How to Repair and Replace a Pocket Door

Video Transcript

Video Transcript

RON HAZELTON:
Now this is called a pocket door. It's actually a sliding door that goes up inside the wall, and these have some real advantages. For one thing, they don't require room to swing, and when they're completely open, they're completely out of sight.

This window has a few problems. Some missing hardware right here -- a track that doesn't work that well and is kind of noisy and when the door is closed, there are some alignment problems.

The solution to some of these problems is to install a new track and sliding door hardware. Step one is to take out the door and remove the existing hardware. I use a utility knife to cut through the paint and caulk at the base of the stop -- a strip of wood that runs along the jamb.

Next, I use putty knives and pry bars to lift off the stops. These come away in good shape and I should be able to reuse them later. With the stops gone, I swing the door out at the bottom and lift it off the track. Next, I remove the top casing on the other side, along with a small piece of the doorframe.

You know, a pocket door is aptly named because the door actually does slide into a pocket in the wall. There are no studs in here, no conventional framing. This is actually a wooden box. It's hollow inside. Come here, take a look. Now the first thing I'm gonna do on my pocket door makeover, is take out and replace this track up here.

Now here in the door opening, I get up here, no problem and undo the screws. But over here, they're concealed inside the wall. So I'm gonna cut an opening. An electronic stud sensor will help me locate the pocket door frame.

I'll mark the top first, and then drop down enough to give myself clearance for a drill and draw the bottom line. Finally, I mark the sides. The idea here is to avoid cutting into the wooden framework.

Now this is the section that I'm going to cut out. It's large enough to allow me to get my tools in there, but no larger than it really has to be. And I'm gonna cut this out now using a drywall saw. By twisting and pushing the saw, I can pierce the wallboard. Then I begin cutting, using smooth, even strokes. I always try to use a sharp saw. It's easier to control, and makes the work go quickly.

With the wall open, it's easy to remove the rest of the screw holding the track. Well, this is the old track that we took out. As you can see, it's made of sheet metal and it can be distorted fairly easily, and this is the carrier.

These wheels are plastic, no bearings or anything here and of course, it would slip right in like this. Now here is the new track that we're putting up. This is extruded aluminum, very rigid, and a new carrier -- has three wheels instead of two and these are ball bearings, so it's gonna give us a nice smooth ride here.

Ah, now that's just about what I expected. Now remember, there was a gap between the door and the jamb right down here? Well, part of that is being caused by this top of the frame up here, which is not level. It's out by about a quarter of an inch.

So before I put that track up, I'm gonna put a shim or spacer over on this side. This short strip of four inch wood should do the trick. In effect, it will lower the track just slightly on this end. I'll tack it in place, and then install the track on top of it. I do one more check for leveling.  Then install the remaining screws.

Now it's time to remove the old hardware from the top of the door and replace it with these plates that will, in turn, attach to the new hangers already installed on the track. To reinstall the door, I set the top in position first, then move the bottom into place, until the door is vertical in the opening.

Next, I raise the door slightly, using shims. Since I'm working alone, a pry bar comes in handy as a lever. I can raise the door with one hand and insert the shims with the other. When everything's at the correct height, all I have to do is roll the hangers onto the brackets and flip the locking lever.

Well, the track's in and it works beautifully. But I've still got one problem. Back in the beginning, remember, when the door would close, it would touch up here, but there would be a gap at the bottom? Well, the bad news is, I've still got that problem.

But the good news is, the hangers or carriers in this system are easily adjustable. So if I bring this one up, and this one down, I can close that gap pretty much completely.
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Since I was careful to remove the trim without damaging it, I can reuse each piece and avoid having to worry about finding new molding that will match. Speaking of reusing things, there's really no reason I can't put back the same piece of wallboard that I cut out.

I'm attaching these strips around the opening tag as backers. They'll support the repair section and give me something to screw into. A wall repair made this way is actually stronger than the original. In fact, the joint is so stable; I'm not even going to use tape. Instead, I'm going to fill the gap with a setting type compound. When it's dry, I'll sand it flush.

Try as I might, I could not find a door pull the same size as the missing one. So I'm simply going to fill the hole. This catalyzed wood filler will allow me to make this fix in no time. It has two parts: a resin and a hardener.

After blending the two together, I apply the filler -- wait a few minutes until it becomes firm and rubbery, then just cut off the excess with a utility knife. A quick sanding and I've got a new surface to work with.

One of the simplest ways to cut a recess or mortise for latches is to first bore a series of overlapping holes. I like to use a Forstner bit for this. Because of their shape, these bits are less likely to slip into the adjacent hole and they leave a clean, flat bottom.

For the next step, I'll need my chisels. Now I've got a really nice set of these, but I'll only need one or two to cut out the wood between the holes. Next, I slip the latch in place, screw it temporarily into position and use a utility knife to scribe the outline.

The trickiest part of cutting the mortise is making the shallow recess into which the plate sets. By placing the edge of the chisel in the groove left by the utility knife, I can get a well defined sharp edge. Once the outline is cut, I carefully remove the inside material.

And notice for this, I'm using a chisel with a bevel facing downward. Because I used the latch as a template for the mortise, the fit is nearly perfect.

Well, this door has some new hardware. It rolls so quietly, you'd think it was on ball bearings, which actually it is. But best of all, there's no gap over here. I guess we can pronounce this project, a success.

