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How to Fix a Pocket Door That Rubs

Pocket doors are a version of sliding doors where the door opens by sliding into a compartment or a ‘pocket’ in the wall. The doors are suspended by hangers that slide along tracks on the upper side of the door. 

In most cases, however, they will also have tracks on which they can roll at the bottom of the door for greater stability.

Pocket doors were immensely popular in Victorian age homes and during that period many homeowners used them to divide rooms and create extra privacy. Businesses too such as entertainment and reveling joints used these doors for the same purpose.

Up until the early 20th century, they were a common feature in many establishments but slowly faded from architectural prominence becoming a novelty rather than the norm.

Architects consider the pocket door an important building feature that is perfect for tight spaces and can be used to improve the space ergonomics of small homes.

Slowly but steadily, pocket doors are making a comeback with the younger generations who find themselves short of space in city apartments, and with more discerning tenants of condominiums and studio apartments which come with large spaces that could be separated more effectively with pocket doors than with hinged doors.

The major problem with pocket doors is the fact that only the door is visible and where the frame needs repair or replacement, a decent amount of work and sometimes demolition of a wall is necessitated. 

For this reason, they are fitted during construction in most cases and rarely ever removed from their position even during renovations.

Why Does a Pocket Door Start to Rub?

The cause of this problem is warping in the wood. Old models of these doors were problematic mainly because of the qualities of wood. Many would get stuck and cost a lot to repair. 

This is one of the reasons they fell into disfavor with builders and homeowners in the first place. Whenever a problem occurred with the door, fixing it demanded access to the ‘pocket’ which was a tedious costly affair.

 

One of the most common issues is when the door rubs against the frame while moving in and out of the pocket creating a stubborn noise as well as scratching the paint on the door. 

 

The door could be warped in which case it needs to be replaced since there is no remedy for deformed wood. 

Even if you could sand the door or make some kind of repair work, warping is a continuous process that will not simply stop. This will not solve the problem but replacing the door should stem the issue.

 

If the door is alright, then the warping is likely in the studs of the frame or the wooden slabs that make up the compartment.

If this is the case then the frame must be removed and replaced which is also quite arduous since the wall must come down in order to remove and replace the frame. 

Even if the offending stud is just one piece, the wall must be cut away, such as in the case of drywall, in order to get at the particular stud, remove it and place another in its place.

The fact that another such job may be required at some point in the future if yet another piece of wood stud warps is a cost many homeowners are unwilling to contend with so again, the doors become an unfavorable option.

If rubbing is ignored, eventually the door will jam and you will still be forced to deal with this issue and replace the contraption. 

It is important to mention that repairing a pocket door that has experienced a warping issue is not a DIY job if you have no understanding of woodworking and the design of a pocket door can appear deceptively simple. 

Measurements are particularly tricky and the repair process if attempted could result in even further damage necessitating more repairs.

 

If you have no prior woodworking experience, this is a job best left to a professional.

Sometimes the door has functioned well for years only to begin to rub in recent months. It is unlikely this is a warping problem since wood is not likely to warp after decades of unproblematic use. 

The most common cause of rubbing in such a case could be traced to renovations or repair work that has been carried out in the house and has touched or shifted the frame or the pocket door.

Most commonly, when scratches appear on the bottom of the door it means something may have been introduced that was previously not present. 

 

A common design flaw is installing a baseboard against a pocket door using nails that go right through drywall and rub against the door as it slides. The nails may also distort the position of the frame causing it to shift and begin to rub against the door as it slides.

This can be fixed by removing all the baseboard that is against the pocket door on either side and retrieving the offensive nails. Reattach the baseboards using adhesive instead of nails or use smaller shorter nails that will not reach the frame.

The adhesive is the better option.

Modern pocket doors

With better technology, modern pocket doors are superior pieces of hardware designed to eliminate any possibility of warping or damage that could result in rubbing or jamming.

Better materials, as well as better engineering as far as the frame goes, means the problems that homeowners encountered in the past will not recur. 

In addition, modern models are almost completely noise-free with the characteristic sliding sound being eliminated with the use of better rolling slides and tracks as well as better materials for the sliding wheels above.

When installed, modern pocket doors are a design marvel and instill an aura of class in the room. 

They are also not used to save space anymore but as a preferred choice for stunning doors especially in bedrooms, closets, bathrooms, home offices, restrooms, and in certain high-end entertainment places.