How to Fix Sticking Doors

| April 9, 2015

Sticking or Binding Doors are a common problem in both old and new houses. There are several possible causes of a door sticking, including moisture being absorbed into the wood and build up of paint on the frame, and all of them are reasonably easy to diagnose and fix. The first thing you need to do is check to see where the door is sticking.

Door Sticking at the Bottom

Existing internals doors do not usually start to stick at the bottom unless they have dropped on their hinges or the surrounding floor level has been raised (laminate flooring being laid, etc). Check that the hinges are still screwed tightly to the frame and have not moved out of their orignal positions. If they have, replace the screws with longer, thicker ones.

If the door is somewhere where it can get wet (a bathroom door or an external door for example), the cause is most likely moisture being absorbed up into the unpainted bottom edge.

If the problem is minor, remove the sticking door from its hinges and use a hot air gun to carefully dry out the bottom edge. When it is completely dry, paint the edge with primer and then a coat of gloss which matches the rest of the door. You don’t actually need to gloss the underside, but it will help to seal it better than primer alone.

If the problem is more severe, or if the surrounding floor level has been raised, you will probably need to plane a bit off the bottom of the door to stop it sticking. Remove the door as before and lay it on a workbench or trestle. Mark a line along the bottom of the front face to act as a guide and start to plane the wood away. Plane from the edges to the middle to avoid splintering the edges. When you have taken enough wood off the bottom of the door, prime it and rehang it.

Surform Plane or Sander? – If you have access to a belt or orbital sander it is usually better to use this than work with a plane. When using planes, it can be difficult to judge how much you are taking off the edge of the door, particularly if you are not used to using one.

Door Sticking at the Top

A door sticking at the top will usually be caused by the slight settlement all houses are subject to over time. You can often plane a bit off of the top edge of the door without taking it off its hinges. Prop open the door using wedges and use a stepladder to reach the top comfortably. Plane the top equally, rather than just planing the area which is catching.

If you find this method difficult, simply take the door off the hinges and lay it on a workbench or trestle. Mark a line along the top edge and plane from the edges in to avoid splintering them.

Door Sticking along one Edge

If your door is sticking along one edge, you will probably need to remove it from its hinges and plane or sand a bit off. If you can’t tell exactly where the door is sticking, close it and run a thin piece of card around the gap between door and frame. This should show you where the door is catching on the frame. You can then mark the point (or points) with a pencil and use this as a guide when you start to plane or sand the edge.

Hopefully, all you will need to do is remove the built up layers of paint that doors in older houses tend to accumulate. You should not even have to remove the door from its hinges if this is the case. Remove all of the paint from the sticking edge and smooth it with a sander or glass paper. Prime the sanded edge and then give it a coat of matching gloss. Let this dry completely before trying the door in the frame.

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Category: Carpentry Guides

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