Fix a Sticking Door With This Easy Trick

Woman fixing a door
Simple tools are typically all that are required to fix sticking doors. Blend Images - Jose Luis Pelaez Inc./Getty Images

It 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 drives you crazy because you have to deal with it ten times a day.

Yes, it's that sticking door of yours. Each time you open it, there is a little grab before it releases. In some instances, you have a door that sticks along the strike area, the metal part of the door frame where it meets the outermost edge of the door. In other cases, it may be the wood door edge itself scuffing on the door frame. Take heart: there are many fixes that are easier than planing down the entire door or buying a new one.

Fix: Pull in Door by Tightening Hinges

For tools, it is best to use a ratchet or hand screwdriver for better control with these tiny hinge screws that 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.

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.

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, taking many victims with it. Over the years, windows start to stick. Here and there plaster around doors and windows develops cracks. And your floorboards may begin to pop and crack. If this is the case, fixing the door is only a short-term solution. First, fix the door, then look into foundation repair; ultimately, your problem cannot be fixed with a screwdriver.

This fix is very easy and only takes a few minutes.

  1. 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. 
  2. Now, precisely where on this part of the door frame does the sticking occur? On the top, middle, or bottom? 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.
  3. If it's a matter of friction on the 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.
  4. 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. Tight 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.
  1. If you break off a screw head or strip it, use an inexpensive device called a screw extractor to remove it.
  2. In most cases, the problem is now fixed. If not, tighten the screws in the other hinges.
  3. Do the screws keep turning but not tightening? Purchase longer screws and use them in place of the existing screws. 

Fix: Adjust Door Stop Instead of Door

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 door stop 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.