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Huge old door swings open by itself

WE have a set of HUGE doors in the vestibule of our church. The church is over 125 years old, so the doors are probably that old as well. They are interior doors (between the vestibule and the church sanctuary). Each is about 36 inches wide, but about 9 or 10 feet tall. They are not rectangular (arched) but I don't think that's part of the problem. During both air conditioning and heating seasons, we naturally try to keep the doors closed to keep in the heat or cool air. The doors, however, swing open a foot or so (they do not latch in the middle where they meet . . . not sure they ever did) and someone has to stand there and keep a hand on the door to keep them closed.

I figure the jamb has gotten out of plumb, but I don't know how to adjust the hinges (ie., which hinge to adjust). There are 3 hinges on each door. Should I shim the top hinge to get the door to swing closed and stay closed on its own? Or the bottom hinge?

The doors weigh a ton, so I can't really take them down, try something and put them back up easily. I'm hoping someone can give me some advice so we only have to do it once.

Thank you

MLB Construction
Re: Huge old door swings open by itself

taking the doors down and re-plumbing the jamb would be a major task and most likely not a DIY job.

the first thing that comes to mind with a normal door, i don't know how it will work on such a large door, is to remove one of the hinge pins and use a hammer to bend it ever so slightly. it will then have to be pounded back into place but it will make the hinge much harder to swivel.

another option is to measure the exact size and hole placement of the hinges and you can replace one of them with a self closing hinge. this way you don't have to take the door down. only issue is, i don't know if the spring mechanism will be strong enough to hold such a heavy door closed.

next. how much room is there between the bottom of the door and the floor? would there be enough room to attach something to the bottom of the door so that it will rub (provide friction) against the floor to stop it from swinging open.

lastly. how about attaching a drive in ball catch to the top of the door. something like this. http://www.dkhardware.com/product-50439-1035dn-dull-nickel-ball-catch-drive-in-type.html?mr:trackingCode=C6E6342D-BFE7-E111-9B44-001B21BCB944&mr:referralID=NA&mr:adType=pla&mr:ad=18074700972&mr:keyword=&mr:match=&mr:filter=40818746292&gclid=CMab98bWrbkCFUxo7AodFBwAeg

Re: Huge old door swings open by itself

This sounds like a foundation / structural problem. If this structure is pier-and-beam then start talking to foundation repair folks.

Take a (4 foot minimum) level to the floor and let us know what you find.

Re: Huge old door swings open by itself

Do these doors swing both ways (in and out) or just one way?

Re: Huge old door swings open by itself

Install door closers - should probably already have them on those kinds of doors.

Re: Huge old door swings open by itself

Back to the basics. You know the doors are out of plumb along with the jamb. Proper fix is to replumb the whole. Since that's a biggie project here you may be able to slide the hinges away from the jamb to make the doors plumb, which will stop the gravity-swing, then reset the door stop molding appropriately. Just be sure that you are leaving enough contact area so that the hinges will not pull loose. You may want to retrofit a latch, ball catches, or closers too as others have said. I have used what are called "riser hinges" to fix a couple of the worst of these where plumbing the jamb wasn't an option. These lift the door as it opens so that gravity pulls it shut, but sometimes it lifts so quickly that you have to plane the top of the door so that it will clear the header when it opens, thus creating more issues than it resolves.

My thoughts are that if the shift from plumb is relatively new, then it's going to continue till the underlying reason for the shift is solved, making any other fix temporary in nature. Maybe that's good enough, maybe not- that's your call.


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