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As the seasons change, variations in humidity and temperature can cause wood to swell or shrink, making wooden doors prone to sticking. Other factors that can cause doors to stick are things like loose hinges, stripped screws, or worn weather stripping. While there’s no universal solution to this problem, there are a few things you can try to address stubborn doors.

Mind the gap

The first thing to check when struggling with a door that is difficult to close or open is whether it’s square to the door frame. You can determine this by holding one side of a square against the door frame and the other side against first the top and then the bottom of the door. If the door isn’t properly lined up with the frame, this is likely your problem. Check your door to see if the space between the door and the frame is consistent. You should have between ⅛” and 1/16” all the way around between the door and the frame. If these distances aren’t consistent, it’s a sign that the hardware might have loosened up, or that other types of sagging may have occurred.

Tighten the hinges

If your door isn’t square to the frame, start by checking the hinges. Sometimes, door hinges can loosen up over time, allowing the door to sag away from the frame. Check the hardware to see if it’s snug against the frame, and use a screwdriver to tighten any loose screws on the hinges. Once everything is snug, if the door is still giving you problems, there are a few more things you can try.

Fix stripped screws

If any of the screws spin in the hole without tightening, they’re stripped. Remove the screws from the hinge and expose the wooden surface they’re attached to. Use a splinter of wood and some wood glue to fill the hole and allow it to dry thoroughly, then re-drill the pilot hole with a battery operated or corded drill in the same spot, then reattach the hinge and screw. This should give the threads enough purchase to tighten.

Use a shim

Another reason the door might not be square to the frame is that houses tend to settle over time, allowing doors to sag a little bit. While this isn’t usually a structural issue, it can be the cause of frustrating scraping and sticking doors. To address this, you can try using a shim behind the lower hinge to straighten out the door in the frame. All this requires is removing the screws holding the lower hinge to the door frame, placing the shim behind where the hinge attaches to the frame, and reattaching the hinge to the door frame. You can use a plumb line or a level to check to see if the door is straight up and down, but the real test is opening and closing the door to see how it works.

Switch your hinges

If you live in an older structure and your door is sticking even though it seems like everything is snug, you can try switching the top and bottom hinges. Over time, the top hinge on a door, which carries most of the door’s weight, can bend a little bit, allowing the top of the door to pull away from the frame. Switching the top hinge for the bottom one can help to correct this problem and relieve your sticking or scraping door.

Cut to fit

If none of these fixes helps, or if the spacing within the door frame doesn’t allow for shims, it’s time to try some light carpentry. Open and close the door a few times, looking for where the door is sticking or rubbing against the frame. Use a pencil to mark where the sticky part is and then remove the door from the hinges and place it on a workbench. Using a hand planer, you can gently shave down the part that needs to be fitted and rehang your door. Another option is to use a door trimmer, which can be convenient if you don’t want to remove the door, or if you don’t have a convenient work bench.

Protect exposed wood

Once your trimming is done, it’s important to paint or seal the exposed wood. This will help control the amount of moisture that your door will absorb or let out, reducing the amount of swelling and shrinking your door will undergo as the weather changes, and can help your repair last longer.



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