Problem: Door binds along outside top edge
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Loose hinge screws
Screws in the upper hinge have stripped or loosened and the door is sticking at the top edge.
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Photo 1: Drive in a long screw
Remove the loose screw and drive a No. 8, 3-in. screw into the
trimmer stud closest to the stop to ensure a good bite. Brace yourself
against the latch-side jamb and push hard to avoid stripping
When a door binds, it almost always sticks along the latch side near
the top. You can usually see the wear there. Check for loose screws in
the top hinge plate. Tightening the screws may work for the short term,
but they often come loose again because the original hole is stripped.
Rather than trying to repair the hole in the wood, replace one of the
loose screws with a longer one. The intent is to drive the new screw
beyond the existing jamb and into the trimmer stud behind. In order
to hit the stud, choose the screw hole closest to the stop (Photo 1);
otherwise, the new screw will likely miss the stud altogether. Make sure
the new screw is long enough to get through the jamb, the shim space
and into the stud. A No. 8, 3-in. will usually do just fine.
Problem: Door binds along bottom edge
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Latch-side bottom edge
The lower door jamb is out of plumb and the door is catching at the bottom.
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Photo 2: Renail the jamb
Pry out the inside casing with a stiff putty knife, then drive a 10d
casing nail through the jamb and existing shim into the trimmer
stud. Punch the nail slightly below the wood surface with a nail
set, then putty the hole, sand smooth and refinish with varnish or paint.
If the door rubs on the latch-side bottom
edge, look for fastener failure again. In
most cases, the lower jamb has shifted or
pulled loose from its nails, resulting in an
out-of-plumb opening. To reset the jamb,
pry away the bottom section of casing and
renail the jamb (Photo 2). If there are no
shims, install them if necessary to allow for
a 1/8-in. gap between the closed door and
the jamb. Then nail with 10d casing nails
and tack the casing back into place.
Problem: Door binds along entire edge
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The whole door is binding along the edge, but only when the weather is humid.
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Photo 3: Sand the edge
With the door installed, mark the trim line with tape,
using the jamb as a guide. Then remove the door, support it, and
sand down to the tape with a belt sander.
If the door is binding along the entire
length of the latch-side edge, and you’ve
tried the first two solutions, the door has
probably swollen from high seasonal
humidity. First check to make sure all the
edges are either painted or varnished.
When a door isn’t sealed on all four
edges, moisture can enter and swell it as
much as 1/4 in. so it will no longer close. If
your door isn’t well sealed, wait for the dry
season to see if it will shrink back to a good
fit. Then seal it with a good primer/paint or
If you want immediate results, you’ll
have to remove the door from its hinges
and plane or sand down the latch side,
removing just enough material so that it
can shut smoothly once again. Remove as
little as possible to ensure a tight fit, then
seal unfinished edges with paint or varnish.
To support the work, we used a clamping-
style workbench to hold the door on
end and adhered masking tape
to the rubbing edge as a guide
for the belt sander. You can substitute
a hand or power planer
for the belt sander, but the
sander gives you better control
over the amount of waste you
remove. Once you rehang the
door and are happy with the fit,
reseal the sanded edge to keep
If your home was built
before 1978, the paint may contain
lead, a hazardous material. Either
have it tested (contact your local
health department for testing
labs) or follow safe scraping and
sanding techniques recommended by your local building department. Dispose of the waste according
to local regulations.
Problem: Door doesn't latch
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Misaligned strike plate
The latch won't catch unless you lift or slam the door.
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Photo 4: File the strike plate
Clamp the plate in a vise and file down the side
that needs to be enlarged. Choose a flat metal file
approximately the same width as the strike opening
to make filing easier.
If a door doesn’t latch, either the door or the frame
has shifted, resulting in the misalignment of the
strike plate and strike, or bolt. The quickest and
easiest solution is to file the strike plate.
An easy way to tell where the problem lies is to
apply lipstick to the protruding bolt, then shut the
door. The lipstick will mark the strike position onto
the strike plate and show where it needs to be filed
Once you reposition the strike plate, you may have
to remove some wood behind it to allow the bolt to
penetrate the jamb freely. If the misalignment is more
than 1/8 in., shift the position of the strike plate in the
jamb, rather than filing it.