4 ways to protect your doors from damage

Keeping your doors in good working order (and looking good) is part of the overall maintenance and health of your home. Some common issues with doors can be prevented or cured with just a slight tweak or tune up.

4 ways to protect your doors from damage

1. Prevent doors from swelling

  • Do your wooden doors swell on humid days to the point where you have to bang them with your shoulder to get them open?
  • Check to make sure the top and bottom of the doors have been painted or varnished. If not, exposed end-grain may be sucking in moisture.
  • A coat of primer and a couple of coats of paint or a few coats of varnish probably will solve the problem. If the problem persists, see the next tip.

2. Cure a sticky door

  • If a door sticks even in dry weather — or if painting the top and bottom doesn't cure humid weather sticking — the problem may not be the door at all.
  • Your house may have settled or the framing may have shrunk, changing the door opening slightly. You can't easily adjust the door opening, but you can plane the door a little to fit the opening.
  • First, do a little detective work: With the door closed, check to see that there is a slight gap between the top and sides of the door and the frame, and between the bottom of the door and the floor or door sill. If you find a place with no gap, mark it with chalk.
  • Then, open the door and look for places where the paint or varnish has rubbed off the edge of the door and mark these places. Use a hand plane or a belt sander to reduce these spots.

3. Lubricate with graphite

  • The working parts of a door — hinges, latches and locks — will work smoothly for generations if you lubricate them occasionally. It's especially important to do this if you notice a squeak.
  • Light machine oil will work fine for hinges or latches, but don't squirt it into a lock, where it will collect dirt that may gum up and prevent the lock from working. Use powdered graphite instead — it doesn't collect dirt.
  • You can use the graphite on hinges and latches, too.
  • It comes in a plastic bottle with a small nozzle for squirting into tight places.

4. Get rid of the spring

  • To keep the joinery in your wooden screen door from loosening up in the first place, replace the spring closer with a piston closer, like those found on most aluminum screen and storm doors.
  • Piston closers will make the door close gently, but they allow the door to open only 90 degrees.
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