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How To Fix a Door That Won't Latch

Updated on February 7, 2013

Consideration


There is one important consideration. You must know that the door was correctly installed and that at one time it closed correctly.


Required Materials


You will need a #2 Philips screwdriver. You may also need a cordless screwdriver with a #2 Philips tip, one or two 3” to 3 ½” long screw, and a little soap. I like to use self tapping deck strews. You can use standard wood screws but you will have to predrill the hole first. Make sure to use a bit that is slightly smaller than the diameter of the unthreaded part of the screw.


Screws

A - Deck Screw, B - Wood Screw, C - Interior door hinge screw, D - Exterior Door Hinge Screw
A - Deck Screw, B - Wood Screw, C - Interior door hinge screw, D - Exterior Door Hinge Screw

Screwdriver

Cordless Screwdriver

Why Does this Happen?


Over time a door will need to be aligned because houses “settle” over time and screws loosen. The door will “sag” a little resulting in the latch being just a little lower than the strike plate. When you first notice the problem you will be able to “lift” the door using the knob causing it to latch.



The first thing you want to check is that the screws that attach the hinges to the door and door jamb are tight. Open the door to expose the screws. Turn all the screws clock-wise until they stop moving. Use a standard screwdriver to make sure you don’t strip the wood. If the screws were a little loose recheck the door to see if it latches now. If it does, congratulations, you are done and can now go onto the rest of the chores you have to do today.


If the door still does not latch the jamb is most likely out of “square”. This means instead of the jamb being at a right angle to the top of the jamb it is leaning toward the doorknob. This does not mean anything major is wrong with your house. This is normal and happens to most houses eventually.


Identify the Inside Screw

Locate the "inside" screw, the one(s) furthest from the pivot.
Locate the "inside" screw, the one(s) furthest from the pivot.

Step 1


Remove the top inside screw of the upper hinge attaching the hinge to the door jamb. You will notice that this screw is short, only long enough to attach the hinge to the jamb. You are going to replace that screw with one long enough to reach the frame of the house.


Remove the Old Screw

Step 2

Apply a little soap to the 3” screw to act as a lubricate. This will make it easier to put the longer screw into the frame.

Put of Lube on the Screw

Apply a little soap or other lube.
Apply a little soap or other lube.

Step 3


Start new screw by. Remember, if you are not using a self tapping screw to predrill the hole first. Run the screw driver slowly and apply enough pressure to prevent the bit from jumping in the screw and stripping the head. Drive the screw all the way in. As it reaches the frame it should really start to grab and resist being driven in. It is possible, though highly unlikely you may need a longer screw.

Start the New Screw

Start the screw by hand.
Start the screw by hand.

Drive the New Screw In

Drive the screw all the way in.
Drive the screw all the way in.

Steps 4 to 6


Step 4: Check the door to see if it latches correctly. You may need to turn the screw a little more before it latches easily.



Step 5: If it was an exterior door there are four screws on the jamb side of the hinge. Remove the other inside screw that replace it as well.



Step 6: Recheck the door.


Exterior Hinge

Exterior Door Hinges have 4 screws per plate.
Exterior Door Hinges have 4 screws per plate.

Completion


If the door was not latching because the door was sagging it should now work nicely. In the future you may need to tighten the screw(s) to keep the door operating correctly.



If the door still does not latch you may have a problem that will require a contractor to fix. The door may have to be rehung. The good thing is you already eliminated a 5 minute fix that would cost you a 2 hour minimum house call.


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