How to Fix a Sticky Door

February 22, 2024



A close-up of a wood front door slightly ajar

A sticking door is a common and annoying household problem that can happen year-round. Opening or closing a door should be easy and without struggle; otherwise, it loses its functionality. If you want to learn how to fix a door that won't close or is hard to operate, you’re in the right place!

We’re here to explain why a door sticks and provide some simple troubleshooting tips when learning how to fix a sticky door. First, let’s get into why sticky doors are common issues for Canadian homeowners. 

Why Doors Stick to the Door Frame

Humidity is usually the culprit for sticky doors since high moisture levels cause the material to expand, pushing the door into the frame. This only happens in wooden doors, but steel and fibreglass doors tend to stick, too, if the wooden door frame swells.

While this issue often happens in summer when humidity increases, the same problem also occurs during colder months. A door becomes hard to open in winter when dampness settles on its frame, causing permanent damage to the door hinges and screws. 

Aside from environmental causes, a door won’t open or close due to the following reasons:

  • A broken strike plate
  • Loose screws
  • Loose hinges
  • Broken door frames
  • Unsealed or unvarnished door edge

Read more: Vinyl vs. Wood Windows

How to Fix a Swollen Door

Learning how to fix a door that sticks due to humidity starts with diagnosing where the door is sticking.

Find the Sticking Point

Sticky doors will make themselves known in one way or another. Look for the following signs to see which door part is sticking to determine what component you need to fix:

5 Ways to Check Where a Door is Sticking
  1. Scratches and ripped paint: Areas with scratches are where the sticking or rubbing happens.
  2. Leaning door: If there’s a thinner gap on one side of the door than on the other, that’s the problem area. Check this by running a piece of paper along each side. Wherever the paper gets stuck are the door’s sticky spots.
  3. Grime buildup: Heavy areas of grime on door frames can also make it stick.
  4. Squeaky hinges: Evidence that oiling or replacing the hinges can help fix a sticky door.
  5. Loose screws: If the screws on the door jamb are loose, they can make the door hard to open in winter and summer.

Fix the Door Hinges

Do you hear squeaking whenever you open or close the door? This problem is related to a malfunctioning hinge! Over time, the hinge pins lose their lubrication and cause friction. 

Restore its smoothness by applying a multipurpose household oil. Let the oil spread by swinging the door a few times. If that doesn’t work, grab a screwdriver or an electric drill with the correct tip and try these steps:

  1. Double-check if the hinge screws are loose; this issue makes the door sag. 
  2. With a screwdriver, tighten the hinge screws into their respective screw holes. Avoid over-tightening because it’ll cause the door to squeak and resist movement.

If the screws are still turning but not tightening, here’s what to do:

  1. Replace the current screws with longer ones. Screws that are 2½ or 3 inches long will penetrate the door frame and provide a better grip. 
  2. Remove the current hinge screws with a drill, then replace the head with a masonry drill bit. Use this to deepen the hole so the longer screws have room to move in.
  3. Drill the longer nails into the drill bit until they’re flushed in the hole. 
a contractor determines the screw hole for new door hinges on a door’s edge

Trim the Door Panel

Is your door hard to open in winter or summer? This may be because its panel is too big. If the previous two steps didn’t work, you may need to shave or trim a couple of inches from the door panel. 

You’ll need a planer, sander, blanket, and newspaper. Once you have everything, here’s how to fix a swollen door:

  1. Unscrew the hinge screws to remove the door, then place it on top of a blanket or newspaper.
  2. Use a power planer, hand planer, or belt sander to eliminate the excess material. Set the angle of the plane blade to the desired amount of wood you want to remove, then run the plane across the surface.
  3. Temporarily hang the door by the hinges to test if the new size fits. Keep using the plane until the door isn’t sticking on the frame.

How to Fix a Sticky Door Lock

Due to the expansion and contraction of doors, their position shifts and causes the latch or deadbolt lock to stick. This makes pushing, turning, or pulling the key difficult, preventing you from opening or closing the door. Dirt, grime, and rust also accumulate inside the lock, obstructing the pathway for your key. 

Not to worry, here are the steps on how to fix a sticky door lock:

  1. Spray Teflon lubricant or powdered graphite into the lock. Insert the key and see if there are any improvements.
  2. If the lock is well-lubricated and still not working, the door’s alignment could be the problem. Check if the panel fits into the frame with equal gaps. Refer to the above solutions for clear steps on door alignment.
  3. If alignment is perfect, the problem lies with the lock since it could have damaged parts. Call a professional locksmith and have them inspect your door lock properly.
A man uses an orange power drill to remove an entry door’s latch bolt

Image Source: Canva

How to Prevent Sticking Doors

Now that you know how to fix a swollen or sticky door, let’s get into how you can prevent it from happening again.

Apart from buying a new door entirely, a more cost-effective solution is to invest in a dehumidifier. This helpful tool reduces your home’s humidity or moisture levels, which decreases the amount of moisture your doors absorb and avoids shrinkage. If you don’t have access to a dehumidifier, turning on the air conditioner can lower humidity!

Maybe It’s Time to Replace Your Sticking Door…

Now that we’ve explored ways to fix a door that sticks due to humidity, it’s evident that while some fixes are within reach, others signal a deeper need for an upgrade.

For Ontario homeowners facing persistent issues or seeking a fresh look, consider the robust durability of steel doors or the energy efficiency and aesthetic versatility of fibreglass doors as compelling replacements. These materials not only withstand the rigours of Ontario’s varied climate but also elevate your home’s security and curb appeal!

If you’re encountering doors that stick season after season, showing signs of wear and tear such as warping, cracking, or fading, or if your energy bills suggest a loss of insulation, it might be time to explore these superior alternatives. Don’t let a sticky door compromise your home’s functionality and appearance! 

Clera Windows + Doors is Ontario’s top manufacturer of high-quality, moisture-resistant exterior doors and windows. Our entry doors are resistant to warping, cracking, and fading, ensuring your home is protected year-round from harsh weather conditions.

Contact us today and receive a free estimate! 

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