Set Sticking Doors Free
Doors stick and bind for any number of reasons. The most common include poor construction, the screws holding the hinges in place have loosened, some subtle ground movement has caused the door frame to get out of alignment or some moisture has worked it’s way into the door. While a sticking door is an aggravation, it’s usually a fairly simple fix most home owners can take on themselves. Here’s how to fix a wooden door that sticks.
Start by figuring out where the door is binding
Open and close the door slowly and watch carefully to see where it’s rubbing on the door frame. If there is a gap on the hinge side of the door opposite the binding (sticking) spot, the hinges are likely loose. If there is no gap and the hinges aren’t loose, the hinges themselves may need to realigned or the door frame may be slightly out of alignment. Finally, if both the door frame and hinges are fine, the door itself may have swollen slightly with humidity.
Fixing loose hinges
- Begin with attempting to tighten the screws. If the screws won’t tighten, try a longer screw (with the same head size and shape). It may be able to get a deeper bite on the door frame and fix the problem.
- If even the longer screw won’t tighten the hole is likely enlarged so you will need to fill the hole then reinstall the screw.
There are a couple of ways to fill the enlarged hole.
- Squirt some carpenter’s glue into the hole and drive in a small piece of wooden dowel to fill the hole. Let the glue dry overnight then cut the dowel flush with the door frame and reinstall the screw.
- Alternatively, you could fill the hole with a bunch of wooden tooth picks soaked with carpenters glue. After allowing the glue time to dry, reinstall the screw.
Adjusting the hinges themselves
- Look to see where the door binds when you close it. If the door is tilted in the frame it will bind at the top on one side and at the bottom on the other so you will see a gap opposite both binding points.
- Open the door wide and put a shim underneath to hold it then remove the screws from the hinge on the door frame (leave the screws on the door itself alone). Now, cut a thin piece of cardboard to fit into the hinge opening on the door frame then cut X’s over the screw holes. Now just reinstall the hinges. The cardboard under the hinge will take up enough space to realign the door in the frame and stop it binding. If the door still binds slightly install second piece of cardboard to adjust the door’s alignment a little more.
Realign the door frame
If your door still binds after installing the cardboard pieces, the door frame itself may need to be adjusted.
- One way is to place a piece of 2X4 against the door casing opposite the hinge side and give it a few solid blows with a hammer. This banging may be enough to move the door frame a tiny bit (1/16″?) and allow the door to swing freely.
- Alternatively, you could drive a 3-4″ nail (long enough to reach through the casing into the door framing timbers) near the spot it’s binding. The new nail will tighten the frame onto the framing timbers and give the door just enough space to swing. Driving nails 6″ above and below the binding spot will help to keep the door casing from moving.
Removing wood from the door
- If none of the above fixes work, you’ll have to take some wood off the door. A power sander is the easiest way to do this and even though it’s messy , you don’t need to remove the door. Simply prop the door open and then use a power sander and coarse sandpaper (60 or 80 grit) and pass the sander along the edge of the door near the spot it binds. Check to see if you have removed enough wood to allow you door to swing freely every few minutes.
- Once your door is working properly, paint the exposed wood to seal it and help prevent moisture getting into the door again.