Sunday, March 11, 2012

A Closet Bi-Fold Door Installation

Our house has a spare bedroom with a doorless closet. A bi-fold door installation is in order.

Bi-fold doors aren't too difficult to do. Take your dimensions[4] to the Home Depot or wherever, and they'll order you up a custom-sized door ready to install. But there's one thing that must be squared away first off, and that's how the 'jamb bracket' (the pivot-point at the floor) is to be installed. Jamb bracket installation must be solid and flawless -- nothing less will do. The jamb bracket is the most crucial element of a bi-fold door installation.

I've installed a bi-fold closet door before with no trouble to speak of. In that installation, the 'threshold' was a ceramic tiled floor. The only complication to that was the need to drill a hole through the ceramic tile, and a proper glass/tile drill bit makes that remarkably easy to do. That job went pretty smoothly and turned out well.

The bedroom's floor is fully carpeted, and the door's 'threshold' is simply carpeting. That won't do for a jamb bracket installation -- there needs to be a solid wood threshold. I could just install a wood threshold over the carpet. That would work adequately, but it strikes me as an unsound practice at bottom.

So, the thing to do is to cut away a strip of carpet and attach a threshold directly to the sub-floor. I can see a way to do that such that the threshold will inherently conceal the cut edges of the carpet. Now I need to round up material and look more closely at what all will be involved. To be continued.

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A Threshold Complication

And wouldn't you just know that a wrinkle would crop up to complicate things.

The door was framed by someone who knew enough to be dangerous. The casing at the right side is not as far out into the room as it is at the left side. The difference is at least half-an-inch. A full-width threshold will just accentuate that. No matter how I do a full-width threshold, it will end up looking odd. (And 'looking odd' is being charitable.)

I'll make the 'threshold' just a 3 1/2" square 'stub' at the left side where the jamb bracket must go. To be continued.

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SUNDAY, MARCH 18, 2012

A Stub Threshold

I'm starting with a 3 1/2" square of 1" nominal softwood. I mean to have three of its upper edges rounded over 3/8" radius, and the same three of its lower edges rabbeted 3/8" x 3/8".

That's a simple enough proposition, but the order of operations needs to be thought through beforehand. Every machining operation has its requirements and limitations, and those need to be taken into account before beginning.

In this case, I have to do the rounding over prior to the rabbeting. Were I to do the rabbeting first, I'd be left with no reference edge for the pilot bearing of the router bit. After the rounding over, I can do the rabbeting on the table saw. The saw's rip fence will work fine with the rounded over edges as reference edges.

Here's a view of the rounding over just completed on the router table.

You can see what I was on about regarding the pilot bearing and its need for a reference edge. Next up is to to install the dado cutter in the table saw and do the rabbeting.

Anyway, it's getting late in the day here, and the union[1] doesn't like me working overtime, so I'll pack it in for now. To be continued.

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The Rabetting Done

And here's the rabetting just completed on the table saw.

Referencing a rounded over edge to a rip fence presents no problem. Now I have to go cut the carpeting to accept this, and do a complete trial installation.

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Trial Installation

Masking tape is a great layout aid for many things, even carpeting.

And here's the cutout done.

And here's the stub threshold set in place.

Now I'll add the screws, and I'll have my solid reference surface for the door opening's height dimension.

To get a guaranteed perfect result on an installation like this, I drill pilot hole diameter through the thing to be installed, then use that as a drilling template for the mounting screw pilot holes.

There's a bit of a wrinkle here, though; I want two of the screws to be quite close to the door casing -- too close to use a drill. For those two pilot holes, I'll drive finishing nails. Here's all the pilot hole work done.

I'll pull those two nails straight out with Vise-Grips so I don't mar anything. Then I can bore out and countersink the stub threshold's screw holes on the drill press, and I'll have a flawless installation.

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And here's the trial installation fully completed.

Those countersinks need to be deepened a bit, but I've got my reference surface for door opening height. I'll make a simple, unambiguous sketch for my wife to take to the Home Depot, and nothing can possibly go wrong. [We'll see if I end up having to take that back.] While I'm waiting for the door to be made, I can prime and paint the stub threshold.

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The door's been ordered. My wife wasn't keen on doing it on her own, so I went with her.

One little snag did arise. We wanted the same, 'six panel' style of door that we'd gotten previously, but that style couldn't be made to our shorter-than-normal height dimension (73 3/8"). We had to go with a plain slab style of door to get our height dimension.

My sketch dimensions were in inches only, and the manufacturer's ordering software wanted feet and inches. I thought that a bit odd; it seems to me that just introduces another place for error to creep in.

Anyway, for a pre-tax price of $91.26, we'll get our door in a week or two.

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SUNDAY, APRIL 21, 2012

It's Arrived

The door comes shrink-wrapped, with its hardware attached in a cardboard container.

The factory makes the door 1/2" narrower than the opening's width, and 1 11/16" shorter than the opening's height to allow for the track and the pivot. I'll install it next weekend, circumstances permitting

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SUNDAY, APRIL 29, 2012

The Installation

Here's a view of what comes in the box of hardware.

