Doors are one of the most essential elements of any structure, they provide security, climate control and privacy. Doors that do not operate properly can be frustrating, or even dangerous. Knowing the process for troubleshooting doors can save time, hassle and even money. The key is understanding the basic elements and knowing what to look for.
If a door will not open or close correctly, the first place to start is with the hinges. Check to see that all hinges are moving smoothly, and snugly attached to the door's frame. Any hinge that is loose, or misaligned needs to be tightened. Start by tightening the screws using a handheld screwdriver, to prevent stripping the screws, or the door's wooden frame.
For screws that will not tighten properly, install a slightly larger or thicker screw to get a better bite on the surrounding wood. If your screw still will not tighten, a wooden matchstick, or small piece of cedar shim can be tapped into the stripped hole with a hammer. Replace the screw, tightening it against the wedge you've added.
For sticky hinges, add a small bit of machine oil, or a spray lubricant. A small wire brush can be used to remove rust, or paint that causes hinges to bind.
Knob and lock
The next most common spot for trouble is in the knob or lock hardware. Check to see that the spring loaded "striker" portion of the knob latch is seating smoothly into the "striker plate" on the door's frame. If you've already tightened the hinges and these are still misaligned, you may need to move the striker plate vertically to make the knob function smoothly.
Beyond this, tighten screws in the knob handle, door edge plate and striker plate to ensure all hardware is snug. If knob issues persist, replacing the knob is a simple and inexpensive fix for most other issues.
Deadbolt edge plates and striker plates should also be snug. Make sure that screws are tighten and do not protrude. Check the bolt alignment with the striker plate by turning the lock to the locked position and marking the bolt position on the door trim. If it is misaligned with the striker plate, adjust as needed.
If you are troubleshooting doors on the outside of your home, the threshold and weatherstrip can cause problems as well. The threshold is the horizontal plate that runs along the floor under your door. They typically have weatherstripping on top and are nailed or screwed to the floor. If the door is hanging on the threshold, tighten the screws or nails. If the threshold appears to be severely worn, they can be replaced with parts from your local hardware or home improvement store.
Last but not least, when checking doors, check the frame. If the door is rubbing at the top, the bottom of the hinge side needs to be set further back. If the door rubs on the bottom, the top of the hinge side needs to be adjusted. By replacing one screw in the offending hinge with a long wood, or drywall screw, you can often adjust the door enough to solve the problem, by running the screw back into the nearest stud.
Before you cut your door, double check all of your other trouble shooting measures, and attempt to adjust the door frame. Once the door is cut, it cannot be undone and cutting the door typically does not solve the issue that caused the problem. Often doors will need to be cut down repeatedly if hinges, frame and hardware are not properly repaired or maintained.