Have you ever encountered a door that for some reason, decided it didn’t want to latch anymore? Well, there are several things that could cause that. Maybe the top or bottom edge of the door isn’t sealed and depending on the humidity and temperature at certain times of the year has allowed moisture in the air to seep into the door, causing it to swell. If it swells too much it could cause rubbing or binding in the frame or enough movement to cause the latch to misalign with the strike plate. Another reason that can cause binding or misalignment is foundation movement like “settling” or “heaving”. Often times you might see cracks in the drywall or separation in the door trim near the top of the door if the floor has moved. In bad cases the door should be completely removed and reinstalled and may also need some adjustments to the rough opening or studs and floor system.
If the floor is mostly level, the door is close to plumb, and there are no major signs of movement, there are a few things that you can do. Please note that some of these do it your self tips are a temporary solution and might be noticeable as a “repair”.
- The first thing to check might be obvious to some, but inspect the hinges on the jamb side and door side, to make sure the screws are tight and there isn’t any wiggle in the hinge plate. If you find that there is some slop because one or more screws are loose and they seem to be stripped because they just spin in place, you can grab a golf tee, stick the pointy end in the hole, cut off the excess and put the screw back in. https://www.houzz.com/hznb/photos/golf-tee-fix-phvw-vp~317496 If you don’t have golf tees, but you have some scrap hardwood laying around, you can shave off a sliver thick enough to plug the screw hole, or use a plastic drywall hanger (sometimes called mollys). You might need to cut it in half if it’s too big. On the jamb side of the hinge and on solid core doors, an easy fix is to simply replace the screw with a longer screw. The longer screw grabs on to fresh wood and gets a better “bite”.
- The next thing to try involves checking the “reveal” or gap consistency between the door and the frame all the way around. If you notice that the gap is tighter at the top than at the bottom or vis versa on the hinge side, and the gap is crooked in the opposite direction on the latch side, determine if you can remove the hinge that has the tighter gap and put a couple washers behind it to shim it out and enlarge the gap. That may be enough adjustment, but if not the hinge where the larger gap is, needs to be mortised (recessed) deeper, possibly on both the door and the jamb. You may need to play with it a little to get the gaps consistent all around. Also keep an eye out that you don’t raise or lower the latch out of alignment with the strike plate.
- Which brings us to the next and most noticeable tweak. Moving the strike plate up or down by taking a razor knife and cutting away at the untouched part of the jamb will allow you to adjust the strike plate to align with the latch, but will most likely leave an unpainted or unfinished spot on the door jamb. You can paint it to match but without filling it with some bondo and sanding it smooth first it will still have a noticeable chunk missing.
- Finally, if you’ve determined that none of the other methods will work or you just want to consider all options first, you can always apply some blue painters tape, draw a straight line that blends from the proper door gap on the strike side up or down to where it’s rubbing/binding, and use a belt sander, hand plane, or sanding block and remove material until you touch the pencil line. Make sure you are careful not to take too much off and to take care with a sharp hand plane that you’re only removing layers of wood, not skin! I personally don’t like this method because you might notice the door edge isn’t straight if you have to take too much off. Sometimes a combination of all these methods will give you the best result.
Hopefully this diy tutorial was helpful and encouraging enough that you can tackle the minor home diy adjustments on your own, but if not you can always reach out to us or another local professional you trust.