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Interior Door Repair: Interior Doors That Won't Stay Closed

Adjusting a door that doesn't hang correctly is a frustrating experience, but there are a few tricks of the trade that can achieve miracles. Here's one of them.

By the DIY experts of The Family Handyman Magazine

Fixing a door gap problem

If you have a door that just barely catches the latch because the gap between the door and frame is too big, it's likely that the doors were installed poorly. Your doors were prehung in their frames at the factory and installed as a unit. The installer should have adjusted the frame with shims to leave about a 1/8-in. gap along the latch side, about the thickness of two quarters. If shims were forgotten or were not big enough, it results in a gap that's too wide.

To readjust the door frame, you have to remove the trim along the latch side to get at the shims. This job can be a hassle, especially if you have painted trim. So try this trick first. Slip a 1/16-in.-thick cardboard strip behind each hinge (Photos 1 and 2). This will widen the gap along the hinge side and narrow the gap along the latch side. Hopefully, it'll be enough to make the latch solid.

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Required Tools for this Project

Have the necessary tools for this DIY project lined up before you start—you’ll save time and frustration.

    • 4-in-1 screwdriver
    • Utility knife

Required Materials for this Project

Avoid last-minute shopping trips by having all your materials ready ahead of time. Here's a list.

    • Cardboard shims

Comments from DIY Community Members

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July 30, 7:29 PM [GMT -5]

For striiped out screw holes - If toothpicks don't work, use cut off golf tees - "whittlin's" from a shim or scrap pine - steel wool, or any of the metal patch "strip-fix-it" kits available at "real" hardware stores

July 30, 5:43 PM [GMT -5]

Wolfy, I don't entirely understand your tip about adjusting the door stop, but it sounds like very good advice - can you elaborate?

March 30, 11:12 PM [GMT -5]

Sasha1 - Remove the screws that won't tighten. Get some wooden toothpicks and shove as many as you can as far into the hole(s) as possible. Mark with a pen the point on the toothpicks that sticks out of the hole, then remove toothpicks and break them off at marked points. Dip the toothpick ends in wood glue and re-insert in hole. Wipe up any overflow with a damp cloth and let the glue dry overnight. Now when you replace the screws, they will bite into in the toothpicks for grip.

February 17, 2:33 PM [GMT -5]

What can I do to fix my doors when my house shifts in the winter and summer and makes it so they don't latch, I have tried shifting the latch plate, but that doesn't seem to work because once I move the latch one of the screw holes will be in the middle of the hole where the door latches before I move it.

December 20, 1:28 PM [GMT -5]

for screws that won't tighten have you tried inserting toothpicks in the screw holes and gently retightening the screws.

December 20, 1:25 PM [GMT -5]

I had 2 interior doors that wouldn't stay closed. I found out that the door stop was to tight to the latch, so I used a scrap piece of wood to hold against the stop to avoid damaging the wood and gently tapped with a hammer to readjust the door stop. worked like a charm. It only took me 10 years to figure out the problem.

December 19, 3:22 PM [GMT -5]

What can you do if after installing larger screws and you no longer can tighten them?

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Interior Door Repair: Interior Doors That Won't Stay Closed

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