Q: I’m having a hard time with a few doors in my home that are sticky and will not close. I’m able to do some woodwork myself but I’m afraid to plane the doors because the latch does not fit and planing would not help that problem. Can you give some advice?
A: As homes age, the floors may settle or sag and the doors may no longer fit squarely in the original framed opening. It’s the framed opening that has changed and the door needs to be adjusted to fit squarely into the frame that is itself now out of square.
When the door panel is planed, small portions of the door’s panel are removed, which will alter the door forever. There are a few simple things you can try to see if the door will fit in the changed opening. On most interior and exterior doors there are three hinges. If the door strikes the frame at the top of the door, you can remove the center screw from the bottom hinge and replace it with a No. 8, 2 1/2-inch twist fast wood screw. The screw is long enough to reach the wood frame of the wall. By tightening this screw you can adjust the door to fit into the frame.
If the door is striking the frame near the bottom of the opening, remove the center screw from the top hinge and repeat the process.
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What this does is to pull the door panel in one direction or another. When a door’s bolt misses the strike plate on the frame and will not latch, you will need to find out just how much it is off. Color the end of the door’s bolt with a temporary removable marker such as chalk, lipstick, crayon, etc., and close the door against the frame. The mark indicates where the bolt hits the frame.
You can then adjust the strike plate either up or down to accept the bolt. If the screw holes for the strike plate are damaged, use several wood toothpicks and wood glue to fill the damaged hole.
After the glue has dried you have a new surface for the screws where you can attach the strike plate. Another option is to remove the strike plate and use a file to expand the opening.
C. Dwight Barnett is a certified master inspector with the American Society of Home Inspectors. d.Barnett@insightbb.com.