We take our homes for granted and homeowners will often ignore door problems until they demand attention. Sometimes it's a sticky door that can't be locked. More often, fixing door problems is part of a longer punch list given to a handyman before company arrives or to prepare a house for sale. When running my handyman business, I saw hundreds of door problems because houses typically have 3 or more exterior doors and ten plus interior doors.
This article takes a different approach from my typical articles. What I'll share are some of the common door problems my handyman business handled … from a handyman perspective. In fact the articles on this website began as follow-up emails to homeowners, mostly women, after we talked on the phone. My goal then and now is to help you make smarter decisions about how to minimize the stress and cost of home repairs.
Handyman Repair Stories
Front Door Won't Close
During the spring, we worked on an old wooden door, in the historic part of Portsmouth, NH. Several months later we got a call that the door wouldn't close. Curious about what caused the problem, I went along with my technician. The problem was clear – the homeowner had only painted the front and back of the door after we'd been there. An older gentleman, he didn't understand that a door has six sides and if they're not all painted, the door will swell as the moisture in the air goes up during the hot summer month.
Tips for Swelling Doors – Paint is made to protect wood from water. Paint all wood on a regular basis to reduce the expansion and contraction that happens with the weather. For this homeowner, we had to plane off enough wood to let the door close. In the winter when the door contracts, they'll need to add weatherstripping to fill the gaps between the door and it's frame.
Replace Interior Door with Dog Door
This job was done under extreme circumstances. The homeowners had to sell the house due to financial problems, and the buyers required repairs before closing. They had put a dog door in the door to the basement so we needed to replace this door. Trying to save money, the homeowner purchased a replacement door at one of the box doors and we installed it. He tried to save money by complaining that the new door didn't close easily. The problem was a warped door (bowed out about two inches) which we only discovered after buying another door.
Tips for Replacing Doors – Try to put dog doors in the wall versus a door, as drywall repairs are smaller and less costly. When buying a replacement door, make sure you measure carefully and get one with the hardware openings (door handle and hinges) pre-drilled. If the door frame is damaged, you'll want to get what's called a pre-hung door that includes the door and the frame surrounding it. Learn more about measuring, buying and installing doors with this video from Lowe's.
Let me start by saying I don't like working with bi-fold doors. Why? Because they seem to have more problems than other interior doors, something you only really see this when you run a handyman business. The doors are light weight, most parts used to install the door are plastic and they get stuck or come off the tracks when someone bumps into them. And that happens a lot when the doors aren't closed all the way. They stick out and someone bumps into them.
Tips for Dealing with Bi-Fold Doors – You can avoid problems by storing less frequently accessed items behind bi-fold doors, so they stay closed. If you're constantly rehanging the doors, check how much wall space you have and see if you can replace the bi-fold door with a barn door. That's because you might become an expert at repairing your bi-fold doors … but do you want to do this over and over?
Most of our handyman calls corrected the problems by removing and reinstalling the doors with the proper adjustments so they're plumb. One homeowner bought a bi-fold door that was too tall. When we took off two inches at the bottom, it fell apart. That's because the lower section that looks like a solid piece of wood is hollow except for the bottom one to two inches.
Exterior Doors with Wood Rot
If there's lots of rain and/or humidity where you live, you have to be vigilant about wood rot. My handyman business was in southern New Hampshire so we dealt with a tremendous amount of wood rot. Wherever there's humidity of twenty percent or higher and a food source like wood or the paper on drywall, you've got an environment that will support the growth of mold. That means if any part of your house feels damp or smells musty, you want to find and remove the water source as quickly as possible.