Repair a door yourself in no time

July 28, 2015

No other moving part of our homes sees as much use — and sometimes abuse — as the doors. We shove them, slam them, even kick them shut. No wonder doors need a little adjustment now and again.

Repair a door yourself in no time

Cure a door that’s tough to close

  • Have a door that's tough to close?
  • First rule out a warped door: With the door closed, check to make sure the door hits the stops all the way around. If the door is fine, the hinges probably are bound — that is, the hinge closes completely before the door does.
  • Cut pieces of matchbook cover that are as long as the hinges and half as wide.
  • One at a time, detach each hinge from the jamb and place a piece of matchbook into the hinge mortise, against the hinge barrel side.
  • You may have to experiment a bit — perhaps you need two thicknesses of matchbook or just one thickness of heavy paper.

Toothpicks cure loose hinges

  • When door hinges are loose in their mortises, it's because the screws are stripped in their holes.
  • To give the screws new grip, detach the hinges from the doorjamb.
  • Fill the holes snugly with toothpicks or a wooden matchstick dipped in white household glue. (One or two toothpicks usually do the trick.)
  • Cut the toothpicks or matchstick flush with a utility knife or chisel.
  • Replace the door — no need to redrill the holes where you've filled them; just drive the screws right in.

For a latch bolt that won't catch

  • If the latch bolt doesn't catch when you close a door, most likely the bolt and the strike plate are misaligned, so the spring-loaded bolt isn't fitting into the hole in the plate.
  • Close the door slowly to see if the bolt is positioned above, below, or to one side of the plate hole.
  • If the misalignment is slight, the easiest solution is to file one edge of the strike-plate hole until the bolt drops in.
  • If the misalignment is too great to file, take the strike plate off and chisel the strike-plate mortise bigger so you can move the plate and reinstall the screws in new holes.
  • Sometimes the door has shrunk so that the latch bolt no longer reaches the strike plate.
  • In this case, take the strike plate off and use it as a template to cut one or two pieces of cardboard to the strike-plate shape, including the hole.
  • Put the cardboard into the mortise to "pack out" the strike plate.

Doors that won’t stay open

  • If a door swings shut on its own, it means the door frame isn't plumb — either because your house has settled or the installer didn't plumb it in the first place.
  • Fortunately, there's an easy solution: Remove the hinge pins, and bend them slightly so that they fit more tightly in their holes.
  • The extra resistance should solve the door's problem.

Fix a door rattle in no time

  • To stop a rattling door, remove the strike plate and use pliers to slightly bend the flange toward the hole.
  • Another solution is to move the doorstop tighter against the door at the bottom.
  • Use a utility knife to cut through the paint or varnish on both sides of the stop so it can break free.
  • Then use a block and hammer to move the stop over about three millimetres (1/8 inch).
  • When you test it, the door should hit the stop and latch at the same time.
  • Finally, drive a couple of four centimetre (1.5 inch) finish nails through the stop to anchor its new position.
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