Properly placing the pull

Bifold Door Knob Pull

The Natural Handyman

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Dear NH,
What is the proper placement of a bifold doorknob pull? I've most often seen them in the middle of the panel by the opening. People who are supposed to know seem to lean towards a placement close to the hinge. And I've seen them close to the opening edge, especially when there is a pair of bifold doors. It seems to come down to aesthetics, but functionally, does it really matter?
TH from Shoreview, MN

I've seen the pull on a bifold door located in four different places, but there is only one correct placement, aesthetics aside. The four places (all vertically centered in the center panel) are:

  1. Near the outside edge of the leading door
  2. Near the hinge edge of the leading door
  3. Near the hinge on the inner (following) door
  4. In the center of the panel on the leading door

And the correct answer is number 4! The reason lies in the mechanics of a bifold door. The pull must do two things. It must open the door and close the door. If you visualize opening a bifold door, the outer edge of the leading door moves inwards while the center hinges move outwards, folding the doors together. The position of the pull when closing the door is less critical, and any of my examples will close the door, though some better than others.

The "ideal" position is a compromise between smooth opening and smooth closing, keeping friction at a minimum to avoid too much pressure on the track guides. The unusual force on bifolds with pulls in the wrong location is a common cause of door breakage at the somewhat fragile top corner where the guide pins are inserted.

Placing the pull near the outside edge of the leading door makes it very easy to close the door, but gives you no leverage to open the door, since it is too far from the hinge to pull it outwards to fold the doors. Thus, you have to twist and pull on the knob to get the door to open.

Placing the pull near the hinge on the leading door is just the opposite. It works well for opening, but the door may bind at the upper track when closing unless it's very well adjusted, lubricated, and not completely open. When completely open, bifolds tend to bend as a unit inward when the knob is on the leading door because the guide in the upper track gets behind the hinge, locking up the whole shebang!

Placing the pull on the hinge edge of the inner (following) door also makes opening the doors easy, but it is even more difficult to close them due to a worsening of the leverage issue in the previous example.

The ideal position is in the center of the middle panel on the leading door. It gives the best leverage compromise for both opening and closing the doors.

Reviewed March 2018

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