How to fix squeaky, sticky, binding doors

All that is usually needed to quiet a squeaking door is a drop of oil on each hinge. At the same time that you apply the oil, tighten all the screws. If squeaking persists, an adjustment is needed to align the pins.

Lubrication and screw tightening may also take care of a door latch that sticks or that doesn’t close properly. Apply a graphite spray (not oil) to the latch mechanism and tighten the screws in all hardware, including any faceplates in the edge of the door and strike plates on the frame.

If the problem persists, rub a pencil on the end of the latch bolt and close the door. The bolt’s path will be marked on the jamb. If it is in line with the hole in the strike plate but fails to reach it, look at the stop molding. It maybe out of line or it may contain an obstruction, such as paint buildup or dirt. Chipped paint or loose nails will tip you off. Tighten the molding with small finishing nails, move it slightly, or scrape it clean, as needed.

If the latch bolt is out of line with the strike plate, the frame has probably shifted. If the door works properly in all other respects, simply enlarge the hole in the strike plate with a file. Or, if necessary, move the strike plate: extend the mortise into which it is set and drill a fresh hole for the bolt.

The same shifting process can cause a door to bind against the jamb. The tip-off is a spot rubbed bare of paint. To check the alignment of the door within the frame, put a strong light behind the door and close it slowly.

There are several ways to correct binding, depending on its severity. Try sandpapering first-that might do enough to free the door. For a heavy paint buildup see Paint removal.

The next recourse is planing. With a pencil, scribe a line on the door face 1/4 inch in from the frame. If the door is binding on top or along the upper edge, use a wedge to hold it open while you plane to the line. Prime and paint the newly bared wood.

If your door binds on or near the bottom, or if you must plane the entire edge, remove it from its hinges. Most door hinges have loose pins that you can pry up with a screwdriver. First tap gently with a hammer to loosen the pin; if the pin is rusted, apply penetrating oil. If the pins are permanent, prop the door open with a wedge and remove the screws from the frame side, leaving the hinges attached to the door. Always start with the bottom hinge.

After planing to the line, replace the door and insert the pins halfway (or drive the top screws), starting with the top hinge. If the problem is fixed, tap the pins down (or drive the rest of the screws); if not, plane some more.

If the door is badly out of alignment, it may be easier to insert a cardboard shim under one of the hinges as shown. Remove the screws from the frame side of the hinge, insert the cardboard, and replace the screws.