Easy Fixes to Common Interior Door Problems
An interior door that has been operating flawlessly for years doesn’t seem like something that would turn on you and become a regular annoyance every time you use it and it no longer performs as it used to.
And to top it off, it starts wearing off the paint around the jamb or around the edge of the door, or worst yet, it begins to scratch or even scrape the finish from the flooring or the varnish from your hardwood floor.
There are some of those issues however that can be easily corrected without calling on some expert carpenter if you just get your toolbox and get to work with just a few basic tools.
In most situations, a simple readjustment of the hinges or the strike plate, or the door jamb will correct the problem.
This is a very common problem that doesn’t annoy you too much when it starts but quickly becomes more and more noticeable as time goes by. The likely culprit is obvious and everybody knows it’s likely caused by the hinges and mostly everyone will suffer the inconvenience at one time or another.
The good news is it can be fixed in a few minutes with a can of “3 in 1” or all-purpose oil, a light hammer, and a flat screwdriver. But first, you should find out if it is the hinges or something else causing the noise by operating the door in and out and listening to where it comes from because it could also originate where a door sash rubs against a jamb that has moved from its alignment.
A door hinge is composed of two rectangular-shaped leaves with partially sectioned tubing at one edge that perfectly mates into each other’s profile.
With both of their tubing coupled together, a pin can then be inserted into the sections of tubing thus locking the two leaves together and forming the pivot point of the hinge known as the “knuckle.”
The hinge’s pivot is where the hinge gets its motion and where all the friction occurs from the leaves rubbing against each other and against the pin that holds them in one articulated piece.
This is exactly where the metallic parts rub against each other causing wear, and consequently, unwanted metal particles or dust within the assembly thus worsening the friction more and more as the wearing keeps on eating at the hinge and finally gets noticed by the sound of it squeaking.
A) The Quick Fix
The quick fix can be done in just a minute or two by simply applying a few drops of oil where the pin’s head joins the top of the hinge knuckle. The oil is then added to every joint between each section of the tubings.
To make sure that the oil works its way inside the hinge, you just need to work the door sash in and out until the squeaking stops. Additional oil may be needed but try to avoid excessive use of the oil which would end up running down in a messy drip.
B) The Preventive Fix
This is where you decide that you will not only stop the squeaking but also prevent further damage to the hinges. First, you need to close the door shut, then place the blade of a thin flat screwdriver at the joint between the hinge knuckle and the pin’s head.
You need to work on this from the bottom hinge to the top hinge. Tap lightly on the screwdriver handle with a hammer while tilting the screwdriver down to apply upward pressure against the pin.
Keep tapping against it lightly until it starts sliding upwards until it just hangs on the knuckle’s tubing, just enough to keep the leaves together.
Repeat the same procedure on the next hinge up until you reach the top hinge. Once you completed that stage, pull the pins right out—they should be loose enough—from the bottom first working your way to the top hinge.
You can now turn the doorknob and pull the door open and out of the way as the knuckle have no more means of holding together.
If you make a careful examination of the hinges and the pins, there’s a good chance that you’ll find some oily black residue covering the inside of its components.
This residual black stuff is formed from the oil already coating components from the manufacturing and in-service oiling, and the metal dust produced during normal wear from regular use.
Needless to point out that this residue is highly abrasive to the hinges, its particles being of the same material, and therefore needs to be removed if you don’t want premature wear of the hinges.
The knuckles’ tube should be all cleaned inside with a narrow piece of rag moistened with a solvent until it comes out clean. The pin should also be cleaned of all dirt. with this completed, you can hang the hinge leaves together again inserting the pins this time from the top one down to hold the leaves together.
A final light tap on top of the pins will set them in place. Your door is now again working flawlessly.
Doors Latch Not Catching the Strike Plate
There can be several reasons for a door not hooking up to its striker plate. This can be caused by several different factors:
- Strike plate not lining up with the strike plate
- Door binding from impeding hinge screws
- Door binding from deep hinge insets
- Door sash too close to stopper or rebate
A) Strike Plate Not Lining up with the Latch
If the door closes without restriction but the latch doesn’t fall into the strike plate to hold it in the closed position, it is likely that the strike plate does not line up properly with the latch.
To verify this, open the door and place a wide piece of painter’s tape (or two narrower pieces), and trace two markings on the tape(s) lining up with the top and the bottom of the strike plate’s opening.
