Chances are there are many doors in your house and you probably don’t give them much thought. After all, they perform a very simple task. That is, until they start giving you trouble: a squeaky door; a door that won’t stay closed; one that is always swinging shut; the ones that stick or the ones that slam. An uncooperative door is frustrating and annoying. The good news is that most door troubles come with an easy fix, and the better news is that you can fix them.
A door is binding if it sticks and resists when you try to open it, or needs an extra firm push to fully close. This means that it is fitting too closely into one part of the frame.
There are a few reasons why a door could be binding. The most likely culprit is a hinge that is no longer holding tightly into the frame. If the bottom latch-side corner of the door is binding, it is likely the lower hinge that needs to be adjusted, if it is the top latch-side corner that is binding, it is the upper hinge that will need attention.
To fix a binding door due to a loose hinge: Using a drill, remove the center screw from the problem hinge and replace it with a 3” screw. This will secure the hinge firmly in place and provide better, longer-lasting support.
A binding door can also be caused by a strike plate that is not correctly installed. If your door is binding at the knob, the latch may be catching on the strike plate that is sticking out too far.
To fix a binding door due to the strike plate: Trace the edge of your strike plate where it is. Remove the plate and use your chisel to correct and deepen the notch for your plate. Replace the strike plate. Be sure to only remove a little of the frame. If you set the strike plate too deep, it won’t catch the latch and stay closed.
A binding door may also be due to swelling. This could be due to weather, unusual water or moisture in the area, or just the aging of the door over time. You may need to plane your door to correct the binding. First, take note of when the door is binding. Is it binding all the time or only in the winter months? Does the front door only stick when it’s getting direct sunlight? Temperature changes can cause the door to expand or contract, causing temporary issues. You don’t want to plane a door that sticks now only to find a gap later.
For a squeaking door, it’s most likely the hinges that you’re hearing.
To fix squeaking hinges: Apply lubrication. You can do this with spray lubrication like WD-40 but be cautious of using this type of product near furniture, and be sure to protect your carpets. You could also use other household items like olive oil or soap to lubricate the hinges. If lubricating the hinges does not correct the squeak, it might be time to replace the hinges altogether.
A door really only has one purpose: to close. If your door keeps swinging open, then you’ve got a problem. If your door won’t stay closed, it is most likely due to the latch not catching the strike plate because they are misaligned.
To fix a misaligned strike plate: Remove the strike plate. On the door latch, apply chalk or lipstick, something that will leave a mark in the door jam to indicate where the latch is hitting. Shut the door and then use the mark you’ve created in the jam as a guide to reinstall your strike plate in the right spot.
A door that won’t latch could also be due to a broken latch. If this is the case, you will need to replace your knob and latch.
If a door’s main job is to close, then the second job must be to open and a door that keeps swinging shut can be just as frustrating. This usually happens when a door is no longer sitting straight in its frame, causing one side to lean and pull the door closed.
To fix a door that is out of plumb: Install a small shim between the bottom hinge and the door jam. Use your drill to loosen the screws on the hinge enough to insert a small wooden shim behind the hinge then secure the screws back into the hinges. If this hasn’t solved the problem, you may need to troubleshoot how wide of a shim to add to your hinge, or you may need to add a second (thinner) shim to the center hinge as well.
Doors perform a simple task, but there are a number of important components that need to be working together to help perform that task. Luckily, the most common door problems have simple and easy solutions that can be fixed by even the most novice home handyman.