Fix a Sagging Door

Posted by John on April 25th, 2013

Do you have something around your home that’s been sorta broken but not quite broken enough to fix it yet?  For us, that forever broken item has been the closet door in our master bedroom.  Since our home is still fairly new (built in 2010) it’s subject to some degree of settling and movement.  Usually when people say their homes are settling, they’re talking about their foundations… but doors can sag over time too.

What are the symptoms of door sag?

– The door latch doesn’t fully engage the strike plate, so it shuts but doesn’t engage
– To get the door to latch, you have to lift it up by the knob
– To open the door, you have to lift it by the knob

Needless to say, it’s pretty annoying.  We had all the symptoms.  Here’s what’s going on with the door.

door sag

When the door drops, the latch mechanism becomes misaligned with the strike plate.  Instead of sitting in the center of the plate opening, the latch mechanism sits too low.

misaligned door knob

As annoying as this little problem can be, fixing it is fairly simple.  Now, your first instinct may be to just lower the strike plate a touch.  You certainly COULD do that if you want, but lowering the strike plate means chiseling the door jamb, possibly mucking up the screw holes and the strike plate hole.  Instead, you can just add a shim or two to the bottom hinge.

Here’s how to fix a sagging door…

interior door hinge

I remove the three screws that hold the hinge to the door jamb.  You don’t need to remove the hinge from the door, just the jamb.  Then I hold a piece of cardboard behind the hinge plate and trace the outline of the hinge and mark the hole locations.

door hinge shim

With the hinge traced, I cut out the shape from the cardboard and punch the holes with a pen tip.

door hinge shim 2

Then I place the shim into the area where the hinge sits and trim off any excess cardboard with a box cutter or scissors.

door hinge shim 3

With the cardboard shim in place, I reinstall the hinge back over the shim.  That’s it!  Now try opening and closing the door.  This worked the first time for me, but you may need to add a second cardboard shim over the first to get a satisfactory result.  The shim will compress some.

Not too hard right?  I can’t take credit for this tip.  I saw it on an episode of This Old House several years ago.  I don’t remember what Tom Silva used for a shim, but cardboard seems to work fine.

Any minor annoyances hanging out at your home?


Posted in DIY Projects,Fixes. Tagged in ,,

  • casadechristine

    The cardboard trick is a great one!

  • Suzanne

    Wow, we thought this was going to be so hard to fix and left the problem alone for a while. We came across this tip and it literally took 5 minutes for this quick fix and it really works!! Thank you for the tip!

  • Valerie

    Which hinge do you shim? Top, middle or bottom? Great tip!

  • Ian Bucrek

    First step is to check the top hinge for a) loose screws, and b) empty screw holes. Tighten existing screws and add 3″ screws to any empty holes to suck the door to the jamb. I just fixed one of my entry doors this way, as the previous owner hadn’t used all the available hinge holes. Cardboard shim on the bottom is a useful second step, however.

  • Spock

    You can also buy a pack of plastic shims for this purpose at Ace Hardware. Home Depot used to sell them too. The shims have elongated holes that allow you to slide them behind the door hinge after loosening the hinge screws. Keeping the screws in place gets the job done faster as you may need to install one more shims as you test the door for proper function. *Remember to first tighten all loose screws and install a 3″ screw in the center of all jamb hinges to pull the door closer to the jamb.