Walls, Ceilings, Windows & Doors

Adjusting a sliding patio screen door that sticks

Almost every sliding patio screen door in the world sticks, because few people are aware that they can adjust the rollers that run in the track. You still need to keep the track clean, but adjusting the rollers is the key.

First, though, make sure the aluminum frame is not twisted or bent. Gently straighten any track damage with a file or pliers. If the frame can’t be fixed, you’ll need to replace the entire door unit.

If the frame is in good shape, the door will be easy to repair. At the base of the door, you’ll see a small Phillips head screw in the lower frame. The screw head will be above the frame or in the side of the door, near the bottom. Tightening this screw lowers the rollers; that lifts the door so it rolls on the rollers and doesn’t rub on the frame.

Most doors also have a similar roller adjustment for the top rollers. If the door is tight or bound in the frame, you may first need to loosen these top screws to allow room for the rollers at the bottom to be lowered. Don’t let your adjustments squeeze the door between its top and bottom frames.

After adjusting the rollers, clean the track with steel wool or a scrubbing pad. Lubricate the rollers and the track with a silicone-type lubricant that will avoid attracting dirt.

If the rollers or roller springs are damaged, remove a sample and try to buy an exact replacement. To replace or inspect the rollers, remove the door from the frame as follows: fully retract both the top and bottom rollers. Lift the door up into the frame. To clear the lower track, you may also need to keep pushing up the lower rollers with your finger or a thin putty knife if the rollers drop down as you lift the door.

If you can’t find replacement rollers, you might be able to substitute the top rollers for the bottom ones, since the top rollers don’t do much to keep the door on track and they don’t wear out.

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Replacing the screen in a screen door

To repair the screen in a door, begin by removing the door from the frame. Locate the roller adjustment screws at the top and bottom of the door. Loosen the screws and the rollers, then lift the frame up and away from the lower track. You may have to use a thin putty knife to lift the roller above the track.

Examine the screen material, which is usually gray fiberglass. Measure the door, and plan on buying replacement screen material that’s several inches bigger than the opening.

Locate the vinyl spline that holds the screen within a groove in the door. Find the end of the spline and pry it out with a small awl. Pull the rest of the spline out of the groove. If the spline is stiff or cracking, buy new spline material. You will also need to purchase a spline tool to roll the spline back into the groove.

Remove the old screen. Set the door on a flat surface with the groove facing up. Lay the new screen material on top. It should overhang the groove by at least 2 inches on each side. Temporarily tape the screen in place.

With the concave roller of your spline tool, roll the screen into the groove. Work on one side of the screen. Lay the spine over the groove and roll it into the frame with the convex roller. You don’t need to set the spline to the bottom of the groove at this point. Install the spline around the whole door, working from one end. Cut the spline and force the end into the groove.

Once the screen is secure, force the spline into the bottom of the groove with the spline roller and steady pressure. As you force the spline into the bottom of the groove, the screen will be tightened in the frame. At the corners and ends, force the spline into the groove with a screwdriver.

Now, trim the excess screen material away with a sharp utility knife. Trim over the top of the spline, cutting into the outer edge of the groove.

To return the door to its frame, fit the top section into the frame first. Then fit the lower rollers onto the track. You may need to lift the lower rollers with a putty knife as you do this. Make sure the rollers are adjusted to the correct height. (See the section above if adjustment is needed.)

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Adjusting sliding closet doors that stick

Most sliding closet doors have rollers that run in a "J" shaped track at the top. There are also small plastic glides at the base to keep the doors centered.

When these doors become hard to move back and forth, it may be that the flooring was changed (so now the bottom glides rub the floor) or the upper roller bracket is loose. Check the upper roller first. Is the bracket securely attached?

If a loose bracket is not the problem, you can often adjust the bracket and raise the door. There will be a screw and slide or cam that will raise and lower the door. You can see this screw or slide from inside the closet at the rollers. Usually, raising the door solves the problem.

If the floor covering has been changed, you may nee d to trim the bottom of the door to increase clearance. Remove the lower plastic glides, swing the door toward the room, and lift the rollers out of the track. Carefully trim the door bottom and re-install.

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Finding parts for old double-hung windows

Old window parts are difficult to locate. Through the years, there have been many window designs made by many companies. Try one of the following sources. Send them a complete description and a picture of the window mechanism you’re looking for.

Wisconsin Window Parts
PO Box 138
Green Lake, WI 54941
phone: (414) 294-6229

Blaine Window Hardware
1919 Blaine Drive, RD 4
Hagerstown, MD 21740
phone: (301) 797-6500

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"Popped" drywall nails

When a nail pops out of drywall, try securing the area around the probl em nail with drywall screws. These hold much tighter than nails. There’s often no need to remove the offending nail. Simply drive it below the surface with a nail set or small punch. For greater strength, use several screws. Fill the holes with spackling compound, then repaint.

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Secret drywall finishing method

To get a completely professional looking drywall finish, you will need to hire a professional drywall finisher. However, most of us who are handy can do an acceptable job if we finish with a lightly textured surface to hide minor imperfections.

Tape the joints and fill all nail holes with the normal three coats of joint compound. Lightly wet- or dry-sand the surfaces. Then apply a light coat of thinned texture paint. On my last job I thinned texture paint to the maximum recommended (one quart water to three quarts paint) and applied it with a standard thick-napped roller. The result was a fine texture, almost like a sprayed-on sand finish. This texture covers any slight imperfections and gives a more professional result. You need to apply a finish coat for durability, and a finish color.

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Patching cracks in the ceiling

Ceiling cracks are a common problem, especially at the dividing line between the dining room and the living room. This area typically lines up with load-bearing wall through the kitchen and is directly above the beam in the basement. Such a crack usually results from seasonal expansion and contraction of wood framing. In the attic, the ends of ceiling joists in this area are often supported with a wood wall. The joists move in and out toward the exterior walls; their inboard ends are above the crack. Drywall or plaster at the end of these joists won’t expand, and the crack opens up. Your best bet is a patching compound that remains flexible and can move with the wood framing. Try Krack-Kote, a thick, pliable compound that dries on the surface but stays flexible underneath. You brush Krack-Kote 2 to 3 inches beyond each side of the ceiling crack, then apply ultra-thin tape material (included in the kit) to bridge the crack. Press the fabric into the Krack-Kote, feathering the edges of the material. After 30 minutes, apply a second coat to hide imperfections. After 30 minutes more, you may paint the area. The Krack-Kote will expand and contract as your house moves. The material remains flexible and is hard to sand, so make a smooth, flat patch before the material cures.

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