Door Won’t Close Correctly

Problem: Door in home binds, sticks, or won’t latch properly.

Background: If the door frame has become distorted, your door may stick at the corners or be hard to close, and its latches may not fit the strikeplate. A door that binds or sticks against a door frame can also be caused by loose or ineffective hinges, by the frame settling, by the door or frame swelling, or by the door warping. Hinges that are loose, either on the top or bottom, will allow a door to sag. If a door is too tight on the hinge edge, it will bind against the hinge jamb. A door that has warped inward or outward at the hinge edge will be hard to close. If a door frame spreads because the home has settled, it may widen the doorway so the bolt in the lock may not reach the strikeplate. If partitions next to, or below, a door frame settle or shrink, the frame can move slightly and move the strikeplate with it while the door and lock stay in position.

What to do: Check for loose hinges, by pulling and pushing the opened door away from and toward the hinges. If the hinges move, you can either tighten the original screws, insert wood plugs in the screw holes, or substitute longer screws. Also check for a loose strikeplate or lock faceplate screws. If the door still binds after tightening the screws, you may be able to sand or plane down the high spot (or call a finish carpenter if you don’t trust your skills). Mark where it binds, remove the door and check to see where the door finish has been rubbed. Sand or, if necessary, plane lightly from the edges toward the center, then re place the door to check for fit. (Re move as little as needed because wood will shrink as humidity drops.) When the door works properly, refinish as appropriate.

Special advice: If a door binds at the hinge edge, and has clearance on the lock side, you can try inserting card board shims under the outer hinge leaves (those set in the jamb). If the lock bolt does not enter the hole in the strikeplate, check to see if it strikes the plate too high or too low. Take out the screws, remove the strikeplate, and file the metal opening until it is large enough to accommodate the bolt. If more than ¼ inch needs to be removed, it may be better to reset the strikeplate.

Helpful hint: If the margin of a door is even along the top and bottom edges, and the hinges are firm, either the hinge or lock edge can be planed. However, it’s usually best to plane the hinge edge, because hinges are easier to remove and reinstall than locks.