The dilemma of swollen doors has been around since the first carpenter manufactured a wooden door and installed it in a home. As most houses have a dozen or more interior doors and at least two exterior doors, home owners must deal with this dilemma every time the season changes from humid summers to drier winters.
During these seasonal changes the inside humidity changes which causes wooden doors to expand and contract. As the doors swell and stick as humid weather approaches the home owner frequently becomes befuddled as to how to remedy the problem. Sticky, creaky, and nuisance doors is a problem nearly every homeowner can relate to. Sometimes the door won't shut and other times it's a major project to get the door to open.
Door problems can be caused by a variety of factors in addition to humidity such as hardware failure, wear and tear, shifting in the house structure or improper installation from the start.
There are several remedies to resolve the cycle of sticking doors during weather changes. Normally when doors are installed the doors the carpenter allows for seasonal swelling by insuring there is sufficient clearance between the door panel and casing. As most doors are pre-hung units they must be installed near perfectly straight and level (plumb) to allow for equal clearance between the door panel and the casing.
If the door is just slightly out of plumb the clearance will not be equal. An out of plumb door will either cause a jamming problem immediately or when there is a humidity change. It is nearly impossible to make an out of plum door plum without removing and reinstalling it. If the problem is severe this may be the only solution although there are others to consider.
If you live in an excessively high humid area try a dehumidifier. Not only will it help the swollen door problem it will also make the inside of your home more comfortable by lowering the humidity. If the problem is just a slight sticking it can be resolved by applying bar soap to the sticky edge or get out the sand paper and do some light sanding. If it is necessary to sand the sticky edge you may have to reapply the pant finish.
Tips for swollen stuck doors
If it is obvious where the door is sticking, sand the area using a light sand paper and reapply finish paint. If it is not obvious use a piece of carbon paper to locate the sticky point then sand that area until the door operates freely.
Check for hardware failure such as loose screws and hinges. Tighten any loose screws and check the door for sticking. If the problem still persists look further.
Check to see if the door and frame has shifted or is misaligned. Look carefully around the strike plates and bolt. If there is a misalignment take out the strike plate and file it to fit properly. If the bolt is out of alignment the frame may have to be adjusted by installing longer screws in the hinges or putting in additional finish nails to reset or reposition the jam.
If the door is jamming along the bottom edge and items 1, 2 or 3 will not solve the problem it is probably caused by either a swollen door or the floor beneath the door may be swollen due to the humidity or moisture from water entry. In either case it may be necessary to remove the door and repair the floor beneath the door by sanding and applying a sealer to keep the moisture out. Replace or install weather stripping as necessary.
If these suggestions do not remedy your sticky or jamming door problems consider bringing in a professional carpenter to assist you.