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Tub and Shower Door Repair and Adjustment

It's simply amazing how much inconvenience people live with! And a shower door that doesn't close or that jumps off the track is a big annoyance.  Here's some long-distance help...

Our hinged shower door does not work like it used to. Can it be repaired?

The sliding doors on the tub don't slide easily. I've tried WD-40 but it didn't help.


The shower door does not work like it used to. Can it be repaired?

I don't either, and I don't have a clue why. Next question...

Well, ask a loaded question, and you get a load for an answer. How can I know if it can be repaired? That's your job. But together we'll sort this out!

SHOOT FOR THE REPAIR... IF YOU DARE!

Has the door been terminated? First, is the door not working because your little bundle of joy used it as a battering ram against the Newfoundland?  Did she try to set the Olympic record for chin-ups on it?  If the door is bent, creased, or the hinge is twisted, you probably need a new door unit.  If, the problem has developed gradually over the years, you may be able to adjust it. Continue reading, comrade!

Hinged shower doors are designed to be adjusted in a variety of ways.

Each door is designed to fit adjust within a size range, not just one fixed width, to compensate for irregularities in the enclosure or the walls. There is usually some adjustment left to compensate for sagging. Sagging means that the door is either hitting on the latch side of the bottom or the top of the latch edge.

What is the problem you are trying to solve?

Now that you have a feel for the function of the door, you have to take a really close look to see what the problem is you are trying to solve. Where is it rubbing? Is there an obstruction like a loose screw in the bottom of the door? Determine what you want to accomplish, and them continue reading, if you need to!

There may be adjusting strips on both the hinge side and the latch side of the frame.

The frame is usually a sort of aluminum sandwich, the hinge "U" sliding into a frame "U". The frame "U" is stationary, either attached directly to the wall or to another panel (sometimes glazed). The hinge "U" slides into the frame "U", and can be adjusted vertically and horizontally. The two are aligned so the door does not drag on the bottom, or hit the latch side, and then the two parts are screwed together with three or four screws. Loosening these screws will allow for adjustment.

The toughest part of adjusting a shower door can be loosening the screws that hold it in position.

Half the time, the heads of the screws strip when you use a screwdriver on them. One solution is use a pair of Vice Grips© to grab the screw heads and turn them out. (TRICK: If the pliers won't grab the screw heads at all, use a file and flatten opposite sides of the screw. Try not to damage the shower door frame. This will give a better grip!) Worst case... you may have to drill the heads off the screws. But which screws, you may ask?

Remember that the door has not been adjusted for years, so it may need a little gentle persuasion to adjust.

You can try to release them by inserting a long screwdriver, pry bar, or any similar tool into the opening in the top of the "U" sandwich, and use it to leverage them apart. Even a light tap or two with a hammer may be needed. Worst case, if the "U"s seem to be frozen together, try spraying some WD-40© onto them. I have never had to take as drastic an action as this, but, just in case, you should be prepared!

Once you can get the door frame to adjust, you should be able to get it into a position so that it will swing free, as free as the wind blows, as free... enough!

If you can't repair it, then it's time to replace that pesky shower door!

I always prefer to install a shower or tub door set in a "virgin" enclosure.  But we can't always have our way, so we must carefully remove the old set with as little damage as possible to the walls.  Time to start...

Remove the old door and frame... except the parts directly attached to the walls and threshold. The first step is to disassemble the frame parts. The door may have separate hinges that can be unscrewed, or it may be attached to a frame via a piano-type hinge. Remove all screws and take off all the parts until you are left with two vertical "U" strips, one on each side of the enclosure, and a base strip crossing the threshold of the shower between the two vertical strips.

The vertical strips and the base strip are undoubtedly glued and screwed down. This is important to know, because if you try to just pull them off, you may damage the surface of the enclosure, or, if it is tile, loosen tiles. After removing the screws, push a thin 1" putty knife between the enclosure and either vertical strip at the top, and gradually work it down behind the strip. This will cut any remaining adhesive bond and free the strip. Do this on both vertical strips, and then on the base strip. Clean up the residual glue with a razor blade, utility knife, or even a heat gun (see the transcript of my seminar on caulking, Caulk All The Time, People Think You Crazy, for more caulk removal info).

Once the enclosure is spanking clean, follow the manufacturer's instructions for installation of your new door. A few tips that might help...

  • On a hinged shower door, be sure to mount the hinge on the correct side. This is an easy mistake to make, especially if the wall mounted strip determines the side and swing of the door. Be careful!
  • Use adequate adhesive caulk to glue on the mounting strips. If, for some reason, the instructions don't call for it, put in on anyway... a single, unbroken bead of caulk at least ©" wide, along the entire length of both side strips and the threshold strip.

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The sliding doors on the tub don't slide easily. I've tried WD-40 but it didn't help.

There are four common causes for this problem. Here they are with the solutions...

1) The doors are dragging on the bottom track.  Solution:  Remove the door from the track and adjust the upper rollers so that the door is a little higher.  You may have to adjust both sides to keep the door aligned with the wall strips.

2) The rollers are worn out.  Solution:  Remove the rollers and take them to a good hardware store for replacement.  Try to get rollers with the same profile... some have curved edges like donuts and some have squared edges like checkers.  They are shaped to match the profile of the upper track.  Getting the wrong shape might not improve your situation!

3) The upper track has been damaged.  Solution:  If you are lucky, there may be a shower door company in your area that has parts available.  Take the old upper track with you.  If the upper track does not come off easily, it may be caulked in place.  The caulk will have to be cut off to free the track for removal.

Since different tracks need different rollers, you may also have to replace your rollers, so bring one along as a sample.

4) The roller mounting brackets are bent, causing friction against the doors.  Solution:  You might be able to carefully bend them back into proper alignment.  Proper alignment is attained when the rollers are vertical and aligned with the doors.  Any tipping of the rollers is unacceptable if it causes rubbing.  If they are very bent and won't accept your kindly adjustments, you can try to get replacements.

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Jerry Alonzy, the founder of Naturalhandyman.com

Written by Jerry Alonzy

Jerry Alonzy, a.k.a. the Natural Handyman, has been an active handyman for over 30 years with experience in most areas of home repair and renovation.

As a do-it-yourself author and web developer since 1995, he has been featured in USA Today, the Today Show and on radio shows, magazines, newspapers and websites. His material appears widely on the web, but primarily on his website... The Natural Handyman. You can also find him on Google+.