We covered checking the condition of your exterior doors in a previous post. Here we want to concentrate on the locking operation of your exterior doors. This is a bit more involved than checking the condition of the doors, but still in the low-stress easy category of home maintenance.
Check the Door and Lockset Alignment
There are two objects (the door and the lockset) that need to operate smoothly together. The door might be in bad condition or the lockset might be broken or worn out or the two might be misaligned so they don’t work right. Here is how to check (and correct) some common issues.
Check the Door Operation
The first thing to do is to open and close your door. Notice how it feels.
- Does it swing easily?
- Does it latch securely in its frame?
- Does it feel solid?
If you can open the door without turning the doorknob, you have misalignment and the latch is not able to seat securely. If all looks square and true after the following set of tests and the ONLY issue is that the latch does not always seat, then you may have a worn lockset that needs replacing.
Any issues on this first test are at hint that something in the alignment of the door may be awry.
Check the Door/Frame Gaps
Close the door and look at it from the inside. What you are checking for here is the gap between the door and its frame. The gap along the top of the door should be consistent all across the door. The down the latch side of the door should also be consistent along the entire height of the door.
Age and time often make a door sag. You will see this in a top-of-the-door gap that is wider at the latch side than at the hinge side. The gap along the hinge side of the door might also be wider at the top edge than the bottom edge. A door that drags along the threshold is also telling you it is in need of straightening.
If time and weather have warped your door to the point that it is no longer square and cannot close properly, you have a door that will most likely need to be replaced.
Common Fix For Sagging Door
What to do? The most common way to fix a sagging door is to tighten (or replace) the screws in the top hinge. There are two issues here that you might need to address.
- screws are too short to go into the framing timber
- screws that are loose
Do not remove all the screws from the hinge at once. Remove them one or two at a time. If they are shorter than 3 inches, you want longer screws. Get enough longer screws to replace the current ones in the top hinge. It is a good idea to replace all the hinge screws but the top hinge screws are the most important in a sagging door. Carefully replace the existing screws, removing the existing ones one at a time and replacing them with the new longer screws. Do not tighten all the way at first.
When you tighten the screws, stop and check frequently to see if the door closes properly. Do not over-tighten the screws. You want to stop at the point that the alignment problem is fixed.
If you find that your door/lockset issues are different (or larger) than this, you may want to contact professional home maintenance/home repair folks to fix the issues.
It does not take very long to check your locksets. Doing so before the doors refuse to lock is better for your peace of mind and for your home’s appearance and security.
You might also like:
- How to check your windows and screens
- How to check your caulk and weather-stripping
- Take an outside tour of your house
- How to check your doors
Download our Home Maintenance Schedule to keep up on this and other home maintenance tasks.