Sliding Door Safety and maintenance
November 1, 2011
How to ensure sliding door safety and maintenance
All sliding doors operate just about the same way, regardless of where you find them. The differences in their hardware, though, are almost limitless. All of these doors, patio or closet, are supported by top and bottom tracks and almost all roll on wheels. The major difference is whether they are hung from the top rail or rest on the bottom track. The two ends of the weight spectrum, light closet doors and heavy garage doors, usually are top hung. Moderately heavy doors, such as patio doors, run on a bottom track.
Doors jumping off their tracks can be the result of obstructions in the track or missing guides. Binding doors can be trying to run on dirty or bent tracks or may be pressed too tightly by a guide.
Maintenance: Keep every track, especially those that support wheels, free of dirt and foreign objects. This is especially important for bottom-supported doors where dirt from foot traffic can build up fast and clog the tracks. When you do your quarterly walk-throughs be sure to inspect the door tracks carefully and tighten any loose screws in the frame or track. Don’t oil the wheels, though, most are self-lubricating nylon.
Removing doors: It’s easy to get them off, though you have to take into consideration the various and sundry design variations. Some bottom-supported doors come out by lifting them straight up far enough to clear the bottom tracks, then angling the lower part of the door outward. That is usually the way patio doors work, but they are heavy and may require either two people or one strong one to get the door out.
Some top-hung doors can be lifted straight up and off the tracks, but usually you will have to position or angle them to unlock the top wheels from the tracks. They are locked in the tracks so they won’t come off every time someone bumps them. Other doors use a spring- loaded cover mechanism to accomplish the same thing as the track lock. Still others have key openings, so that you can lift the door up and out only at one point on the track. Usually you will find these about half way along the track on each side.
Doors that jump off tracks: All sliding doors have a guide of some sort that keeps them vertical and aligned in their tracks, rather than swaying freely. In bot- tom-supported designs the frame will overlap the sash enough to keep the sash firmly in place.
Top-hung doors can be the real problem. They often have only one or two guides along the bottom that keep the door aligned. The principal guide is at the center of the opening. Another guide, if there is one, will adjoin the jamb where the door closes. The guides get broken. It happens most frequently in children’s bedrooms, where they aren’t as careful as they might be about banging into the closet door.
When the guides get broken (or were just too small to start with), the doors will jump off their tracks. If the guides appear to be in the right position, check the wheel track of a top-hung door. You may find a missing piece the helps keep the wheels locked in place.