Tuning up a balky door
Years of dirt, exposure to the elements and hard use can turn sliding doors into sticking doors. Here's how to repair your sliding door and make it run like new.
Start with a good cleaning. Scrub caked dirt and grime out of the track with a stiff brush and soapy water. If the door still doesn’t slide smoothly, the rollers under the door either need adjusting or are shot.
Locate the two adjusting screws at the bottom of the door (on the face or edge of the door) and pry off the trim caps that cover the screws. If one side looks lower, raise it until the door looks even on the track (Photo 1). If the door still sticks, turn both screws a quarter turn to raise the whole door. Then slide the door just short of the jamb and be sure the gap is even.
If the door still doesn't glide smoothly, you'll have to remove the door and examine the rollers. Get help for this—the door is heavy! Unscrew the stop molding on the inside of the jamb (Photo 2). Be sure to hold the door in place once the stop is removed—if you forget and walk away for a moment, the door will fall in, requiring a much bigger repair! Tilt the door back (Photo 3) and set it on sawhorses. Inspect the rollers for problems. If they’re full of dirt and debris, give them a good cleaning and a few drops of lubricant and see if they spin freely. However, if the rollers are worn, cracked or bent, remove them (Photo 4) and replace them with a new pair.
You can order rollers and other door parts for repairing sliding doors through lumberyards and home centers or online. Look for the door manufacturer’s name on the edge of the door or the hardware manufacturer’s name on the roller.
Replace a Balky Sliding Screen Door
Most sliding doors come with really crummy sliding screen doors. They’re constantly out of adjustment and the wheels always break. If you’re tired of trying to tweak it, or somebody has walked into it and bent it, now’s the time to upgrade to a premium door. Premium screen doors are made from extruded aluminum, so they don’t flex like the cheapo rolled aluminum styles, and they have thicker metal and extremely rigid corners. High quality wheels make the door slide easier. They only cost about $120 ($20 more than an original replacement version).
Several online companies custom-cut them to fit your patio door (two sources are qualitywindowscreen.com and apexproducts.com). The door ships disassembled (to save on shipping), so you’ll have to assemble the mitered corners and install the screen yourself. But that’s a very simple task.
Here’s another tip. If you have a pet that likes to paw at the patio door screen, order the new door with pet-safe screen fabric. It’s amazingly resilient when it comes to pet claws.