How to Convert Bifold Doors to French Doors

I am delighted so many of you loved the last post about my powder room door update. Going along with that project is the one I’m sharing with you today – revamping the bifold doors of our coat closet! I used basically the same method to redo the front of these bifold doors, but there were a few more supplies needed to covert them to French doors. I LOVE how they turned out, and this is yet another project anyone can do.

Our closet doors were the first noticeable problem when we toured our house. One was on the tracks wrong and refused to close all the way, which is kind of a problem when you’ve got a lot of coats and shoes and other crap to hide. I don’t like bifold doors in general, and this pair had clearly given up on life.

The “before” coat closet doors, refusing to close.

So, after researching on Pinterest, I found a great solution. I came pretty close to copying the project I found, but I tweaked that blogger’s project enough that it’s worth making my own “how-to” now. I’d also done something similar in our first house for our pantry’s bifold door, so I had some ideas of my own. But basically, I changed the bifold doors to French doors, using my powder room door project as the basis for the new look.

So let’s get to it!

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Here’s what you need:

A lot of that should sound familiar from my last post, which can be found here if you’re just converting a single door.

The first step for THIS project is to check how your doors are installed in relation to how your closet trim is positioned. Our closet has trim that overhangs the actual doorframe to hide the track above and the hinge sides of the doors. I thought this might be a problem with how the shiplap’s added depth might mess with the door opening and closing, but it ended up just taking a little adjustment of the track settings. (We’ll get to that.) If your doorframe’s trim is flush with the doorframe, you shouldn’t have this issue. I think most bifolds are designed to leave enough room between the door and the doorframe when opening and closing, but be sure that you have at least 0.25 inches of space. If not, again, just be prepared to adjust the track settings a little.

Doorframe trim space, final result.

Ok. First, take off the handles/pulls on your bifold door fronts. It’s much easier to do this now before the doors are flipped over on the floor… (she said from experience.)

Next, remove your bifold doors. Ours were very helpful in this regard, since they were already taking themselves off. I used a small screwdriver and popped the top pin of the door’s hardware out of the tracks. Then you can simply pull the door out a bit and lift the bottom pin off the hardware attached to the floor. DO NOT remove the track itself or the floor hardware.

Push down this pin to remove door.

Lay the doors on the floor with the FRONT SIDE DOWN.

Next pull out the top hardware in the door. This took some muscle and wiggling, but I got them out using some plyers. If you can’t get it out, I read in the other tutorial that that person used a metal saw to cut off the pin sticking up. Fortunately mine came out. Leave the bottom hardware in the doors because you’ll still need this to install the doors.

Remove top pin hardware.

To secure the doors so they no longer fold, I used two 6-inch metal brackets/plates at the tops and bottoms of the insides/backs of doors. I used brackets I had left from another set, but I recommend the ones I’ve linked above, especially since they come with screws. I didn’t bother taking out the old hardware, figuring that would probable help hold the door together too.

No more folding doors!

Now it’s time to measure for your wood pieces. My doors were 79 inches long and 23.5 inches wide. Before you go and start cutting, be sure to take into consideration how your trim will alter your measurements. Your trim pieces will need to be as long as your door, in my case 79 inches, but the width is what’s tricky. I did a test run to see how much width the trim would take up on my door, and it was 1 inch. So, this meant that my shiplap strips needed to be 22.5 inches long to cover the door’s full width of 23.5 inches.

Edge trim test.

As for the measurements of the shiplap pieces, I did mine in 6-inch wide strips because that’s what I’d done for the powder room door. You could also do 8 inches or 4 inches or whatever looks good to you. Since the total height of my door was 79 inches, I needed 13 of my 6-inch strips plus one narrower piece to cover the rest at the less-noticeable bottom. You could also make your bottom board wider if it’s not that noticeable a difference. Again, for the length of the shiplap pieces, my doors needed strips 22.5 inches long.

Once you have everything measured, paint the doors as they are now. This will make any gaps in your shiplap boards less noticeable because the doors’ color won’t show through the gaps. Don’t worry too much about it being a perfect coat, just get enough coverage to make sure there isn’t bright white showing up anywhere. Also paint the edges/sides of the doors that will show when you open them by the handles. If you want, you can also paint the insides/backs of the doors. (I skipped this step but plan to do it eventually when my kids are no longer quite as rough on the doors during hide and seek.)

