Repairing doors and drawers: 10 practical tips

August 14, 2015

Drawers and doors usually go unnoticed until something's wrong with them. Thankfully, here are 10 practical tips for getting your doors and drawers working properly again:

  1. Loose hinges often cause cabinet doors to sag or stick. Sometimes simply tightening the screws will lift the door and solve the problem. If the screw holes have loosened and the screws have pulled free, try plugging the holes with toothpicks or matches and refastening the screws. If the hinge is bent, replace it with a more robust one.
  2. A quick way to improve the action of a drawer on wooden runners is to take the drawer out and then spray the runners with aerosol furniture polish. The wax in the polish will reduce the friction between the wooden surfaces and help the drawer to run freely.
  3. To keep a wooden knob from spinning, drill a hole in the base of the knob, clip a small nail in half, and insert the lower half in the hole with the point facing out. When you tighten the screw to secure the knob, the point will bite into the wood, stopping the knob from turning.
  4. To stop a worn drawer from sticking and scraping, tap large drawing pins or thumbtacks into the frame it slides on, just under the drawer's edge on each side. The tacks will raise the drawer to the proper height and provide a new low-friction surface for the drawer to slide on.
  5. Some metal drawer tracks are not fixed to the cabinet sides and can become bowed. Glue a small wooden block between the cabinet side and the track to fix them. This will prevent the drawer roller from slipping out of the track.
  6. Drawers often stick simply because high humidity has caused the wood to swell. When a drawer sticks, take it out and dry it in a warm place. After a couple of days, test it for fit and sand or plane any areas that stick. Then seal all wood surfaces with a coat of clear polyurethane to slow any moisture absorption that happens down the road. Don't keep antiques in rooms with persistently high relative humidity.
  7. Need to get a wooden drawer sliding more smoothly? Try sanding the bottom edges of the drawer sides and the tops of the runners with 150-grit sandpaper, then waxing those surfaces with the stub of a plain household candle.
  8. Sometimes a drawer will jam because the bottom is warped out of shape and the bulge is catching in the cabinet frame. To fix it, disassemble the drawer, turn the bottom over, and reassemble. If the drawer bottom is in really bad shape, consider replacing it.
  9. If the edges of a pair of cupboard doors aren't meeting neatly, then the latch that secures them can't engage properly and the doors are likely to swing open. One way to improve the connection is to pack out the hinges of one or both doors. To pack out a hinge, unscrew the flat leaves and line the exposed recesses with one or more pieces of thin cardboard, then screw the hinges back into place. If a door has been jamming along its top edge, just pack out the upper hinge. If it's the bottom edge that has been catching, pack the lower hinge.
  10. Before you do anything structural to repair a door that swings open or sticks shut, check to see if the door is hanging level. If a spirit level shows the floor is sloping, packing pieces of card under the base should fix the problem.

Follow these 10 practical tips and you'll be on your way to getting your drawers and doors back in working order like a pro.

Repairing doors and drawers: 10 practical tips
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