Try these methods to take care of door problems

March 28, 2005|by GENE GARY/Copley News Service

Q: We own an older home with a couple of interior doors that bind and are difficult to open and close, a problem that seems worse during the winter months. I tried sanding the door edge at the front, which helped for a little while, but the problem persists. What is the best way to address this problem? I don't want to use a professional or buy new doors if I can fix them myself.

A: There are several conditions that could cause your problems. Once the cause of the problem is identified, it may be only a matter of minor repairs or adjustments to correct an irritating situation.

The first step is to pinpoint the trouble spot while opening and closing the door. When a door is binding on the latch edge, make sure that hinge leaves on the door or jamb are secure. Doors will sag and bind when hinge-leaf screws have worked loose in their holes and have lost their grip.


If this is the case, you probably can leave the door in place to fix the problem. Open the door completely and support its weight with a wooden wedge secured underneath. Use a hammer to drive in the wedge at the bottom of the latch edge. Secure with tape if necessary.

Remove any loose hinge-leaf screws and check to see if the doorjamb beneath the hinge itself will accept larger-diameter screws. If so, install them and retighten the hinge.

If larger screws are not an option, you can reuse the original screws after filling the enlarged screw holes. Drill out the enlarged holes with a one-fourth-inch drill bit and insert lengths of glue-coated, one-fourth-inch doweling. Drive the doweling in with a hammer and plane them flush to the door frame. You can now reposition the hinge leaf and secure it with the original screws, driven into the doweling.

If the hinge leaves on the door or jamb aren't loose, try shimming out one of the hinges. Shim the top hinge to cure a bind near the bottom and shim the bottom hinge for binds near the top of the door. To insert shims, prop the door open as described above. Then remove the screws that hold the hinge on the doorjamb. Trim a piece of cardboard or very slim wood veneer to fit the rectangle mortise on the doorjamb and insert it between the jamb and the hinge leaf. Resecure the hinges.

If the door continues to bind, open and close it several times to identify the location that is binding. If the top of the door is binding, scribe a line along the door to denote where you want to remove wood. Partially open the door, drive the wedge under the door at the latch edge, and use a block plane to remove the high spot. Work toward the center to avoid splintering the end grain.

If the binding is caused by a high spot on the door's bottom edge, or along the hinge edge, scribe a line along the door's face where you want to remove wood. You will have to remove the door in this case.

Tap up on the head of the hinge pins with a hammer to release the door from the hinges. Secure the door for planing by wedging one end into a corner or by straddling it. When working on a side edge, work a jack plane in the direction of the grain, holding it at a slight angle to the door.

If you're planing end grain at the door's bottom edge, use a block plane and shave toward the center. Anytime you plane an edge, exposing raw wood, be sure to seal the wood to prevent moisture from penetrating it and causing swelling. Shellac, clear varnish, or polyurethane coatings will provide adequate protection.

Q: I plan to repaint several interior rooms that are of drywall construction. Usually, I use paint rollers for a project of this type. My neighbor suggested paint pads. I plan to use latex paint. What would be the advantage of using paint pads versus paint rollers?

A: Actually, the use of pads or rollers is a matter of personal preference. However, these are some of the advantages users of the paint pads point out:

· Paint pads apply a thinner film of paint to the wall, providing more coverage for the amount of paint.

· Paint pads come in a range of sizes, offering more variety than rollers.

· Paint pads are easier to use in corners.

· Paint pads tend to splatter less paint than rollers.

· Paint pads are easier to clean, store and transport.

· Paint pads are available with edging wheels, which provide easy application around the perimeter of walls next to the ceiling.

· Extension poles are easily added for reach (as is the case with rollers).

· Excess paint is easily removed by scraping along the side of the paint tray.

· A small paint pad is easier to handle around obstacles such as electrical outlets, lighting fixtures, switches, etc.

· Paint pads consist of pieces of short-pile, mohair fabric mounted on foam plastic and glued to metal or plastic handles. They are available in a range of sizes, and pad replacements can be purchased separately.

· You can load the pad simply by dipping it into paint, but it is easier to use a special tray recommended by manufacturers. The tray is designed with a roller, which helps to evenly transfer paint from tray to pad.

According to the manufacturer, the design of this tray guarantees that pads will be evenly coated with paint every time. Pads are economical, as are rollers.

However, one disadvantaged reported was that the adhesive holding the parts together can dissolve after prolonged use. For the average homeowner with household projects, I doubt that this would be a significant issue.

Send e-mail to or write to Here's How, Copley News Service, P.O. Box 120190, San Diego, CA 92112-0190. Only questions of general interest can be answered in the column.

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