With a combination square, stretch the two markings around to the front of the door casing so that you can see them at the front with the door closed.
From the backside of the latch on the door edge, put another piece(s) of tape that will wrap around the corner to the front of the swing side of the door sash so you can see it when the door is closed.
Make two more marks to indicate the full width of the door latch at the front of the door, again using the square. Close the door and compare the markings from the catch and the latch to make sure the ones from the latch are well within the markings from the catch’s opening.
If they’re not properly aligned, then the strike plate will need to be removed, and its recess enlarged for higher or lower positioning on the frame. This can be easily completed with the combination square to mark it straight and square, and a utility knife for reaming the recess for a better fit.
You can then enlarge the latch opening into the frame for a good fit, plug the screw holes with match stems or thin slivers of wood, and screw the plate back into position at the newly reshaped recessed location.
B) Binding Door from Impeding Screws
If the door is difficult to get or keep closed, it could be binding from screws askew or too big. Open the door a have a good look at the hinge screws to make sure that none of them have gotten loose and is sticking out of its recessed chamfer, or that some screws aren’t a size too big for the hole.
A screw head too large for the recess would leave it sticking out and blocking the opposite hinge leaf from completely closing shut.
If one or more screws have gotten loose, tighten them up with a screwdriver making sure it’s secured tightly in place, or if the threads in the wood have been stripped, you’ll need to use a short piece of 1/8-inch dowel or a makeshift piece of wood to fit and set it in the hole with a drop of glue then cut down the excess from the dowels flush with the jamb. You can then re-insert the screws in place and tighten them up.
C) Binding from Hinges Insets Made Too Deep
When the hinge recess is cut-in too deeply that the hinge leaf surface falls deep inside and past the surface of the door jamb, it will keep the hinges from closing properly as the edge of the door hits the door jamb before the hinge completely closes.
This will bind the door keeping it from closing and should therefore be corrected. The repair can be as simple as cutting one or several pieces of cardboard (or similar material) the same shape as the hinge leaf and placing them between the hinge and the door jamb recess to pad it up, then screwing it all together.
The extra padding should bring the hinge to the same level as the door jamb and the door should now operate properly.
D) Binding from Impeding Hinge-Side Door Stop
Binding can also be caused by hinges that are set too close to the door stop or the rebate inside the door jamb. This causes the door edge to hit against the door stop and keep it from closing.
If the door binds against a rebate, it can be repaired by first removing the door hinges from the jamb, plugging every screw hole in the jamb with 1/8-inch dowels gluing them in then cutting down the excess from the dowels flush with the jamb.
You can then re-hang the sash in the desired location. Make a trial installation first by only using one screw per hinge and testing the door and then complete the installation by securing it with the rest of the screws.
When that happens with a door with door-stops instead of rebates, you can easily correct the problem by removing the stoppers using a putty knife, a chisel, and a finishing hammer, and repositioning them on the jambs.
Here again, tack them temporarily in place for a trial run before nailing them in place permanently. This type of repair is much faster if you have that opportunity.
Doors Fitting Too Tight inside the Jambs
A door that used to work smoothly and suddenly started rubbing against the inside of the jamb will usually have one of its jambs curving in towards the sash.
This is a problem that is quickly corrected by adding one or a few screws through the jamb at the worst of the bowing. The trick here to hide the screw heads is to try and use door stops, hinges, and the strike plate to hide the screw heads.
This means that you should make a careful assessment of it all to decide on the screws’ locations first. If that is not enough to correct the rubbing, you might have to remove the sash and use a plane to trim it down. Only plane it down where there are signs of wear.
Doors That Sag or Rub on Flooring
When the bottom of the door starts to rub on the floor, if you check the hinges you will probably find some loose screws at the hinges, causing the sash to sag at the bottom.
These loose screws especially at the top hinge will let the hinge leaf pull away causing the opposite corner at the bottom to touch the floor.
So if there are any loose screws, tighten them all up, and if some of them can’t be tightened or if they stay loose inside the door jamb, the hole should be plugged with a 1/8-inch dowel or a makeshift piece of wood to fit and set in the hole with a drop of glue before cutting the excess off flush with the jamb.
You can then put the screws back in and tighten everything in place, then test the result.