On the 4th Day of Christmas … Fix Interior Doors

Hinge on an interior doorWhen the screws holding a hinge to a door frame come loose, the door won't close properly anymore. Fortunately, it's an easy fix. Image: HouseLogic/iStockphoto

Give a great gift this Christmas by devoting some time and energy to fixing up the house of a friend or family member who could use your helping hand. It won’t cost much — in fact, it’s way cheaper than five golden rings.

Everybody’s got a balky door or two — ones that stick, won’t close properly, or have hinges that sound like fighting cats. Here’s some basic maintenance tips on how to get everything working smoothly — and quietly.

Loose hinges (and door won’t shut)

When a hinge gets loose, it’s because the screws holding the hinge to the door frame have come loose. When that happens, the door won’t sit in its frame nice and square, and it won’t close properly.

Screws come loose because constant opening and closing the door puts pressure on the screws, and eventually the threads wear away the wood holding them in place.

One way to fix things is to use larger, longer screws. A better way is to repair the screw holes by filling them. To repair:

1. Remove the screws.

2. Take wooden match sticks or golf tees, coat the tips (not the match head — the other end!) with white glue, and jam them into the screw holes.

3. Let everything dry for a couple of hours.

4. When dry, snap off the matchsticks or tees so they’re flush with the surrounding wood. To get a clean break, score them with a utility knife first.

5. Drill small pilot holes in each of the fillers, and screw the hinge back in place.

    Squeaky hinges

    You can oil a noisy hinge using WD-40 or light-grade machine oil, but that fix is only temporary. Usually, hinges make noise because they’re dirty. To fix, remove the hinge pin and clean it.

    1. Put the tip of a narrow-blade screwdriver against the bottom of the pin, and lightly tap on the screwdriver with a hammer until the pin pops out.

    If you’re working on a door that only has two hinges, support the door and keep it from sagging (and putting pressure on the remaining hinge) by putting a magazine or two under the bottom of the door to help hold it up.

    2. Once out, clean the pin with oil and a soft rag.

    3. Give the pin a fresh coat of oil or lithium grease and replace it, using your hammer to gently tap it back into place.

      Got an idea for helping out a neighbor or family member with home improvement and maintenance chores?