how to fix door that sticks

How to Fix Door that Sticks, Sags or Won’t Close

Have you noticed that a door in your home doesn’t work properly anymore? In this home DIY guide we explain how to fix door that sticks, sags, won’t close and other door issues.

Many house door issues are fairly straightforward to fix yourself. Unless there is a huge underlying issue, fixing common door issues is not overly expensive or time-consuming, although it might be a bit of an annoyance and take some time.

In this guide we explain the different parts of a door, and provide practical steps for addressing a variety of door issues including how to fix a door that sticks, how to fix door sag and how to fix a door that wont close, as well as how to fix door gaps.

how to fix door that sticks

Parts of a House Door

Before we get started, it is worth getting to know what the different parts of a house door are, so you understand the terminology as we go along. Your standard house door is made up of multiple parts in order for it to complete its primary purpose of opening and closing.

Door Frame

Perhaps the most notable part is your door frame. The door frame is the entire framework of any house door, and very much holds the entire structure together. The door frame structure consists of three separate parts, these are the sill, head, and jamb.

Door Frame parts:

  • Sill: This is the part of the frame that runs across the bottom of the door which meets the floor.
  • Jamb: These are the two side parts of your door frame that run vertically.
  • Head: The head is located at the top of the door frame and runs parallel to the sill.

Door Panel

When referring to the door itself, it is usually known by the term ‘panel’. The panel is the section of the door that will swing either open or closed.

In terms of your door hardware, the two key elements that you will see on any door are the knob (or lever) and hinges. The knob, or doorknob, is the handle or mechanism in place to help you open or close a door. Whereas the hinges are the joint devices that allows the opening and closing movement. These are usually either pivot hinges, barrel hinges, or concealed hinges.

There is also a selection of parts that are included in some door designs, but not all. This can depend on price, the type of door your purchasing, or the needs that the door must fulfill. These parts include:

  • Fixed panels: If your door has sections that are not designed to move, but look similar to your door panel. Then these are referred to as fixed panels.
  • Door sweep: More commonly found on front doors, a door sweep is a weather resistant strip placed between your door sill and the door frame.
  • Astragal: If you have a double door rather than a single door, you will probably have an astragal. This is the material that runs vertically between the two doors from the head to the sill.
  • Sidelight: For those with particularly fancy doors, you may have a sidelight or two. These are the windows or glass panels that are located around your door outside of the door frame.
  • Transom: If your door is located below a fanlight or window, then it probably has a transom to separate the two.
  • Threshold: A well-known decorative element to your door, the threshold is located between the doorsill and the floor of the room.
  • Foot bolt: More commonly used on doors that lead to the outside, foot bolts are located at the bottom of doors and are designed to be operated by your foot.
  • Key lock: The common door lock. A variety of different locks can be used on doors depending on their needs.

How To Fix Door That Sticks

Having a sticking door is probably one of the most common household issues that you can have with any of your doors, so learning how to fix door that sticks is a useful skill to have.

A door that sticks does not close smoothly, and takes a bit of work to push or pull open. There are many reasons that could be behind your door sticking. The worst being subsiding foundations in older houses, which is not an easy or cheap fix.

But, thankfully, the most common issue with sticking doors comes from your door frame and your door hinges. Whether you have a wood, steel or fiberglass door, the issue and solution for how to fix door that sticks are the same.

Time Required: 20 minutes

Tools to Fix Door that Sticks:

  • WD-40
  • Electric screwdriver

How to Fix Door that Sticks – Steps

Step 1: Check the hinges for dirt and rust

First, you need to check the current state of your door hinges. Is there general dirt or rust build-up that could be hindering your door hinge movement?

If so, then all you need is to purchase some WD-40 and follow the instructions on the product. This product works to clean your hinges of rust, and also oil the hinges, which allows them to move more smoothly.

If your hinges are heavily rusted or damaged, then the best thing to do may be to buy some new hinges. For recommendations check our article and reviews for the best door hinges here.

Step 2: Check the hinge screws

If you are still having problems with your door sticking, then be sure to check that your hinges are still tightly screwed in. It is a poor design feature, but door hinges are known to screw out by themselves over time.

All you will need to fix this issue is a handy screwdriver, then screw them back in again. Save yourself some time and use an electric screwdriver.

I recently bought this tiny lightweight Bosch GO electric screwdriver for myself. It’s a great size for my portable toolkit, and super light weight for my small hands. It’s USB-powered with a range of bits you can swap out, and hardly bigger than a normal screwdriver. I find it’s really useful for light work like tightening loose screws, but since it is only USB-powered, if you need to do more heavy-duty tasks it’s not quite powerful enough.

Step 3: Check the door sag

If the hinges do not seem to be the issue, then you might have a sagging issue which is causing the door panel to rub against the frame. To fix this, you will have to take the door off the frame and sand down the area of the door where it is rubbing against the frame. For further instructions on fixing sagging issues, jump down to the How To Fix Door Sag section.

How To Fix Door Sag

Have you noticed recently that your door appears to be sagging? Discovering that your door is not flush to the frame as it once was can be quite concerning. But it is a relatively easy fix.

