The Most Common Aging-in-Place Renovation Mistakes … And How to Fix Them: Door Installations

As you work your way through each room of your aging-in-place home renovation, you’ll collect vast amounts of knowledge along the way. Every project you do will benefit from the lessons you learn in the previous ones.

Home renovation is one big learning experience. Most DIYers forget this, though, and worry too much about making mistakes. I’m here to tell you that you will make mistakes. Remember, you’re a DIY renovator, not a professional contractor. And that’s okay – you’re not supposed to be.

Mistakes are inevitable, so by learning how to fix common aging-in-place renovation mistakes you’ll be ahead of the game.

Learning How to Fix DIY Mistakes is a Part of the Aging-in-Place Renovation Process

This article is the first in a series all about the most common mistakes DIYers fall victim to as they make their way through an aging-in-place home renovation. First up: door installations.

Interior doors look like an easy project at first glance, but small mistakes can make a big difference in how well your door opens and closes. And, in how safe it is in your aging-in-place home.

Four frequent interior door issues are the result of the most common door installation mistakes. If you notice any of these issues days or weeks after your new door is in place, there’s a simple fix. And I’m here to teach it to you.

Let’s go through the most common door installation mistakes and the challenges they cause for an aging-in-place home.

4 Interior Door Problems and How to Fix Them

If your doors are giving you any of these four door issues, take another look at your door installation. Chances are your door just needs a quick adjustment. Taking care of each of these door installation mistakes is a quick task and an easy fix.

Your Door Opens or Closes on Its Own

A door that opens or closes under its own weight isn’t perfectly vertical – this is called being out of ‘plumb.’ When a door is out of plumb, it will swing open or close on a whim.

We’ve all witnessed a door that doesn’t want to stay put – it’s frustrating, to say the least. But, this is another great example of a challenge that for most of us is an annoyance, but for an older adult is a potential safety issue.

If a door in an aging-in-place home is out of plumb, it could come back and hit your parent as they talk through the doorway – a potentially dangerous situation is your parent has mobility issues or who walks slowly through the house. The same can happen if the trouble door is a closet door that won’t say closed.

How to Fix:

You can stop the door from swinging on its hinge by adding resistance between the hinge and the hinge pin inside. Luckily, this is an easy fix. By slightly bending the hinge pin and placing it back inside the hinge, you’ll create enough resistance to stop the door from opening and closing under its own weight.

This is a great trick in the DIY world that will take care of your swinging door in about five minutes.  

Tools You’ll Need to Make This Fix:

Hammer

Flat Tip Screwdriver

Step Ladder

Step 1: Remove the hinge pin from the top hinge. You can do this pretty easily with a flat tip screwdriver and your hammer, hitting the hammer against the screwdriver as it pries the pin out of place. You may need a ladder to reach the pin. 

Step 2: Put the pin on the ground on a hard surface. Hit the pin with a hammer just enough to cause it to bend slightly. You want the bend to be just under the tip of the pin.

Step 3: Tap the hinge pin back into place.

The door should no longer swing back and forth under its own weight. If this doesn’t fully solve the problem, you can give the pin another tap. Or try wrapping the pin with a thin layer of tape – just enough to create more resistance. Don’t use too much tape or the pin may not fit back inside the hinge.

Your Door Sticks and is Hard to Close

A door that sticks is tough, if not impossible, to fully close. It also takes some strength to open back up. Just like with most door issues, if you or I have to deal with a door that sticks, it becomes frustrating. For the aging-in-place home, sticky doors can cause pain for adults with sore hands or who just aren’t as strong as they were when they were younger.

If your door sticks and is difficult to open and close, you’re dealing with what’s called hinge binding. It’s a very common mistake and an easy one to make if you’re new to door installation.

Hinge binding is what happens when the hinge-side of your door touches the door jamb just before the door closes. It occurs when the hinge plate is recessed too deep into the door frame. The door ends up not completely closing because of the incorrectly-positioned hinge. When that happens, you have to push the door with some force to get it to close and then use a good bit of force to pry it back open.

How to Fix:

To stop a hinge from binding into the door jamb, you’ll need to remove the hinge plate and add shims under it so it can sit flush with the frame and away from the door jam. Start with adjusting the bottom hinge. If you get that first hinge unbound but the door still sticks, move up to the middle hinge and repeat the steps. You may need to adjust all three hinges depending on how much each is bound against the door frame.

