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Redecorating for Renters: How to Pad and Cover Ugly Bifold Doors without Damaging Them

Updated on May 9, 2017
The plain, ugly bifold doors before redecorating.
The plain, ugly bifold doors before redecorating. | Source

What to do with ugly bifold doors

Renters can have a problem sometimes when it comes to decorating their apartment. You're limited-- there's only so much you can change without going against your lease. Some apartments in particular that are outdated-- and not in a cool vintage way, but in an ugly, hopelessly out-of-style way-- can be particularly challenging.

Case in point-- a friend has an apartment with ugly, old 1970s metal bifold closet doors. These doors were not only unattractive, but they were dented in some places from the previous tenant, and rusted with age. The landlord (a rental company) had no intention of replacing or fixing the doors since they only had a few dings and still worked. They just slapped a coat of white paint on them, which made them even more of an eyesore.

The solution I helped to device-- to cover the door with padding and fabric. This would not only cover the ugly doors, but soften their look. The cushion and fabric lends a plushness to the entire room.

Here I will give you a tutorial so that you can do the same to your own bifold doors.


The Prep Step

Before you even go shopping, you need to do a few things. First, clean your doors thoroughly. You'll be working with fabric, and any dust and dirt trapped in the hinges or along the top edge can not only prevent your fabric from sticking, but it can also get on the fabric and soil it before you even get the job finished. So grab some paper towels, an old toothbrush, some cue tips and a good all-purpose spray cleaning solution and get into every nook and cranny, front and back, of your doors.

Once the doors are clean, you have to measure them. Add 3 inches to the width and the height for your wrap-around allowance. Remember to multiply the measurement by each door panel you need to cover.

Remove the door handles as well- there should be a screw on the inside of the door. Set the handles and screws aside.


Gathering Supplies

The first thing you'll need to decide on is the style of fabric you want to use for your doors. What style is your room's décor? Shabby chic? Victorian? Contemporary modern? Whatever it is, look at the furniture and the wall color to get a sense of what kind of fabric you're going to want.

Then you'll want to raid your craft supplies, or take a shopping trip to find the perfect fabric, as well as your other supplies.

Here, my friend chose two different types of fabrics. She has a French country bedroom, and has always dreamed of French country doors that open out to a flower garden. Well, she does not have that in her apartment right now, so she decided to give a nod to it by choosing a floral fabric for the two outer panels, and a delicate white on white floral print for the inner panels.

In addition, she also decided to use ribbon to mimic the window pattern of a French door. Remember-- you can use any kind of fabric you want; once you learn the technique here, you can apply it to your doors in your own style.

Your supply list is:

Fabric (as stated, we used two different types)

Batting (it doesn't have to be thick; just a little padding is all you need)



Spray tack

Hot glue gun

Hot glue sticks



Ribbon (optional finishing touch)

Measure & Cut Batting


Spray Door with Spray Tack


Apply Batting to Panels


Applying the Batting

Measure and cut the batting to the size of each bifold door. You can make it slightly bigger, but don't let it overlap too much. You cannot fold the batting around the edges of the door or the doors will not close properly.

After you cut out one piece for each door, set them down close to the doors so you can grab them.

Take the can of spray tack and give it a good shake. You must shake the can well. Spray tack will help the batting stick to the door, holding it up while you work. But it is mildly tacky, so when you're ready to remove it some day it will peel off without leaving too much batting fuzz behind. What's left can be wiped off with a paper towel and some adhesive remover like Goo Gone. It will not ruin the door.

Spray one panel top to bottom, holding the can about 14 inches from the surface, keeping the can moving back and forth. Pick up one piece of batting and press it to the door.

Follow suit with the rest of the panels. Let the spray tack dry for about 15 minutes.

Take your scissors and trim the batting around the edges so there is no overhang.

TIP: Don't leave it up too long-- eventually gravity will take its toll and your batting will sag. The Spray Tack is just a temporary hold. Once your fabric is up, it will hold the batting in place more securely, however until the fabric is in place the batting will sag and begin to fall if left too long.

