How to Fix Sticking Doors


Ah, the old sticking door. The bane of many a household, old and new. It makes you wince when you close a sticking door because the sound of wood scraping on wood sends a shiver down your spine. You spill your tea when you open a sticking door, because the sudden breach of inertia as the door unsticks itself is always unexpected, no matter how well you prepare yourself. And yet we all have a strange habit of ignoring it. As though it will just get better on its own. It won't. It's about time you rolled your sleeves up, took a deep breath, and just got on with fixing it. But how?

Well, the only way you're guaranteed to stop a door from sticking is to take it down and plane the edge which is rubbing against the jamb. This will definitely cure your sticking door, but it means that the surface you've planed will now have to be refinished, and the process of removing and refitting a door will put you off ever doing it again once you're finished - especially if you're on your own. It's not easy, and if you're not trained or you've never done it before, it can be very, very frustrating. So there must be an easier way.

There is. Or rather, there are, because there are a few ways you can deal with a sticking door which will avoid having to remove it entirely. Here's what you'll need to free your door up:

  1. A screwdriver
  2. A Drill
  3. A 3" screw
  4. A pencil or chalk
  5. Sandpaper, fine grain and lots of it
  6. A belt sander is preferable, but not necessary

The Turn Of The Screw

Over time, the screws which hold the door to the frame will become loose. It might only be slight, by a few millimeters or so, but it will make a difference. The metal of the hinge will warp very slightly, pushing the door into the jamb and causing it to stick in the frame. This is a natural process which affects all door furniture. You can't really prevent it, it'll happen eventually, but it is reversible.

It only takes a couple of seconds, and you only need a screwdriver. Simply open the door and tighten the screws which fix the hinge to the door frame. This will straighten the door up immediately, and if all the screws are as tight as they can be without stripping the wood inside the screw hole, than any warping in the hinge should not have any real effect on the function of the door. Don't use a drill to tighten these screws, or you'll probably end up ruining the door frame.

Make sure you tighten the screws in the jamb and the screws in the door; either side of the hinge could be causing the sticking so make sure everything is as tight and secure as possible.


Hinges are stubborn things, and they're not naturally adjustable. Despite their stubbornness, you can occasionally make them play by your rules, and with a little know-how it's possible to adjust them very slightly - just enough to stop a door from sticking. Here's how.

You're going to be drawing in the hinge a short distance. Before you start, examine the door to see where it's rubbing. If it's rubbing near the top of the door, which is most likely, then you'll need to adjust the top hinge. If the door's rubbing at the bottom, then you'll need to adjust the bottom hinge.

Once you've decided which hinge needs drawing in, remove the middle screw from the side of the hinge which is attached to the jamb. Then in its place drive in a 3" screw using a drill. The 3" screw will travel through the jamb and into the frame of the door, which will draw in the entire hinge, and the door with it. Once the head of the screw is flush against the face of the hinge, open and close the door to see if it's still rubbing. If it is, then using a screwdriver slowly turn the screw a quarter of a turn at a time, opening and closing the door between turns until it no longer sticks or rubs against the jamb. What you're doing here, in effect, is narrowing the jamb which is attached to the door frame, and freeing up a little space for the front of the door to move over the latch side of the jamb.

Jamb Jar

If that doesn't work, then you might want to try drawing in the latch side of the jamb itself. This is sort of a last resort though, because by using this method you'll be leaving unattractive screw heads exposed on a part of the door frame which is easily visible.

Using exactly the same theory as above, by using some strategically placed 3" screws driven through the jamb and into the doorframe, you can squeeze the jamb in slightly, giving the door an extra bit of breathing room in which it can operate.

Sanding Stops Sticking

If after you've tried all of these methods and your door is still sticking, then you might have no recourse other than to grit your teeth and remove the door to be planed. But just before you do, try sanding the front of the door down. By taking off just a few layers of material from the front of the door, you might find that you've created enough room to stop it sticking. The best tool for this job is a fine grain belt sander, and although it's best to remove the door to door this job, you can probably get away with doing it while the door's attached. Just remember to lay some sheets down to protect your floors, and go slowly. Don't sand off more than you have to, so keep checking the door to see if it's still sticking as you sand it.

Bear in mind that when you've finished sanding the door, it might need to be refinished. If your door is painted, than sand down enough to allow a new coat of paint on top of the wood.