Time Required: 30 minutes, plus repainting and drying time

Tools to Fix Door Sag:

  • Electric screwdriver
  • Sandpaper
  • Paint and paintbrush (to repaint the sanded areas)
  • Optional: Longer screws for your door hinges

How to Fix Door Sag – Steps:

  1. Unscrew the door panel: Remove your door panel from the frame. You can achieve this by unscrewing the panel from the door hinges.
  2. Sand the door panel edges: Sand down the edges of the door panel with sandpaper. You can do this with wood, fibreglass or steel doors. I recommend 400-grit sandpaper. Sandpaper is a cheap and versatile material to have in your DIY kit for all sorts of odd jobs.
  3. Repaint the door panel: Now that you have taken the necessary steps to fix your door sagging issue, you may need to repaint your door where the sandpaper has rubbed away the paint.
  4. Reattach the door panel: Once you have completed your correction painting, all you need to do is reattach your door back on to its hinges. You may wish to consider at this point to reattach your hinges using longer screws than you have previously used, as this provides your door structure with additional strength to avoid having to fix a door that sticks or sags again in the near future.

How To Fix A Door That Won’t Close

There can be a variety of reasons behind the fact that your door won’t close, one of the most common being that the door is starting to sag. For further information on repairing sagging doors, refer to the How To Fix Door Sag section above.

Time Required: 30 minutes, plus repainting and drying time

Tools to Fix Door that Won’t Close:

  • Electric screwdriver
  • Metal file
  • Wood chisel set

Fix Door That Won’t Close – Steps:

Step 1: Check the hinges

First, it is easiest to check your door hinges. Naturally loosening door hinges is a common occurrence with all types of doors. All you will need is your trusty electric screwdriver, and just check whether each of the screws in your door hinges are tight enough.

Step 2: Check the alignment

If the hinges do not seem to be the issue, you will then want to double check your door alignment. Whether it is your strike plate being bent out of place or your lock not latching correctly. If your door is not latching properly, the chances are that it is suffering from an alignment issue.

In order to discover whether this is the issue that you are currently facing, use this trick:

  1. Grab a stick of lipstick. We are using lipstick because it easily transfers from one surface to the other.
  2. Mark the very tip of your door latch with the lipstick.
  3. Then close your door and see where the mark has been transferred to.

Depending on where the lipstick mark is, you will have the explanation for your problem.

Alternatively, you may notice that the issue isn’t around your latch at all, and is actually because the door panel is touching the frame at another point. If this is the case, you have a door sag issue, and will need to sand the door panel down a bit.

For instructions on doing this, jump back to the How to Fix Door Sag section of this article. A sagging door can also be the cause of your latching issues. Make sure you tighten the hinge screws to make sure they are secure before moving onto the following fixes.

Step 3: Fix the door latch and strike plate

Depending on the exact issue, the fix for this will vary. Choose the most appropriate solution for your situation.

Solution 1: Replace the strike plate

If your strike plate is misshapen or damaged, you will need to unscrew it from the door frame and place it with a similar part.

Solution 2: File down the latch

If it looks like the latch area appears to be the issue, then you may need to file the latch to make the area bigger to accommodate your lock. To do this you will to purchase a metal file, if you don’t have one in your toolkit already.

Solution 3: Move the strike plate

You may need to simply move the placement of your strike plate on the door frame where the lock latches into. To do this, all you will need is an electric screwdriver to relocate the plate so that aligns with your lock on the door panel.

Solution 4: Adjust the strike plate height

Another element of the strike plate that could be an issue is if it is sitting too high. To fix this issue, you will need a chisel and a hammer. All you need to do is insert the chisel into the lower lip of the plate and hit the end of the chisel with the hammer in a downward direction.

How To Fix Door Gaps

Before you attempt to fix any door gaps, you need to first understand whether there is a gap that needs to be fixed. There needs to be a 1/16in to 5/16in (2-3mm) gap between the door jambs and head to the door panel. If there are any gaps bigger than that, or any general damage that needs to be repaired, this is how you go about it.

How to Fix Door Gaps – Steps:

  1. As always, your first port of call is to check your screws in the door hinges and ensure that they are tightened. For instructions, jump back to the How to Fix Door that Sticks section.
  2. If that appears to not be the problem, then perhaps it is time to invest in some weatherstripping. Useful on both doors that lead outside and those that don’t, weatherstripping is a cost-effective method to bridge any gaps in your doors and also makes your home more energy efficient.

If neither of these methods work, and if you have wooden doors in your household, they may be suffering from the test of time. Wooden doors that have aged are known for warping or shrinking. It may be time to replace your doors.

Final Thoughts

That concludes our guide on how to fix your household doors. Although fixing door issues can be a bit of annoyance, you can now see that they are possible to DIY yourself without too much difficulty.

Make sure you have a trusty hammer, metal file, chisel, and electric screwdriver to hand and make sure that you are testing the tightness of your screws in the door hinges often. Remember to treat any rust when you first see it. And ensure that all latches and strike plates are properly fitted when you first get your new doors installed, will ensure your doors remain in top health.

Author

  • Rach Baxter

    Hi, I’m Rach, the other half of NestKoo. I grew up on a sheep farm in Australia where I spent most weekends in the yard fixing or constructing something or other; essential DIY skills that I still use today at home or helping others.

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