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Painting Internal Bifold Doors: A Step-by-Step Guide

Internal bifold doors come in several different materials and styles.  There are those that consist of many panels, and there are those that consist of few.  There are large ones, and there are small ones.  There are wooden, plastic and metal ones.  One of the biggest influences on the overall look of the door is the coat of paint (or oil, or varnish) it receives.  

We offer doors which come pre-painted, so you needn’t necessarily worry about this sort of thing.  But by opting for an untreated door and applying this finish yourself, you’ll have a greater degree of control over the ultimate look of the door.  If you’d like your wooden door to match precisely with the surrounding wooden furniture, flooring or existing windows and doors then a lick of the appropriate varnish or polish is sure to help achieve precisely that – and the same is true if you opt for an aluminium one.

Let’s take a look at how we might go about painting doors of two different materials:  wood and metal.

How to Paint Wooden Bi-fold Doors

Wooden doors will require a little bit of extra preparation in order to achieve a smooth surface before paint is applied.  If you’re looking to paint brand-new, untreated doors, then this preparation will be minimal.  If you’re looking to grant a new lease of life to an older door, on the other hand, it might be extensive.

Time required

Painting a door isn’t something that takes a particularly long time in terms of labour – but you will need to apply several coats, and wait for each of them to dry before you continue.  What’s more, you’ll need to clean the wood thoroughly before getting started.  All of this preparation and drying time will quickly add up – so be sure to set aside at least a week for the job.  Ensure that everyone in your household knows where the doors are to be left drying, and that they don’t interfere with them.

Step-by-step instructions

Let’s go through the process, step-by-step.

Prepare the ground

First, you’ll need to do a little preparation to ensure that your paint doesn’t damage the door, or the floor you’re going to be painting over.  Lay down a large tarpaulin.  You might then wish to set up two sawhorses.  If you’ve yet to install the door’s hardware, you might skip this step, since the doors will be able to be lain flat across the floor.

Prepare the door

If your door comes with glass panels, then you’ll need to ensure that your paint doesn’t spread onto the glass. Do this by carefully applying masking tape to the outer edges of each panel.  Do the same thing to the hinges and handles, if you haven’t elected to remove them.

Clean the door

Before we get on with the business of actually painting the door, we’ll need to ensure that it’s properly clean and dried.  Do this by diluting a small amount of cleaning solution (sugar soap works well) into a bucket of water, and gently scrubbing the wood with a sponge.  You’ll need to allow this to thoroughly dry before you move onto the next stage of the process; failing to do so can lead the wood becoming saturated with water.  This will lead to rot and other problems if it’s sealed beneath a layer of paint or varnish.

If you’re painting an older door that’s already been painted, and you’re looking to change the colour, then you might wish to use a chemical paint-stripper to remove the old paint.  In most cases, however, this won’t be necessary.

Sand the door

Next you’ll want to achieve a smooth surface.  Sand both sides of the door with fine sandpaper, and use a moist cloth to wipe away the excess dust.  Be sure that you allow the door to properly dry before you start applying paint.

Get painting

You’re now ready to begin the actual proper work of painting the door.  Open your paint and give it a stir with either the brush or a stick before getting started.  Be sure that you don’t go so thick that the paint isn’t even.  On the other hand, going too thin can have exactly the same effect.  Start from the top of the bifold door and work your way downward, finishing with the edges.  You’ll want to paint with the wood’s grain rather than against it, and ensure that you don’t overload the brush.  This latter point is especially important when you’re painting the edges of the door, as gravity will tend to create that ugly dripping effect we’re looking to avoid.

Let the paint dry

Depending on the paint you’re using, you’ll want to allow it to dry overnight before you start work again.  

Get painting the other side

Once the paint is dry, you’ll want to flip over the bifolding door and paint the other side in exactly the same manner.  It might take several repetitions of this procedure before you’ve achieved the right finish.  Remember that the paint may change colour a little bit as it dries.   

Re-install the door

Having done all of this, you should be looking, more or less, at a door you’re happy with.  That being so, all that’s left is to remove all of the masking tape you’ve applied and install your bifold door.  Having done that, you should now be looking at a good-as-new door.

How to Paint Metal Bi-fold doors

Metal doors require a slightly different approach.  They’re not typically designed to be re-painted by the end user, and tend to come with a highly-resilient coat of powder paint, which is applied at factory level.  If your metal folding doors are looking well past their best, however, then a coat of paint might help to grant them a new lease of life.

Time Required

Unlike the paints you’d use to cover a wooden door, the spray paints we’ll be using don’t take very long to dry.  What’s more, you won’t need to worry about sanding in order to achieve a smooth finish.  Set aside a weekend.

Step-by Step Instructions

Clean the door

First, we’re going to clean the door to ensure that any rusty spots are properly disguised.  Do this on both sides, taking note of any particularly stubborn stains or uneven areas.  If you find a part that’s rusty, you won’t be able to reverse the damage – but you might be able to disguise it and stop it from spreading.

Remove the door

Once it’s clean, remove the door from the frame.    You’re going to take it somewhere that’s out of the way – after all, spray-painting can often cause a mess.

Protect glass

If your door is glazed, then you’ll want to avoid spraying paint onto the glass.  Cover the edges with masking tape, keeping generous margins to ensure that mishaps don’t occur.  Whilst it is possible to remove spray-paint from glass, it’s often extremely difficult to do so.  Prevention, as they say, is better than cure.

Spray the base coat

Next, we’re going to actually spray-paint the door.  Lay it flat on your sheet, in a well-ventilated area.  Ideally, you’ll want to do this outside.  Keep applying layers until you’ve got a finish that you’re happy with, waiting for each to dry before proceeding with the next.  Bear in mind that the colour of each coat may change as the entire thing dries.

Cover with gloss

Gloss enamel makes a great complement for a sprayed-on base layer.   Apply evenly and slowly with a brush.

Protect

If you’re painting exterior bifold doors, then you’ll need to apply a protective layer of insulating oil. WD40 works well – use a soft cloth to cover the entirety of the door.

Additional Tips

Paints of any sort will release potentially harmful fumes, and so working in an area that’s well-ventilated is essential.  Ideally, you’ll want to work using protective goggles and a facemask.  If you can’t remove your doors to another location while painting them, then be sure to take regular breaks.  

In conclusion

If you’re looking to keep your wooden doors in good shape, then regularly sanding and re-painting them should be considered obligatory.  Do this every six months or so, and you’ll ensure that your doors look and function as well as possible.  Metal bifold doors, tend to be less demanding – the best of them can last for several decades without needing a new coat of paint.  If you’d like to change the colour of yours, however, there’s no reason you can’t apply the paint yourself – with the right choice of paint, careful application, and good cleaning and aftercare, you’ll be able to achieve a finish that’s a match for the doors you get from the factory.