How to Fix a Door That Sticks
See how This Old House general contractor Tom Silva tightens up and pares down a door swelled by summer's humidity
The personality of an old door changes with the seasons. Pulled tight in winter, it's a stalwart guardian against chills and drafts. But by August, heat has driven moisture deep into the grain, and the once-yielding door has become swollen and stuck.
This Old House general contractor Tom Silva confronts a stubborn summertime door with a jack plane and a little restraint. "You want to take off the minimum amount of wood necessary because the door is going to shrink again in the winter," says Tom. "If you remove too much, it will sit loose in the opening." Follow along as Tom fixes a swelled door in his own home with just a few simple tools.
Tom's rule of thumb for keeping a door from sticking in the jamb is that the reveal—the space between the door and jamb—should be 1/8 to 3/16 inch wide, or about the thickness of a nickel.
Examining one sticky bedroom door in his house, Tom spends a little time getting a sense of its predicament. He opens and closes it to see where it catches, and he eyeballs the reveal. An uneven reveal may mean the hinges are loose or out of alignment. And, in fact, the screws holding the top hinge to the jamb have stripped their holes, causing the door to sag. But after fixing them, Tom finds that the door still sticks. Satisfied that humidity is the culprit, he pulls the hinge pins, lifts the door from the jamb, and gets ready to plane.