Fixing a Stuck Door

The door to one of our bedrooms had a nasty habit of sticking for half the year. As average humidity levels change between summer and winter, doors and door frames will swell and shrink. In this case, we could barely close the door in the winter. Fortunately, fixing a stuck door is very easy.

Tools Required

The best tool for this job is a simple hand plane, but you could also use a power planer or sandpaper. Power planers are kind of a single-use item, so unless you’re planning to become a carpenter, you’re unlike to get your money’s worth. They can also trim pretty aggressively. Sandpaper is cheap but takes forever.

My Stanley No 60-1/2 Plane

My Stanley No 60-1/2 Plane

You can use hand planes for all sorts of woodworking projects, and you can get them very cheap if you want it just for this job. If you actually want a a nice tool you can use for a long time, but at an introductory price, I use a Stanley No. 60-1/2 for all kinds of things, and it’s only about $80. Not Lie-Nielsen quality, but quite good for half the price.

You also need some paint to match your door, as some paint is going to get shaved off.

Identify Where it’s Sticking

Very obvious where it's sticking

Very obvious where it’s sticking

Once you have your tools ready, you need to identify where the door is sticking. You can see from the picture that the top part of my door on the right is sticking. There should be a small gap like there is on the left side.

Planing the Door Down

Start a little before where it was sticking

Start a little before where it was sticking

Now you can start to plane. If using a handplane like me, place the plane a few inches back from where it began to stick and pull towards the edge of the door. This will make a nice gentle taper. Otherwise, use your tool of choice to carefully remove small amounts of material.

Keep planing and checking your work

Keep planing and checking your work

Keep planing and checking your work. On these newer hollow core doors, be careful near the end. There’s usually a piece of softwood sticking up right at the edge, and you can get some tearout like I did.

Planed enough that it doesn't stick anymore

Planed enough that it doesn’t stick anymore

Eventually, you’ll close the door and it won’t stick at all. Keep going a little bit past this point to account for the thickness of the paint you’re going to add. Also don’t go overboard here. When summer comes around, the gap on this door will open back up, so I removed just enough material to stop it from sticking in the middle of winter.

Fix Tear-out

Wood filler and a putty knife

Wood filler and a putty knife

Applied to tear-out

Applied to tear-out

I did not pay attention while planing and got some tear-out. Fortunately, a bit of plastic wood and a putty knife can fix this. Just dab the putty on and wipe it off smooth. Let it dry for a few hours, and then sand it flush.

Paint

Done

Done

Finally, paint it. I just used a brush and put on a single coat. More paint would help fill in the end grain on the top, but it’s not visible so I didn’t bother. This door no longer makes any noise.

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