Of all the types of doors available, external bifold doors are undoubtedly the most intricate. This complexity is what helps them to make such a visual centrepiece for the home, and a talking point for guests. But it also means that bifold-door owners will have a long list of spare parts to keep track of.
In this article, we’re going to run through all the bits and bobs that help a bifold to do its thing. If your door has run into a malfunction, then it might be that one of these parts has developed a fault – and if you’re familiar with each part and its function, you’ll be able to diagnose those faults more quickly, and track down any necessary bifold door replacement hardware.
External Bifold Door Parts
Each bifold door consists of several panels, each attached to its neighbour so that the entirety forms a concertina. Aside from the frame and the panels themselves, there are five components worthy of closer scrutiny. Let’s examine them each in turn.
An exterior bifold door’s track is a channel to which all of the panels are tethered via several rolling carriages called guides. Were the track not there to guide the door, then it would be free to move across the room. This is undesirable, given that bifold doors can be several metres wide, and you might not have the space available for yours to move out in this way.
In an ordinary door, panels are attached to the frame via hinges. In a bifold door, this isn’t the case. A panel at one end of the door is instead attached to the frame via two short rods, at least one of which is spring-loaded. These rods are together known as a pivot, and that’s exactly what they do. One slots into a hole at the top of the door; the other slots into one at the bottom. They allow the panel to rotate, and thereby drag and push the rest of the door open and closed along the track system.
Your bifold door needs a means of attaching to the track. This is the job of the door guide (or ‘guide roller’). It’s a small piece of metal attached to a plastic wheel, the latter of which sits within the track, usually at the top of the door. As the door moves back and forth, the guides keep it within the track.
When the guides break, the door won’t be able to move. But replacing them is quite straightforward, and they’re easy to track down and inexpensive. If you ensure that your track is suitably lubricated, breakages of this sort occur less often.
The panels of your bifold door will need a means of attaching to one another. This is the job of one of the most important pieces of bifold door hardware: the hinges. You’ll attach your hinges on alternating sides of each panel, in order to form the concertina. You’ll need to mark your door carefully before you get the hinges permanently affixed to the wood – alignment problems often result from insufficient care being paid, and they’re difficult to correct after the door is in place.
When we’re talking about an external door, the quality of your lock is especially important. There’s no reason that yours can’t last for the lifespan of the door, but when problems do arise it’s important to get them checked out sooner rather than later. External bifold doors tend to be fixed to the opposite side of the frame to the pivot via a multi-point locking mechanism. This will offer the most robust possible protection against would-be intruders.
How to Install External Bifold Door Hardware
Now that we understand what goes into the door, let’s take a look at how to get it into place. Before we get started, you should understand that not all bifold doors are built quite alike. There may be minor, though important, differences between them that will change what an ideal installation looks like. It’s therefore worth paying carefully attention to your manual while you’re installing the door and keeping it for reference purposes when you need to carry out a replacement.
With that proviso out of the way, let’s run through each of the components we’ve mentioned, and consider how to get them installed.
You’ll be able to attach your track to the frame using one of two methods. You can either install it in one piece, or you can cut off a small section to make installing running gear and pivots easier. This small section can then be put into position once the door is fully assembled and the guides and pivots are inside the door. To do this, you’ll need to be capable with a saw (ideally a circular one), but if you are, this approach can make life significantly easier.
You’ll want to pre-drill fixing holes in the lintel before attaching your screws. It’s essential that you don’t over-tighten any screw to begin with; you’re looking for a very slight curve, so that the middle of the door is a little bit higher than the edges. Do this using packers. Work from the jambs inward, tightening each screw a little bit at a time, until you’ve got the desired fit.
The pivot should be installed once the door is fully assembled. Afterwards, you need only slot it into the frame. Start by inserting the bottom pivot, and then slip the top one in. When the door isn’t in its place, you’ll want to loosen the pivot to its fullest extent; this will allow you to slip it into position easily. Then, you’ll be able to tighten things up so that the door is securely held in place.
When you’re installing your pivot, it’s critical that you leave the adjustment mechanism exposed. During installation, and later in the door’s life, you’ll want to occasionally make minor adjustments to keep the entire thing parallel with the surrounding frame. To do this you’ll need to be able to stick an Allen key into the mechanism.
If you’ve decided to saw a section of your track loose in the manner we mentioned earlier, then you’ll be able to remove it to easily access the door guides. You can usually remove broken guides using a pair of pliers and slot the replacements into position with some gentle force. Bear in mind that you’ll need the help of a willing friend to get the door back into position – bifold doors can be heavy, and you don’t want to risk dropping yours.
When you’re installing hinges, you’ll need to be very precise. Measure thoroughly and mark with a pencil before you get started. Usually, you’re installing your hinges around eleven inches from the bottom of each panel, and seven inches from the top. What matters more than the distances, however, is that those distances are kept consistent across the entire door. Mount the lower hinge first. Drill the first hole, ensure that the hinge is flush against the door, and then use it as a guide to drill the second. Check alignment after each new hinge is installed.
One of the panels will have been machined to accommodate a multi-point lock. You’ll probably need to prepare additional holes once you’ve determined exactly which direction the door is going to fit in. When you’re doing this, you might want to fit the handles and spindle loosely to get a good idea of where everything’s supposed to go. Pilot drill everything and secure with woodscrews.
External Bifold Doors Without a Track
Part of the job of the bifold door track is to prevent your door from swinging away from the door and colliding with nearby furniture and the flowerbeds lining your patio. So, is it even possible to install a bifold door without a track? The answer is probably yes; it’s the pivot rather than the guides which bear most of the door’s weight, and thus the track isn’t strictly a necessary part of the door’s structure.
But the hassle isn’t worth it for most situations. The attempts you’ll find on the internet are usually restricted to interior cupboard spaces, and not in essential places like patio doors. If you’d like to take your bifold door trackless, we’d urge caution. On top of everything else, just think what might happen if a stray gust of wind were to catch your door in the wrong way, and thereby send a five-metre-wide wall of glass suddenly spinning back toward the door frame.
Installing an external bifold door isn’t as tricky as you might suspect. The parts we’ve mentioned are all included alongside your door, alongside the instructions necessary to connect everything. Moreover, once you’ve finished the task, you’ll have a fairly strong grasp of all of the components that go into yours. This knowledge will prove invaluable when you come to maintain and repair the door!