A door that sticks is a nuisance, but not one that can’t be remedied if you take the time to figure out why it’s happening and then apply a fix. Whether it’s humidity, a settling house or hinges that need some care, you can fix a sticking door using these DIY tips.
Determine Why the Door Sticks
Before you can fix the problem, you need to know why the door is sticking. Open and close the door to locate where the door may be rubbing against the frame. Sometimes you may need to close the door with your hand in specific locations to feel where the resistance is strongest. Try closing the door with your hand at the top, the middle (by the knob or lever) and at the bottom to feel any vibration from resistance. If you still are unsure where this contact is happening, examine the gap between the door and the doorframe and note any locations where the gap is noticeably less.
If you can’t visually determine where the gap is too close, move a piece of paper or a similarly thin object along the gap when the door is closed and note where the paper/object gets stuck. This is where the door and frame are too close.
After you’ve located the area where the door is sticking, it’s time to determine why it is sticking. This can be anything from the wood swelling from humidity to loose hinge screws or a settling house that has caused the door threshold or doorframe to move out of plumb enough that the door rubs against either when opening and closing.
Fix Seasonal Sticking from Humidity
Increases in humidity from seasonal changes can cause a door to stick slightly. This is an easy fix. You simply need to decrease the humidity in your home. Sometimes, simply turning on your air conditioning can be enough to remove high levels of humidity. If that doesn’t work, consider using a dehumidifier in the room with the sticking door.
Rub a candle against the edge of the door where it is sticking to lubricate and remove the friction, if a dehumidifier didn’t completely solve the problem.
If none of these solutions fixed the sticking problem, see below.
Fix Malfunctioning Hinges
Sometimes a door will stick if the hinges aren’t quite working right. If you hear squeaking when opening or closing the door, lubricate the hinges with multipurpose household oil such as WD-40.
When spraying lubricant on the door hinges, cover the floor below the hinges with a few sheets of newspaper to collect any dripping oil.
In some cases, the hinges may be working fine, but the screws that fasten them to the doorjamb have become loose, letting the door sag enough to cause sticking. Use a screwdriver to slightly tighten each screw in the hinge plate. Turn each screw slowly to avoid over-tightening them, which can damage the wood and also lead to the door being out of plumb, also causing it to stick. After tightening all the screws, open and close the door to see if you have fixed the sticking problem. It’s possible that you may need to go back and loosen screws here and there until you’ve gotten the door to fit perfectly.
Plane the Sticking Door
If nothing else has fixed your sticking door, the house may have settled or some other structural issue has caused the door to be just off enough that it won’t close properly in the doorframe. In these cases, you will need to remove the door from its hinges and plane the door’s problem areas so that it will close properly. A plane is a tool that allows you to smooth and shape a wood surface by shaving off thin layers of wood until it is at a desired shape or dimension. It can shape the edge of the door so that it is no longer sticks.
Before you plane the door, be sure that the door cannot be fixed by one of the above solutions, because the results of planing cannot be reversed.
Step 1: Remove the Door
Take the door off of the hinges in order to use a plane. First though, mark the exact spot where the door is sticking using a pencil or non-permanent marker. Be as precise as possible, so you don’t remove too much wood with your plane and ultimately create too large a gap between the door and the jamb.
To remove the door, close it first. Remove the hinge pins (the pins that hold the door to the hinge) by first tapping the bottom of each pin with a hammer and nail. Once the pin pops up, remove it with your fingers or loosen it further using pliers if you can’t pull it out easily. You can also place the tip of a flat-head screwdriver under the head of the pin and pop it out by tapping the handle of the screwdriver with the palm of your hand. After all hinge pins have been removed, lift the door by the handle and gently remove it from the hinges so you don’t drop it and damage the floor.
Cover the floor adjacent to the door with a sheet of cardboard or some other thin padding to avoid marring the floor if the door comes off too quickly and its bottom edge falls.
You can also enlist an assistant to help you remove and rehang the door to avoid potential damaging drops or other mishaps.
Place the door on a pair of sawhorses so you can easily work on it with the plane.
Step 2: Plane the Sticky Door Edge
Use an adjustable block plane to shave off layers of wood along the door edge that is coming into contact with the jamb and causing it to stick. Use the plane’s adjustment wheel to set the angle of the plane blade so that it removes the least amount of wood possible with each pass. Run the plane in long, smooth strokes along the length of the problem area. You won’t have to remove much wood to make a difference. Smooth out the planed area with fine-grit sandpaper.
Test the fit. Temporarily hang the door on its hinges and test to see if it still sticks when opening or closing. If it is still sticking, remove the door again and plane some more. Don’t forget to sand the rough edges. Test the fit again until you get it right.
Step 3: Paint or Stain the Door Edge
Once the door has been planed and fixed, it’s time to paint or stain the door’s edge to match the rest of the door. Use a small, angled paintbrush to paint the door’s edge. Ideally, you should use the exact paint or stain color you used to paint the door originally. If that is not an option, you can try matching the color as best as possible or you might consider painting the whole door.
When you're finished, make sure the paint cures for one or two days before closing the door. This will help keep the door from sticking to the jamb. You also can cover the jamb with painter’s tape to help avoid sticking.
Step 4: Rehang the Door
Rehang the door by lifting it into place, lining up the two hinge parts. Reinsert the hinge pins. Do the top one first and then the bottom. Use your screwdriver handle or hammer to tap the pins in completely. Then test the door by opening and closing it to ensure that it does so easily without any sticking.
Great job! Your sticking door is now unstuck and functioning properly.
Project Shopping List
Here’s what you’ll need to complete this project successfully.