Repair Of Binding Door

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We’ve reviewed these procedures for general consistency with federal standards for rehabilitating historic buildings and provide them only as a reference. Specifications should only be applied under the guidance of a qualified preservation professional who can assess the applicability of a procedure to a particular building, project or location. References to products and suppliers serve as general guidelines and do not constitute a federal endorsement nor a determination that a product or method is the best alternative or compliant with current environmental regulations and safety standards.



  1. This procedure includes guidance on inspecting and repairing a door that binds or rubs unnecessarily. Some causes of a binding door may include paint build-up, thermal expansion or swelling of the wood, loose hinges, a worn hinge pin, or an open joint between the rail and stile. See Section 3.01 below for guidance on examining the cause of the problem so that the appropriate repair can be made.
  2. For guidance on repairing a door that has a springy resistance to closing, see 08712-01-R "Resetting a Hinge Mortise".
  3. See 01100-07-S for "General Project Guidelines" to be reviewed along with this procedure. These guidelines cover the following sections:
    1. Safety Precautions
    2. Historic Structures Precautions
    3. Submittals
    4. Quality Assurance
    5. Delivery, Storage and Handling
    6. Project/Site Conditions
    7. Sequencing and Scheduling
    8. General Protection (Surface and Surrounding)

These guidelines should be reviewed before performing this procedure and should be followed, when applicable, along with recommendations from the Regional Historic Preservation Officer (RHPO).


  1. The parts of the door assembly involved in this procedure are the door unit and door frame.
    1. The door unit is composed of a head rail, lock rail, bottom rail, lock stile, hinge stile, muntins, and panels. The door unit assembly is held together by mortise and tenon joints.
    2. The frame is composed of the jambs, head jamb, stop, and blocking. The cuts made on door and jamb at hinge side are the hinge mortise and the cut made on the jamb at latch side is the strike mortise.
  2. Ideally, a door should hang with a 1/16 to 1/8 inch uniform gap around the door between the door and the jamb.
  3. A door should swing smoothly and silently on its hinges, latch firmly, and remain fixed when closed.



  1. Wood screws
  2. Wood dowels
  3. Wood wedges
  4. Wood glue
  5. Wood filler


  1. Screwdriver
  2. Drill
  3. Vice
  4. Plane
  5. Clamps
  6. Level



  1. To discern the problem, watch the door operate as it is opened and closed a few times. Note the location of any binding or rubbing, or if doors bind inconsistently from top to bottom or hinge side to latch side.
    1. If the door binds evenly along the latch side and head, the problem may be caused by paint build-up, or seasonal expansion.
    2. If the door binds along the top of the latch side and/or on the floor, the problem may be a loose upper or lower hinge, a worn hinge pin, or an open joint between the upper rail and stile.
      1. A loose lower hinge is usually a problem with wide throw hinges on entry doors, causing the door to sag. This is evident by the door resting against the jamb on the hinge side.
      2. The joint between the upper rail and the stile may be forced open by the weight of the door or warping in the stile or rail.
    3. If the door drags on the floor and a gap exists on the latch side of the head or when a door binds at the latch side of the head and a gap exists at the floor, the cause is building settlement. This situation can be differentiated from loose hinges by the gap between top of door and head jamb.


  1. For paint build-up: This is typically the cause of binding doors.
    1. If the paint is loose and flaking, carefully remove it from the mating surfaces using a paint scraper. TAKE PARTICULAR CARE NOT TO GOUGE THE WOOD SURFACES.
    2. For paint build-up that cannot be easily removed using a scraper, remove excess paint using heat or chemical removers. Being aware of hazardous coatings/materials, see 06400-07-R "Chemically removing paint from wood features" and 06400-09-R "Removing paint from wood features using thermal methods" for guidance.
  2. For a door that swells from seasonal expansion: The door must be carefully removed from the frame, planed, and reinstalled. Planing should be performed during the peak of the humid season when the wood has expanded fully.
  3. For a loose upper or lower hinge:
    1. Check for loose top hinge by opening the door partially and pulling up on the knob and pushing in toward the top. If the hinge moves, it is loose.
    2. Tighten screws as much as possible. If the screw holes have been stripped, install longer screws, or drill new pilot holes for screws.
      1. For stripped screw holes in the door STILE: Resecure the hinge to the stile using longer screws. This method is suitable for the door stile because the stile is made of solid wood and can accommodate longer screws.
      2. For stripped screw holes in the JAMB: Resecure the hinge to the jamb by filling in existing holes and drilling new screw holes.
        1. Remove the hinge and drill out existing screw holes in the jamb.
        2. Insert glue-soaked dowel into the hole and allow to dry.
        3. Re-drill pilot holes for new screws and re-install hinge.
  4. For a worn hinge pin:
    1. Check for worn hinge pin by lifting and pushing door. If there is no movement in hinge leaves but knuckle moves or is misaligned, the hinge pin is worn.
    2. Make sure pin is fully inserted. If needed, straighten bent hinge pin or remove hinge and straighten bent knuckles with vice.
    3. If the pin is all the way in and knuckles are still loose, the pin or whole hinge must be replaced. Replacement pin and/or hinge should match the original.
  5. For an open joint between upper rail and stile: Remove paint and any filler or caulk from previous repair. Before proceeding, understand joint type.
    1. To repair a through tenon joint, remove old wedges and work joint open to dislodge glue.
      1. Glue all exposed areas of tenon joint and clamp tightly.
      2. Make new wedges slightly longer than needed and drive glue-soaked wedges in tight. Remove any excess glue.
      3. When the glue dries, chisel off ends of wedges flush with the edge of door.
    2. To repair a rail tenon joint (tenon reaches only partially through the stile):
      1. Reglue all exposed areas of joint (see Section 3.02 E.1. above) and clamp tightly.
      2. Peg connection through stile and tenon with wood dowel. The dowel will show on the surface of the door. -OR- Countersink 2 long wood screws through side of stile and face of tenon. Fill the hole with tinted wood filler.
  6. For a gap at the top due to building settlement:
    1. Check for frame squareness with level at head and jambs.
    2. If gap between door and head is small enough so that one cannot see through the frame into other room, carefully remove the door from its frame, plane the bottom of door and leave the frame out of line.
    3. If one can see through the gap into other room, the frame must be rebuilt.
  7. For a gap at the bottom due to building settlement:
    1. Check for frame squareness with level at head and jambs.
    2. If not level, the door must be reframed. NOTE: Planing the door is not an option here. Planing the narrower top rail of the door would leave it distorted and unsightly and weakened if the tenon is exposed.