What are They?
In order to conserve space and provide maximum functionality for the Lustron system, the designers utilized “pocket doors” so-called because they slide into a “pocket” within the wall when opening rather than swing out into the room. Space was at a premium in the compact Lustron and, according to some estimates, pocket doors could save up to ten square feet of floor space. As one Lustron brochure crowed, “all the floor space in the house is living space.” Pocket doors were not a unique invention. They had been employed in other eras (think about that Queen Anne house with pocket doors in the parlor) but the Lustron Corporation was one of the first to use pocket doors exclusively throughout the interior of the home. Interestingly, the first Lustron, the Esquire featured conventional doors.The pocket doors were made from the same molded steel and porcelain enamel coating as the interior and exterior panels, and cabinetry.The front door and rear door of the Lustron were not pocket doors and opened inward. The arrived preinstalled in the wall sections of the Lustron.
How Do They Work?
While all the interior doors of the Lustron were pocket doors, the bathroom and bedroom doors were installed slightly differently than the closet doors. The number of interior doors varied depending on the number of bedrooms.The interior sliding bathroom and bedroom doors were hung from a roller assembly (see illustration) which ran along a track mounted to the stud section.
The roller assembly, as shown above in the Erection Manual, consisted of a 2 hangars (a metal wheel, suspended from a bracket, illustrated below) which were bolted to an a interior channel at the top of the door.
The hangars enabled the door to roll along the track. All this was concealed by the interior door header panel. The doors did not touch the floor. The closet doors were also sliding however, they ran on rollers located on the bottom of the door and roll in a metal channel on the floor.
Both doors featured flush mounted hardware, a keyless locking mechanism and a pop out handle. The bedroom doors featured brass escutcheons surrounding the lock on both sides, with flush mounted hardware. Whereas the bathroom door featured a chrome escutcheon on the bathroom side and a chrome escutcheon on the hall side.
Interior Panels and Doors
- Bathroom Door Jamb & Striker Installation - EM-02-M-110.1
- Bedrooms-Door Jamb & Striker Installation - EM-02-M-120.1
- Sliding Door & Header Panel Installation - EM-02-M-130.1
- Sliding Door & Header Panel Installation Details - EM-02-M-140.1
Master Specifications - 1949 Revisions
Common Problems and Repairs
Problems with your doors? Read about the most common problems and some possible solutions below. As with all the recommendations here on Lustron Preservation, if you are using any cleaning materials, chemicals or abrasive methods of cleaning, be sure to test in a small area first.
My closet doors stick and won’t slide
Check the lower track to make sure that dirt and debris has not clogged up the rail. Clean with a simple cleaning solution such as water and a mild cleanser like Pine Sol. You might need an old toothbrush and plastic scraper (don’t use a metal scraper as it might scratch the paint) to help remove excessive layers of dirt and grime.
- Sponge or rags
- Mild cleanser
- Old toothbrush
- Plastic Scraper
Doors still sticking? Read on…
My interior pocket doors don’t slide
It is possible that the door has come off its track. To check and see if this is the case, you will need to remove the metal header panel (illustration.) Before removing the header panel, review the appropriate pages of the erection manual (EM-02-130.1, EM-02-M-120.1 and EM-02-M-140.1) so that you can see how the header panel is installed. The header panel is located directly above the door and attached to the recess panel by four clips (illustration).
Removing the header panel
To remove the panel, pull gently upward on the bottom of the panel. Once it releases lift the top up and maneuver it out of the upper clips. Put the panel aside, taking care not to drop the panel or scrape it against the other interior panels. Please note that the panels can be fairly heavy. If you are not sure how if you can manage the panel yourself, work with a buddy.If the panel will not lift up, do not use a hammer to dislodge it. Striking the porcelain surface with a hammer could cause it to scuff, chip, dent or crack. Instead, wrap a rubber mallet in a old t-shirt (to avoid marking) or rag and very GENTLY tap the bottom of the panel then lift again.Once the panel has been removed, inspect the hangars and the track:
- Is the track clear of dirt, grime and debris? Is it securely bolted to the stud?
- Are both wheels on the hangars still in place?
- Do they roll smoothly along the track?
- Are the wheels in good shape? Are they missing bearings? Are they still securely bolted to the door?
- Rubber Mallet
- Old Rag or T-Shirt
- Friend to help
First clean the track with a mild household cleaner, an old toothbrush can be used to scrub out the tracks. Once the tracks are cleaned out, spray a petroleum based aerosol cleaner on the wheel bearings in the hangar wheel. Materials Needed:
- Cleaning Cloth
- Mild House Hold Cleanser
- Old Toothbrush
- Petroleum Based Aerosol (like WD-40 or similar)
Everything in pretty good shape?
