3 tips to fix a door that won't close right

When an interior door doesn't properly close, check the hinges, latch and overall fit. (Photo by Summer Galyan)

When an interior door doesn't properly close, check the hinges, latch and overall fit. (Photo by Summer Galyan)

Interior doors go through a never-ending cycle of being pulled open and pushed closed, which strains hinges, door jambs and latches. The constant wear and tear means they may stop closing properly. Here are three common door problems and possible solutions:

Check for hinge issues

The hinge side of the door is often the source of closure issues. Over time, screws used to hold a hinge in place start to work their way free, causing the door to sag. As a result, the door may scrape the door frame when closing, or may no longer properly meet the latch-side strike plate.

It's also possible for hinge mortises — where the hinge leaves are attached — to be set too deeply, which can cause the door to bind over time as hinge leaves shift. Check whether door hinge plates are the problem by opening the door and looking at the jamb: if leaves are sunk below the surface, the mortises are cut too deep.

To fix a loose hinge leaf, start by trying to tighten the screws. If they simply twist in place but won't catch, try inserting longer screws. If that doesn't work, try putting a bit of carpenter's glue on a thin sliver of wood or a matchstick and tapping it into the screw hole. Once the glue is dry, reinstall the screws. To deal with a too-deep mortise, cut and glue in a wood shim to decrease the depth, or use a piece of stiff paper like a playing card or greeting card cut to fit.

Check for latch problems

A faulty interior door latch can also be the cause of an interior door not closing properly. If this is the case, the door may pull open even when "closed" or may grind against the latch strike plate. Therefore, you need to know how to fix a door latch. Again, start by tightening the screws and see if this helps. If not, take out the screws and move the latch strike plate, but make sure to move the plate far enough away from the old screw holes that it stays properly fastened.

Check overall fit

If you've checked both sides of the door and it still won't close properly, look at the top and bottom. The top edge of the door may not be entirely level, causing it to stick in one corner, or the bottom edge may scrape the floor. Using sandpaper or a handheld planing tool, you can carefully pare down the offending edge and square it with the rest of the door. Be careful to test the fit often or you'll end up with a door too small for its frame.

If you've checked the hinges, latch and fit, but the door still doesn't close properly, consider installing a new door. Hollow-core doors can become permanently warped or twisted over time as a house sinks and compresses them, making their defects nearly impossible to correct. When installing a new door, especially in a warped or damaged frame, hiring a professional may be the best option. Not only can professional contractors address basic door issues, but they can also correct underlying frame and jamb problems.

Editor's note: This is an updated version of a story originally posted on Feb. 5, 2013.

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