Apartment Advice

Door Stuck? Here is the EXACT Process to Fix It.

Have a stuck door to fix? We feel your pain and have your solution here! Follow these simple steps to fix that stuck door once and for all.

Being the primary adult in an apartment or house is exciting, but it’s also a big responsibility. When things go wrong, you have to either fix the problem or know who to call. Something as simple as a stuck door could be an annoyance or a sign of a more significant home improvement issue on the horizon.

The trick is finding the source. After all, there’s a reason why the edge of the door sticks when you pull that door handle!

Whether your door recently started sticking or it’s been an ongoing pain for a while now, you want it fixed now, and you can do it! And in most cases, you probably won’t have to pull the door off its hinges to get it open.

The process works for screen doors and inside or outside doors. You don’t need to be super handy or a construction expert. Just use this guide to learn the exact process of fixing your stuck door, and then make sure it doesn’t happen again!

Door Stuck? Start at the Source

The solution to your stuck door depends on the cause. Sometimes, it’s just an occasional irritation when the weather is too cold or too hot. Other times, your house has settled, and the door frame doesn’t fit the way it’s supposed to anymore.

Whatever the reason, a stuck exterior door or front door is a nuisance at best and a danger at worst. If you can’t use your door lock, for example, you must fix it immediately.

Before you can decide how to proceed, discover which part of the door is the problem area. Figuring this out means starting at the source.

Open and close the door and follow the “stuck” part until you can see where it’s catching. Follow the door track, deadbolt, and other aligned areas. Where is it bumping into the frame or sticking to something? That’s where your issue begins!

After you know where the problem is, you can make a plan to solve it. Every issue has its solution. There are a lot of reasons your door may be giving you a hard time. For the most common stuck door issues, you can follow these troubleshooting steps to fix them.

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Common Cause Number One: The Strike Plate

In construction, everything has an official name. The metal plate you see attached to the door jamb isn’t “that metal thingy in the door,” as a lot of people call it. It’s actually the strike plate.

The strike plate has a hole or more than one hole where the bolt of the door connects. The bolt extends into the strike plate’s hole when you close the door, keeping it shut.

It gets its name from the spring-loaded mechanism in the latch. When the door closes, the latch “strikes” the “lip,” a curved metal piece in the plate. The lip then pushes the spring-loaded mechanism back into the door to close it completely.

The strike plate has to align perfectly with the bolt for it to close correctly.

If it’s out of alignment, you can quickly fix it with these steps:

  1. Use an electric screwdriver to tighten all the screws you see on the strike plate.
  2. Check the hinge screws and the rest of the door and tighten them, too.
  3. Once you align the metal parts again, the door and frame should open and close without sticking.
  4. If it’s still sticking, the door or frame may still have other issues.

Since this quick fix doesn’t require taking anything down or apart, it’s an excellent first place to start. But if tightening the screws doesn’t solve your sticky issue, keep on trying the fixes for the following few most common “stuck door” reasons.

Common Cause Number Two: Dirt and Debris Pile-Up

Most of us don’t think about cleaning inside our door frame when we’re dusting. However, if there’s a lot of dirt, pollen, and other particles floating around the air, you might want to add this to your cleaning checklist.

It’s an easy issue to fix, but sometimes when too much dirt and debris accumulate on the door hinges, it can throw it out of alignment. This prevents it from closing and opening smoothly and causes it to “stick.”

This is frequently the reason behind a stuck door when you can’t see a problem, especially in older homes. Because the debris piles up in the tiny crevices and gaps, it’s almost invisible until you get in there and look for it.

How to Clean Your Doors

If you think you might have an obstruction keeping your door from closing right, it might be time to take the door off the hinges and clean them all.

To do this, use an all-purpose cleaner and some towels to scrub the frame’s edges after you remove the door. A bristle straw cleaner may be helpful to get in the little areas and dislodge anything built-up.

When your door is like-new again, hang it back on its frame and clean it again every few months.

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Common Cause Number Three: Wear and Tear

rusty old door

Regular wear and tear is another standard reason for doors to stick.

If your door is old, it could be sagging, or the latch doesn’t work right anymore. It’s possible to put off getting a new door if the parts are still usable.

Try these tips if you aren’t ready to invest in a brand new door:

Sagging Door Hinges

For sagging or improperly installed door hinges, check the screws and hinge pieces. If they look like they’re loose but not broken or cracked, grab an electric screwdriver and tighten them. If there is a crack or the hinge is damaged, replace it. But if the issue is in the frame itself, it may not be possible to delay getting a new door and frame.

Unaligned Door Latch

If the door latch is out of alignment because of wear and tear or overuse, correct the problem by adjusting and tightening your strike plate. As with the hinges, though, if your strike plate is cracked or the frame is warped, it’s time for a new door. This quick-fix may save you from calling in a locksmith when your key isn’t working!

