How to Fix a Stuck Door in 5 Steps (or Less)

Lawrence Bonk
Written by Lawrence Bonk
Updated July 20, 2022
A woman opens a door
Photo: SDI Productions / E+ / Getty Images

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If you’re dealing with a door in your home that sticks, it’s easy to put off repairing it, even with the constant reminder each time you open or close the door. However, there is no reason to delay this simple maintenance job, as the process is likely even easier than you suspect. 

Here is a handy guide to fixing a stuck door, so you can come and go as you please.

Why Is My Door Sticking?

If you’re struggling with a sticking door, you could be facing one of a few problems. Your door may stick right away if it was installed improperly, but it may also be the result of sagging or broken door hinges, wear and tear, or friction within the strike plate. Troubleshooting with a few different methods will help to narrow down the issue.

Prepping to Fix a Stuck Door 

Whether you’re learning how to fix a squeaky door or a stuck door, there is a lot of trial and error involved. You’ll start with the common causes and their solutions before moving on to not-so-common issues. After each step, try the door. Once the problem resolves, you don’t need to carry on with the rest of the steps. 

This logic also applies to any supplies, as you’ll only need a paintbrush and paint, for instance, for one of the later steps. Don’t head out to the store before trying a few initial steps first.

How to Fix a Stuck Door

Again, think of these as individual steps to fix your stuck door that you should try in order. We’ll start with one of the most common issues:

1. Tighten the Strike Plate

A view of a strike plate being tightened
Photo: Kurhan / Adobe Stock

In many cases, the friction caused by the metal strike plate contacting the door frame leads to a stuck door. Take a look at the metal strike plate to see if the screws are loose. If so, give each screw a quick turn to tighten them. While you are at it, tighten the lock on the door for even more uniformity. 

Be careful and don’t overtighten either area to avoid stripping the screws. If some of the screws are already stripped, use a screw extractor to pull them out and then replace them with functioning screws, tightening as necessary. 

2. Tighten the Hinge Screws

A door can stick when the door edge hits the frame with too much friction. So if tightening the strike plate didn’t do the job, try tightening the hinge screws on the other side of the door. Check all available hinge screws for looseness and use a Phillips-head screwdriver to tighten them. 

As always, do not over-tighten the screws to avoid stripping or accidental damage. In most cases, three or four turns are enough. Afterward, check to see if that resolved the issue. 

3. Add Deeper Hinge Screws

A view of long screws and a screwdriver
Photo: Ирина Орлова / Adobe Stock

When you were tightening the hinge screws, did the screws turn but not actually tighten? Replace the screws with longer ones to pull the door jamb closer to the frame, thus fixing the stuck door issue. There are two ways to do this. 

First method: Remove the middle screw from the jamb side of the top hinge. Replace it with a 3-inch wood screw. Often, though not always, this single screw replacement corrects the swing and alleviates the stuck door problem. 

Second method: If the above didn’t work, it indicates shallow pilot holes and a need for multiple screw replacements. Start by removing one screw with a screw extractor and using a drill to lengthen the pilot hole slightly. Replace that screw with the new 3-inch variety and move on to the next. Repeat the process until all hinge screws are brand new. 

4. Draw in the Door Jamb 

If the above hinge adjustments didn’t work, there are other ways to draw in the jamb to fix a stuck door. Driving a long screw through the alternate side of the jamb (the latch side) gives the door a bit of extra space to breathe. We broke the entire process down into smaller steps. 

  1. Focus your attention on the part of the door that rubs against the frame. 

  2. Use a drill to carefully drive a 3-inch screw near the middle of this area. Use a countersink drill bit to ensure maximum protection of the wood and to create a uniform look. You may need a second screw near the first one in the case of extremely loose jambs.  

  3. Tighten the screws gradually and keep an eye on the trim to ensure you don’t open up any joints. 

  4. This process creates obvious screw heads on the latch side of your door. Cover them up with wood filler and paint over them to match the rest of the door. 

5. Plane the Door

A man planes a door
Photo: themorningglory / Adobe Stock

This is by far the most labor-intensive and challenging part of this process, so feel free to contact a local handyperson to pull this off. This step requires removing the door entirely and using a belt sander, so only attempt it after completing all of the above steps to no avail. 

  1. Create a mark to sand to later before removing the door. Lay down masking tape running vertically between the jamb and the frame. Use a ruler or compass and a pencil to create a straight line on the tape. This straight line represents the layers that need sanding to fix the issue. 

  2. Use a screwdriver or drill to remove the door from the hinges. Take your time and have someone else nearby to help carry it after removal. Place it down somewhere stable, such as a work table. 

  3. Use the belt sander to sand to your mark. Go slowly and sand right up to the line but do not exceed it; otherwise, a large gap forms between jamb and frame. 

  4. Take breaks to check your work every now and then to ensure you're creating an even sand and not creating a beveled edge. 

  5. Apply sealant and paint to match the rest of the door, allowing it to dry. 

  6. Place the door back into the hinges and marvel at your handiwork. 

DIY Fixing a Stuck Door vs. Hiring a Pro 

Go the DIY route for the first four steps, as these procedures are simple and effective in most cases. If you need to remove the door to plane it, consider hiring a pro to avoid any potential accidents while handling the heavy door. Hiring a handyperson costs $60 to $125 per hour, and a pro should get the door removed, planed, and reattached in less than one hour. 

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