Door Fixes

Unwanted self-closing door

One of the most annoying door issues is a hinged door that won’t stay open.  It slowly closes and you need a door stop to keep it open.  This is caused because the door is installed out of plumb.  You could remove the door and frame and reinstall it but that is a lot of work and needs some special skill, tools, and knowledge of door installation.  There is a simple fix that will stop the door from closing,…. most of the time.

Remove one of the door hinge pins by driving it upward.  I usually start with the top hinge.  There should be a small hole in the bottom of the hinge to insert a small punch, awl, or a nail and use a hammer to drive the pin up enough to be able to grab the barrel of the pin with pliers.  Complete removing the pin with the pliers;  you may need to use a hammer to tap up on the pliers to finish removing the pin if it is tight.  

Wipe the pin off with a rag.  The solution is to put a slight bend in the pin so when it is inserted, it puts pressure on the hinge to create enough friction to stop it closing on its own.  Take the a rag, the pin, and hammer to a concrete surface.  With the pin laying on the concrete on the rag, it will only contact at the top and bottom of the pin leaving a small space.  Tap on the middle of the barrel of the pin to put a slight bend in the pin.  Using a hammer reinsert the pin in the hinge and test the door.  If it still closes on its own, you can repeat the procedure on the pin putting more of a bend in the pin.  Or, remove another pin and do the same.  Depending on how out of plumb the door is, I have seen rare cases where bending all 3 pins does not solve the problem.  If that happens the door and frame would need removed and reinstalled.

Squeaky hinges

Over time the hinges on your interior or exterior doors may squeak when opening or closing.  The solution is to add some lubrication to the hinge(s).  Try to determine which hinge is squeaking either by the location of the sound or by touching each hinge you may feel a vibration of the culprit.  Remove the hinge pin and wipe it off with a rag.  

For lubrication you should use a dry spray dry e or Teflon lubricant.  Some people will tell you to use oil or WD40.  That is poor selection as any oil based product will attract dust and dirt and the problem will reoccur sooner. One older solution was to use graphite as a lubricant.  That will work, however, it is messy and difficult to get it only on the pin and inside the barrel holes of the hinge.  

After removing the pin, in a protected area, spray the pin with the lubricant and reinsert it back in the hinge.  If the squeak continues in the same hinge, drive the pin part way up, and spray the pin, allowing the lubricant to run down into the barrels and drive the pin down.  When you spray the pin with it still in the hinge, be sure to protect the area around the door and walls.  Repeat on the other hinges as needed.

Bolt won’t latch

Does the dead bolt lock or door knob latch not engage in the door strike plate hole or drags hard turning the dead bolt or door knob?  This can be a seasonal problem from temperature and is common on exterior doors.  Whether interior or exterior the solution is the same.  To identify the problem, close the door, and using a flash light, look in the gap between the door frame and the door at the latch/bolt to determine if it is striking the strike plate on the jamb high or low and about how far off it is. 

If it is only off a small amount, 1/16” or less, high or low on the plate, I suggest you use a steel file or rotary file tool (Dremel) and file the strike plate larger to let the latch or bolt fully engage in the plate.  If it is a large amount, greater than 1/16” high or low or it is a front to back issue (you have to push hard to close the door) then the strike plate on the jamb needs to be removed and adjusted on the door frame.  

To adjust the strike plate for the door knob or dead bolt, the procedure is the same.  This procedure assumes you have a wooden door frame.  (Do not use this for metal frames.)  Visually determine how much front to back or up/down the plate needs moved.  The strike plate should be centered on the latch or bolt.  You will be removing some of the wood of the frame to move the strike. Remove the screws from the strike plate then lay the strike on the frame where you want it located and mark the area of the wood you need to remove.  Using a hammer and a 1/4” wood chisel, tap the chisel on the line in the wood to the depth of the thickness of the strike.  With the hammer and chisel, carefully, remove the wood inside the area where you want the new location to be.  Be careful removing this wood so you do not break or splinter the wood outside the line(s) you drew.

After you have removed the wood, you will typically need to plug the old screw holes depending on how far you moved the strike plate.  Use a scrap of wood and whittle (shape) a piece of wood to create a small pin to drive in the old screw holes.  You can also purchase a small dowel slightly larger than the holes at the hardware or home improvement store to make a pin.  Drive the newly created wood pin in each of the old screw holes and cut it off.  Lay the strike in the new area and mark the screw holes.  Using a drill and wood bit, drill pilot holes for the screws and install the plate.  Test the door.  Hopefully you moved the strike enough and in the correct direction.  If not, repeat the procedure.  If the hole drilled in the wood jamb is showing where the latch inserts behind the plate, enlarge the hole in the jamb with a drill bit or chisel.

Loose door knob or dead bolt assembly

I can’t tell you how many times I have been at someone’s home or a hotel and find door knobs loose.  Drives me crazy since this is so easy to fix.  Door knobs are a two-piece assembly and usually have two screws on one side.  You need a screw driver, (typically a Phillips) to tighten the screws.  After you tighten the knob, be sure to check the operation.  Does it turn both ways and return to the neutral position?  If not, you tightened it too much.  Loosen the screws and test again.  Ah Ha!  Maybe that is why it is loose because when it is tight the knob does not work.  This is either an alignment problem of the knob and latch (not common) or the knob or latch is worn out and needs replaced (more common).

Adjusting a Door Latch/bolt

If you suspect it is an alignment problem of the latch to the door knob, remove both halves of the knob off the door.  Reinsert the half with the long pin in to the door latch in the hole and observe if the long pin and latch hole are aligning and engaging accurately.  The door knob should insert easily and smoothly in to the latch.  If not, first look on the edge of the door and look to see if the latch plate is installed flush with the door edge.  If it is recessed too far, or not recessed enough, that may be your alignment problem.  If that looks good you may need to replace the latch assembly or door knob, or both.

If the latch assembly is not recessed enough on the edge of the door, remove the two screws and the latch from the edge of the door.  Using a hammer and chisel, take out enough wood to make the latch flush with the door edge.  Take out small amounts at a time and test frequently.