If the hangars are still in place, are in relatively good shape, and still roll along the track, lucky you!If the hardware is relatively good shape, with a minor clean-up your door should no longer be sticking.
Hangars off the track?
All cleaned up but your wheels are not on track? First, check and see what might have caused the wheel to derail? Dirt, debris? Age? Are both wheels still visible? Do they appear to be in good shape? If both wheels are still visible, and appear to be in good shape, you will need to get the hangars back on the track. This can take some maneuvering. Make sure to review the appropriate page of the Erection Manual (EM-02-M-130.1) so that you can get a sense of how the wheels fit into the track. The door will need to be tilted upward and the rollers inserted back into the track (illustration).
Please note that the doors are heavy, if you are concerned about the weight of the doors; please don’t undertake this task alone. Enlist the help of a friend. Experienced owners recommend that you reattach the hangars to the rails one roller at a time. Some Lustron owners suggest folding a magazine in half, sliding it under the door at a perpendicular angle, and then lifting the edge of the magazine so it acts as a lever, lifting the door. This is preferable to a screwdriver or other tool which could chip the surface of the door or scratch the floor. Materials Needed:
- Printed pages from Erection Manual
- Old Magazine
If cleaned your hanging assembly, your hangars are in good shape and the track is sound then once the hangars are back in place your door should no longer stick. Skip to the Reinstalling the Header Panel Section below.
Missing a roller? Missing two rollers?
It is possible that your door is stuck because you are missing one or both rollers from the hangar. Hopefully they are still located in the wall cavity. If they are not readily visible, grab a flashlight, a wire hangar and if you have it a magnet and some tape. If you don’t see both rollers, chances are one is within the “pocket” where the track extends into the wall cavity. Before removing the door, first attempt to locate the roller using a flashlight and use the wire hangar to try and fish it out, alternately, try using a magnet attached to a wire hangar or stick to fish it out. The challenge of the magnet is that you will have to stay away from the walls. As one owner remarked, it is like a game of operation. If you still cannot find your roller, you can opt to remove the door so you will have a better view of the wall cavity. To remove the door you will need to slide it almost all the way closed and then pull the door toward you, then lift it off the track and remove it.
- Wire hangar
If you find your rollers, clean and oil them and reattach them to the hangar, then follow the instructions above for getting your door back on the rollers. Don’t forget to oil your rollers regularly to keep them in tip-top shape.
My rollers are still missing or broken
Missing or broken rollers is one of the most common complaints of Lustron owners. If you cannot find one or both of your rollers, or if they cannot be reattached to the hangar, sometimes, rollers can be found from other Lustron owners who have replaced their original doors or who have helped salvage a Lustron prior to demolition. The Lustron Lounge is a great place to start. Also check out the Buy/Sell section for hints and tips for locating Lustron parts. Some owners have successfully purchased and installed new rollers. However, at this time we don’t have a stock recommendation for a replacement roller. If you cannot find an original replacement roller, take the the original bracket/wheel set to your local hardware store and try and match it. The new hardware will likely have a metal bracket and plastic wheels. Select a roller that mounts to the top of the door so that you do not add new holes to the face of the door. Make sure that the new set you purchase has the same finish width as the original bracket after it is mounted. Take a measurement of the distance from the top of the door to the bottom of the roller of the original set. Make sure the replacement set will match that measurement so that the door maintains height from the floor.
I’m missing my original metal pocket doors
There is currently no source for replacement metal pocket doors. However, sometimes doors are available from owners who have replaced their original doors or from Lustrons which have been salvaged prior to demolition. Visit the Lustron Lounge to learn more. It is also worth checking your favorite on-line auction site. For tips on buying and selling Lustron parts click here.
The handle on my original hardware is missing or broken
First, check in with your fellow Lustron owners to see if they might have some Lustron hardware that they are willing to part with. If you can’t find an original, finding an off-the-shelf replacement for Lustron door hardware can also be a challenge. It is possible that you might be able to find a metal fabricator who could replicate the locks. If you need to remove the hardware, refer to page EM-02-M120.1 of the Erection Manual. Make sure to either tape the screws to the hardware or put them somewhere safe. Your local locksmith might also be able to repair the lock.When shopping for your replacements, remember that the bedroom door hardware featured a brass finish and that the bathroom door hardware featured a chrome finish on the inside and a brass finish on the outside. The new hardware should match the existing hardware in color, materials, form and profile.
My doors are dented, chipped or stained
Information on repairing the porcelain enamel can be found here.