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My door doesn't close correctly. It rubs on the top, it rubs on the bottom, it rubs on the sides. HELP!

Repair of doors rubbing on the door jamb (frame), floor, or carpeting are a staple of home repair. These problems can be solved by careful cutting, sanding, or planing of the offending door. ALWAYS TRIM DOORS CONSERVATIVELY ...they don't heal. Better to cut twice and get it right than cut once wrong and have to install a new door... or live with your mistake!!


Are the hinge screws tight? Tighten them firmly and recheck the closing of the door. One reason that the hinge screws loosen is the forced closing of a door that is rubbing on the frame or floor. Shades of Rube Goldberg!!

Determine where the door is rubbing. LOOK at the door. Can you see marks on the door or jamb in the paint or stain that indicating rubbing? Is there obvious rubbing on the floor or carpet (did you just install new carpet?) You may need to get on a short stepladder or strong chair to look over the top of the door to see where it rubs along the top. MARK THE DOOR WITH A PENCIL TO INDICATE THE AREAS YOU WANT TO TRIM.

Time for a little careful surgery... scrub up!

If you don't mind the dust and you are just taking a little off the top or latch edges, you may be able to leave the door hanging while you sand. Otherwise, remove the hinge pins and lay the door across tarp-covered sawhorses before proceeding. I use these simple commonsense guidelines:


If the door is rubbing on the upper part of the latch edge, you might get away without cutting or sanding! Close the door almost all the way and gently pull up on the doorknob while closing the door. If a slight lift allows the door to close without rubbing, you might be able to use a long brass screw to pull the jamb into the frame. Since I always carry long brass screws with me and if the rubbing is minor league, I will usually try this fix first. If it works, you will not have to repaint or restain the edge of the door!! And if it doesn't work, you have done no damage and in fact have made the door installation more sturdy.


Predrill the jamb and frame with a drill bit no smaller than the minimum width of the screw between threads. Though I usually use a screw gun for this, you have to be careful not to overdrive the screw and damage the doorjamb. You can do this by hand, OR do the final tightening by hand and the initial driving with a screw gun. Test the door and if it closes, you are done. If it clears the side but now rubs on the top, that's OK. You can belt sand the top of the door and not need to do any touchup on the door's finish!!


If the rubbing involves taking off less than 1/8 inch of material off the door and/or the rubbing is isolated to less than a foot or two of a door top or edge, I usually use a belt sander with a medium coarse belt (~50 grit) for initial fast stock (wood) removal. Keep the belt sander as level as possible while sanding. I can tell you from experience this is very strenuous, especially if you are using a behemoth (read heavyweight) sander. However, if you do a little sanding, check the squareness of your cut with a combination square (if you don't know what this is, you don't have one and should get one) and then compensate on your next few passes, you'll do just fine!!

Once the rough sanding is complete, smooth out the cuts with a medium grit (~80 grit) belt and then use a 100 or finer grit hand sanding for final smoothing before retouching the stain or paint. If you are a real finicky sort, you can do additional sanding with finer sandpaper to suit, though I think that 220 grit is about the finest grit necessary for this type of work.


Top or Bottom of Door- Use a circular saw to make the cut. Though some people recommend a method to plane door tops, there is too much chance of splintering the face of the door (flat or flush veneer door) or the edges (if it is a paneled "real wood" door), even if you are very careful.

You should apply masking tape or low-tack painter's tape to the door to prevent scratching from the base of the circular saw. A power planer's edge guide may also leave marks on the face of the door, so you may want to also use tape for it. I am using the low-tack painter's tape more frequently now, especially on painted doors. If the notorious "last guy" did a lousy job of paint prep, the masking tape is more likely to rip the paint off the door. Just a thought... . Anyway, to get back to business, you can either apply the tape over your cutting line (the tapes are somewhat translucent), or place the tape first and then draw the cutting line on the tape. By turning the tape over the edge of the door and folding it at the edges, splintering along the edge of the door will be further minimized.

If you are cutting a veneer door (flush or flat faced door), you can use a straightedge, such as a metal ruler and score the cutting line at least halfway through the veneer, which will further minimize the chance of severe splintering. Apply pieces side by side along the entire length of the cut, so that the base of the saw does not touch the door at all. I use a type of tape that painters use, which has less of a "tack" than masking tape and is less likely to pull paint off of a poorly painted door.

Edges of Door- Power plane or circular saw? Your choice! Whichever you choose, be sure to use tape as described above. A power planer may offer a slight advantage in ease and accuracy or cut, as long as you plan to take a uniform slice off the door along its entire length. VERY IMPORTANT: Before you do a full length cut on the latch edge of the door, you must have a plan concerning the repositioning of the lockset! You may even have to trim the hinge edge of the door instead! Refer to the question of this page called TWO PROBLEMS... ONE SOLUTION!! for more details on this fix!!

If you don't own a power planer and it doesn't fit into your budget this week, you can use a circular saw. Get a straight edge (piece of straight 1x3 pine OK) nailed, screwed (only if you are planning to repaint or touch up the door) or, preferably, clamped to door as a guide. You may also use the adjustable guide that comes with most saws. If you use a clamped straightedge, make sure that the saw body will clear the straightedge and the clamps when adjusted for proper depth of cut : the cutting teeth of the saw blade should only pass through the bottom of the door about 1/4".

Sand your cut with 100 or finer grit sandpaper.

Reinstall door, test close and, if necessary, redo trimming to "fine-tune" your repair.

BE ADVISED... sometimes, doors can pull a "Rube Goldberg" on you... you know, make one cut and suddenly another needs to be done, or the same cut again. This is good! This means you were careful enough not to overcut! Bravo!!

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