At the top of the photo is the track with its adjustable pivot-point in place. (The lock screw has a 5/16" A/F hex head.) Then, viewing from left to right, we have:

a) The jamb bracket. That's the item that I needed the solid stub threshold for.

b) The bottom pivot. Its splined/tapered metal stud-end plugs into the notched slot in the jamb bracket. The shank of it is threaded 1/4"-20, so it also provides some height adjustability.

c) The top pivot. Its spring-loaded stud plugs into the steel pivot-point in the track.

d) The top guide roller for the lead end of the door.

e) The closure bumper spring. That goes in the end of the track for the roller to bump up against. The force provided by the spring acts on the geometry of the hinges to hold the door in its closed position.

f) A motley assortment of Phillips recess screws. I'll likely substitute square recess screws for some of those.

g) An unfinished wooden knob; it's quite finely made.

h) A closure alignment guide. That won't be needed for this installation. Were this to be a double door installation, that guide would go at the lead end of one of the doors to guide the lead end of the opposite door into place as it closes.

Items 'b)', 'c)' and 'd)' plug into holes already drilled in the door. They're a force fit -- installed with a mallet -- so you want to be absolutely certain that you have their place assignments visualized correctly before installing them. They'd be a devil of a thing to get out once installed. Sketchy installation instructions are printed on the bag the hardware was in.

Plumbing the Track and the Jamb Bracket

Ordinarily, you'd install the track first, then use a plumb bob[2] to locate the centre line of the jamb bracket. I have to reverse that order here because I want to ensure that the jamb bracket is centred on the stub threshold. An anti-gravity plumb bob would be nice to have, but as far as I know, no such thing exists.[3] I'll have to come up with an adjustable hanging point for my plumb bob's cord, and do it by trial and error.

And here we are with the plumb bob's cord correctly positioned on the head jamb; I've gotten the plumb bob centred over the stub threshold.

Here's how I suspended the plumb bob, so I could fiddle with the cord's location.

Now I just have to project that pencil mark I made the whole length of the head jamb, and I'll have the track's centre line established, plumb with the jamb bracket.

That's the critical part of the job done. What's left is spotting and drilling screw holes, and attaching the track and the jamb bracket.

And here's the jamb bracket solidly in place.

Once I attach the track, the installation will be all but complete. The door with its three hardware items installed can go into place and be adjusted.

With all that done, I'll dismantle everything so the door and the door casing can be painted. When I have the final, painted installation done, I'll return to this and point out a few details

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A Couple Of Final Details -- SATURDAY, JANUARY 26, 2013

The door's been painted, and final installation has been done. It works fine, and the spare bedroom finally looks completed.

The turned hardwood knob supplied with the door is smooth enough that it takes a spray paint job very nicely. Here it is in place on the door.

The factory doesn't pre-drill a hole for the knob's fastening screw -- they leave it for the installer to choose where he wants the knob located.

- - -

Because the factory supplies a door and track that are 1/2" narrower than the specified opening, the closure bumper spring ends up having a little more rightward travel than it needs to have. That reduces the spring's effective tension a bit. To improve on that, I made and installed a little wooden shim rectangle to take up the lost space. Here's a view of that.

Here's a neat method for setting up a table saw to rip odd thicknesses of shim stock. It's the method I used to obtain that little rectangle pictured. The shim is held in place with double-sided tape.

Anyway, there's the whole story of my bi-fold door installation; it really wasn't a difficult job. About the only thing that would make such an installation problematic would be a very poorly constructed, out-of-plumb/level door frame. Installing a perfectly rectangular door in such a frame would really reveal the flaws, and might end up looking awful. The only solution would be to start from scratch by reconstructing the door frame first

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[1] The IBBW (International Brotherhood of Basement Workshoppers). And they're not some lame 'company union'; they're a right proper union with muscle. One doesn't flout their rules.

[2] There is surely no more elegant tool in the known universe than the plumb bob. Consider -- the tool tells perfect verticality from one point to another by way of a fundamental force of nature acting on a length of cord and an exquisite bit of machined metal. Batteries not included. No microprocessor is involved. It's unpatentable -- there's no 'owning' the principle of it; one could fabricate a passable version of a plumb bob from damn near anything.

I nominate the plumb bob as the crowning achievement of humanity's toolmakers.

[3] I stand corrected. It dawned on me that a laser pointer could be adapted to function as an 'anti-gravity plumb bob', and sure enough, such things can be had, but they're not cheap.

[4] A word of caution is in order. Your door's opening may appear to be a rectangle, but depending on how carefully it was constructed, it may actually be a trapezoid, or even an irregular quadrilateral (i.e. a four-sided figure with no parallel sides). Check the levelness of the floor and the head jamb, and the plumb of the side jambs to get a 'picture' of how flawed/perfect your door's opening really is. Bear in mind that installing a perfectly rectangular bi-fold door will dramatically reveal every flaw in levelness and plumb of the surrounding door casing.

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