Repairing Balkiness or Binding of Pocket Doors

Procedure code:
821004S
Source:
Division:
Doors and Windows
Section:
Wood Doors
Last Modified:
08/16/2016

PART 1---GENERAL

1.01 SUMMARY

  1. This specification provides guidance on repairing balkiness or binding of a pocket door. This includes work on a door that may be stuck in its pocket, that binds when being moved, or that resists movement or is balky when being moved. It may also be applied to pocket doors that will not slide completely into the pocket. Work may also require removing the doors and replacing the rollers.

    1. A pocket door that is stuck may be the result of the door being nailed in place, debris clogging the door track, warped studs in the pocket, or a damaged floor track. The door may also be warped, off the floor track, or off the top guide inside the pocket. These procedures can also be applied to a door that will not slide completely into pocket.

    2. Balkiness in top hung pocket doors usually results from rollers that need oiling. Balkiness may be eliminated by exposing the rollers so that they may be lubricated.

    3. Binding is usually caused by vibration or house settlement, a loose or warped stop molding, or warped door.

    4. A door that is balky or will not move at all may result from disconnected, broken, missing, or loose rollers. In this situation, the door will need to be removed and the rollers repaired or replaced.

    5. A pocket door binds on track, balks, or travels noisily is often a result of debris inside pocket, floor settlement, or rollers that are dirty, rusty, misaligned, broken or missing.

  2. Read "General Project Guidelines" along with this specification. These guidelines should be reviewed prior to performing this procedure and should be followed, when applicable, along with recommendations from the Regional Historic Preservation Officer (RHPO). The guidelines cover the following sections:

    1. Safety Precautions

    2. Historic Structures Precautions

    3. Submittals

    4. Quality Assurance

    5. Delivery, Storage and Handling

    6. Project/Site Conditions

    7. Sequencing and Scheduling

    8. General Protection (Surface and Surrounding)

  3. See also:

    1. "Repairing Out-Of-Plumb Pocket Doors"

    2. "Repairing Pocket Door Hardware Including Tracks and Stops"

1.02 DEFINITIONS

Top-hung pocket doors are unique because of their hardware.

  1. There are two types of hanging hardware for pocket doors:

    1. Single roller type: Has one roller (front and back) and makes use of one metal track.

    2. Side-by-side roller type: Has two rollers (front and back) that move along on matching wood tracks on either side of the roller assembly.

  2. Unlike pocket doors with a bottom track, top hung doors have a retractable metal or wood finger mounted at rear edge of door called a rear stop. This stop must be released for door to clear pocket for repair.

1.03 SYSTEM DESCRIPTION

A pocket door assembly in good working condition is:

  1. Free from decay.

  2. Structurally sound.

  3. Properly aligned so as to slide smoothly and effortlessly.

  4. Able to stop precisely when closed.

  5. Easily retrieved from pocket.

  6. Able to be latched crisply, with no rattle between latch and stops when closed.

PART 2---PRODUCTS

2.01 MATERIALS

  1. Wood block and broom handle to make clearance guide

  2. Replacement plaster and lath (if wall must be removed)

  3. Wood wedges and shims

  4. Finish nails

  5. Aerosol lubricant with plastic spray nozzle such as WD-40, Tri-Flo, or approved equal

  6. Replacement rollers

  7. Cleaning solvent for metal rollers

  8. Cloths for wiping solvent

  9. Household oil

  10. Replacement sheave and roller and wood blocking (if needed)

2.02 EQUIPMENT

  1. Claw hammer

  2. Drum rasp attached to drill

  3. Broom or vacuum with long handled attachment

  4. Pliers

  5. Saw to trim old floorboards (if needed)

  6. Flashlight

  7. Screwdriver

  8. Hammer

  9. Tools for removing molding (if needed)

  10. Carpenter's tools to remove casing and re-secure fasteners

  11. Set-up for laying door in horizontal position during repair

PART 3---EXECUTION

3.01 EXAMINATION

To determine roller type used in pocket door, shine flashlight up into track opening above door. See Section 1.02 Definitions, above, for descriptions of roller types.

3.02 PREPARATION

Protection: Mask or cover adjacent surfaces and permanent equipment during repair and maintenance. Coverings must be adhered without adhesive tape or nails. DO NOT USE impervious sheeting that produces condensation.

3.03 ERECTION, INSTALLATION, APPLICATION

  1. For a Door Nailed Shut In Place:

    1. Inspect for toenailing at door edge and for stop piece nailed into track at top or bottom.

    2. Carefully remove nails and/or stop.

  2. For Warped Studs in Pocket:

    1. If stud in question is one nearest to opening, carefully push it back using a wedge against door. Protect door surface and do not force.

    2. If binding of stud(s) occurs deeper in pocket, it will be necessary to go through wall to free the door.

NOTE: THIS MAY CAUSE UNNECESSARY DAMAGE TO SURROUNDING MATERIALS. OBTAIN RHPO APPROVAL.

