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Solving door latch problems

MATERIALS: Penetrating oil, shims

TOOLS: File, combination square, screwdrivers

When a door fails to latch, the problem is usually one of alignment. The latch bolt, for some reason, fails to drop smoothly into the center of the strike plate. Determine the direction in which the latch bolt is off-center. If it meets the strike plate above or below center, correct the problem by shimming a hinge to change the angle at which the door hangs. The shim may solve the problem, but it also may make the door bind with the jamb. If the alignment seems fine, but the door won’t latch or must be pushed firmly to latch, the door is probably warped. A warped door may indicate a moisture problem. Check the edges of the door to make sure they’re properly sealed. Suspending the door between two sawhorses and weighting down the center may counteract the warp, but think about buying a replacement door. Locksets can be part o complete decorating scht they come in a wide ran of styles and prices.

Misalignment with the strike plate will prevent the latch bolt from extending into the strike plate opening, if necessary, you can raise the position of the latch bolt by inserting a thin cardboard shim behind the bottom hinge. Lower it by putting the shim behind the top hinge. If this causes the door to jamb, explore the solutions below.

Aligning The Latch Bolt And Strike Plate

1 TIGHTEN ANY LOOSE HINGE SCREWS AND TEST THE DOOR. If the door continues to sag, replace the hinges. If the latch bolt still doesn't catch, fix minor alignment problems by filing the strike plate until the latch bolt fits.

2 CHECK THE DOOR FOR A SQUARE FIT. If the size of the gap between the door and frame changes as it moves from top to bottom or side to side, the door is crooked in its opening. Remove the door and shim either the top or bottom hinge with an index card or playing card to correct the problem.

3 IF THE LATCH AND STRIKE PLATE ARE STILL MISALIGNED, THEY MAY HAVE BEEN INSTALLED INCORRECTLY. Remove the plate and mark where the latch meets the doorjamb. Move the strike plate to this point, chiseling away wood behind it if necessary. Fill in gaps around the plate with wood filler, and paint or stain to match.

Freeing a sticking door

MATERIALS: Golf tee or dowel, epoxy

TOOLS: Hammer, slot-head screwdriver, utility knife, drill and bits

Doors stick when the hinges sag, when the door frame shifts, or when humidity causes the door to swell. If the door seems to sag within the frame, make sure the hinge screws are tight. Once you have tightened the hinge screws, if a door continues to stick, sand or plane the door edge at the sticking point. Avoid doing this during a period of high humidity, as you may remove too much of the surface. Wait for dry weather, test to see if the door is still sticking, then have at it. Varnish or paint the edges of the sanded or planed door to minimize the effects of humidity in the future. Doors get a lot of attention because they’re central to the finished look of a room. When working on a door be careful not to scrape, gouge, or scratch the door itself, and don’t damage the finish on the hinges.

1 IF THE DOOR SAGS because one of the screws is loose and won't tighten, drive the lower hinge pin out with a screwdriver and hammer. Hold the door in place and drive out the upper hinge pin. Some hinges have a hole in the bottom. On these hinges, put a nail in the hole and tap on it with a hammer to drive the pin upward.

2 ONCE YOU REMOVE THE DOOR FROM ITS HINGES, check to see which screws won’t tighten, and then remove the hinges completely.

3 COAT WOODEN GOLF TEES OR DOWELS WITH EPOXY and then drive them into the worn screw holes. Let the epoxy dry completely and cut off the excess wood.

4 DRILL PILOT HOLES IN THE NEW WOOD AND REHANG THE HINGE with the new wood as a base for the screws.

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