You might find that it is especially infuriating when your door will not latch - this is something that can happen out of nowhere! You might be unsure what exactly you can do about this, after all, we aren’t all door experts.
But, here we will talk through exactly what to look for and how you can fix your door.
Test To Determine Where The Misalignment Is Happening
Most of the time, the problem with a door that refuses to latch is that the latch isn’t aligned with the strike plate hole where it’s supposed to settle, thereby keeping the door shut.
Even if it’s slightly off, it won’t find its way into the hole, and the door will not latch.
To test latch misalignment, apply lipstick to the strike plate. Close the door. Open the door. The lipstick marks indicate where the latch contacts the strike plate.
After some quick measuring, you’ll know exactly how off skewed your latching system is, and you can adjust the strike plate accordingly.
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Move The Strike Plate Up Or Down
The strike plate should be moved until it is perfectly aligned with the latch. Then the door will close correctly. Strike plates should be removed before installing new ones. A sharp chisel hammer should be used to enlarge the mortise.
Make sure the new strike plate is aligned correctly. Drill two small holes and secure it. Test the door to make sure it closes and latches smoothly.
If the latch still doesn't work after adjusting the strike plate, there's something else wrong with your door. You may need to replace the entire door assembly, but first, try some of the following fixes.
Tighten The Hinges Using A Screwdriver
Older doors can sag at the hinges when gravity pulls them down. You can try tightening them to get your door back on the straight and narrow, but you may also need to replace them with slightly longer screws to provide more support.
You can also use a hammer to loosen the old screws. Drive the head of the hammer into the screw until it pops out. Then remove the screw and drive another one in its place. Repeat this process for all the screws.
Replace The Door Hinge Pins
Old door hinges often break over time. Replacing the hinge pins will make the door stronger, and thus, keep the latch and strike plate aligned.
Remove the door from the frame by lifting the door off the track. Unscrew the two hinge pins on each side of the door. Slide the new pins into their respective holes. Screw the pins back into place. Replace the door on the frame.
Shim Or Sand Down Under Hinges
Door frames should be checked for problems before the hinges are replaced. Shimming the hinges will help them stay level and prevent your door from swinging open when you push it closed.
Hinges should fit snugly into the mortise when the doors close.
This means that there should be no gaps or spaces between the hinge and the edge of the mortice. In fact, sanding down the mortice and the edges of the mortice will make sure that the hinge fits perfectly.
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Enlarge The Strike Plate Hole With A Metal File
A properly balanced door will close completely. If the adjustments to your door didn't solve the issue, check whether the latch is contacting above or below the hole.
If it's out-of-alignment by more than ⅓ of an inch, then you may want to move the entire strike plate hole. If the discrepancy is only ⅓ of an inch, then try to enlarge it.
To enlarge the hole, use a metal file. File away any sharp corners or burrs. The goal is to create a smooth surface around the hole so that the latch can contact the strike plate without hitting anything.
It's important to keep the file perpendicular to the surface being worked on. For example, if you're enlarging a round hole, start at the center and move outward.
When you get to the outer edge, turn the file 90 degrees and continue filing. Keep going until the hole is as large as you need it.
Tools And Method
These are the tools you will use to fix your door:
- Phillips head screwdriver
- Utility knife
- Putty knife
- Hand drill.
Time needed: 1 hour.
How to Fix a Door that Won’t Latch
- Check the hinges
To determine if the door is loose, check the hinges first. If the hinge pins are bent or missing, replace them. Then test the door to see if it is hanging properly.
- Adjust the hinge pin
If it doesn't hang right, adjust the door frame or hinge pin. If the door still isn't working correctly, call an expert who will be able to help you solve your door problem.
- Tighten loose screws
It is true that loose hinges can cause a door to sag, affecting the locking mechanism. Tightening loose screws on the hinges can fix the problem. Make sure you don't over-tighten them! You can replace one screw at the top of the hinge to lift the latch, or replace one screw at the lower hinge to lower the latch.
- Use a chisel
Then, use a chisel to gently pry up the strike plate to make room for the latch. You should unfasten the screws holding the plate to the jamb, then use a metal file to enlarge the strike plate hole.
- Pass a file through
Then, pass the file through the strike plate to make sure there is enough space for the latch.
- Fill holes
A wood filler that matches the door frame color should be used to fill any old screw holes and gaps left behind after moving the strike plate or adjusting the hinges. Then a coat of paint or stain that matches the rest is applied to complete the project.
It is true that door hinge adjustment does fix the problem of a door not latching. If the door isn't aligned properly, it will need to be fixed by shimming or sanding the hinges. There may also be some cleanup needed before finishing the project.