DIY Door Basics

Keep doors looking good and working smoothly with regular cleaning and easy maintenance

DIY Door Basics

Learn these basic maintenance tips for keeping doors in top condition. Image: Getty Images 

combination of exposure to the elements and daily traffic causes timber exterior doors to suffer wear and tear that affects their appearance and function.  

CLEAN TIMBER by using a wood oil soap on a stained finish. For painted timber, add dishwashing liquid to a bucket of warm water, using a natural sponge to scrub the door in small circular motions, working up from the base and rinsing often.

POLISH HARDWARE with Brasso, protecting nearby surfaces with plastic wrap secured with masking tape. For lacquered metal, use soapy water then dry and buff it with a soft cloth. 

LUBRICATE LOCKS with a blast of powdered graphite, a dry lubricant that can also be used on stiff latches.

SILENCE HINGES by prising up the hinge pin with a screwdriver to aim a few squirts of oil onto the shaft above the upper barrel. Swing the door back and forth a few times to distribute the oil over the hinge mechanism. 

Service a sticky door 

Changes in humidity and the natural movement of a house can lead to a swollen, sticking door but you can fix it DIY.

HOLD A BLOCK against the non-hinged side of the door frame and hit it with a hammer to widen the opening enough to free the door.

CLOSE THE DOOR and check it to find the sticking points along its edges. There should be a gap wide enough for a 20c coin all around.

PLANE THE EDGES with a hand planer using two wedges to hold the door. To remove less than 2mm of timber, use a belt sander with coarse then fine grit abrasive paper. 

plane the edges of a door, handyman magazine,
Plane the edges with a hand planer using two wedges to hold the door

Fix sliding doors 

Heavy use and track degradation or the accumulation of abrasive dirt can all impede the smooth working of sliding doors. To replace worn or broken rollers, take them to the hardware store to match replacement parts. 

Replace the rollers

Unwind the roller carriage in an anticlockwise direction until the door drops then lift it from its track. On some doors you need to unscrew the bracket or housing then slide them out.

Others require the removal of the base rail to access the rollers and carriages from the side. 

Replace carriages and rollers the same way they were removed and refit base rails if required.

To reshape damaged tracks, run a flat file lengthways down the tracks in a sweeping motion. 

Rotate the file with each stroke to re-create the dome shape on the track. Remove dirt and grease from the area and refit the doors.

glass sliding doors, handyman magazine,
Heavy use and track degradation or the accumulation of abrasive dirt can all impede the smooth working of sliding doors. Image: Thinkstock

Basic repairs

Do you have a door that rattles or one that won’t close properly? The hinges and latches probably need attention.  

STOP THE RATTLES by removing the strike plate and using pliers to slightly bend out its tongue-like flange, so it will hold the door more tightly against the doorstop.

FIX A LATCH if a door won’t catch properly because the strike plate isn’t aligned with the bolt. Watch closely how the latch bolt hits the strike plate on the frame when the door closes and look for wear marks left by the bolt to indicate where to file. 

Carefully file the opening in the strike plate to enlarge the hole a little at a time until the bolt fits in. You can also use your file to slightly round the edges of the bolt itself.

REPLACE A STRIKE PLATE if the old plate and jamb are worn or damaged. Buy and install a slightly larger plate, enlarging the slot on the jamb, called the mortise, using a chisel.

CHANGE HINGE SCREWS if some of the holes have become stripped and the screws just spin when turned. 

Remove the screws, plug the holes with toothpicks dipped in PVA adhesive, let dry then shave off the ends with a utility knife. Drill pilot holes and secure new slightly longer screws through the hinge plate. 

PACK OUT BOUND HINGES to give a door more movement. Cut thin cardboard the same length and half the width of the hinges. 

Support the door with a wedge, unscrew the hinges from the jamb and put a strip of cardboard in each mortise against the barrel side of the hinge. 

french doors, handyman magazine,
Fit flush bolts to French doors for safety and to prevent them rattling in the wind. Image: Getty Images 


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DIY Door Basics

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