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How to Fix a Sticking Door (Our Easy-to-Follow Guide)

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Don’t let your sagging door get you down. We show you how to fix it once and for all.

The time will come when you finally lose patience with that sagging door. You’ve struggled with it for too long, and now you need the best sagging door fix. And the good news is it is a relatively simple task to rectify your stuck door.

This article explores how to fix a sagging door, and we offer hints and tips for a better outcome.


What Causes a Sagging Door?

As your house ages, it is not uncommon to experience structural movement. This is especially true of new properties that settle over time. The tell-tale sign that your door is sagging due to the house aging is the hinges.

Often, the screws in the top hinge work loose, causing the door to sag. You can spot this on a door that rubs at the top.

Another reason could be the hinges wearing out. While they last decades, older hinges become weak and bend through repeated use. Also, the pins work loose, causing the door to drop.

You can spot this when the door slightly wiggles when you push it against the hinge. Another cause could be a previous owner may have inserted a cardboard spacer or shim under the hinge.

While this probably solved the problem back then, the door has misaligned over time. So you may need to add more shims or even remove the old ones.

Finally, another common reason your door sags could be because of layers of paint or varnish. Each layer acts as a spacer in the hinge leaf, forcing the door to sag.

How to Fix a Sagging Door

The day has finally come when you’ve shaken your fist at that sagging door once too often. It has been the bain of your life, and today, it is getting what it deserves: a damn good fixing.

Before you begin, you will need to gather the right tools and materials.

What You’ll Need

  • Power drill with driver bits.
  • Screwdriver.
  • Utility knife.
  • Hammer and long nail.
  • Scrap piece of wood.
  • Sander.
  • Cardboard spacers.
  • Square.
  • Finish nails.
  • Compass and pencil.
  • Masking tape.
  • Three-inch screws.
  • Shims.
  • Two sawhorses.
  • Clamps.

Tighten the Hinge Screw

This is one of the most straightforward fixes, which is why we placed it top of the list. It’s also one of the fastest remedies for your sagging door. The screws work loose over time, and the door sags.

1. Use a Screwdriver

Using a screwdriver is better initially because you risk stripping the screws with a power drill. Sometimes, a simple twist with the screwdriver is all your hinge needs to lift the door back into position. Do this for both the door and jamb hinge.

2. Start with the Top Hinge

The top hinge will be the source of the problem, causing the corner of the door to lift when it sags. Tighten all the screws turning them clockwise. When they are secure, give them a final quarter turn.

3. Replace the Screw Closest to the Doorstop

Sometimes, you may need to replace the center screw on the hinge with a larger one. Use a three-inch screw and drive it into the screw-hole. You can use the drill and driver bit for this.

Once it is snug, give it a final quarter turn.

Important Point

Don’t drive three-inch screws into the two front screw-holes. You risk splitting the frame because they are located too close to the edge.

4. Close the Door

Close the door to check that it is square and the new screw doesn’t impede how it closes. Continue tightening the screw if the door needs further adjustment.

Take Note

If you overtighten the screw, you risk splitting the door jamb, which could lead to further sagging down the line.

Shim the Sagging Door

Shimming the door is more involved and takes longer than tightening the hinge screws. The frame may be the culprit when your door sags, and shimming brings it back into square.

Another thing to consider when working on exterior doors, is you may need to remove existing storm or screen doors.

1. Use a Square

Open the door and place the square in the four corners of the frame. This will tell you where the problem lies and where to add or remove the shims.

2. Remove the Door

Grab the hammer and nail and tap out the hinge pins. Lift the door free and place it against the wall. Keep the pins in a safe place.

3. Remove the Trim

The trim conceals the rough edges of the door frame and the studs. Use the hammer and screwdriver to wedge under the trim and gently pull it away from the wall. You should see the shims beneath the frame.

Top Tip

Take care doing this as you will need to replace the trim after you finish shimming the frame.

4. Insert Shims

Wooden shims tend to rot when they get wet, so it’s a good idea to check on their condition. Use a scrap of wood to dull the impact of the hammer against the shims when you tap them in place.

Important Point

Wooden shims are ideal for interior doors, but shimming a front or exterior door requires plastic, metal, or aluminum shims. They don’t rot in wet weather.

5. Check With the Square

Grab the square and check the frame to see if it is square. If it is, you can move on to the next step of replacing the door. If not, continue inserting shims until it is.

6. Cut the Shims

Once the shims are in position, you will need to trim them level with the door jamb. Use the utility knife and score along the edge that meets the door frame. Snap off the excess and check it is flush.

7. Replace the Door and Trim

Replace the door and tap the hinge pins back into the hinge. Test that the door closes before replacing the trim. Starting from the top, nail the trim back on with the hammer and finish nails.

8. Shim the Hinges

If the door frame is square, but the hinges need adjustment, you can place cardboard spacers beneath the hinge to lift the door. This is far easier than removing trim to shim the frame. Before attempting this, it’s best to check the frame using a square.