Tools You’ll Need to Make This Fix:

DIY Shims – thin slices of cardboard between 3/8-inch – ½-inches thick work well

Electric Drill

Step 1: Loosen the screws in the hinge plate on the hinge that’s binding. Unscrew them enough to allow yourself room to slide a shim between the plate and door frame. 

Step 2: On the other side of the door, you should now see clearance between the loose hinge and the door frame. Place a thin shim between the hinge plate and the frame to eliminate the bind. This may take some trial and error to get the right thickness to do the job.

Step 3: Screw the hinge plate back onto the door frame. Now when you open and close the door, you should see the hinge swing clear of the door jamb, allowing the door to easily open and close.

If after completing step three the door still sticks, repeat these steps with the middle hinge and the top hinge as needed.

Your Door is Leaning Down on One Side

If your door isn’t plumb from top to bottom, one end of the non-hinge side will lean closer to the door frame than the other. If the door is leaning, you’ll notice that the gap between the door and the frame is wider at one end of the door than the other. This may or may not cause a problem with the door functionally. And, it may not cause any major safety issues at this moment. But, the weight of a door that’s not in plumb will put stress on the hinges which can lead to bigger issues later, like warping, sticking and opening on its own.

How to Fix:

You’ll need to push the non-hinge side of the door forward until the door is in plumb. Adjust the hinge adjacent to the section of the door with the widest gap between it and the wall. To do this, you’ll essentially repeat the steps above used to fix a door that sticks, but only adjust one hinge to allow the door to sit plumb. This is another easy DIY fix with just a couple of steps.

Tools You’ll Need to Make This Fix:

DIY Shims – thin slices of cardboard between 3/8-inch – ½-inches thick work well

Electric Drill

Step 1: Loosen the screws in the hinge plate. Don’t unscrew them all of the way.

Step 2: On the other side of the door, the loose hinge should come out away from the door frame with just enough clearance for you to slip in a shim. Put just enough shims in between the hinge plate and the frame to push the door ward enough to force it to sit plumb. Again, this will take some trial and error.

Your Door Doesn’t Stay Closed

So far we’ve focused on fixes that required a hinge adjustment. Sometimes though, an incorrectly-installed latch is the culprit of a door that just won’t stay closed.

If your parent closes the door and the latch doesn’t catch, you’ll need to adjust the placement of the latch catch plate so it’s in-line with the door latch.

How to Fix:

First, try to tap the latch plate into place. I’ll show you this easy step and hopefully it’ll take care of the problem. If not, you’ll need to remove and reinstall the latch.

Tools You’ll Need to Make This Fix:

Flat Chisel

Hammer

Utility Knife

Screwdriver

Electric Drill

Wood Filler

Fine Grit Sandpaper

Step 1: Look at where the latch hits against the latch plate and notice how far up or down the plate has to come to intersect with the latch. If you’re looking at just a millimeter or so, try step 2 and see if you can gently tap the plate up or down to meet the latch. If you’re looking at a bigger gap, skip to step 3.

Step 2: Slightly loosen the screws holding the latch plate to the wall. If the catch plate needs to come down, take a utility knife and score the door frame that hits right at the bottom of the catch plate. If the catch plate needs to move up, reverse the process and score the wall above the plate.

Then, place the flat side of your chisel in the opening of the plate. With your hammer, tap the chisel and try to adjust the height of the latch plate. Whether your plate needs to move up or down, use this method and see if a tiny adjustment is all you need to do.

Pro Tip: When you tighten your screws back up, the top plate screw is going to want to pull up on the plate, undoing the work of lowering the plate if you tapped the plate down. Only tighten that screw enough to hold the plate in place.

Step 3: If tapping the latch’s catch plate down or up a bit wasn’t enough, you’ll need to remove the plate from the door frame and move it so the latch intersects the plate. Unscrew the plate and remove it from the door frame.

Determine the correct center point for the catch plate. Place the catch plate in place against the frame and drill a pilot hole for each new screw. Then, secure the plate to the frame with your screws. If the previous screw holes are exposed, apply a wood filler then sand each with fine grit sandpaper to fill each hole.

After this Fix, You’ll Be Ready to Master Your Next Aging-in-Place Door Installation

Door installations can be tricky, especially if you’re just starting to get your feet wet in the aging-in-place DIY world. The door you install today may take a few weeks to show any sign that it needs a fix. With this list of fixes to the most common door installation mistakes, you’ll be ready to handle any door issue your aging-in-place home throws your way.

Use the comments section below to send me any and all of your door installation questions as you go. I’m here and ready to help.

Good luck with your next aging-in-place home project!

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