Trim the Batting


Get your Glue Gun


Affix the Fabric


Pull and smooth as you go


Tuck it in


Applying the Fabric

Cut the fabric to size for each of the door panels-- remember the old advice of "measure twice, cut once". If you make a mistake cutting batting it's not much of a problem because you can piece it together; if you make a mistake cutting fabric it could mean back to the shops.

Remember when you measure the fabric to allow about 3 inches of overhang, both in the width and the length.

Now, it's time to plug in the hot glue gun. Give it a few minutes to heat up. Make sure you put a glue stick in there.

Start at the top center of the door. Align the top center of a piece of fabric with it. Put a little dab of hot glue there to hold the fabric in place. Allow about 1 1/2 inch flap over the top of the door, and make sure the fabric is straight-- especially if you have a pattern! If you start out crooked, as you go, the pattern will be visibly crooked as you go along.

After you secure the fabric, spread glue across the top from the center to the right edge and press the fabric down on it. Then do the same from the center to the left edge.

Begin gluing the fabric down the edges of the door, going from side to side. Apply some glue, pull the fabric a little taught, and press it down along the side edge of the door. Go to the other side and do it, making sure to smooth and pull down the fabric as you go. Smooth out any wrinkles as you go. Keep going until you get to the bottom edge. Once again, start with a dab of glue in the center, then work from the center to the edges.

Repeat the process with the rest of the door panels. Tuck the edges of the fabric in. When you come to the edges of the door frame, you may need to use something flat to do that; here I used a ruler.

Be sure to snip fabric away from the hinges so they don't get caught up and prevent the door from closing properly; just cut out a notch.

Go behind the doors and secure any fabric sticking out to the back of the door. Make sure the edges and corners are all tucked around back with that glue gun. Trim if necessary.

TIP: Remember that hot glue will easily pull off metal. It will also come off wood in clumps; you can remove any residual with Goo Gone or sand paper.

Trimming the Optional Ribbon


Measure & Cut


Criss Cross


Trim and secure


Optional Finishing Touch: Ribbon

To put the finishing touch on the door to give it that "French Door" feel, we decided to use satin ribbon. The only ribbon available was very wide-- much wider than we actually wanted it. So the first step was measuring and cutting the ribbon to length.

Because we wanted the ribbon on 90 degree angles, we made it 28 inches long; the doors panels were only 14 inches, but we needed more length for the angle, plus at least 3 inches overhang.

After cutting the ribbon to length, we divided it into three strips and cut it so they were 3/4 inch in width. You can save yourself the trouble if you find the ribbon the length you want from the start, but this didn't take very long at all in a pinch.

Starting from the upper corner, once again with the trusty hot glue gun, we affixed an edge of the ribbon to the inner edge of the door. Then we brought it down on an angle and affixed it to the other side. Next was to use affix a strip on the opposite side of the door. Then one from the center to the left, then the center to the right.

It was a bit like weaving, one ribbon at a time. It's important to make sure the spacing is even as you go. Do the other doors with ribbon as well-- make sure the spacing is even so the ribbons don't look crooked.

Leave the overhang as you go. If you don't like the way it's coming, you can always pull off the ribbon and reposition it. When you have completely finished the ribbon on the door, secure the edges of the ribbon to the back and trim off excess if necessary.

Tip: Remember, the ribbon is optional, but it can be a nice touch if you're using solid fabrics and want to add a bit of texture. You could also go up and down or side to side to make ribbon strips. For our purposes, this gave my friend the 'French Country' door look that she liked. The colors on the floral fabric match the ribbon, as well as the colors of her bedding.

Finish it up!

poke a hole in the fabric and replace the door handles. It's all set!

We even had enough fabric left over that my friend is planning on making some matching throw pillows for the bed!

This is the completed project:

Finished Project


But can you imagine it like this?


Or this?


Or This?


Now that you have the technique down, the possibilities are endless.

You can use any color or pattern fabric that you really like.

You can add ribbon stripes or leave it.

And when you're done with it, you can just peel it off the doors and it will be just like you first found it-- you can even take the fabric with you, wash it and use it again to make something else.

This is a great option not just for home owners who are trying to make do with what they have until they can upgrade and remodel, but for renters who don't have an option. It adds a nice splash of color on the wall and bit of texture to the room.

So don't live with those old bi-fold doors anymore-- get crafty!


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