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How To Fix a Door That Sticks

Some doors tend to rub in their frame as the seasons change. As the humidity and temperature changes, it is not unusual for doors to stick or not to close. Wooden doors swell as humidity increases. The door frame changes shape and size as a result of humidity and ground movement. However, something as simple as a loose screw may be the culprit. If your door will close, but it won't latch, see our article on doors that won't latch.

A wooden door that that sticks or won't close is usually fairly easy to fix. Other types of doors can also be fixed, but there are fewer options when it comes to modifying the size or shape of the door itself.

The first and easiest thing to check is that all the hinge screws are tight. If the door is sagging, prop it up first with a magazine or book before tightening the screws. If the wood won't hold the screws tightly, you can drill it out and insert a piece of dowel with a bit of wood glue. For a quick fix, fill it with toothpicks and break them off flush with the surface. Check that the door latch and door knobs are secure too.

If the door still sticks, there are a couple of things you can try. It may be possible to enlarge the door opening just by driving a couple nails through the door frame and into the studs underneath. This has the affect of snugging the door frame up to the studs. It may only move 1/16 of an inch, but that may be enough. Find where the door sticks and drive a 2 to 3 inch nail into the door jamb at that location. You might need another nail 6 to 12 inches above or below that spot. It might be possible to do this on the opposite side of the door jamb but it is likely to be less effective because the weight of the door pulls on that side.

Another option is to adjust a hinge by shimming or deepening the mortise. If the top of the door rubs, then you may be able to shim the top hinge or deepen the mortise of the bottom hinge. If the latch edge of the door binds at the bottom, you would do the same steps. For a door that binds at the upper latch edge or the bottom rubs the floor, then the opposite hinges would be adjusted.

If the door still sticks, it is probably as a result of humidity causing the door and frame to swell. To fix a wooden door you will need to sand or plane the edge of the door to allow it to fit in the opening. It is important to remove only a little material at a time. If you take off too much material, it may result in excessive gaps, especially when the humidity drops and the door shrinks. For a door made of metal or fiberglass, adjustments must be made to the door jamb instead of the door itself.

Find where the door is touching the door jamb and lightly draw some pencil marks on the area to be removed. You may be able to work on the door while it is hanging or you might have to remove it first. In either case, support the door so it will not move while you are working on it. If you remove the door, get a helper, some doors are very heavy and they can be ungainly to move. Remove the bottom hinge pin first (or the hinge itself it the pin is not removable) and then the top hinge. Use a sanding block, sander, block plane or power planer to remove those pencil marks. Now try the door again. If it sticks, repeat the steps beginning with the pencil marks. Be careful not to remove too much material. The door may have only a small amount of exposed wood, underneath the door may be hollow or have some other filler material.

If it doesn't stick, then seal the wood with some primer and repaint when the primer has dried. While you are at it, check that all edges of the door are properly sealed. A properly sealed door is less likely to swell during periods of high humidity.

Caution: Please read our safety information before attempting any installation or repairs.

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