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Pocket Doors

I have a 106 year old house, with one of its pocket doors off the runner. It is an 8′ X 4′ door. How do I get it back in motion? (It is currently mostly out of the wall.) Thanks for your help! Rebecca, Poplar Bluff, Missouri.

I can commiserate with you since my wife is now on my case to fix our own two sets of pocket doors both of which jam a little and make the most awful screeching noise when they are opened and closed. I spent an entire day fiddling with them a couple years ago, which improved their operation a little, but it has deteriorated since.

First you must understand how the door is supposed to operate. Most smaller doors are hung on rails and rollers from above, but some ride on rollers fixed to the bottom of the door and a rail attached to the floor. If the door has simply jumped off a lower rail you may be able to shift it back up onto the rail with a flat pry bar. Protect the flooring from damage by slipping a 3-6″ putty knife under the pry bar. Gently giggle and wiggle the door while applying slight upward pressure to the bottom edge of the door. Be careful to not split wood off the edge of the door or damage the rollers set into the door. A door as big as your will be very heavy and you may need two pry-bar setups and a helper. If you have upper rails and rollers determine if they are broken or simply out of adjustment. Many pocket door hardware sets have a screw driver adjustment just above the edge of the door. The door can be raised or lowered by turning the adjustment screw which may improve the door’s operation.

If these simple measures do not help the doorway may have to be opened up to inspect the mechanism and make adjustments or repairs. This is a job for an experienced carpenter since the casings and trim around the door have to be dismantled and put back up without damaging them or the wall.

John Leeke is a preservation consultant who helps homeowners, contractors and architects understand and maintain their historic buildings. You can contact him at 26 Higgins St., Portland, Maine, 04103; or by E-mail: johnleeke@HistoricHomeWorks.com; or log onto his website at: www.HistoricHomeWorks.com

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