Q: Our large — 48 inches by 83 inches — and very heavy wooden front door no longer closes tightly because it is warped.

The hinge side is even all the way. But, when closed, the side with the lock is flush with the molding at the top but flares along the length to the bottom, where it sticks out by 3/4 inch. It is a challenge to insert the dead bolt.

Is there anything we could do to salvage the door? If not, what replacement options do we have? Ideally, we’d like to keep the large size, but we could be persuaded otherwise. We’re not locked in to a particular material.

A: First try to salvage the door. With some patient adjustments to the hinges and the warped side of the door, there’s a pretty good chance you can make it serviceable.

If your salvage effort is unsuccessful, we see your options as:

  • Maintain the existing frame and have a custom door built and hung;
  • Remove the door, frame and all, and install a new unit in the rough opening;
  • Reframe the rough opening and install a standard unit.

We’d opt for option one or two because, for aesthetic purposes, it’s important to maintain the size of the front door. But a new entry door of that size coupled with the wages for a skilled carpenter to install it would cost you not hundreds but thousands of dollars.

So the first thing we’d try is to correct the way the door sits in the frame. We’d do that by adjusting the hinges. Because the door is very heavy, we bet you’ve got at least three hinges — more likely four.

The lower portion of the lock side of the door is kicked out, so the biggest adjustment will be to the top hinge. Smaller adjustments should be made on the middle one or two hinges. The bottom hinge will remain where it is.

The goal is to move the top hinge toward the interior of the house so that the opposite side on the bottom will move toward the exterior, reducing or, with luck, eliminating the gap created by the warpage. A 1/4-inch relocation of the top hinge should result in a 1/2-inch or larger movement of the lower leading edge of the door toward the jamb. …CONTINUED

This is a two-person job: one to work on the hinges and the second to steady the door.

First, open the door to expose the hinges on the jamb. Support the bottom edge of the door with shims (wood shingles work well). Loosen the screws on the jamb side of all of the hinges. You’ve probably got four screws in each hinge. A battery-powered drill with a screwdriver bit will make the job easier.

With all the screws loosened, remove the screws on the jamb side of the top hinge. Begin to ease the shims from under the door. Back the screws out from the middle hinge and slowly ease the shims out, lowering the door. The top hinge should move away from the jamb 1/4 inch or so and should translate into a reduction of most of the gap at the lock side lower edge.

Now, predrill a new hole for the top screw of the top hinge. Using a new 3-inch screw, attach the hinge to the jamb. The new screw should penetrate not only the jamb but also the stud behind the jamb. Remove the screws from the middle hinge(s) and tighten the screws on the bottom hinge.

Gently close the door and check for fit. If more adjustment is necessary, replace the shims, remove the screw and move the hinge in or out as needed, predrill and install a new screw.

When the fit is good, replace the shims under the bottom of the door to take the weight off the hinges and install the rest of the screws, predrilling as necessary. Use the longer screws when you can to ensure that the door is held solidly in the frame.

Even with the hinges readjusted you’ll probably have to do some fine-tuning on the lock side of the door. The bottom may still be a little gappy. In this case, remove some of the wood from the upper corner of the door where it hits the jamb. Use a wood plane to remove most of the wood and finish the job with a belt sander or an orbital sander.

The final step is to readjust the weatherstripping.

With patience and luck the door will latch, the dead bolt will bolt, and you will have saved thousands of dollars.


What’s your opinion? Leave your comments below or send a letter to the editor. To contact the writer, click the byline at the top of the story.

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