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Bifold Door Problems And How To Fix Them

Bifold doors are an excellent way of creating the largest possible opening in the smallest possible space.  In their smallest form, they’re a popular choice for airing cupboards and pantries.  Larger internal bifold doors, on the other hand, can be used to create a temporary divide between two rooms which can be folded away to create large open space.

For all of their advantages, folding doors are slightly more prone to small problems.  Since they’re more intricate and complicated, there’s more than might potentially go wrong. Let’s take a look at the issues that might arise from a folding door, and see how we might fix them.

How to put a bifold door back on the track

A key component of a folding door is the track.  This is a metal channel which runs across the length of the door, to which each panel is tethered by a small wheeled device called a hanger.  Typically (though not always) these tracks run across the top of the door in order that there’s no divide between the floor spaces of the rooms on either side. You can find out more about internal bifold door tracks in our article on the topic.

If the hangers come loose from the track, then the door won’t work properly.  This might occur when a large amount of force is applied to the door.  Smaller bifold doors tend to be more vulnerable than larger ones, but slamming any door of this kind is inadvisable. The good news for those wondering how to put a bifold door on track is that it’s usually quite straightforward.  Let’s go through the procedure.

At the top and bottom of each set of doors you’ll find a device called a pivot.  These hold the doors without attaching them to the frame itself.  They’re held into place via the tension of a spring, which pushes one of the pivots into a socket in the frame (and, at the same time, another one on the other side of the door).  

At the bottom of the pivot should be a nut, which can be used to loosen the tension, and thereby adjust the height of the door.  Using a spanner, loosen this nut as far as it will go.  Once you’ve got enough slack, you should be able to remove the entire door from its track.  If you can’t generate the required slack, then you may wish to use a crowbar to pry the door out.  Proceed carefully here; you don’t want to apply so much force that you damage the door.

In some cases, you might be able to get the door back into its track without removing the entire thing.  If you find that you can do this, then your work is done.  If you can’t, don’t try and force it back in. Instead go along the track, loosening the screws which secure it to the frame.  Then remove each one except the last (the one nearest the pivot).  You should now be able to rotate the entire track out and slide the doors back in.  Once you’ve got the doors back onto the pivot, you can move the track back into place and re-secure it.  

How do fix a bifold door pivot

If you find that your door is in its track but doesn’t quite move smoothly from one side to the other, then the chances are that it isn’t properly aligned.  This is an easy problem to fix, and requires adjusting the pivot.

Your first move should be to observe the door to see how straight it is.  Close it fully and take a close look at the gap.  If you’ve got a visible change in the gap from one side to another, no matter how small, then the chances are that you’ll have trouble closing the door.

If the top pivot is too loose, then the door will be able to slip out of alignment.  Correcting this problem will involve a little bit of trial-and-error.  Open the door and loosen the bracket at the top.  Then start to move the door back and forward again.  Be sure to be gentle, in order to avoid pulling the pivot from the socket.  

If either the top or bottom pivots have come loose and are no longer engaged with their respective brackets, then you’ll need to adjust them.  Do this by loosening or tightening the bottom pivot until the side of the door is plumb with the jamb.

In older doors, the pivots may have worn the holes to the point that they aren’t snug anymore. In this case, you’ll need to drill a new hole.  This can be done by filling the existing hole with wood putty and a dowel plug, and then drilling into the result.  When doing this, allow the glue to dry completely and then drill a new hole exactly plumb with the one on the other side.  Be sure to get things properly aligned before drilling; while you’ll have some room to correct misalignments afterwards, it’s best to get things right first time.

On the other hand, if the pivot pin itself is damaged, you’ll need to replace it.  Fortunately, such replacements can be purchase cheaply, and installed relatively easily.

How to repair bifold door handles

Another mechanism which might need occasional maintenance is the bifold door handle.  If you’re having trouble with your bifold door not opening, then the handle itself might well be the culprit.  Replacing the handle entirely is usually a better option than trying to repair it – especially since door handles tend to be quite inexpensive.  Let’s take a look at how this might be done.

First, you’ll want to consider where your new handle will go.  You’ll want it to be somewhere that’s easily reachable; but you’ll also want it in a position that doesn’t apply pressure unevenly across the door.  In most cases, it’s best to stick with the original position of the handle – as the manufacturer will have chosen this to work best with the door.

Unscrew the old handles and remove them from the door.  Do this with the door open so that you can reach both sides at the same time. Then insert the new cylinder, screwing it into place.  You’ll want to have a replacement ready immediately.  If you’re unsure that your new handle will fit, then consult the documentation that came with the door, or get in touch with the manufacturer.  If you’re fixing an external bifold door, then this is all the more important; the wrong choice of handle might render the door useless from a security perspective, and render you stranded when you come to make a claim.

In conclusion

Bi-fold doors have something of a reputation for being fragile – but this reputation was earned long ago, when folding doors were far less durable than they are now.  With a few spare parts and a little bit of time, it’s easy to cure most of the ailments that a folding door might contract over its lifetime, and ensure that it looks and functions as well as possible, for as long as possible.