Wear and Tear

Basic wear and tear are visible when your frame is warping, cracked, or sagging. This results in annoyances like sticking doors as well as higher electricity bills. The faster you replace your door, the sooner you’ll enjoy the energy efficiency benefits of a properly sealed home!

Wear and tear happen naturally over time. If your concern is the expense of replacing your door, you might be able to switch out the parts instead and hold off on a complete replacement. However, keep in mind that new doors are often energy-efficient and could end up saving you money.

When to Call the Experts

If you’re a homeowner, you definitely don’t want to wait for a significant and expensive problem. Sticking doors could be the warning you need to jump in and figure out what is happening underneath the surface before a huge repair is necessary.

So you’ve gone through the “common” reasons for a door to stick in the frame, and nothing has solved it. It’s likely time to call the experts at this point. Ignoring it may be dangerous because what’s left to troubleshoot could mean a big fix.

Sticking doors without an easy solution might be one of these complications:

Foundation Issues

A homeowner’s headache is when foundation issues creep up on them. If you don’t catch this problem early, it can result in pricey repairs. Luckily, your home will tell you it’s having problems. You have to be able to recognize the signs, such as when a door sticks.

Other foundation issue indicators include sticking or jamming windows requiring extra oomph to get them to open or close. Look around the frames for any diagonal cracks that start at the top corner of the window or door.

Cracks that should concern you are those in brick or concrete that look like stairs. They’re jagged and step-like and are among the most accurate signals that a foundation issue is going on.

You might notice uneven or sagging floors or a dip that wasn’t there before. Locks that don’t function like they’re supposed to for “no reason” are also a signal that you may have below-the-surface problems.

Any of these signs mean it’s time to call a professional.

A Leaky Roof

Roof problems are almost as tricky to spot as foundation issues. Who gets on their roof regularly to check for cracks and damp spots?

As with foundation issues, sometimes the first sign of roof concerns is in a sticky door. This happens when a leak makes it into your ceiling and causes structural damage.

Your roof, rafters, beams, decking, and more are all made of wood. The material can become weak when exposed to water and humidity, eventually rotting or molding.

In the “chicken or egg” cycle of what comes first, foundation problems can also stem from a leaky roof.

Overflowed gutters cause eaves to get clogged. The water drips down onto the foundation in the same spot, over and over. Eventually, the foundation will shift.

Leaks will discolor and stain ceiling tiles and often result in unhealthy mold and mildew buildup. If a leak is causing your door to stick, there’s probably some other dangerous stuff happening in your home that an expert can track down and fix.

A potential leak in the roof is not something to put off fixing, but it can also be hazardous for you to get up there yourself. Call an expert right away and let them pinpoint and solve the problem. A professional roofer’s work usually comes with a warranty, another essential benefit.

A Stuck Garage Door

stuck garage door

Because your garage door supports hundreds of pounds of material with a few torsion springs, fixing the problem yourself is dangerous.

If you have to close the door for safety reasons until an expert can get there, make sure you turn the power off on your garage door opener. Then, if you can do so safely, manually pull the door to its closed position.

Sometimes, resistance happens, and you can’t pull the door shut smoothly. If you encounter resistance while you’re trying to close it, don’t force the door shut. Call the professionals and ask them to come as soon as possible because your door is stuck open.

New Doors

If you’re installing a new door made out of wood, it’s a good idea to have an expert do the job for you. Wood doors are prone to humidity and change their shape when the moisture in the environment shifts.

Warm, dry air causes wood to release its natural moisture and dry out. In wet areas, the wood absorbs excess moisture. When these changes happen repeatedly, the door will crack, contract, and swell. This damage can keep your door from opening and closing normally.

A professional installer will show you how to acclimate your door to the environment you live in. They’ll also make sure it’s sealed thoroughly to maximize insulation. The littlest crack is enough of an opening to let humidity in and cause damage, so a professional is ideal to have on hand.

You can minimize how much ambient humidity is around your home by using fans when you shower or cook. Open windows frequently and vent all appliances to the outside. Invest in a dehumidifier to ensure that the nuisance closet door stops sticking once and for all.

Calling in an expert isn’t a sign of weakness. It’s proof that you know when a DIY job is a clever money-saving adventure and when it’s better to leave the hard work to those trained in the field.

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If your sticky door is annoying you and you’re not sure whether to call in a pro or get the know-how to fix it yourself, these tips will help you answer your question.

You can fix most stuck doors without taking a sander to the top of the door or greasing the hinge pins with bar soap. But you should never ignore the cry for help your house may be sending you when your door starts sticking!