Like many features in our home, we take our doors for granted. Doors separate our living spaces — exterior doors keep the elements outside and interior doors let us close off different living areas like bedrooms and bathrooms. We don't really think about doors unless we're remodeling or find ourselves with a sticky door.
There are several different reasons why it can become difficult to open and/or close a door. We'll review the solutions to a sticky door, from the simplest repairs that homeowners can handle easily … to problems you likely will need help with. But first let's start with some building concepts and terminology to put things in perspective.
How House Doors are Installed
Unless you've built a house or explored ones under construction, you might not be familiar with what's inside the walls of your house. The vertical pieces of lumber that frame your wall are called studs. Studs are what you search for with a stud finder to locate these pieces of lumber when hanging heavy pictures on your wall.
Now think about the doors in your house. They're a lot heavier than artwork, so they need a lot of support to hold doors that swing open and close frequently. In the photo above you can see several pieces of lumber butted together on either side of the opening, called the rough opening for a door.
Installing a door is pretty complicated. If it's not done right, you'll end up with a sticky door that doesn't open and/or close properly. It's a common problem so understanding these concepts will help you repair your sticky door (watch Thermatru Doors video that illustrates these concepts)
- A plumb door -- means the door is straight up and down, and not leaning forward or backward. Some people think a level is adequate to make sure a door is vertical while others insist on using a plumb bob which relies on gravity.
- A level door -- is determined by a carpenter's level, to insure the door isn't higher on either side. What surprises many people is leaning that level isn't always parallel to the floor because the floor might not be level.
- Like all carpentry projects, a door must be square -- meaning the corners are 90 degrees. A framing square is used to verify you have square corners.
Easy Fixes to Repair a Sticky Door
Now that you've learned how challenging it is to install a door properly, this video showing How to Fix a Sticky Door the Easy Way, will make a lot more sense. The video is just over three minutes and illustrates each solution visually to show you exactly how to do it yourself. You'll want to do them in this order, as just one or two tasks might solve the problem.
- From my days running a handyman business, I learned that it's better to substitute longer nails for the ones that come packaged with doors and other home products.Tighten all the door hinge screws with a screwdriver.
- Replace any screws that can't be tightened with a longer, slightly fatter screw (using a cordless drill). Another option is to use a wood plug and wood glue, to fill the hole and allow for a tight grip. This works well as I had to use this approach for my figure skates when the blades came loose.
- If the door is still rubbing, replace the hinge screws with longer screws, ones at least 3 inches long.
- Not fixed yet? You need to trim off enough wood to allow the door to open and close smoothly, using a hand planer (video showing how) or belt sander.
Hopefully you've solved your sticky door problem. If not, you've got a bigger project ahead of you because the rough opening, the foundation for properly instally a door, likely wasn't done right. If you've got lots of experience and/or patience to research further, you might want to tackle this project but I'd recommend calling your handyman.