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.
Sanding, planing, or otherwise shaving the door down to a smaller size might seem like the natural way to fix the door. But this can be more difficult than it seems, especially on hollow-core interior doors that do not respond well to planing or sanding. And doors made of other materials like metal or fiberglass cannot be cut down. So, reducing the size of the door should be done after you have exhausted other methods.
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 readjusting the hinge or latch.
Equipment / Tools
- Phillips screwdriver
- Cordless drill with bits
- Fluted countersink bit
- Wood chisel
- Carpenter's glue
- Electric sander
- 2-inch screws
- 2-1/2-inch brass screws
- Wood dowel
Tighten Hinge Screws
If the door is misaligned so that the top of the door scrapes against the door jamb's side near the top, 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.
Replace 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.
Drive Screw or Two Into 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.
Tighten 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.
Move 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.
Move Strike Plate
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.
Inset Strike Plate Deeper Into 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.
Sand Down Door
To shave down part of the door, first remove the door from the hinges. Set it upright on soft materials like towels to avoid damaging the side of the door.
An electric sander, rather than a plane or saw, is your best bet for slimming down doors because it is easier to control. Sand down the latch side only, not the side with the hinges.
Assess the type of material. Soft finger-jointed fine found on interior hollow core doors can be sanded down. But go easy to avoid removing too much wood.
Some hollow core doors use composite MDF for the frame. MDF is more difficult than pine to sand down and can create more of a soft, velvety surface that's difficult to paint than a smooth, hard paintable surface.