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Tips for Opening Stuck Doors and Windows

  • Transcript

    LESLIE: Jeff in Alabama’s got a sticky situation happening at the windows and doors. What’s going on?

    JEFF: Well, I guess it’s because of maybe the dampness. I don’t know. But it’s cooler so we’re ready to open the windows and let in some of the nice air and not run the air conditioning. But they’re stuck and some of the doors are getting a little sticky.

    TOM: OK.

    LESLIE: Are they wood windows? Tell us about everything.

    JEFF: Yeah, wood windows and I think the doors are fairly new so I don’t know if they’re wood or MDF or something like that. But you know, I know we’ve got at least one wood door that was in there as an entry door originally and so it’s getting a little stuck as well.

    LESLIE: Mm-hmm.

    TOM: Alright, well I’ll give you a couple of tricks of the trade. First of all, are you able to get the windows open or are some of them stuck shut?

    JEFF: Well, we can move them a little bit but it’s just – you know, it’s like you’re curling 70 pounds or something like that.

    LESLIE: (overlapping voices) It’s struggling. (Tom laughs) Hey, it’ll save you on gym membership, alright?

    JEFF: Yeah, that’s true. OK. (chuckling)

    TOM: If it’s stuck shut the best thing to do is to grab a putty knife and work it around to try to break the seam between the paint and the window. If it …

    LESLIE: Is it just, Tom, that the humidity has caused the wood to swell and now the paint’s kind of stuck or is it just that it’s swollen so much that it’s stuck in the …?

    TOM: Well, it ends up actually swelling because of the humidity and forming sort of a chemical bond that’s just as strong as glue sometimes.

    LESLIE: Mm-hmm.

    TOM: So sliding the putty knife around is a good way to start to free it up. Another thing to do is take a block of wood and set it on top of the lower sash of the double-hung window like where …

    LESLIE: So by where the lock is.

    TOM: Where the lock is but near the outside edge where it comes together. And with a hammer, take a couple of quick raps, driving the window down as if you’re trying to close it because what that does is it actually breaks the seal of the paint. You do it on the left side; do it on the right side. You put the block of wood so that you don’t end up with dents like on the window itself. And so you’re tapping that frame. Now, once you get it moving you can shoot some WD-40 in there and that ought to help free it up.

    As far as the doors are concerned, I would very carefully bring the door closed to see where it’s sticking because the advice on how to free it up is going to depend on where it’s sticking. For example, if it seems to be fairly consistent across where the strike side is one thing you might want to do is one at a time loosen the hinges …

    JEFF: Mm-hmm.

    TOM: … and carve out the hinge so you set it a little bit back deeper into the door.

    JEFF: OK.

    TOM: That will actually create some room on the other side.

    Another thing that you can do is if it’s just sort of touching – like very often they’ll catch on the top of the door where it strikes the door jamb. If you can sort of very carefully close the doors just about touching and then scribe a pencil line, just kind of be able to mimic the angle of that – of the opening with the door …

    JEFF: Right.

    TOM: … then what you could do is you could plane it or you could sand it and actually take a little bit of the door away. You’re probably going to find that this is where they’re most swollen. So the gaps that you create now will create just enough of a gap to take a couple of layers of paint and still have it closing freely.

    JEFF: Right.

    TOM: Then when it comes time for the summer, if things are shrinking up a little bit more than they are now …

    JEFF: Sure.

    TOM: … the gap will not be so unsightly. But you have to take it one step at a time and that’s how to attack the door and the window.

    JEFF: OK. Somebody said one time that you could take line a long deck screw, pull out one of the screws in the hinge plates there on the door and drive that screw in where it’ll catch a stud and try to pull it that way. Is that a good idea?

    TOM: You can. Sometimes it works. Sometimes it doesn’t work. If it’s an old door that’s been up there for many years it probably will not work. If it’s a newer door that’s been up maybe just, you know, say zero to five years …

    JEFF: Yeah.

    TOM: … where there’s still some flex, then I think you have a better chance that it works. If you’re going to do that, choose the screw that is closest to the center of the door jamb; otherwise, you might miss the stud.

    JEFF: Right. OK.

    TOM: And remember, if you pull the hinge closer to that side, you’re going to open a gap opposite of that so just be mindful that if you move a hinge one way it causes sort of a cause and effect and you’ll get a gap on the other side.

    JEFF: Oh, OK.

    TOM: So if you don’t do it the right way you could make the problem worse.

    JEFF: OK.

    TOM: Doors a little tricky. You know, you’ve really got to think through it before you start moving them around.

    JEFF: Sure.

    TOM: Jeff, thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.

    JEFF: Thank you.

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