Fixing Common Door Problems

Do you have a door that sticks or doesn’t close properly? You are not alone. Many factors can contribute to this problem (house settling, humidity, dry air, young boys swinging on them.) Without being able to control the reasons, it is important to know how to fix a door that rubs or doesn’t close properly.

First, step back and look at the gaps between the door and the frame.

Look closely and notice where there are no gaps as well.

This will give you an idea where you need to make adjustments. For my closet door, I need to move the top slightly to the right and the bottom in to the left.

The easiest adjustments you can make on a door is to tighten or loosen the hinge screws. On my closet door (shown above) I loosened the top hinge screws to increase the gap and tightened the bottom hinge screws to reduce the gap.

Before you break out the power tools, be sure to don a pair of these:

I am loving my new Safety Goggles with Clear Anti-Fog Lens

that my friend Sandra turned me on to. The only complaint I have is that everytime I put them on, I spontaneously start making funny faces.

But hey, how many other excuses can you have for making funny faces! So, I’ll keep ’em.

To adjust my closet door, I loosened the hinges where the gap was nearly non-existent and tightened the hinges where the gaps were large.

Much to my dismay, the door still didn’t close properly.

Sometimes you need to shim your hinges to bring them out from the door frame further. My preferred “shim” for this task is recycled cereal boxes or chipboard. Cut the shape of your hinge into the chipboard. (Be sure to cut two because you might need more than one thickness of cardboard.)

Simply set the cardboard behind the shim and re-insert the screws. Don’t tighten them too much. This should put more distance between the door frame and the door.

Unfortunately, this DID NOT solve my closet door problem. Upon closer inspection, I noticed that the one hinge did not sit flush with the door frame.

It was time to break out the big guns.

Or the little guns: like my cordless Dremel. If you don’t have a Dremel, you can use a chisel and a hammer, or in a pinch I’ve been known to use a flat head screwdriver as a chisel. The goal is to remove some wood from the door or the frame so that the hinge can sit flush with the frame. In my case I had to remove a little from both.

I used the sanding attachment on my dremel and it made quick work of removing the wood within the hinge cut out.

Sometimes, the door sticks on the top of the frame. If you have tried to adjust the hinges and it still sticks, you need to plane the top. This doesn’t involve buying a ticket or boarding an airplane. Planing is removing material from the edge of wood. You can try using sand paper with a coarse grit to sand it down, but if that doesn’t work, reach for one of these:

This is a hand plane. The plane has been around for centuries! Some have been found in excavations in medieval Europe and Asia. As you run the planer across the top of the door it literally shaves off some of the wood. Simple design, but very effective.

Occasionally, you may encounter a door that doesn’t latch all the way. The door closes, but the latch won’t set into the strike plate (the cutout hole in the door frame.) If you look closely, your interior door strike plate may have a small screw holding a bar on.

Loosen this screw and pull the bar out from the door jamb slightly.

Tighten it and try closing your door again. Continue to adjust the latch until it sets properly and your door stays closed.

That pretty much sums up fixing common door problems. Next time you have an issue with your door, be sure to “Mind the Gap”. Sorry, just a little british humor. We spent a summer in London two years ago.


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I love your funny faces! AND, I totally want to see your London pics AND I didn’t even know about shimming and adjusting my doors like that. You are handy!

I always appreciate a useful post like this. I recently jammed roll of socks in the crack of my girls’ door to keep it from slamming shut on little fingers. Now the darn door doesn’t close without some serious shoving. I’m going to inspect it now for cracks and tight spots. Thank you!

As always a wonderful tutorial for what looks like an easy fix. Thanks to you women all over the world are able to do it themselves with your tutorials. As for the faces, I think they give a little humor to the project. Construction men make faces all the time and theirs aren’t as pretty.

I need to apply your solutions to SEVERAL doors in my house … or, just share your blog post with my husband so HE can do it. 😉

Also, pictures of London are always welcome! I would love to go one day.

My dog has separation anxiety and my mom dementia. She has accidently closed him in rooms while I was at work or out mowing the yard and he has promptly dug his way through the door. I bought a replacement door at local store, they took the old damaged door and cut exact “supposedly”. But now I’m finding it doesnt close. I tried your tip of dremel to get the hinges in farther as I could clearly see the gap of about a 3/8ths inch on that side. The hinges are now laying very flat in there, but still there is decent size gap, about half the size as before but the door will not close. I’ll have to plane quite a bit to close it. What I dont under stand is, I have the old door and measuring down, this door is exactly the same size! So its something to do with that side how the gap between hinges. Any thoughts? We did use the old hinges from original door. I have 3 more to replace and am not looking forward to this nightmare on each one.

Margaret, oh goodness. My first thoughts are: Your poor pup! Second thoughts: Poor you! I’m not sure what to tell you other than you probably will need to plane it down. Jeff has a great post on planing your door (although you will need to do the side after removing the latch.)

My door in this post has swelled over time (or the doorway has swelled) and it won’t close anymore. So, I’ll be right there with you planing it down.
Good luck.

Thanks so much!
You just helped me fix my doors that have been ‘off’ for months since having to take them off the hinges.
Wooohoo!!! And I did it myself! :)
Pretty handy girl ‘high five!!’