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DIY Home Projects

How to Fix a Door That Sticks

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If you have a door at home that has become a daily struggle to open or find yourself wrestling it to close it, you might have a sticking door and a very annoying problem.  Some doors are sticky from the get-go, some get that way over time as the home settles, and some seem stick on a humid day and don’t work like they used to. 

The good news is that fixing a stuck door can be a quick and easy job. You just need to pinpoint the problem and have a few simple tools on hand. 

First, find the sticking point

Your first step is to locate which part of the door is causing the problem. Usually it’s pretty apparent if you open and close the door a few times – you’ll see where it catches as you open it or bumps when you close it. If you’re not sure, try rubbing chalk on the outer edge of the door, close and open it a few times, and see where the chalk has rubbed onto the frame.

The strike plate is a common culprit when it comes to a stuck door, because it can loosen over time and keep the door from closing smoothly. Sometimes the door simply doesn't fit correctly in the door opening, and you’ll have to do a bit of reconfiguration tightening or sanding.

Once you’ve identified the spot where the door is sticking, here’s how to proceed for each problem:

Door stuck at the strike plate?

If the strike plate is out of alignment, grab an electric screwdriver like the 4V MAX* ROTO-BIT Storage Screwdriver and tighten up any visible screws on both the strike and the strike plate. One great thing about the ROTO-BIT is a variety of bits are stored on the screwdriver, so you can deal with a variety of screw sizes without fetching additional bits.

Tightening the strike plate and strike should get all the metal parts properly aligned flush with the door and frame, allowing the door to open and close smoothly again.

Door sags and won’t hang straight?

If the door appears to be out of alignment with the frame, one or more of the hinges may have come loose. A sagging door like this can usually be easily remedied. With an electric screwdriver like the ROTO-BIT, tighten all the exposed screws on each of the door hinges, starting with the hinge closest to the sticking point.

Door stuck at the jamb?

If the hinges are tight and the door appears straight but is catching or rubbing the jamb, it may be that the jamb has begun to pull away from the frame. To get it back in place, a drill/driver combo like the 20V MAX* Drill/Driver and a 3 inch wood screw are all you need. First, drill a pilot hole into the stick point on the jamb with the Drill/Driver, using the appropriate driving bit. Then drive a 3 inch wood screw through the jamb and into the frame to pull the jamb tight and secure.

Wood door won’t fit in the opening?

If the above fixes don’t apply, your door may no longer fit into the opening properly. Sometimes, humidity or the settling of a home over time can affect the relative size and shape of the door and door frame, causing swelling, rubbing, and sticking. If this is the source of your problem, you may actually identify multiple sticking points on the door. While fixing this takes a little more work, it’s not difficult and can be done in a few hours.

  1. Carefully mark all the sticking spots on the edge of the door with a pencil or chalk.
  2. Slide out the hinge pins and remove the door from the frame.
  3. Using a belt sander like the 3-inch x 21-inch Dragster™ Belt Sander, sand the surface of the door at each sticking point you have marked.
  4. Reattach the door to test for sticking.
  5. Remove the door again and either continue sanding until the door operates smoothly or, if the problem is fixed, reapply paint/finish to the sanded areas.
  6. Once the paint, sealant or other finish is dry, rehang the door and reinsert the hinge pins.

Just about every home will have a stuck door at some point, and there’s no reason to let it drive you crazy. A little tightening, an extra fastener, or a bit of sanding will usually take care of the problem. Good luck!