How to Fix a Misaligned Door

Misaligned Door With Gap at Bottom

Construction Photography / Avalon / Getty Images

Overview
  • Total Time: 30 mins - 1 hr
  • Estimated Cost: $10 to $20

When a door precisely opens and closes, we don't think of it as a miracle; it's simply what we expect to happen. So, when a door is misaligned—scuffing or scraping when opened and closed or door latches don't fit into the receiving strike plate—it's an annoyance that can never be ignored.

Fortunately, there are a number of simple, inexpensive methods of fixing misaligned doors. You won't have to completely rebuild or rehang the door, either. In some cases, the fix might be as easy as sanding an edge of the door or readjusting the hinge or latch.

What You'll Need

Equipment / Tools

  • Phillips screwdriver
  • Cordless drill with bits
  • Pencil
  • Fluted countersink bit
  • Wood chisel
  • Carpenter's glue

Materials

  • 2-inch screws
  • 2-1/2-inch brass screws
  • Wood dowel

Instructions

  1. Tighten the Hinge Screws

    If the door is misaligned so that the top of the door scrapes against the top of the door jamb, the door's top hinge screws may need to be tightened.

    With the Phillips screwdriver, tighten the three screws holding the hinge to the jamb and the three screws holding the hinge to the door. Even if you can turn the screws only a little bit, this might be enough to draw in the hinge tighter.

  2. Replace the Hinge Screws

    Hinge screws are usually 1-inch long or even shorter. That's because the screws would protrude through the jamb of pre-hung doors. But once the door has been installed, it's possible to replace those short screws with longer screws.

    For doors that scuff at the top, remove the center screw from the top hinge and replace it with a 2-inch screw. Tighten the other two screws, as well.

  3. Drive a Screw or Two Into the Door Jamb

    If you have tried drawing in the hinge with no success, next, tighten up the latch-side door jamb. Because the screws will be visible, it's usually worthwhile to use brass screws or any other type of screw that blends into the door jamb.

    Identify the points on the door jamb that conflict with the door. Mark with a pencil. Start with a pilot hole. Next, switch to the fluted countersink bit. Be careful with this step to avoid tearing out the hole. Your eventual goal is for the head of the screw to be flush with the door jamb. Finally, drive the screw into the pilot hole.

  4. Tighten the Strike Plate

    Sometimes, the strike plate (the metal plate on the door jamb) will loosen over time. As long as the strike plate protrudes, it will scrape against the door latch.

    With either the manual Phillips screwdriver or the cordless drill, tighten the screws on the strike plate. If the screws are so loose that they do not hold in the door jamb, replace them with 2-inch screws.

  5. Move the Strike Plate Incrementally

    Sometimes when it seems like the door is misaligned, it's actually an issue with the latch not meeting the strike plate. The strike plate may be too high. Moving the door latch up is not possible. But you can move the strike plate incrementally (1/32-inch or so) with a hammer and screwdriver.

    First, loosen the screws on the strike plate. Then, place the blade of the screwdriver into the hole of the strike plate. Hit the top of the screwdriver with the hammer to force the strike plate down.

  6. Move the Strike Plate Farther

    If the strike plate needs to move farther than 1/32-inch, you'll need to remove the strike plate and relocate it with new screw holes. One difficulty is that the existing screw holes will interfere with the new screw holes. When you drive the screws, the screws will revert to those old holes. The remedy is to fill in the old holes.

    Purchase a wood dowel that is the diameter of the screw holes (often, a 1/8-inch dowel). Remove the strike plate. Cut off two pieces of dowel, each about 1 inch long. Dab wood glue onto one end of each of the dowels and force the dowels into the existing screw holes. Gently tap the dowels farther into the holes. Let the glue dry for about four hours. Cut off the dowels flush. Relocate the strike plate to the new position.

    Tip

    If the new holes will be overlapping with the old ones, avoid drilling pilot holes for the strike plate. You'll want as much material in place for the screws to grab onto. Pilot holes may remove too much material.

  7. Inset the Strike Plate Deeper Into the Jamb

    If the strike plate scrapes against the door or the door latch and other fixes have not worked, you can set the strike plate deeper into the door jamb.

    Remove the strike plate entirely. With a sharp wood chisel, chip away wood from the jamb inset. Do not chip out too much wood. Replace the strike plate and test out the door.