5 Common Problems with Your Door

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Broken doors aren’t just annoying; they can actually leak in cold or hot air, prevent you from easily entering your home, or even make an escape difficult during an emergency like a fire or earthquake.

Doors that bind, squeak, fail to latch or wobble when swung open or closed can be repaired with hand tools and a little hard work. Repairing a door begins with properly diagnosing the problem, so take a look at several of the most common door problems and their causes.

1. Door binds (sticking door)

This is usually caused by a loose top door hinge, which allows the door to hang at an angle.

  • Tighten the hinge screws
  • For stripped screws, use longer ones that extend through the frame and into the stud.
  • Doors that bind at the bottom can be planed with a hand plane or sanding block. This will smooth out the edge, preventing it from scraping against the floor and sticking.

2. Squeaky hinges

The door hinges may need to be lubricated. For heavy doors, ask a friend to help when removing and re-hanging the door.

  • Remove the door from the frame by removing hinge pins using a hammer and screwdriver
  • Lubricate the hinge pins with a light-weight oil
  • Wipe off excess oil with a rag or paper towel
  • Re-install the hinge pins with gentle taps from a hammer

3. Door won’t latch

Latch problems can be caused by several different conditions.

  • Inspect how the door is fitting in the jam. If it’s leaning down at the upper corner, the hinge may be loose as described above. Tighten the hinge or install longer screws.
  • The strike cylinder for the doorknob may be loose. Tighten if needed.
  • The strike plate may also be loose. Tighten or move the strike plate.
  • Sometimes it will be necessary to grind the latch hole larger. Remove the strike plate and adjust with a file, a grinder, or rotary tool. Then, re-install the strike plate.
  • The stop molding may interfere with the door latching properly. Move the stop molding with a sharp utility knife. Score both sides of the stop molding where it joins the doorframe. Then use a wooden block and hammer to strike the inside edge of the molding where it meets the door to move the molding. Use finish nails to secure the molding. If the molding needs additional clearance, remove it by prying with a putty knife and hammer. Re-install the molding using a credit card for clearance between the molding and the door.

4. Loose hinges

Tighten the hinges with a screwdriver. If the screws are still loose, install longer screws or remove the hinges, pack the holes with tooth picks and wood glue. Allow to dry and re-insert the screws.

  • Tighten the screws
  • Install longer screws
  • Repack the screw holes with glue and tooth picks

5. Door hits wall

Install a doorstop. Choose from a floor-mounted stop, a flexible screw stop or a hinge stop. All will be available at most hardware stores or home centers.

  • Measure to determine which type of stop is needed  
  • Drill pilot holes for doorstop screws and install the doorstop

Tools needed for repairing doors

Use hand tools for repairs. Work slowly, removing a little material at a time. Check the fit often to avoid removing too much material.

  • Screwdriver
  • Claw hammer
  • Electric drill motor
  • Putty knife
  • Utility knife with single edge razor blades
  • Wood chisel
  • Finish nails
  • Hand plane
  • Scrap wood block
  • Flat pry bar to remove molding (optional)
Last Updated: March 29, 2013
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About Bill Washburn William "Bill" Washburn has a BA in advertising from the Art Center College of Design and has taught at the University of Southern California and Northrup University. Writing from a well-connected studio in the rural foothills of the west coast, he is a frequent speaker at local art associations and has published numerous articles discussing periods of art history and the fundamentals of drawing and painting. William is a master gardener who grows his own culinary herbs, organic heirloom vegetables and a variety of fruits. He writes frequently about his gardening experiences on his website Pioneer Dad. He is an accomplished advertising writer, fine art painter, and art director with more than 20 years' experience. 

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