Having a pocket door that works properly is a great bonus for space and convenience. However, a pocket door that sticks, won't close, or open properly is a real headache to live with. Pocket doors operate differently than hinged doors, so troubleshooting problems require a fresh look.
Step 1. Preparation: Determining the Problem
It can be a challenge to determine what is causing the problem with a pocket door since much of the workings are hidden from direct view. Pocket doors run on tracks above the door and slide into a framed hole in the wall. Bumpers or rails at the bottom keep the door on track. A loose screw or a warped stud can wreak havoc and cause your pocket door to catch, stick or bind. If the door is wobbling considerably and doesn't want to go into the space properly, the floor track might be damaged or dislodged. If the pocket door does not want to close all the way, there can be problems with warping or issues with the house settling.
Step 2. Pocket Doors That Won't Close
When pocket doors won't retract into the pocket, it's usually one of two things: debris has somehow gotten into the space behind the pocket door and is blocking it or a screw or nail has penetrated the space and is catching the back edge. The solution is to take off the pocket door and remove any debris. Using a broom handle and a flashlight, you can check for any clearance issues like nails and screws.
Step 3. Sticky Pocket Doors
Sticky pocket doors can be the result of old hardware. The first solution is to open the door fully and spray or brush a metal cleaning solvent on the rollers. Using a rag and wipe up any excess as you roll the door back and forth. Let dry and spray with a lubricant. At the same time, check to make sure all the rollers are working properly and sitting properly on the track. If you have wooden bumpers or tracks at the bottom of your door apply a coating of graphite or dry lubricant to make it slippery.
Step 4. Warped Pocket Doors
Wood warps. Houses move. Just like any other door, pocket doors are not immune from the movement of your house. There are many wooden parts to this door, and each one has the potential to warp. The split frame that houses your pocket door inside the wall has several stiles that run horizontally to the floor. Occasionally, one of these stiles will decide to twist or warp; and the studs used to frame the pocket can warp as well. When warping is the issue, you generally have to take the pocket door out and either shave off the protrusion or replace it. If the pocket door itself is warping, it is easier to replace it than to straighten it out. If the house is settling and the door is catching on the floor, you can shave off part of the bottom of the top to gain a little clearance.
Properly working pocket doors give you privacy without sacrificing space. They add charm and elegance to older homes and are our legacy to ingenuity and engineering. Don't let a sticky pocket door ruin your day.