gun.


Step seven: fill the seam and handle holes with wood filler. I wouldn’t recommend calking, because it can sink in to the crease and be obvious. Some bi-fold creases will be wide and need some serious filling, others will be so tight you can barely see it, all depending on your original bi-fold door style. Sand smooth once dry.


Step eight: PAINT!!  Glorious glorious paint, it really does wonders for unifying a project. Make sure to prime over the wood filler first, it will seep through at least two coats of paint.

Step sevenish through nineish: Drill the handle holes. The reason I didn’t specifically put this before or after paint is you could do it either way, but I’m so impatient that I typically put them on while the paint is still wet and I don’t want sawdust sticking to it. After determining where you want your handle, drill through the door and the molding as far as you can, you’ll need to poke out the back side of the original bi-fold door. Most hardware screws aren’t 3″ long, so you will need to get the head of the screw to be just on the back side of the front molding, with the screw head inside the door. For this, you will need a bigger hole to start with to get your screwdriver into, hence the 5/8″(or smaller) spade bit. My ikea handle screws baaaaarely reached the handles, so I wouldn’t suggest trim on the front to be more than 3/4″ thick.




Step ten: Open, close, open, close. Test for any rubbing that you might have to sand down and paint again (thin coats). Proudly open the doors with flourish and nag you hubby into staring at them for far too long. Stare at them while eating breakfast. Lovingly pet the sleek handles and crisp trim. Marvel at how much it added to the presence in your room. Accidently eyeball the next set of doors and wash, rinse, repeat. Good luck!Picture1




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