Making a Bi-Fold Door :: Pocketless Door Experiment: a Reprise
Part 1 of this article: The Pocketless Door Experiment
I had my fun, and free reign to try anything I wanted with the door on our newly remodeled powder room. I posted previously, in three parts, and lost you as I blathered on not only about the door itself, but about my methods and my means, my history and my place. Back story I will call it, and a way for me to come clean.
I did leave you hanging, like my door suspended there in the bath, but — no more.
Straight up — the pocketless door experiment was a failure. I think once I slipped the last hinge pin in this past weekend, I finally can confirm that. I still maintain that the pocketless door experiment might have worked, somewhere, but not in this house; not as the powder room door here.
More than a door
Several space considerations had to be made early on in this project. Even before we began gutting, we noticed the original door when swung open slapped the bowl of the sky blue toilet here. (I always wonder how something like this happens – poor planning, I guess.)
Knowing that we didn’t want to get involved with moving any part of the cast iron plumbing, we decided that I would simply cut the existing door in half and mount it as a mini-French – two smaller doors hinged one each from both jambs. Functional, unique – a perfect fit for this house and our style. The plan from the beginning.
With this detail decided, we proceeded to rough-in the space. We placed electrical switches and outlets just out of a half a door’s reach. I set the plumbing for pedestal sink where I wanted; it would not be affected by this door configuration, and vice versa.
The stack attack
Another feature of our powder room — the stack. Yes, the house’s main WV (waste & vent) stack, in cast iron too, comes right down and through this bath. In these situations, and you find them often in older houses, this 3 pipe would eventually be concealed with a chase.
Every inch of wiggle matters
I gutted and re-framed this door opening. I could have shrunk the opening a little, calling for a 28 (2-4) door instead of the 30 (2-6) door that I had on hand.
While I did have this idea (plan B) in the remote outskirts of my mind, my course decided upon – it didn’t get the priority that maybe it should have. So the framing went in, and while I gave myself about an extra ¾, I would be wishing later that I framed instead for a standard-sized 28 door.
The toilet & other matters
The placement of this toilet was very limiting. It was in clear shot of a standard door’s swing from one side. On the other, it was confined by the chase for my WV.
To complicate matters, I wanted that chase to do double duty. I wanted it to hold custom cubbies. To do this, I would need to frame it up in 2×4 as opposed to 2×3. (The 2x3s of course could have given me up to an inch more in usable space.) The cubbies were being built into the recesses of the blocking here – I would need the additional depth provided by the 2x4s.
I explored the idea of using a 2-inch offset flange on the toilet. This would have given me additional clearance off a 30-inch door. In the end, though, I was opposed to this mainly because the openings on these offsets themselves shrink. And hey, living with a three- and a five-year-old, you never know what could go down, or get stuck, in a toilet drain.
I really do love my wife, and I think she loves me . . . (Jen, Jen . . . anyway)
As I mentioned previously, I had gotten approval to try the pocketless door. It was a hair. . . .You know. Because I installed the wall treatment as such (and I won’t waste any more time on that here), I would need this door to slide outward and inward just slightly along its glide.
Plus, I was really going to push the bounds of psychics, and try to slip this panel down into the opening. Doable — I know it. And I got it to the point where it would have required only a little — additional engineering.
And in lies the breakdown: my wife simply didn’t think the look of the bulky hardware I employed worked well with this dainty little powder room. Maybe she was right. In the end, for me, though, it was watching my girls that broke me.
The girls were having difficulty sliding the door back and forth. It was just too much for them to handle. And like that, after mauling it over for about a month – the pocketless door was out. The mini-French was back in.
But we don’t speak French
When it finally came time, my wife and I met again to discuss the pros and cons of different door configurations. Yep, and guess what – the toilet I ultimately installed was still in the way of a hinged door’s swing. So that was still out.
Because of a minor obstruction created by the wall treatment, the sink-side portion of the mini-French would probably not swing a full 180 degrees. This translates, here, to less than textbook clearance (21 by code, 30 in design sense) at the front of the sink.
While we thought this would be easy enough to live with, we continued to discuss other options. Then it was said: There is always the bi-fold.
So . . . making a bi-fold door
To make the bi-fold, I started by cutting my 30 (less a few fractions of inch from previous work) door in half. I did this by placing it on my temporarily work bench and clamping a straight 2×4 over it from both ends of the table. For added insurance, as is often necessary with long guided rips – I placed a drywall screen down through the 2×4 into the door’s center rail. (I would putty it later.)
I attempted to find the exact center by taking measurements in multiple locations along the door’s height. Since, however, this door had been worked even before I got to it, I could not depend on these measurements. I quickly scrapped that idea and used instead measurements off of the doors raised panels. I made marks in 3 places along the door and ran a line up the door’s center stile.