Plane the Door

If you live in an older house with crooked door walls, no amount of shimming and adjustment will work. Planing may be your only option to resolve a dragging door that hits the frame.

1. Use a Compass

Stick a strip of masking tape along the edge of the door to be planed. This helps you see the pencil mark easier. Now set the compass and pencil tip 0.125 inches apart.

Run the compass down the door jamb so that the pencil makes a straight line along the edge of the door. This line indicates how much wood you need to remove.

2. Remove the Door

Tap the hinge pins out with the hammer and a long nail and lift the door free. Place it on two sawhorses or a flat surface. Clamp the door, so it doesn’t move during sanding.

3. Time to Sand

Grab the sander and start sanding along the edge of the door. Use the pencil line to guide the amount of wood you need to remove. Make frequent checks as you work, and always sand to the line, not through it.

Check that the edge of the door is square using the square tool when you have finished removing the wood. While the door is off, apply a layer of polyurethane to seal the bare wood. Use a lint-free cloth rather than a brush to prevent varnish splashing on the front.

4. Rehang the Door

Rehang the door and insert the hinge pins back into the hinges. Check to see if it operates as it should.

Extra Tips for Fixing Sagging Doors

There are many reasons why your door has sagged. Luckily, we have some hints and tips to make it easier to rectify and to get a better outcome.

Replace the Hinges

It’s a fact of life that things wear out. Your hinges may last for years, but they weaken with repeated use. Metal shaves off the surface, the hinge leafs bend under the weight of the heavy door, and the pins work loose.

Swapping the old hinges for new is sometimes the best option. It saves time and effort; plus, it guarantees many more years of hassle-free use.

Tighten the Door Jamb

Your door jamb may be pulling away from the studs. If that happens, you will need to secure it with three-inch screws to pull it tight against the studs. Even a fraction of an inch could be the difference between a door that sticks and one that operates as it should.

Use the power drill to make some pilot holes and then drive in the screws. Do this at the top, middle, and bottom of the hinge jamb.

Important Point

Be careful not to overtighten the screws, as it could crack the frame.

Clean Away Paint Under the Hinge

If you’ve painted or stained the door, there is a good chance that there will be some residue on the hinges. While this may not seem important, each layer of treatment acts as a shim, gradually building up on the back of the hinge.

Over time, it stops the hinge from functioning correctly, which puts pressure on the hinge pins. Scraping the excess paint and varnish off the hinge should rectify the issue. Also, check that the screws are tight.

Clean the door Hinges

Dust and debris accumulate between the hinge leafs and pins. This affects how it operates. If left unchecked, it could put additional strain on the screws.

When the screws come under pressure, they work loose, which causes the door to sag. Regular cleaning and lubricating will solve this problem.

When to Replace a Sagging Door

Once you have run through the checklist above and the door still sags, it may be time to replace the door. You are more likely to need to replace exterior doors because they swell with the moisture content in the air.

When the door swells, it gets stuck in the frame. The best way to stop this from happening is to seal the door with exterior polyurethane treatment. However, if the door seasonally swells in the jamb, it is probably time to purchase a new door.

Sanding the door and the jamb is a temporary fix, but it could still shrink to reveal gaps when the door dries out.

FAQs

Do All Doors Sag Over Time?

It depends on how well the door was fitted and the hinges used. If the door is too heavy for the hinges, it will sag. Interior doors are less likely to sag because they are hollow-bodied, making them lighter.

Do Door Hinges Wear Out?

With repeated use, door hinges wear out. Constant metal-on-metal friction causes the pins to work loose, and dirt and debris clog the mechanism.

How Can You Tell if a Door Hinge is Bad?

Most of the tell-tale signs are pretty obvious. If the door moves on the hinge, it may have a loose pin, or the screws have worked free. When you hear the door squeaking, that’s another red flag you have a sagging door.

Also, look for signs of rust and whether the door has sagged.

How Do You Fix a Misaligned Door Latch?

The easiest way to fix a misaligned door latch is to check that the hinges are screwed tight and the door jamb is square. You can shim the hinges to align the door or shim the frame to make it square.

Close the door and line up the strike plate with the latch. It is easier to adjust the strike plate by unscrewing it and moving it up or down. You may only need to make tiny adjustments.

Will Adding a Third Hinge Fix a Sagging Door?

Adding a third hinge in the middle of the door won’t fix the sagging, but it will prevent the door from dropping over time. You should already have a third hinge on your exterior door, so this method is only effective on interior doors.


The Final Word on Sagging Doors

If you notice your door is getting harder to operate, the best policy is to deal with it quickly rather than leaving it. The longer you delay, the worse the problem gets. All it takes is some common sense, a few tried and tested methods, and the right tools for the job.

So, what are you waiting for? Go and fix that sagging door and reduce your stress levels.

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Headshot of Mark Weir

About the Author

Mark Weir

Mark spent 24 years working in real estate, so he knows his way around a home. He also worked with contractors and experts, advising them on issues of planning, investments, and renovations. Mark is no stranger to hands-on experience, having renovated his own home and many properties for resale. He likes nothing better than seeing a project through to completion.