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The Times
  • Homefix: Repairing doors in a 1970s-era house

  • Q: I have a home from the 1970s and it's starting to show its age. I can fix most small problems, but I'm having trouble with a couple of doors. One door is split on the side right where the latch holds the door closed, and another door will not close and is rubbing at the top of the frame. Should I replace the doors, or can they be repaired without having to replace the entire frame?

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  • Q: I have a home from the 1970s and it's starting to show its age. I can fix most small problems, but I'm having trouble with a couple of doors. One door is split on the side right where the latch holds the door closed, and another door will not close and is rubbing at the top of the frame. Should I replace the doors, or can they be repaired without having to replace the entire frame?
    A: In the late 1970s, builders used a split-jamb door system that made installation quick and inexpensive when compared to a custom door frame.
    Just as the name implies, the frame for the interior doors was split on three sides so that half of the frame could be removed by simply sliding the frames apart. The frame with the door attached was set in the rough opening, centered and squared with the opening, then shims were added to hold the frame in place until it was secured. The frame was then nailed to the rough opening along the casings on either side of the door. The frame had a notched opening to accept the strike plate for the doorknob's bolt. Here shims were added for strength and a long screw was inserted in the notch before the strike plate was installed. This gave the door stability in case the door ever slammed shut. There were three hinges for most doors. The center screw at each hinge was removed and replaced with a 2-inch-long screw to stabilize the door at the hinges. The addition of the screws at the strike plate and hinges gave the door added strength.
    If you have to remove the door's frame, check all hinge screws and the strike plate for the additional screws, which would have to be removed for jamb replacement.
    Unless the frame is cracked beyond repair, the frame can be glued together without having to remove the door or the frame. Apply wood glue to the cracked wood and then work the glue into the cracks using dental floss. Clamp the frame together and leave overnight.
    For doors that hit the jamb at the top or side, try adjusting the hinges without removing the door. For a door that hits the top of the frame, add extra-long screws to the bottom hinge and tighten enough to pull the door downward away from the top jamb.
    You can also add pieces of cardboard behind the top hinge plate on the frame side of the hinge. This will push the door downward and away from the top of the frame.
    If this does not help, you may have to remove some of the wood at the top of the door. A belt sander or hand plane can be used to remove small amounts of the door's top rail until the door fits into the framed opening.
    Page 2 of 2 - Dwight Barnett is a certified master inspector with the American Society of Home Inspectors. Write to him with home-improvement questions at C. Dwight Barnett, Evansville Courier & Press, P.O. Box 268, Evansville, IN 47702 or email him at d.Barnett@insightbb.com.

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