Saturday, September 23, 2006

Babyproofing: Hacking A Wooden Bi-Fold Door

Our house is from the 70s, so along with the stylish original light fixtures we find our ourselves surrounded by lots of dark wood trim. It is quality wood and in relatively good condition, so we're not looking to remodel.

How do we keep a curious baby from smashing his finger in bi-fold doors and/or exploring all the stuff I've hidden from him in his closet? Good question.

First, we bought the sliding, over-the-door, adjustable brace from Safety First. Our doors seemed average in depth- neither thick nor thin, but they only worked with this brace when it was fully extended. Even with full extension, the doors could still easily be cracked enough to place a finger in the gap. The braces added just enough resistance to then snap shut with the forcefulness of an angry animal. Great, we've made a baby trap. The precarious situation seemed short-lived as the Safety First brace made creaking plastic noises when challenged. Maybe that was the designer's idea for an advance warning system (as if the baby's cries wouldn't be enough to alert adults).

So we googled for a better solution. Many web sites recommended taking the doors down and replacing them with a curtain on a shower curtain or cafe rod.

Do these people have children or style? Why would I want my baby to have the run of the closet? Don't they know I want his freedom completely curtailed? Plus, the little primate loves to pull the bottoms drapes and shades, so the curtain rod wouldn't remain aloft long.

One inspired individual (I'm sorry I can't find the link anymore) suggested using bar clasps or the uglier, but more easily hook and eye latches. Hook and eye latches are difficult to keep anchored, so we went shopping for bar clasps. Our home improvement giant didn't carry any attractive bar clasps, so we opted for window latches with cams (pictured below).

The installation requires a power drill and took only 20 minutes. The latches are anchored at two points, so they are less likely to pull out than a hook and eye set.

This babyproofing solution might work for a hollow-core or metal door bi-fold with appropriate anchors or other hardware. As we don't have any to test on, you might want to consult your local hardware guru before drilling any holes.

We're really pleased with the end results functionally and aesthetically.

The doors look a bit nautical to me (as ship cabinets can be secured) and they hang more neatly with the latches than they have since their installation in the 1970s. The new closures keep the doors' lines straight which is really pleasing to the eye.

The latches open and close easily with one hand. Which is important; really, really important when you consider trying to move stuff in and out of the closet (like laundry) while blocking an inquisitive infant or toddler with your body.

Baby Geek is unable to budge the doors when secured which makes everyone but him quite happy. We put the latches high enough that he will be unable to reach them until he is in late elementary school (although this is a matter of personal preference).

The solution is only slightly more expensive than the plastic slider, but it works and looks much better. We discussed the resultant holes in the door and decided that we will probably leave the hardware in place for the life of the doors. The latches are pretty innocuous in appearance and will allow the little geeks hours of fun trapping each other in the terrifying darkness.

We also installed them on our kitchen pantry doors and our guest room bi-fold closet doors (in case of child and infant guests).

The latches we chose come in a few metal finishes, we went with the brass tone prevalent around our home, but there are more modern finishes (chrome, pewter, gold). Each latch cost around $3.50 equalling $7 a set/closet.

Happy hacking.


Anonymous said...

also good for pet proofing.

Kira =] said...

Thank you!!!! =]

Unknown said...

I am trying to pet proof because of a big yellow lab with a propensity for stolen food from the pantry. We also have a double bi-fold door to our pantry. I notice from the picture, that you have TWO for each bifold. I was thinking of just one for where the doors connect. Would this not be sufficient? Thanks for your help!

adrienne said...

Hi Connie,

Labs are great, joyful dogs!

On our doors, the central gap between the two doors was larger than the gap between the individual panels.

The small clasps we chose wouldn't span the gap very well, but with closer-fitting doors or a bigger catch that might not be a concern.

I also like the latches being out of the way when the doors were open, but I'm klutz regularly snag my clothing on things.

Thanks for reading.

Wayne said...

Thanks for sharing this hack. My wife and I babysit a 2 year old who likes to access snacks in our pantry via the bifold doors every chance she gets.