Dealing With Dastardly Doors
As winter turns to spring wet weather disappears and the soil around your home begins to dry out. Often within a few weeks after beautiful weather begins ugly things happen inside your home. Doors that once worked smoothly begin to rub and grab, or won’t close or no longer align at the latch – preventing the door from being properly latched or locked.
As the soil dries out it shrinks and shifts and as a result your home’s underpinning also moves. Needless to say this results in house movement that can radically tweak and twist one or more of your homes door frames. Don’t door despair we’re here to help. Read on!
Doors that rub can be quickly fixed with a small block plane or a pad sander. Keep in mind that this condition will most likely reverse itself as winter rains return, so be careful not to overdo the removal of what will again become “precious door material”. Simply put, plane or sand sparingly.
Now that the door works smoothly you may have another problem – the hardware may no longer align. This is indicated when the door is closed and the bolt in the door latch doesn’t interlock with the hole in the metal strike-plate on the door-frame. This also is an easy repair once you know how. First, you have to find out how severe the problem really is – usually not a very great amount of misalignment. A tube of lipstick will make diagnosis quick and easy. All you have to do to determine actual alignment is to rub the face of the bolt with lipstick – any color will do –. Make sure that the lipstick fully covers the curved end of the bolt. Then, all you need to do is close the door. Once reopened the lipstick from the end of the bolt will have been transferred to the strike plate and the precise extent of the misalignment will be completely visible. For your next trick….all you will have to do is either move the strike plate (up or down to realign) or file the upper or lower portion of the opening in the plate depending on which side is preventing the bolt from entering the opening. We prefer the filing method whenever possible. Filing is always easier than expanding the mortise, relocating the strike plate – not to mention the strike plate screw holes) and puttying up the resultant gap that exists once the plate has been relocated. And believe it when we tell you that even a rough appearing file job will not be noticed. Oh, and don’t make the same mistake we made with our first attempt – don’t use a wood rasp. It simply won’t do the trick. Also, if you first remove the strike plate to a vise you will be able to use full, even file strokes and the result will be much neater and certainly more even. Long even file strokes are easier to make than the short scratchy ones that have to be made when the plate is left in place. Keep in mind that some minor wood removal may have to be done once the plate opening is enlarged. A little chiseling here is all that you will need.
Editor’s Safety Note: An extra sharp chisel is always safer to use than a dull one. So, be sure to pull out the oil stone and hone the chisel’s tip before using it.
When a wood chisel has been properly sharpened it can often be used effectively without the assistance of a hammer. Simply place the tip where you want it and apply pressure. And you don’t have to be very strong. All of this assumes that your door frames are made of a soft wood such as pine. You of course will need to use a hammer when altering most hardwoods such as oak or ash.
If the strike plate is flopping around on the door frame and tightening the screws won’t work because the screw holes are stripped, then read on for an easy repair. No, we don’t suggest that you waste a bunch of your precious time at the hardware store looking for longer, fatter screws. Instead reuse the screws you have after repairing the worn out screw-hole(s) with simple household products. This project is easy and takes less time than you will have spend driving to the hardware store – one way! Here’s all you need to do:
- First, gather up your tools and materials. Go to the pantry and grab a few tooth picks. You will also need some white glue or carpenter’s glue and a screwdriver.
- To begin the repair, use the screwdriver to remove the loose screw(s) and the strike-plate and set them aside.
- Dip the tips of the toothpicks in the glue (about a half-inch or so) and insert as many of them into the screw-hole as possible – usually 2 or 3 will do the trick. Hand pressure is all that will be needed here.
- Let the glue dry for at least 12 hours. Note: this project won’t work unless the glue is completely dry. Attempting to replace the screws before the glue dries will pull the toothpicks out of the hole and you’ll have to begin from scratch.
- Next, break off the exposed portions of the toothpicks and reinstall the strike plate.
The screws will mount as if they are going into the wood for the very first time. You will be amazed at how easy this repair is and how well it works. Next, give yourself a pat on the back, oh, and don’t slam the door! And, that’s all there is to it.