How to adjust a door

Fixing doors that don't open, close or latch properly

Luckily there are loads of ways you can adjust a door and tweak it to get it right as once hung, doors aren't always perfect straight away. Even old doors can suffer over time and this page covers lots of different ways you can fix a door whether it's single or bi-fold, new or old, timber or UPVC that wasn't right to start, has stopped closing or won't latch properly.

More often than not when hanging doors they won't initially open and close perfectly and the margins are uneven (you want an even gap between the door and frame all the way around). It rarely fits perfectly first time. There are a few reasons, causes and solutions to choose from.

Old doors not closing properly

Old doors can 'drop', and common problems/symptoms when this occurs are that the top of the handle side hits the frame stopping the door closing and/or the bottom of the handle side starts rubbing on the floor/carpet etc. More often than not this is because the screws (normally in the top hinge but sometimes all of them) have worked they're way loose over years. The constant weight of opening and closing the door has caused the hinge screws to pull out of the frame.

how to adjust a door

Often when you tighten these screws they just spin/turn in the hole and don't grip.

To adjust a door in this instance, I either use a longer screw and try to fix through the frame into the timber stud behind that the frame is fixed to. Or, plug the screw holes with lots of matchsticks. I squirt some wood glue in to the holes then bang in as many match sticks as I can get into each hole. Snap off the ends, or cut them off with a sharp chisel/knife.

Now when you wind the screws back in they'll have something solid to grip to. A red rawl plug sometimes works and does the same job too, but I think matchsticks last longer because you can really beat and wedge them in there.

Adjusting the hinges

There are a couple of ways to adjust a door using the hinges, when the door is the right size but doesn't sit perfectly in the frame. In this case you want to adjust a door so it moves left or right in the frame so it looks better. You can chop one or both of the hinges in deeper to tighten the gap, or unscrew them and put thin cardboard behind to pack them out and make the hinge side gap larger.

I fit my door linings so they are slightly too wide. If the opening is too wide after you've hung the door loosen the screws and wedges can be banged in between the lining and wall (before architrave is fitted) to square or straighten the gap up. When the architraves are installed the wedges are cut off and covered.

Adjusting a door that is too wide

If the lining is tight and the door is too wide it will need to be removed and the edge planed. If you have a saddle and block put the door in and plane the door edge.

If the door just clips the frame as it closes you can just apply a leading edge. A leading edge is planing more off the side of the door edge that closes first, so it is tapered. This allows a tighter gap to be achieved when the door is closed.

Fixing a door that swings open/closed on it's own

To adjust a door that swings open or closed on its own it is probably because the door lining/frame is out of plumb. The easiest way to sort this if you have loose pin hinges is to remove a pin (knock it out with a nail punch) and bend it slightly by hitting it with a hammer to increase the friction, then put it back in.

Otherwise, you can unscrew the lining and move it so it's plumb. Both sides will need to be done in order for it to stay in 'wind'. This may mean more work when you come to fit the architraves, as you'll need to rebate the back of them with an electric plane.

If the door is already finished and decorated you will need to move the hinge and not the frame. If the door swings open on its own, unscrew the bottom hinge (and the middle hinge if it has one). Next, move the hinge out a little, away from the doorstop and screw it back on. This will leave a little gap where the hinge was chopped in. Check to see the door stays open and that it still shuts properly. If not, the doorstop may need adjusting the same way too.

Twisted door or out of wind door frame. The door closes against the stops, but then you have to push it hard for the latch to locate

how to adjust a twisted door

The picture above is slightly exaggerated, but shows how a door looks when it's twisted, or the frame is 'out of wind'.

Sometimes when you close a door the top for example will touch the doorstop and it will feel closed but then you have to push the handle hard for the latch to actually click, locate and hold the door shut. You can check this is the case by standing inside the room and slowly closing the door. As it approaches the stops, slow down and stop as soon as it touches. You should notice that there's a tapering gap. This is because the door, frame or door stop are 'out of wind' (out of parallel), or the door is twisted (usually from being stored incorrectly). You can't 'untwist' it but you can adjust a door like this so it closes correctly. There are three potential ways to adjust a door in this instance.

  • Move the frame
  • If the decorating hasn't been done yet you might get away with moving the frame a bit. By unscrewing the frame and moving the top of the hinge side out you can bring the leg so it's parallel with the other one. Trial and error and checking as you go will help get it perfect.

  • Move the doorstops

  • In other instances, it may be easier to move the doorstop. Take it off, denail it and close the door. Then re-fix the stops with the door shut, leaving a 1-2mm gap all the way around to allow for paint. Fix them tight if no decorating needs doing afterward.

  • Throw the hinges

  • If you don't want to cause any re-decorating you can adjust a door by the hinges. Unscrew the top hinge from the frame only and fill the screw holes with matchsticks. Move the hinge away from the doorstop a little, and screw it back up. This will leave a little gap where the hinge is in the frame like the picture below and cause the doors edge to be sticking out from the hinge side of the frame a little when it's closed. It should help it close better without damaging the paintwork though, and is probably the quickest and easiest way to adjust a door when the frame is out of wind.

    how to adjust a door

    How to adjust bi-fold doors

    Bi- fold doors can be a nightmare to set up right. I try to talk customers out of having them because they are fraught with problems and unless you buy a very expensive high quality track or pre-made setup they are usually disappointing. The way they work is to have a pivot at the top and on the bottom edge the side where the hinges would normally be. These often have a bracket on the floor with different positions to place the pivot, so moving the pivot point will move the top/bottom of the door towards or away from the frame. At the top of the frame there will be a track and a guide on the top of the door that slides along the track. The guide is adjustable with two spanners that will lift or lower the doors edge. There may be a cover over the track to remove so you can get to the nuts to tighten or loosen them.

    Adjusting a door latch that doesn't work

    Click here for more help fitting or adjusting a mortise latch

    Have a question or comment about adjusting doors for a better fit?




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