Get your difficult door back in the swing of things
Do you have an interior door that just doesn’t want to close or can’t seem to stay shut? Luckily, it’s not too much trouble to figure out where the problem is coming from if you know what to look for.
And most issues—whether a loose hinge or a latch that won’t stick—are easy to fix on your own without bringing in a pro. So come on in and check out this guide to unlock simple solutions for your sticky or loose door.
1. Finding the Problem: How to Identify Your Door’s Weak Spot
Before you can fix your interior door, you’ll need to understand what’s causing the issue. Here are some potential problem spots you should look at before taking next steps.
Wonky hinges are the key to most door troubles, so give them a good look first. Loose screws or a door that appears to be sagging are clear signs that your hinges may need a helping hand.
If there’s an annoying grinding noise when you try to close your door, you likely have a problem with the latch. To confirm this is the case, try this clever technique. Just mark the latch with a bit of lipstick or a slow-drying marker, then place a piece of tape on the center of the strike plate (that’s the metal plate the latch strikes to lock itself).
You’ll know that the latch is the culprit if the color you’ve applied disappears after you open the door.
The jambs are simply the side posts and upper lining of the door frame. You’ll know they’re your problem if the upper or lower corners of the door are getting stuck or scratched when you try to shut it. Most of the time, this type of sticky door syndrome is a sign you’ve got a problem with alignment.
2. Hinge Issues? Try Tightening the Screws
If you suspect there’s an issue with your door hinge, use a screwdriver to tighten any loose screws before making other changes. If the screws turn without tightening, you might need to use longer screws.
An alternative: Squeeze a bit of carpenter’s glue onto a small, slender piece of wood—like a toothpick or a matchstick (with the tip cut off)—and insert it into the hole. Let it dry, and then resume adding screws. This will give the screw more to grab onto, and make the hinge more stable.
3. Check Your Strike Plate for These Easy Fixes
A “strike plate” is the metal plate that lays against your door jamb. It connects with the latch mechanism to let the door actually lock. If your strike plate looks bent or curved or isn’t quite aligned with the latch, try a few simple solutions before replacing it.
For a curved strike plate: Just unscrew and remove the strike plate from the door (this will avoid further door damage and make the work easier). Next, place the strike plate on a protected surface, and let your hammer do the rest until the plate is nice and flat again.
If you find your strike plate is more misaligned and missing the latch, the fix is slightly different. Start by unscrewing and removing the strike plate from the wall. Then, fill the holes that are already there so the plate doesn’t fall back into its original, non-working spot. Once the wall is dry, use a drill to create new holes that are properly placed to align with the latch. And finally, screw the plate into the perfect position.
4. If the Door Won’t Latch, Make It Match
If a latch won’t lock in place with the strike plate hole, you don’t necessarily need to remove or replace parts. Instead, try using a metal file or an electric planer to scrape the strike plate hole’s edge until it becomes large enough to fit the latch.
5. Sand Down the Jambs on a Door That’s Out of Alignment
If your door doesn’t seem to like getting together with the door frame, it might simply be a common case of misalignment. If so, that’s temporarily fixable without having to remove or replace anything. Keep things easy by using sandpaper or an electric planer to trim down the sides that are consistently getting jammed or preventing your door from fully shutting.
6. Know When to Call a Professional
If your door continues to give you trouble even after you’ve tightened all the screws and sanded down the jambs, then it’s probably time to call in a door repair professional in your area. In general, you can expect to pay between $100 and $300, depending on what type of repairs are necessary.
Occasional fixes from a pro may cost more than taking the DIY route, but they’re far less pricey than dropping a bundle on a brand new door. To put that in perspective, the cost to install a new interior door can run anywhere from $350 to $1,100.