How to Correct Common Problems With Doors - Sticking Doors

(A 'binding door', or problems with the hinges, screws, contact plates of the handles or latches are covered in another 'How to' guide. Here we will just look at sticking doors - issues where the door itself is no longer a good fit for the frame or flooring.)

Whenever encountering problems with the fit of a door the most important job to do is discover the precise cause (or causes) of the problem. Even doors that have been correctly hung by an expert and regularly well maintained may eventually suffer some nagging problems as a result of other causes beyond the owners control at installation. One such problem is that of “Sticking Doors”. This is where the door will grind against the floor or door frame making it difficult to open and close even though the door was properly cut to size when fitted and there are no issues with the hinges or door furniture.

There are several reasons for this but sticking doors can often be caused by changes in the climate. These changes affect the humidity and moisture in the air and the wood absorbs the increased moisture and swells up preventing a proper fit within the door frame. If the problem concerns an exterior door there may be a drainage issue allowing rain water to collect at the foot of the door also causing it to swell.

A second and more immediately obvious reason for sticking doors is if a room has recently had a change in flooring material, such as laying new carpet over the top of wooden floorboards. The door will then drag over the carpet causing damage to the carpet if not rectified. The third and least common reason is because of the house resettling over time and changing the pressures on the door frame.

Steps to Correct a Sticking Door (or sticking doors)

You will need: Sandpaper, screwdriver, plane (in some cases), paints or varnishes etc.

  • Make sure the door is not damp. Correcting sticking problems on a door that is damp will mean planed areas will leave large gaps when the door shrinks as it dries out.
  • Check all aspects of the door fittings to ascertain the exact cause of the problem. (To reiterate, a 'binding door', or problems with the hinges, screws, contact plates of the handles or latches are covered in another 'How to' guide. Here we will just look at issues where the door itself is no longer a good fit for the frame or flooring.)
  • Determine the precise area or areas where the sticking occurs.
  • Using chalk or pencil lightly mark on the face of the door the problem areas
  • If the door is sticking very lightly at the bottom a quick and simple fix is to place a sheet of sandpaper underneath the problem area and move the door back and forth hence avoiding the need to remove the door. Use quality sandpaper and pay close attention to ensure the sandpaper does not rip during the process or as the door moves back and forth the ripped sandpaper will fold under and potentially damage the floor underneath.
  • If the door is sticking at the side then sand down the problem area. Never plane or sand the door frame. Regularly re-check the fit of the door within the frame to be sure not too much is taken off. Also take in to consideration that paint or varnish will need to be applied after, adding a further ½ mm.
  • If the door is sticking at the ends of the side or the top and bottom the door will need to be removed for adjustments to be made. When removing the door always unscrew the bottom hinge screws first and place a wedge under the door for support.
  • Remove the door and lightly sand the problem area. If working alone it is easiest to work on the door with it between your legs to hold it firm.
  • Reattach door to door frame and check fit taking in to account paint or varnishes will add an extra ½ mm.
  • Apply paints, varnishes etc to cover sanded area.

Sticking doors is a problem that can happen with both internal and external doors, but is more common with internal doors. Hopefully this guide will come in handy should you ever experience a problem with sticking doors.