    1. Make a clearance gauge: cut a block of wood to size of width of opening between door and frame.

    2. Attach wood to a broom handle.

    3. Stick clearance gauge into socket to determine the location of the offending stud.

    4. Remove wall surface on side of problem, if known. Remove less conspicuous side if unknown.

    5. Shave offending stud with drum rasp attached to drill.

    6. Repair wall surface as required.

  1. For Debris Clogging Track:
    1. Begin by rocking door slowly out of pocket.

    2. Support door while scraping underneath to clear debris.

    3. While door is out of pocket, clean track in pocket with broom or vacuum with long handled attachment.

  2. For a Damaged or Faulty Floor Track:
    1. If track is bent and battered, realign with hammer and pliers.

    2. If floor boards have shifted so close as to bind the track, carefully trim back floor boards or replace with narrower boards that match wood species, age, and grain orientation.

    3. If track is misaligned in the opening between floorboards:

      1. Take track up and relay it correctly in the center of opening.

      2. Shim under track if it is not level.

      3. Finally, adhere realigned track to floor.

    4. If track is misaligned inside door pocket:

      1. Remove metal stop in top of door frame.

      2. Slide door all the way across opening. Try to work from outside straightening and tacking track in place inside pocket.

      3. If this is not possible, then wall surface must be removed to gain access to the pocket. OBTAIN RHPO APPROVAL.

  3. For a Door that has Jumped the Floor Track: Lift and rock door back onto track.

  4. For a Door that has Become Detached from the Top Guide:

    1. Wiggle door to get it back on track.

    2. Use a metal rule against top guide to ease door out of pocket.

    3. If top guide appears warped, try to shim warp back into alignment.

NOTE: WALL SURFACE AROUND AREA MAY HAVE TO BE REMOVED TO REPAIR TOP GUIDE. OBTAIN RHPO APPROVAL.

  1. For Binding Due to Vibration or Settlement:

NOTE: THIS PROBLEM USUALLY AFFECTS THE HEIGHT OF THE DOOR AND MAY BE REPAIRED BY ADJUSTING THE ROLLER HEIGHT.

    1. If door is too low and dragging floor, shim under door to keep it 1/4" above floor; raise door by turning adjustment screw at base of roller assembly.

    2. If door is too high, turn screw in opposite direction from that used to raise door.

  1. For a Loose or Warped Stop Molding:

    1. If merely loose, re-nail properly.

    2. If warped, remove and attempt re-nailing.

    3. If molding cannot be straightened, it may have to be replaced.

  2. For a Warped Door:

NOTE: A WARPED DOOR IS NEARLY IMPOSSIBLE TO REPAIR.

    1. Move stop molding to accommodate warp in door.

    2. Loosen by gently rocking the door while pulling out of pocket.

    3. If this does not work, carefully push back studs nearest the opening by using a wedge against the door. PROTECT THE DOOR SURFACE.

    4. If it still does not move, it will be necessary to go through the wall and loosen the door by inserting shims between door and studs.

    5. Once door is freed and is still salvageable, try shaving the studs in the pocket at the point of bending.

    6. If the door is badly warped, it will need to be replaced.

  1. For Balkiness or Doors that Resist Movement:

NOTE: TO PROPERLY EXPOSE ROLLERS, DOOR MUST BE COMPLETELY REMOVED FROM POCKET.

    1. Release rear stop by pulling door out as far as it will go.

    2. Insert screwdriver or piece of stiff cardboard and flip up stop.

    3. Proceed by pulling door completely from pocket.

    4. Oil rollers using an aerosol lubricant with plastic extension nozzle.

    5. Slide door back into pocket and reattach stop.

    6. For Side-by-Side Rollers:

      1. If door has side-by-side rollers hung on a wooden track, there is usually an access panel and removable track section.

      2. Locate access panel and remove track section.

      3. Reach through hole above door to unscrew flange that attaches roller assembly to top of door. Remove roller through access panel.

      4. Remove other roller accordingly.

      5. If two doors must be removed, the second door can be removed by following the same procedure, on the other side.

      6. If no access panel is found, remove stop, jamb, and wood track on one side.

      7. If roller still cannot be unscrewed, remove other side of upper track.

    1. For single roller type:

      1. Remove casement molding, stop, and jamb on side opposite track mounting.

      1. Slip out door and roller assembly intact.

      2. If roller cannot clear track, it must be unscrewed from top of door.

      3. If rollers or track are loose or disconnected, re-secure fasteners.

      4. If track or rollers are broken or missing, they must be replaced (see below).

      5. If rollers are dirty or rusty, clean and oil them.

  1. To Repair or Replace Rollers:

    1. Remove doors (this will probably require two people). One person must push up on door while other person swings door out from bottom.

    2. If door is stuck at top, remove stop molding on less conspicuous side.

    3. If rollers are misaligned, broken, or missing, they must be replaced.

      1. Choose rollers suitable for the weight of the door.

      2. Use wood blocking as required in mortise for fitting new sheave.

NOTE: NEW ROLLERS ARE USUALLY SMALLER THAN ORIGINAL HARDWARE IN OLDER POCKET DOORS.

END OF SECTION

Last Reviewed 2016-08-16