The good ole pocket door has been around for 150 years and is causing homeowners problems. The hardware used in early pocket door technology isn’t as sturdy as today and often fails after so many years.
To adjust a pocket door, you need to know the problem. If the door isn’t level, leaving a gap between the door and frame, then adjust the door hardware. If the door is off track, pull the door out and re-attach. Lastly, the track could be warped and need a whole system replacement.
Keep reading to find out how to troubleshoot the problem with your pocket door. Besides troubleshooting, you will have the step-by-step process for fixing each problem.
Troubleshooting the Pocket Door
To troubleshoot the pocket door, start by opening and closing a couple of times if you can. Answer the following questions:
Does the door drag on the ground when you pull it open?
If you answered yes to this question, the problem is most likely the door has fallen off the track. The easiest fix is to remove the door, put it back on the rolling hardware, and put it back on track. The worst-case scenario is to replace the rolling hardware.
Does the door only open part way?
A yes answer to this question could mean a warp in the track or door. A proper fix will need a replacement of the door or the track depending on where the warp is. You will first want to check the door, as it involves the least amount of demolition. If the door isn’t warped, you will need to open the wall to remove and replace the track.
Is there a gap between the door and frame when the door is fully closed?
If you answered yes, you are in luck. The solution could be as simple as adjusting the height of the bolts in the rolling mechanism.
Hopefully, you didn’t answer yes to all 3 questions. If you did, or you know the pocket door is from the early 1900s, consider replacing the whole system.
Read below to find step-by-step solutions for each of the 3 common pocket door problems. Each solution may need extra tools than those listed above. If so, they have been listed before the instructions.
Tools for the Job
These problems will require removing some door frames. It’s unavoidable to fix a pocket door properly without this step. You will need these tools:
- Utility Knife
- Putty Knife
- Cordless Drill
- Nail gun (or hammer and nails)
- Touch-Up Paint
Adjusting the Pocket Door Level
Remove Side Trim
Using the utility knife, score the caulk and paint along the edge of the doorstop on the frame’s side with the pocket. Use the putty knife to separate the stop from the frame. Your hammer will come in handy to wedge the knife further behind the stop. Be gentle and patient because you want to be able to put it back when done.
Remove Top Trim
Remove the trim from the top of the door and side where you removed the stop. You only need to remove the trim on one side of the door. For example, if the door separates the kitchen and the laundry room, remove framing on the laundry room side.
Adjust the Door Height
Pull the door closed to see the rolling hardware. The rollers or trolleys are attached to the door by an adjustable bolt. When a door is not hung level, you will need to raise or lower the bolt on both trolleys until you have a level door. It’s easiest to do this with a wrench.
The problem is fixed when you are happy with the gap or lack thereof, between the door and frame. If the hardware is old and doesn’t have this function, find new adjustable trolleys, like the Prime-Line Products N 6847 Pocket Door Roller Assembly.
Re-Attach the Trim
Put the framing back in place. You need nails and a hammer to secure the framing back to the wall. Today, framing is installed professionally with a nail gun. These nails are hard to remove from the casings. It will be easiest to cut the nail’s exposed ends as close to the casing as you can.
Place back in the correct spot and nail them to the wall. Use putty and paint to touch up the nails and any scuffs around the trim.
Getting the Pocket Door Back on Track
Remove the Trim
To begin, you will need to remove pieces of the trim around the door. Pick the room you want to do the work in and start removing the trim on top and the pocket side. This will allow you to pull the door out completely.
Use a utility knife to score through the caulk and paint along the edges of the frame. Then use the putty knife to pull the trim away from the wall gently. A hammer can be useful if the putty knife needs extra leverage to get under the casing.
Once you have pulled off the necessary trim, place them in a safe place. If possible, you will use them again when the door is fixed. If you do damage the framing pieces, a trip to the hardware store is in your future.
Pull Door Off the Track
Pull the door closed. Then tilt the bottom of the door up and pull it off the track. The trolleys may have a locking mechanism that will need to be released before tilting the door off.
Since part of the door is already partially off-track, this may take a little muscle and maneuvering to get the door out of the pocket space.
Find the Missing Trolley
Next possible scenarios:
- The trolley hardware is more modern, and the door needs to be slipped back onto the trolley. Start by fetching the loose trolley from the back of the pocket if it’s the rear joint that has slipped off. This can be retrieved with a broom handle. When you have both trolleys, put the door back on them and make sure the door slides smoothly open and closed.
- The trolley hardware is attached to the door and needs to be placed back on the track. Think about getting more updated hardware to prevent the door from slipping off the track in the future. In the meantime, tilt the door to put the rollers back in the track and slide back and forth, making sure it doesn’t slip off again.
Replace the Trim
Put the trim back on the wall by first removing the old nails. You might have to cut them if they don’t hammer out easily. Nail the pieces back to the wall and touch up with caulk and fresh paint.
For a good demonstration, check out this video on YouTube:
Replacing the Track
For this repair, you will need added tools:
- A drywall saw
- New tracking and trolleys
- A small sheet of plywood
- A tape measure
- Drywall screws
- Quick dry joint compound
The first step is to remove the door from the pocket and track. For the instructions, refer to the “Remove Side Trim” and “Remove Top Trim” subheadings under the “Adjusting the Door Level” section.
Create Access in Drywall
Measure and draw out a rectangular access hole on the drywall below the top of the pocket. It needs to be long enough to reach all the screws and tall enough to fit your drill. For a demonstration on cutting through the drywall, see the video below.
Using a drywall saw, cut out your rectangle. Set aside the piece of drywall. If it’s still in good condition, you can re-use it for the patch.
Remove Track & Replace
Unscrew the track with the drill or screwdriver. Then use the level to see if the framing in the wall is level. If it’s not, this might have been contributing to the dysfunction of the pocket door. At this point, you can install a spacer to help make the frame more level, or use the adjustable trolleys to level the door.
With the old track removed, install the new track by putting it in the same place as the old track and screw in place.
Remove the old roller or trolley system on the door and replace it with the new hardware. Buying a new track involves buying a pocket door hardware kit. Try the Johnson Hardware 1500 Series Commercial Grade Pocket Door Hardware, which will come with trolleys, screws, and guides.
Test the Door
Put the door on the track. Attach the door to the trolleys and adjust the height of the door isn’t level.
Slide the door into the pocket and back out. If installed properly, it will glide smooth and quiet.
Replace Trim & Drywall
Put the trim and framing back in its designated places. Hammer back onto the wall with new nails. Putty and paint any touch-ups.
Using the plywood, you will create a brace in which to screw the drywall back. The plywood will need to be in 4 strips, one for each side of the rectangle. Using drywall screws, screw the plywood to the inside of the pocket. Then screw the piece of drywall to the lumber.
Fill in the screws and seam with a quick-drying joint compound. When dry, sand it down until smooth, prime, and paint over the compound. No one will know there used to be a hole there.
If you want to see how an entire pocket door repair works step-by-step, watch this video:
Pocket doors are simple mechanisms. What scares people is opening up the trim and drywall if anything goes awry. No matter the amount of repair to your pocket door, it can be DIY. It may be a simple leveling of the door or a complete hardware replacement. All pocket doors can be adjusted and serve your house well.