Excerpt from my regular column in the Santa Barbara News-Press.
Question: The sliding closet doors in our bedrooms keep coming off the tracks, get jammed against each other and they are driving us crazy! My husband used to be able to get the doors back on track but we now have two closets with doors that are jammed and we have given up. The doors are the original ones from when the house was built in 1964 and we would like to ask what can be done to fix these doors so I can get back into the closets!
Your Handyman: We get many service calls for sliding bypass closet doors and pocket doors that have come off track and even had one call where a lady in Montecito was trapped inside an upstairs bathroom by a jammed pocket door, managed to climb out the window and safely get back inside through another upstairs window that was open.
The problem with the older style of sliding door is with the old style ceiling mounted tracks that support the rollers which are mounted on the top of the doors. These older tracks typically are in the shape of an open hanging “J” which allows the doors to come off track if they are pushed or lifted up rather than pulled horizontally from side to side. Often sliding doors can get hung up on carpeting or some obstruction in the closet, a person will then try to push up or lift the door in their efforts to open the doors to get into the closet, and the rollers then lift up and out of the track. Some sliding closet doors can be quite heavy and lifting them back onto the track can become a difficult task for the average homeowner.
Often the original sliding doors were installed over hard wood floors, carpeting was laid over the hardwood some time later and the bases of the doors were never trimmed to allow for the extra height of the carpeting. In this case simply removing the doors and trimming the base will get the doors back into working shape if the rollers and tracks are not damaged. If the rollers and tracks are worn out or if you just would like to upgrade the hardware, then the solution is to remove the old “J” style track and rollers and install the new style track and roller hardware that can be purchased at most hardware stores. The new style of track is shaped like the letter “C” mounted on its back and the rollers are like a little trolley that is completely enclosed inside the track. If installed correctly, it is impossible for the roller trolley to come off of the track and they will work correctly indefinitely.
A typical 6’-7’ wide closet with 2 bypass doors should take about 2-3 hours to switch out the old track hardware with the new style hardware, assuming that the doors and closet frame are in good condition, and the hardware will cost about $150. We recently installed new hardware for a pair of old closet doors but also replaced the original slab style doors with new louvered doors, and it made for a nice improvement in the appearance of the bedroom.
These same problems frequently occur with the old track and roller hardware for pocket doors however installing new hardware for a pocket door can be a bigger project depending on how the pocket door was installed, and what is involved with getting access to remove the old track. Replacing the track and roller hardware on an older pocket door often requires that a 1-2 square foot opening is made in the drywall in order to get tools inside the pocket in order to remove the old hardware and install the new. If the drywall is carefully removed it will be a simple job to use the same piece of drywall to seal up the opening. However if the walls on the pocket door have cabinets or are tiled, then the project may involve temporarily moving the cabinets or making an opening in the tile.
Owner, YourHandyman & Construction
CA License #935259