Carpentry Guides

How to Repair a Door

repair a door

Learn how to repair a door, no matter if that is a split panel, a loose frame or wobbly hinges. Replacement solid wood doors are fairly cheap to buy nowadays, but it is still worth thinking about repairing rather than just buying new, especially as it is almost always easier to fix a problem than hang a whole new door.

Door repairs are easily manageable by most people with a few basic tools, and there are very few things that can happen to a door that cannot be fixed with a little time, patience and our door repair guide.


How to Repair a Door

These repairs are for solid wood panel doors, either painted, varnished or natural. Repairing other types of door (hollow veneered doors, for example) is covered elsewhere on the site.

Repairing a Split Door Panel

split door panel

The panels of solid wood doors can split occasionally, usually due to the wood drying out too much, but sometimes just because the door is slammed too often. The method of repairing a split door panel depends on how the door is finished (painted, varnished or untreated).

Painted Doors
With a painted door, assuming the frame and everything else is ok, repairing a split panel is as easy as filling the split or crack with the appropriate wood filler, letting it harden and then sanding it down and painting over it to match the rest of the door.

Natural or Varnished Doors
Because filler would show on a varnished or natural wood door, you will need to close the crack or split another way. The easiest way to do this is to force the two halves of the cracked panel back together by hammering a dowel into the edge of the door.

1. Clean out any varnish from the crack, being careful not to strip away any of the wood.

2. Drill two or three (depending on the length of the crack) 8mm holes in the edge of the door to line up with the closest edge of the cracked panel. Measure the width of the door stile and mark the drill bit at the correct depth so that you don’t drill in too far (or not far enough). The idea is to take the hole up to the edge of the panel where it sits in the frame.

3. Cut some lengths of 8mm dowel slightly longer than the width of the stile. These will be knocked into the holes to push up against the edge of the panel and force the crack closed.

split panels4. Squirt some PVA wood glue into the crack in the panel, and into the holes drilled in the stile. Insert the dowels and knock them in so that they push on the edge of the panel and hopefully close the split or crack.

5. Wipe off any excess glue and then let the it dry, leaving the ends of the dowels protruding from the edge of the door stile. When the glue is dry, trim off the ends of the dowels with a hacksaw and sand them flush with the edge of the door. Sand to flush any glue which has seeped out of the crack until you can only see wood.

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Repair Loose Hinges

door repairsIf a door suddenly starts to catch on the floor where it once swung freely, it is usually because the hinges have become loose or the joints of the door are loose.

Check the screws holding the hinges, both on the door and the frame, and see if they can be tightened. If the screws will not hold, you will need to remove them and fill the holes. To do this, drill out the loose holes with a 8mm drill bit and push glued dowels into them. Once the glue is dry, trim off the ends of the dowels, drill new pilot holes and refit the screws.

If you are working on the hinges whilst the door is still hanging, make sure you wedge the door and prop it in position before you let any weight hang on the one remaining hinge.

Repair Loose Door Joints

Over time, the corner joints of doors can loosen and split apart. This not only looks bad, but it can also effect how well the door opens and closes. It is possible to fix a loose joint whilst the door is hanging, but it is much easier to work with the door removed from its hinges.

Glue Repair – Take the door if its hinges and lay it flat on a workbench. Pull the joint apart and clean out any old glue, dust or grime in the joint. A quick fix would be simply to squirt some wood glue into the joint, clamp the two sections together and let the glue dry fully. You can then rehang the door.

Glue and Dowel Repair – If you want to make the repair more permanent, you can pin the two sections of wood together using a dowel. Follow the instructions above to glue the joint and then drill an 8mm hole through the face of the door at the corner. The hole should pass through the tenon as well as the face of the door, and you should try to make sure that it passes through the middle of the joint.

Cut a length of 8mm dowel slightly longer than the thickness of the door. Squirt some PVA wood glue into the drilled hole and knock in the dowel so that it protrudes slightly each side of the door. Wait for the glue to dry, then trim off the ends of the dowel and sand the area flush. Repaint or revarnish the area and then rehang the door.


Repair a Loose Frame

A door that repeatedly slams over a length of time can cause the frame to become loose from its fixings to the wall. This can be fairly easily fixed using frame plugs if the doorway is in a masonry wall, and long screws if the door is in a stud partition wall.

Using a masonry bit that matches the size of the frame plugs you have bought, drill three holes through the centre of the frame, at the top, bottom and in the middle.

Hammer the screw and plug into the hole until the head is flush with the surface of the wood, and then tighten the screw. These can then just be painted over, or you can punch the head slightly below the surface of the wood, fill the indentation and paint over that.

If the wall is a stud wall, you can simply drive three long screws through the centre of the frame at the top, middle and bottom. It is a good idea to drill small pilot holes through the frame first, especially as you will need to use quite large wood screws (80-100mm long). For the best finish, countersink the holes so the screw heads are below the surface, and can be filled and painted.


Repair a Rotten Door

Untreated doors will tend to rot at the bottom or along the joints in the wood. Whether you take the time to repair a rotten wooden door depends a lot on how far the rot has spread. A small, localised patch of rotten wood can be repaired fairly easily, but extensive rot will probably mean you need to replace the door.

You will need to use a sharp chisel to cut away all of the rotten wood, only stopping when you start to hit good material. Then use a hot-air gun to dry the area of exposed wood. If you don’t have a hot-air gun, you can use a domestic hair dryer.

When it is dry, paint the exposed area with wood hardener, and allow this to soak in and dry fully. Fill the area with a good quality wood filler, building this up slightly above the surface. This can then be sanded flat when it has fully dried.

Paint the door (you will probably need to paint the whole thing, not just the patch) to hide the patch.


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