An Open and Shut Case

By Joanne Loos Posted in: ImproveThe Fix is In

Got a door that won’t close properly? Here’s advice on how to get out of this jam

While visiting a friend’s place recently, I realized that every time I tried to shut one of the doors, it wouldn’t cooperate. In fact, the only way to get it to close all the way was to slam it shut. The occasion made me wonder: If this were my home, what would I do to fix this troublesome door?

Older homes have a tendency to settle, and this sometimes results in doors not shutting properly. Approximately 64 percent of Hawaii’s homes are at least 30 years old, according to the Building Industry Association of Hawaii (BIA-Hawaii), so chances are many of these homes contain similar problems. The good news? They’re entirely fixable.

The experts at Town and Country Builders say one of the most common reasons has to do with settling floors. When this happens, the ground swells and actually pushes up on the door. If you’re experiencing a similar problem, you’ll need a plane tool to fix the problem. Run the tool across the bottom-portion of the door; this will literally shave off the wood. To avoid splintering, move the plane along the grain, then shave off small amounts at a time while testing door movement in between.

Another cause could be gaps in the hinges. Look at the door and pay special attention to where it meets the hinges. Which areas have gaps and which don’t? For areas where there are no gaps, the hinges may be too tight. Loosen them. The opposite goes for areas with larger gaps. Tighten the hinges here to lessen the gaps.

For doors that won’t stay shut, the problem could lie in the strike plate, which is the metal plate with a cutout hole in the doorframe. Close the door and look for the area where the latch meets the cutout. This will tell you if the plate is off. If it’s only slightly off, use a metal file to enlarge the hole. You can also try unscrewing the strike plate entirely and reattaching it at the desired location.

Living in an older home doesn’t mean you have to accept troublesome doors. Fixes are easier than you might think, but do require effort. And don’t be afraid to consult a professional if you need extra help.