Upgrade your door hardware with new pocket door pulls and track to give new life to existing pocket doors in your home.

Pocket doors are a great feature of many older homes, but as homes and door jambs settle over time, the pocket doors can start to show gaps when closed. Additionally, the hardware can start to drag after years of use, making the door difficult to open and close. By replacing the operating hardware on the door, you can revitalize the functionality of the pocket door, and improve the way that it looks.

The heavy duty, commercial grade pocket door hardware used in this project is from Johnson Hardware.  Click here for more information.

Remove the Door and Trim
Step 1

Remove the Door and Trim

Begin by removing the door from the opening. Pull it towards you and lift the rollers out of the track. Use stiff putty knives or pry bars to remove the trim, door stops, and any head jamb pieces that will keep you from having access to the track. Be careful as you remove these pieces, especially if you plan to reuse these pieces as you finish the project. You will be able to see the screws that hold the track in place over the door opening. Go ahead and remove these, even though you won't be able to get to the track screws that are hidden inside the wall yet.

Open the Wall
Step 2

Open the Wall

In order to remove the remaining screws that hold in the track, and to then install the new one, you will have to make an opening in the wallboard. Use a stud finder to mark the location of the internal framework of the pocket door and mark it with a pencil. You need to make the opening large enough to accommodate your screwdriver or drill, but not any larger than necessary. Once you've outlined the opening, use a wallboard saw to cut a square opening. Take care not to damage the cutout, because you can reuse that piece to repair the hole when you are done. Set it aside to prevent it from breaking.

Remove and Replace the Old Track with the New
Step 3

Remove and Replace the Old Track with the New

Now that you have access to the hidden portion of the track, remove the remaining screws and pull the track out through the door opening. If there were gaps in the door's fit, now is the time to take care of that. Ensuring that the new track is level will compensate for most gapping issues. Use shims under the new track to compensate for any settling that the house may have done since the original pocket door was installed. After you are satisfied that the track is level, screw it into place per the manufacturer's instructions. Remember, many new styles of pocket door track require that the rollers be in place when you install the track and cannot be inserted after you have screwed it in. Check this out before you install it to avoid frustration.

Replace the Hardware on the Door Panel
Step 4

Replace the Hardware on the Door Panel

The roller hardware that is on the door panel can now be removed. After the new hardware is screwed in to place, re-hang the door. Use a pry bar and shims to help you lift the door into place, and then hold it at the proper height while you secure the hardware at the top of the door.

Adjust the New Hardware
Step 5

Adjust the New Hardware

You may find that the door is not quite level, or isn't positioned properly in the opening. Don't worry. Most new pocket door hardware systems are adjustable and can be easily manipulated so that the door fits perfectly. Follow the instructions that came with your hardware system about raising and lowering the respective corners of the door to eliminate any gaps and to ensure that the door moves smoothly through the opening.

Replace the Trim and Stops
Step 6

Replace the Trim and Stops

Now you can put the trim pieces back. If you were careful when you removed the old ones, then there is no reason why you can't simply put them right back up. If you want to replace them with new pieces, you certainly can, but reusing the old ones saves time and money. Plus, if you live in an older home, it can be a challenge to find new molding pieces that match the profile of your old moldings.

Repair the Wall
Step 7

Repair the Wall

Now that your door is in place and the new hardware is working properly, you'll need to repair the access hole that you cut in the wallboard. If you were careful with the cut out, then you can re-use that piece. Use drywall screws to install backers into the opening, leaving a lip of about 1 inch exposed into the hole. Not only will this give support to the loose piece, but it will give you something to screw it into. After it is screwed into place, use a quick drying joint compound to fill the screw holes and the seam. After it's dry, sand the area smooth and it will be ready to prime and paint.

Replace the Pocket Door Pull
Step 8

Replace the Pocket Door Pull

For this project, we were unable to find a new pull that exactly matched the profile of the old one. The remedy for this problem is to fill in the old holes and mortises with wood filler and to create a new surface to work with. Fill all of the holes and mortises in the door liberally with filler and then allow it to set up. As the filler begins to get rubbery (but before it hardens completely) use a utility knife to trim away some of the excess. This will save you a lot of sanding later on. After the remaining mixture completely hardens and cures, you can sand it smooth and reveal a virtually new surface to install the hardware of your choice on to.

Create an opening for the Latch
Step 9

Create an opening for the Latch

Using a Forstner bit, drill a series of overlapping holes to form an opening for the latch mechanism. You can create a hole that is approximately the right size and shape for your latch with the drill, and then come back with a sharp chisel to make any small adjustments to the opening or to remove any small sections of wood that exist between the drilled holes. The latch opeing doesn't need to be perfect because it will be covered by the faceplate, it simply needs to be big enough to allow the latching mechanism to function properly.

Chisel the Mortise for the Faceplate
Step 10

Chisel the Mortise for the Faceplate

Set the latch into place and temporarily screw it into place. You can use a sharp utility knife to score around the outside of the plate. Once you've clearly marked the outer edge of the faceplate with the knife, then you can remove the latch. You will see a perfect outline of the faceplate that you scored with the utility knife. Use your sharp chisel to gently and slowly remove the wood inside the scored area. You will need to remove enough wood to allow the face plate to recess into the edge of the door and create a flush fit. Since you use the faceplate itself as a template, the final fit and appearance should be just about perfect.