Using my circular saw, I made a straight/flat rip cut along this line. This cut revealed the large wafers, biscuits, which hold the door’s panels in place. (Hopefully the picture at right shows this.)
The fear all along with cutting a door in half (I haven’t done this one before) is that it, in the end, would simply fall apart. To neutralize risk of this – I made additional cuts at the inside edges of the door pieces, and added 5/8 S4S. I glued and tacked this to the edges. With just a little sander work, I had two equally sized door panels.
Even a bi-fold has hinges (a little technical)
For the fold, I could have chosen non-mortise bi-fold door hinges. The main benefit of these hinges is a cut-out in one side allowing the two hinge plates to mate perfectly. Fearing this style of hinge would not be sturdy enough to hold my fir door, I instead chose to mortise for and install three 3 1/2 square corner hinges.
To do this, I flipped my radius corner mortise jig over. This allowed for squared cutting across the entire edge of my door panels. (This door coincidentally was a non-standard 1 and ¼ thick.)
For this procedure, I always try to remember that you should recess the entire face of the hinge. (You can mark your depth on your door panel by holding the hinge up next to it.) I have trained myself especially with my low-end plunge router to go a little shallow on these cuts, at about 3/32 of an inch.
I paired my doors, marked for my mortises – 7 from the top, 11 from the bottom, and at a distance splitting them for the center — and made my mortise cuts. I assembled the doors and found that in this case I went a little too shallow. There was light passing through the center where the doors met. This would not necessarily be desirable for a bathroom door. So I went to work with a one-inch chisel, beveled-side face up – as to take minimal amounts out of the recesses.
This took some time, but generally it worked. If anything I might have went a little too deep here. Later, when the door was finally hung, it was kicking back just slightly when shut.
Oh well, I said to myself, with all I have gone through with this door, and even today – still searching for pivoting pocketless door hangers, good enough. I added an additional surface-mount bolt latch at the top of the door just to the latch side of the fold.
What of the abandoned backing on the slider set-up
Now, the wife happy, the experiment resolved, the kick back rectified, and the door painted, I post.
For now, the abandoned backing for the slider remains. Our original intention was to add shelving in this room. With the backing boards I had added, hey, I have a built-in shelf.
And that’s my story and I am sticking to it.
>> More Moxie (Related Links):
*Non-Mortise Bi-Fold Door Hinges (for illustration): http://www.hardwaresource.com/Store_ViewCatLevel3.asp?Cat=129&OrderID
*Toilet Anatomy (cool site): http://www.toiletology.com/anatomy.shtml
*American Standard’s Cadet 3 Flowise Collection: http://www.americanstandard-us.com/searchResults.aspx?c=71&p=3
Bigger, Faster, Stronger, Better (an outtake)
I had a salvaged toilet on hand throughout this entire process, and I did intend to use it. I placed my cubbies at the exact height at which the toilet’s tank could not reach them. While I took the time to ensure this would not be an issue, I did not, in the end, account for the toilet’s handle placement. Whoops!
On this particular model – the flush level was on the left-hand side of the tank. If I installed this toilet, the lever would have been right tight against the chase. RATS! That would not work. So . . . I had to find another toilet.
But what I found instead was that I simply screwed myself. Most narrow toilets compensate for their size with added height to the tank. (32 or more from the floor for most.) Because of my chase, my tank could be no wider than about 19. But for me, my total height also couldn’t exceed 29, any taller and the toilet tank would have hidden my precious bottom cubby.
Thank the plumbing gods, though, for Cadet 3, an offshoot of American Standard‘s most popular line. As compact as this toilet was, the tank measuring at 17 1/4 inches wide, a full door swing would still just lightly touch the lip of the toilet tank lid.
Nonetheless, on a day that I had set aside to purchase and install a toilet – it would do. I had special plans for the bath door anyway. Right?
And it was only a few months later, on a trip to Lowes, when we found an even slimmer Cadet 3 Flowise – a one-piece unit measuring only 15 ½ inches wide. Did I overlook this? Did I not shop enough? Was I in too much of a hurry? I don’t know – but I did hear it from my wife that day.
A toilet of this size would have given me enough wiggle room to install a full size door. And as I have mentioned previously, it is always good to have wiggle.
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About jb bartkowiak (322 posts)
A one-time construction manager, and always handyman, turned blogger and editor - Your Home Project Assistant. My wife, Jen, and I are on our 6th property (. . . yes, together). She is a real estate agent. We have two beautiful daughters Evyn and Eva. We currently live and are restoring an 1889 farmhouse in Baltimore's Lauraville area.