While your doors dry, it’s time to cut your wood! For the trim pieces I used a miter saw, but since this trim is softer wood, you can probably cut it with a handheld hacksaw if you need to. I used my dad’s table saw to cut my 6-inch strips, then the miter saw to cut them to 22.5 inch lengths. You could also use a circular saw or a hacksaw if you have to.

Then you’ll want to sand the plywood edges because they will be rough. I also lightly sanded the fronts to make sure they would be free of splinters.

With the doors still on the floor, front side up, attached the wide trim pieces first. (Hold off on the thinner trim pieces for now.) I wanted the trim to be flush with the edges and secure so all the other wood would have something to line up to, and it was a lot easier with the doors laying on the floor. I used my brad gun and nailed the trim at the top, then bottom, and then a few places in the middle to be sure they would withstand all the touches they’d get over time.

With these trim pieces in place along either door’s handle-side end, I then lined up my top shiplap board and used the brad gun to nail those too – a nail in each corner and 2 in the middle, top and bottom. Once this top board was secure, I simply fit the next one in place beneath it, nailed that one, and kept going until I got to the bottom. For my final, narrower board to finish up covering the door, I got very lucky in that everything had been level and square, so I didn’t have to cut it any differently. If your bottom isn’t level/square, use a pencil to draw a line and cut the board so that it lines up correctly.

Last to go on was the thin trim piece. This I simply put over the edge of the plywood where it met the first piece of trim, and this covered the edge nicely and added to the look of the original edge trim. Then I used the brad gun and nailed it on.

Thin trim over edges.

With everything nailed on, it’s going to look like a whole new door! To check that everything is going to work, now is the time to do a dry run and install the door back on. I lifted the doors in place and finagled around until the bottom pin dropped into the hardware connected to the floor.

Bottom hardware and pin.

Then, using a stool, I held down the top pin and moved the top of the door into place to pop that pin into the top track’s hardware. Then I climbed down and freaked out a bit because the door would not open or close correctly. THAT’S when I realized I needed to adjust the top track’s hardware a bit, sliding the mechanism back and forth, screwing it into place over and over, until I got the door lined up correctly.

Then I did the same for the other door. They didn’t line up quite right together, but I had adjusted enough times that I knew it would be possible once I had them on for good.

So, I took the doors back off, using the screwdriver to gently pop out the top pins, and returned the doors to the floor. Using the best wood putty ever, I filled my brad nail holes (I missed SEVERAL in my hurry, which I regret but oh, well) and then painted the newly installed shiplap and trim.

Once dry, I reinstalled the doors for good, adjusting and adjusting and adjusting until I got them level without too much space between them. (You might find this easier than I did.)

Loosen this screw to adjust and slide door.

Now. How to make the doors stay since they’re no longer attached to the track in the middle? I found these magnets and connection strips that work great for this kind of thing! Their magnetic grip isn’t so strong that you have to yank hard, and they aren’t so weak that the doors swing open.

First, I attached a 1×2 to the doorframe behind the top track. This allowed me to install the magnets so they were low enough that the track didn’t interfere. I’ve seen where some people have done this by attaching two different little pieces of wood, one for each magnet, but I thought it looked better to have 1 long piece that didn’t stand out as much as little choppy blocks.

1×2 attached to the doorframe behind track.

Once this was in place, I screwed in the magnet latches to the 1×2, spacing them so they’d each work with one of the doors. Then, to be sure everything would line up, I put the metal strips on the magnets to test where they should be on the doors. Standing inside the closet, I swung 1 door shut and used a pencil to draw a faint line where the bottom of the metal strip should be. Then I opened the door, disconnected the metal strip from the magnet, put the strip in place on my door’s pencil line, and screwed the metal strip in place. Crossing my fingers, I shut the door and found that the magnets lined up and held the door shut! Then I repeated this for the other door.

With the doors installed, all that was left was the handles/pulls. I found these great 10-inch handles that are very dramatic and cool, plus they matched everything I was doing in the kitchen and pantry. Using a level, I lined them up where I liked, made some marks, and used a drill to make holes for the screws, attaching them from the back.

Best handles!

Voila! Doors done.

Ta-da! The “after” closet doors.

BONUS! I installed this light bar that we can tap on and off with our feet to better see our shoes. Closet lights never seem to make it down past the coats, and this works GREAT for the kids too.

Handy lighting hack.

This bifold door revamp has completely changed the look of our coat closet. Everyone comments on it, and despite the length of this post it really was quite easy! LOL I’d love to see what other colors and hardware combinations people come up with, so let me know if you do this project!

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