How to Fix a Door That Sticks

Woman fixing a door

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A door that sticks is one of those house fix-it problems that you know is simple to repair, but somehow you never quite get around to doing it. And it nags at you because you have to deal with it several times a day. Fortunately, a door that sticks is easy to repair.


Reasons Why Your Door Is Sticking

The door sticks in the door frame when you try to open it. Or if you try to close it, it doesn't close completely. Or if it does move, it's always scraping and making noises. Why is your door sticking in the first place?

If this is an older home, one common cause is that your home's foundation may be subsiding. Subsiding foundations affect many parts of the house. Over the years, windows start to stick. Drywall or plaster around doors and windows develops cracks, and your floorboards may begin to pop and crack.

More often, it's a localized problem centered around the door frame and jambs. The door hinges may be loosening from the door frame. Hinge screws slowly turn out on their own. For this, it's just a matter of turning the screws back in.

Another reason: the door hinge screws are pulling straight out. The fix is still on the simple side but does require new, longer screws.

Pull in the Door by Tightening Hinges

For tools, it is best to use a ratchet or hand screwdriver for better control with these small hinge screws as they are prone to breaking. If you use a cordless drill or driver, be sure to set the clutch very low so that you do not risk stripping or breaking the screws. This is especially important because door hinges often are hung with brass screws, which are softer and easier to strip than steel decorative or drywall screws.

Tip

If you do use a drill or driver, it also helps to have one with a low-torque option. Low-torque allows you to drive screws in hard. Most drills today have clutches, but not all will have low-torque settings.

Instructions

  1. Locate the Sticking Point: Determine where the sticking is happening. If the sticking area is along the door frame where the hinges are located, this fix will not work. If it is happening along the top edge of the door frame, this fix may only make the situation worse. Most times, you'll find that the door sticks along the top because the door is sagging. You can even see where the door has scraped against the frame.
  2. Tighten the Strike Plate: If it's a matter of friction on the metal strike plate, try to tighten both the plate and the lock on your door. Often, turning these four screws slightly clockwise is enough to eliminate the scuffing at that point.
  3. Tighten the HInge Screws: If it's a matter of the door edge hitting the door frame, use your Philips screwdriver and tighten the screws on either the top, middle, or bottom hinge. Tighten the screws that go into the door and the screws that go into the door frame. Do not over-tighten the screws or you may strip/break them. In most cases, the problem is now fixed. If not, tighten the screws in the other hinges.
  4. Add Longer Screws: Do the screws keep turning but not tightening? Purchase longer screws and use them in place of the existing screws. Remove the middle screw from the jamb side of the top hinge. Replace it with a 3-inch wood screw. Often, this is enough to pull the entire door jamb closer to the door frame, correcting its swing.

If you break off a screw head or strip it, use an inexpensive device called a screw extractor to remove it.

Adjust the Door Stop or Jambs

Sometimes, the problem is that the door itself is warped and does not close tightly. If it's an antique door of great value, a skilled woodworker may be able to bend the door back in shape gradually. This is an expensive and time-consuming repair.

An easier fix is to adjust the doorstop to fit the curvature of the door. The door stop is the vertical strip of wood that runs down the center of the door casing, which serves to stop the door from swinging any farther. You can carefully pry up the doorstop with a thin pry bar, and re-nail to fit the warped door.