Common faults in doors

Filed Under: Do it yourself, Home repair, Remodeling    by: ITC

If any faults arise in a door you should deal with them immediately. They are not just a nuisance; they could also be setting up stresses in the construction that could cause greater problems later on. Some of the more common faults, and many of these apply to windows as well.

Doors that stick

The door may be difficult to open or close because there is too much paint on one edge or because damp has caused it to swell up. If the condition is not too bad. an easy cure is to rub candle wax on the high spots. If that doesn’t work you’ll have to remove some of the layers of paint and perhaps even some excess timber. Use glass paper, a scraper, plane or Surfer according to the amount that has to be taken off. It may be easier to take the door off its hinges rather than work on it in position.

Sometimes it may not be obvious exactly where the door is sticking. Try running a knife blade between the door and frame, or rub chalk on the edges of the door — you need to plane down the bits where the da* has rubbed off. Don’t take off too much because the door will shrink in dry weather and you may then be left with a draught.

Treat any bare wood with paint or preservative to match the rest of the door. Make sure the paint is dry before you close the door because new paint, too, can cause a door to stick.

If the door is sticking at floor level it will often leave marks on the floor to indicate where the problem lies. You can sometimes cure it by placing a sheet of glass paper under the door and then opening it and closing it a few times. If that’ doesn’t work you’ll have to take the door off its hinges. If you are dealing with a flush door and you have to remove timber from the top or bottom, always plane inwards from each side in turn to avoid splitting the wood at the stiles.

A door can sometimes become ‘hinge bound’, that is, its hinge stile meets the frame before the door is properly closed, making it difficult or impossible to shut. The cause may be that the recesses for the hinges are too deep.

In that case, pack them out with cardboard or hardboard. There’s no need to take down the door to do this. Open it and jam a wedge under the lock stile to take the strain off the hinges. Then deal with each hinge in turn, removing all screws, pushing in the packing piece and re-inserting the screws.

The binding can also be caused by hinge recesses that are too shallow, so that the two leaves of the hinge strike each other and prevent the door from closing, or they leave a gap between the hinge stile and the door frame.

In this case you should remove each hinge and chisel out the recesses to a greater depth. But check first that the screw heads are not sticking out too far as this could have the same effect. If you have difficulty driving home a screw, withdraw it and drill a pilot hole before re-inserting it.

Sagging doors

When a door is not held properly to the frame, or it droops to grate on the floor as you open it, it is said to sag. There are two possible causes for this; either the hinges are at fault, or there is a defect in the construction of the door itself.

To start with the hinges, perhaps all that’s happened is the hinge screws have worked loose. In that case you could replace them with longer or thicker screws. Hinges are usually fixed with No 8 screws, so try No loss instead (provided, of course, the countersink holes are big enough to take their heads).

If this doesn’t work, withdraw the screws and pack out the holes before driving them home. You can use thin dowels or spent matchsticks for this.

Another problem may be that the knuckle of the hinge is damaged so that the two leaves are not held close enough together. The hinge should in that case be replaced. Once again, there is no need to take the door down from the frame. You can replace the hinge with the door supported on a wedge under the lock stile.

These repairs will cure the immediate problem, but you ought to find out why it occurred. It may be that the hinges fitted in the first place were not strong enough. An internal door needs two 75mm (3in) — or preferably 100mm (4in) — hinges, while on a heavy external door, three hinges would be better.

If you suspect the damaged hinges were not strong enough, then you should fit replacements which are one size bigger. Alternatively you could fit an extra hinge for added strength

.here the hinges are sound then a fault has probably developed in the door itself. Usually it will be easy to see if this is so. For instance, on a paneled door the joint between a rail and a stile may have worked loose. If the joint is a mortise-and-tendon and the tendon is actually visible on an edge, then there are two possible remedies. Basically, the loose joint is clamped shut and then fixed le, some way.

An easy way is to take a couple of small hardwood wedges and tap one in on each side of the tendon. Make a shallow saw cut along the length of each wedge to form a glue run, and smear woodworking adhesive on them before fixing them in place. If it is difficult to insert the wedges, open up a starting hole with a chisel and mallet.

You can also strengthen the joint by drilling holes through the face of the door into the tendon and driving in two dowels which you have grooved and smeared with adhesive.

In both cases it is best to cramp the whole door and leave it undisturbed until the glue has set. You can make an improvised cramping jig by screwing battens to a wooden floor, placing the door in the batten framework and then driving wedges between the door and the battens to hold the door tight.

Sometimes the tendon can be too damaged for a repair of this type to work — it might even have sheared off completely. In that case it is better to join the stile to the rail by means of repair plates.

These can be fixed in a recess chiseled in the face of the door and then covered by filler. But make sure the rail is not more extensively damaged or even rotten. If it is, it will probably be much easier to buy a new door, despite the cost.

Warped and twisted doors

A common problem is that the door may be twisted. If the twist is slight, and only a problem in that it lets in draughts, the simple cure is to make the door frame conform as closely as possible to the shape of the twist.

If the door stop is merely nailed in place, pries it off and reposition it to form a better fit, making up minor gaps with draught proofing strip. If the door stop is a machined-in rebate, close the door and use a small block of wood and a pencil to trace its outline on the stop. You can then shape the stop to conform to the door, using a plane, shaper or chisel.

Where the twist is more pronounced you may need to straighten the door. Lay the door flat on a bare boarded floor, with blocks under the true corners. Then place battens across the door face and screw them down to force the door back into shape. Leave it like this for as long as possible.

If the door is bowed in the middle, place it on the floor raised on blocks at the top and bottom edges. with the bow uppermost and screw the batten across the middle.

Sometimes a crack can develop in a timber panel of a paneled door. First clean up the edges of the crack with glass paper and smear glue along them. Drill two holes in the style from the edge of the door towards the top and bottom of the panel, then drive in glued dowels.

Tap the dowels home until the crack closes (see the step-by-step photographs). The dowels should be long enough to protrude out of the stile so that when the adhesive has set they can be cut off and planed flush.

The lock can be a source of trouble, too. It can get out of alignment so the bolt cannot enter properly. Usually only a slight adjustment is needed. The easiest cure is to slacken off the screws holding the staple or striking plate, then give it a tap in the right direction and retighten the screws. If you’ve had to rerun the door to correct sagging you’ll have to make a bigger adjustment and you may need to cut a new mortise for the bolt. You’ll also have to cut a new mortise if you’ve reshaped the door.

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