Maintenance DIY: HVAC, Pocket Doors, and Winter Checklists
HVAC pumps in man's hand

October 25, 2022 |

Updated November 1, 2022

4 minute read

Q: Can you provide some preventive maintenance guidance for heating and air conditioning units? 

A: Heating and air conditioning (HVAC) systems should be inspected at least twice a year or at the change of the major seasons. Prior to summer and winter, it is essential to properly inspect and troubleshoot your A/C units whether they are window, wall or central. Most A/C units fail or improperly work because of nonexistent or improper maintenance—not age. 

Cleaning your A/C is the most inexpensive and critical maintenance procedure you can perform. Here is our four-point check list:

  1. Turn on the A/C and listen for unusual or unfamiliar noises.
  2. Inspect/clean or replace filters. Filters should be cleaned or replaced at the beginning of each major season (before summer and before winter). 
  3. Clean and repair damaged or bent fins. They can constrict proper air flow and decrease the cooling capacity of the A/C unit.
  4. Clean out all dust and debris inside of the A/C pan or coils.

For a central HVAC unit, cleaning or replacing the main and return filters may be the limit on a DIY cleaning. A qualified technician should do any other work on a central heating and air unit. 

Q: I have a unit that has pocket doors between the kitchen and living room and between the hallway and the living room. The door has fallen off its track and no matter what I do, I can’t get it to work properly. How do I fix this problem? 

A: We have a love-hate relationship with pocket doors. We love them because they are an efficient use of space, but when they go bad, we hate them. Pocket doors by their nature are very secretive and getting to their internal working parts is almost impossible. Pocket doors operate very similarly to sliding closet doors. The door has a set of rollers that attach to a track above the door. Typically, what goes wrong is that either a roller bracket has come loose or one of the rollers has broken. Unlike a sliding closet door, the pocket door cannot easily be angled away from the track and removed. The only way to extract the pocket door is to remove the casing around the door opening and the vertical jamb on the side where the door that goes into the wall. The door can then be tipped out and removed. This is not easy, as sometimes the top jamb must be removed first depending on original installation. A second method is to make a 4-inch hole in the wall in line with the track. This will allow access for your hand and a tool for repairs. Every door is different; a close inspection of the hardware should help determine which side of the wall to open. The most common problem with pocket doors is the screws holding the roller brackets becoming loose and getting out of adjustment. Replace the screws with a larger, more aggressive thread pattern and try to use new holes if possible. Lastly, check that there are no nails or screws protruding through the drywall into the pocket door; check for hanging picture frames or other decorations. If the pocket door is not a critical-use door, an alternative: Using jamb or casing material, seal in the pocket door in the wall. In other words, abandon the pocket door, seal and paint the repair and call it a day.

Q: I’m getting my work checklist started before winter comes. Do you have recommendations of what should be on the checklist?

A: After checking and repairing any roof damage, we recommend looking at the outside walls of the property. Stucco, wood siding or other vertical surfaces are the building’s skin. Cracks, breaks and other damage to the siding invite “infection” into your building. This “infection” can take the form of wood rot, mold, siding delaminating or separation from the subsurface and material breakdown of stucco that causes discoloration and crumbling. Common siding material found in most buildings is stucco, wood, brick, vinyl or concrete panels, etc. Water intrusion of the siding can find its way through the smallest cracks by capillary action or more directly from misaligned sprinklers or other water sources. A little known and often forgotten solution to leaky windows is the clogged weep holes along the bottom of the window frame and track. These weep holes clog with dust and debris and very easily can cause water to enter the building through the window frame or even through small cracks in the stucco or siding at the edges of the window frame.   


Do you have DIY maintenance questions? Send them to [email protected].