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Solving Pocket Door Problems

Who hasn't been inside one of those magnificent Victorian homes built 100 years ago that has dual acting pocket doors between the living room and dining room? Those disappearing doors can instantly create privacy. The beauty of the pocket door system was known by our grandparents and their parents. They saw how the doors saved space. The pocket door concept freed up both floor and wall space. I don't know about you but I'd sure like to shake the hand of the inventor of pocket doors!

Problems Create Distrust

I know some people who dislike pockets doors. They complain how the doors rub going into and out of the pocket. The doors jump off the track. It is tough or impossible to adjust the doors once they are trimmed out. Old pocket doors may be hard to operate or don't work at all. All of these problems can cause a person or a friend to avoid using pocket doors. This distrust can often be blamed on poor hardware quality or poor installation practices. A high quality pocket door frame and hardware kit will operate flawlessly for many years if installed properly. I know. I have installed nearly 100 of them over the past 20 years.

The Old Doors

Do you have an old set of pocket doors that you wish to revive? It may be tough to do it if you are looking for used parts. If you are a purist and must stay with old parts, you can try to find them in a magazine I am familiar with. It is the Old House Journal. Besides excellent editorial content, the magazine is loaded with advertisers who sell products made especially for old homes. I suggest you start here. It very well will be where you end up.

If you can't find parts, don't get discouraged. The heart and soul of a pocket door system is actually the track above the doors and the rollers that attach the door to this track. There is absolutely no reason whatsoever why you can't put a new track system in an old door pocket. Getting it in will be a challenge and may require surgery on the wall, but this can be easily repaired. I urge you tackle this project with a positive attitude. It will be tough at first, but the outcome will be dramatic.

Common Problems

If you have an existing pocket door that gives you trouble, I may be able to help. Does your door jump off the track and get stuck in the pocket? If so, try to look at the wheels or rollers. If they are single wheeled rollers, you have an inferior system. The best pocket door hardware has 3 or 4 wheel hangers that fit into a box shaped track. It is impossible for this type of roller to jump off the track.

Can you easily remove the door after one side of the top split jamb is removed? If not, you can have big problems. You can buy a pocket door hardware system that allows you to easily disconnect the door from the 3 or 4 wheeled hangers. Within moments the door will be in your hands, not in the pocket!

What happens if the track gets damaged? Can you easily remove it? If your track does not have keyhole shaped slotted screw holes, you will be in for a treat. I guarantee you will be tearing into the wall to get at the track screws deep in the pocket. A track with keyhole shaped screw holes eliminates this problem.

Does your door rub the split jamb when it is pulled in and out of the pocket? Check to see if there is 3/16th inch clearance between each side of the door and each jamb. If you have this clearance and the door still rubs, the door may be warped and/or the entire pocket door assembly may be twisted. If this is the case, it will require major reconstructive surgery to solve the problem.

The problem with rubbing doors can sometimes be traced to the bottom door guides. An inexperienced carpenter may install these on the wrong side of the split jambs! They are supposed to be on the face of the jamb. This allows you to adjust them easily.

Don't Forget the Painter

Pocket doors require some tender loving care from the painter as they are being installed. Once installed you can't get to the top, bottom, or back vertical edge. These surfaces MUST be sealed to prevent warping. This can only be accomplished as the door is being worked on by the carpenter.

If you paint the door, it is simple. Just apply a primer coat to the entire door as soon as it arrives at the jobsite. Then have the painter apply a finish coat to the edges of the door before he hands it over to the carpenter.

If the door is to be stained, it will be a little more difficult. The painter will have to carefully apply a sealer to the top, bottom, and hidden vertical edge. If you get sealer on the face of the door, the stain will not penetrate properly. It will really look horrible. Coordinate this carefully!

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17 Responses to Solving Pocket Door Problems

  1. Do pocket doors ever require lubrication? I am at my brother's home and noticed that a door that used to slide just fine, is tougher to slide than I remember last year. This bathroom door has about 6 years of service and is the busiest door of the 3 pocket doors he had "professionally" installed. The other 2 doors slide great, this 1 I'd like to fix for him and am wondering how to approach the situation.

  2. I have an old house with 2 sets of double pocket doors. I can't adjust them because they do NOT have rollers. They are on some kind of pantograph system in their walls with heavy cast iron mounting plates. Where can I get info on these old doors that won't close correctly?
    Stan ; Jermyn PA 18433

    • Stan, your question requires lots of typing, plus I have some questions for you so I can give you the correct answer(s). I only do pithy answers here in the comment section. If you want to protect the investment you have in your house and not waste time or money *hoping* you make the right decision, you should talk to me on the phone for just 15 minutes. It'll be the best investment you've ever made in your home!

  3. Tim you said that a single wheeled rollers are inferior systems. I agree. Would it help to put 3 or 4 single wheeled rollers spaced evenly across the top of the door, rather than the 2 single wheeled rollers I have now?

  4. We have several pocket doors we installed but when the door opens it goes all the way into the wall making it hard to grab to pullit out to close. Is there anything we can do to keep the door out of the pocket a little?

  5. We have a pocket door that just sways in the breeze. At the bottom of the door aren't there supposed to be support wheels that guide the door straight? Or am I just missing something, thanks for your help.

  6. Hi Tim- My builder just finished installing double pocket doors in my home and he is now on to another job. My problem is that I just realized the doors, if not pulled out together to meet in the middle, will come out of the pocket completely and past the center point. Is there anything you can do to make sure each door stops at the midpoint?

    thx
    e

  7. When we walk across our bedroom floor, the wall that hold a pocket door creaks. Any ideas to get rid of the creaks?

  8. My wife and I purchased a home a couple years back. The deed says it was built in 1890. She removed the trim from our pocket doors after I asked her not too while I was working. One side works just fine but the other will not close no . Its stuck open. The roller system is cast iron with 4 rollers for each hange . Each door has two hangers. I can see what looks like set screws I'm assuming to adjust the heigth. But what im confused about is how the rollers attachvto the door. They look to be slotted but I am unable to get them to stay. Any advice would be greatly appreciated.

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