Sliding Screen Door Adjustment and Repair Tips Q&A

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Dear NH,

My problem is keeping our patio screen door level. My lovely wife has a fit when the door doesn't slide smoothly. I hate trying to level the door but since I hate my wife's yelling and hollering more I muddle through. I have the typical screen door where you adjust the wheels with the screws over the wheels. Is there some secret to doing it easily?



There is a secret!  Most rolling door problems… whether it be screen doors, garage doors or shower doors… are usually related wear in the rollers, not the skills of the adjuster! I have played that game myself… adjust and adjust until you want to drive your fist through the screen!  Ugh. Calm, NH… deep breaths… better now…

Remove the door and look at the rollers. If they are plastic, look for broken edges or excessive rust. If the rollers are metal, look for bent or rough edges... the metal rollers generally don't break but their mounts wear.

Is the mounting assembly bent or are the rollers binding on the shaft? If any of these conditions exist, put away the silicone spray or the WD-40 and replace ALL of the rollers… top and bottom. That is, unless the top rollers are 1) nonexistent (some sliding screens use a guide instead of a roller on top) or 2) in pristine condition. This should solve your problem.

It is also possible that your problem lies not with the hardware but with the patio door frame. Settlement in the door frame or poor initial installation can make perfect or even "just adequate" adjustment a hopeless task. So if everything else seems OK, make a few vertical measurements between the top and bottom tracks. Does the center of the track measure less than the ends? This would cause binding that adjustment might not be able to compensate for. Is the frame square? Measure across both "opposite corners"… upper left to lower right and versa visa. If these two measurements are not nearly identical, the frame is not a rectangle but a parallelogram. This means that the top and bottom tracks are closer together than they should be… another condition that can cause binding.

These last few heartbreakers are not simple to repair. The moldings around the frame would have to be removed to see why the frame is distorted. The frame would have to be cut loose on the top and sides and repositioned in correct alignment to the bottom track. Depending on the age of your door set and the condition of the glass (foggy insulated glass, perhaps?) sometimes the best solution is to just replace the whole gosh-darned thing. The labor for a repair of this sort can be nearly as high as installing a new set… sans materials, of course!