7 Common Reasons Your Door Won’t Open (and How to Fix It)

Amy Pawlukiewicz
Written by Amy Pawlukiewicz
Updated December 17, 2021
A blue front door on a house with concrete floor
Photo: Iriana Shiyan / Adobe Stock

Highlights

  • Reasons for a stuck door can be as simple as normal wear and as complicated as a settling foundation

  • The cost to repair a door varies depending on what’s causing it to stick

  • Replacing a door costs between $100 and $1,600 on average

Get quotes from up to 3 pros!
Enter a zip below and get matched to top-rated pros near you.

We’ve all been there—you close the door to a room, and when you go to open it, it just won’t budge. The panic sets in. Will you ever get out? Here are some of the main reasons why doors get stuck and how to solve the problem.

1. The Strike Plate

You know that metal thing attached to the door jamb? It actually has a name—the strike plate. The plate has a hole in it, and when the door shuts, the latch catches in the hole. If everything doesn’t line up perfectly or if your strike plate is sticking out from the doorjamb, your door can get stuck or won’t close properly.

Solution

If you see that the strike plate is sticking out from the door jamb or you can feel that the screws are loose, tighten the screws with an electric screwdriver. You can also fix a wonky strike plate with a hammer if the problem is that it’s simply not laying flat. 

If the problem isn’t that the strike plate is sticking out and the latch doesn’t line up with the hole anymore due to shifting over time, there are a couple of things you can do. 

  • Unscrew the strike plate and realign it with the door latch 

  • Drill a new hole for the latch with an electric drill 

The issue also might be that the latch doesn’t fit the hole any longer due to warping over time. In this case, you don’t need to remove the entire strike plate; use a metal file or an electric planer to shave out a larger hole until the latch fits.

2. Dirt Buildup

Cleaning on top of the door or cleaning the inside of a door frame is often overlooked, so dirt and debris can build up there over time. The buildup causes the door to stick.

Solution

Make sure to clean around your door and door frame regularly to avoid buildup and allow the door to swing freely. If you’re feeling really motivated, you can even take the door off its hinges and give it a good cleaning with an all-purpose cleaner.

3. Humidity

All weather conditions affect your home, and humidity or high precipitation causes wood to swell. Your exterior doors are particularly vulnerable to the elements. The doors then stick when it gets humid.

Solution

If expansion is your culprit, you’ll need to take your door down off its hinges and sand the edges, leaving more room for your door to fit in the frame. Be careful not to sand too much off, as this will leave you with large gaps. 

If you’re not comfortable taking the door down or are not sure how much to sand down, you may want to call in a door repair pro in your area to do the job. The average cost for a door repair job is between $100 and $300, depending on the scope of the project.

4. Poor Installation

Incorrect installation is a common reason for malfunctioning doors. While hanging a door seems like a simple project, even a small mistake could lead to a stuck door.

Solution

Reinstallation is the best solution for this issue. Either take your doors down yourself, re-measure, and try again, or read these tips to hire a door repair pro to rehang the door. If you choose to DIY the project, be very careful and precise with your measurements so you don’t have to do it again.

5. Shifting Foundation

The exterior of a large home with a beautiful garden
Photo: Shannon Workman / Adobe Stock

While a non-level foundation may not be discernible by just looking at a home, the doors won’t lie. Windows can also be affected by a shifting foundation. 

The ground underneath your home expands and contracts with precipitation and shifts with age, so it’s possible that your foundation is experiencing what’s called settlement, which is simply soil shifting beneath the home.

Solution

There’s no easy fix for foundation problems, so if you suspect that’s what’s causing your doors to stick, call in a local structural engineer ASAP. On average, foundational repair costs around $2,000 to $7,000, so you want to address the issue immediately to avoid any further expense than is necessary.

6. Broken Hinge

A broken hinge or a stripped screw hole can cause a stuck door in the frame, especially if the hinges are noticeably loose.

Solution

Replace the hinge if it’s broken. If the problem is that the screw holes are stripped, you may have to move the hinge slightly or buy an anchor kit to fill in the gaps around the screw. You can find anchor kits at any local hardware store.

7. Normal Use

Just like everything in a home, doors suffer the wear and tear of age and frequent use. You might simply have a stuck door because it’s old and worn down. 

Solution

If normal use is the issue, your best bet is to replace the door. Hiring a professional to install a new door usually costs between $500 and $1,600, with the cost varying based on customizations like smart locks or glass work (usually for exterior doors). 

Replacing interior doors runs slightly less at $100 to $1,000, depending on whether or not the frame also needs to be replaced.

Need professional help with your project?
Get quotes from top-rated pros.