How to Fix a Door that Sticks

fix a sticking door

The vast majority of both interior and exterior doors in a home are made of wood, a natural substance that responds to the environment even when chopped up into houses and furniture. Wooden doors are natural, inexpensive, often smell nice, and add a touch of elegance to a home where composite, metal or fiberglass doors certainly would not. However, they also come with one little complication, especially if you live somewhere that gets humid on a regular basis: Sticking. If you have a door that occasionally sticks open or closed, there’s no need to simply put up with the irritation. All you need to fix a sticking door problem for good is a few pieces of sandpaper, a step stool, and a can of paint.

Why Doors Stick

The best way to understand the sticking door problem is to think of a sponge. When the sponge is dry, it’s small, compact, and hard. When it gets moist, the sponge swells up to its full size but becomes slightly softer. This is exactly what’s happening to your door. Wood is solid but it’s also a natural, reasonably porous substance. When the weather gets humid, the wood absorbs some of that water and swells up which can cause it to become temporarily too big for the door frame. Because the door isn’t actually a sponge, it’s still hard enough to cause a problem and you may have trouble opening or closing the door when it swells.

Another reason you may find yourself needing to fix a stick door is loose hinges.  If the hinge is loose, the door can move inside of its own jamb.  When that happens, a lean to the right or left can cause a sticking point and need attention.

Finding the Sticking Point

To fix a sticking door, your first task is to find exactly where the stick begins. Discover this by slowly opening and closing the door, making note of where the door is in relation to the frame when it starts to stick. You’re most likely culprit is the top of the door but it could also be sticking because it is too wide instead. Test the stick from both an open and closed position so you get an idea of the full area where the door gets stuck.

If you want a visual guide, use a piece of chalk to color the door where it seems to stick. By opening and closing that door a couple of times, the chalk mark will transfer to the exact point where the sticking door touches it’s jamb, and you’ll know where you need to focus – then the chalk can easily be wiped off without a trace.

fix a sticking door

Steps to Fix a Sticking Door

Tighten the hinges. As explained above, a loose hinge can cause a door to stick. For example, if the door opens on the right, and sticks toward the top — the most likely culprit may be the opposite hinge on the left.  Tightening that hinge, or replacing just one or two of its screws with ones long enough to go through the jamb to the framing behing, can “pull” the door over just enough to free up the sticking area.

Sanding the door. While you may not have been around to see it, part of hanging any new door is sanding or shaving it down to fit perfectly into the door frame so what you’re about to do is totally normal. To fix a sticking door, you’re basically going to be finishing the job of fitting the door to the frame.

  • Take a rough piece of sandpaper and rub it firmly along the section of the door that has been sticking. Your goal is to bring down the size of the door by a fraction of an inch before testing again.
  • Repeat this process until you’ve sanded down all the sticking points and the door no longer sticks in the frame, but try not to overdo it.
  • Once the door fits well, use progressively finer sandpaper to smooth the rougher edges and prepare to repaint.

Paint and Weather Stripping

Now that your door fits in the frame properly, it’s time to seal it up and return it to normal use. With a little paint that matches the original door color, simply touch up the areas you sanded and leave the door open to dry for the amount of time recommended on the can. If the door leads outside, make sure to check the weather stripping both now and later when the humidity drops off and the door returns to its normal size.

A sticking door in your home can go one of two ways. You can either put up with it, letting that little annoyance build up over time, or you can resolve to take a sheet of sandpaper to the offending portal until it never sticks again. You have the power to shape your home to suit your needs.

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