How to fix gap between residential door and door frame?
May 29, 2010 7:30 AM   Subscribe

Handyman filter: we hired someone to install a new door in our rented house, but there is a gap between one side of the door and the frame. How to fix?

The new door is snug against the frame on all sides except one: the side where the lock is. Here are some pictures of the problem:


The gap is so big that the latch will not catch in the jamb, so when the deadbolt isn't engaged, the door won't stay closed.

From my limited internet research, I gather that the door was not "shimmed" properly when installed?

I am looking for a more permanent solution than installing some weatherstripping or something because our landlord is grumbling about it. He actually wants us to completely replace the door, but that sounds ridiculous to me. There must be a simpler, cheaper solution...right?

What say you mefites?

posted by halfguard to Home & Garden (12 answers total)
Since the gap on the catch-side is uniform from top to bottom it would appear that your door opening is an odd size. Other than replacing the entire door frame and door it will be difficult to make a satisfactory repair.

You could remove the door trim on the catch-side and see if you can figure a way to move the jamb over closer to the door. But you will have to study it and see if that is possible.

I doubt a new door alone will solve the problem. I would replace the entire frame as that would allow adjustment of the jamb to the door to be made properly.

You might be able to get a strip of wood equal to the gap and glue/nail it to the door frame. Sand it and paint it to match the trim. You would have to recut that strip to allow the locks to close.
posted by JayRwv at 7:40 AM on May 29, 2010

Getting doors right is a game of fractions of an inch.

If the gap is not too big, just take the door off the frame (leave the hinges on the door), cut some thick cardboard shims (any thick cardboard stock will do - NOT corrugated though - sometimes you need two or three layers) to fit in the cutouts for the hinges on the door jamb, staple them in place, then reinstall the door, screwing through the cardboard into the existing holes.

This will push the door towards the lockset side by a couple sixteenths, which may be enough to catch the lock and solve the problem.

If the gap is too big, you either need to have the jamb pulled out and shimmed with wood away from the raw frame (a big pain), or get another door that's 1/2" wider (expensive but simple).
posted by Aquaman at 7:44 AM on May 29, 2010

You should generally be able to go back to the person you hired and ask them to fix the issue.
posted by belau at 7:55 AM on May 29, 2010 [1 favorite]

I gather that the door was not "shimmed" properly when installed?

Exactly right. The shims are just thin strips of wood between the door jamb and the rough framing. They are tapered to allow for fine adjustment, which wasn't done properly. You can't see them now because they are hidden behind the casing.

The only right way to fix this is:

1. Remove casing moldings on both sides of the jamb (lock side only).
2. Remove stop molding (the thin molding that the door closes against) along lock side of the jamb.
3. Remove whatever fasteners (hopefully long screws) are holding the lock side of the jamb in place (these were hidden under the stop molding)
4. Shim jamb into correct position. Replace fasteners.
5. Replace casings
6. Replace stop molding.
7. Caulk and touch up paint as necessary.
posted by jon1270 at 8:06 AM on May 29, 2010 [2 favorites]

Looking closer, I see that the door casing is rather dinged up, so it's probably not new; it looks as if you had a new door hung in an old opening. It also looks like the gap is smaller at the top and bottom, and widest in the middle, near the latch -- the jamb is slightly bowed, while your new door is straight. The jamb, not the door itself, is the part that needs shimming. My guess is that the guy you hired hoped to simply hang the new door and call it a day, which wasn't really feasible in this case.
posted by jon1270 at 8:21 AM on May 29, 2010

No matter what the problem I would contact the contractor you had do the job and make him finish the job properly. You paid him to install a new door that would fit properly and he didn't live up to his end of the bargain. I worked construction for several years and saw this all too often. Subcontractor does a sub-par job and people try to fix it themselves instead of making him come back and do it properly.
posted by no bueno at 8:28 AM on May 29, 2010

Seconding no bueno--"you" should not be fixing this, the guy you hired to do the job should.
posted by thomas j wise at 11:10 AM on May 29, 2010

Thanks for all the recommendations so far.

One complicating factor is that the contractor who did the job is the husband of one of my close I anticipate some trickiness in navigating the upcoming conversation. I don't want to hurt his (or her) feelings, but I also don't want to be taken advantage of.

I paid about 250 for the door and the initial install, if that makes any difference.
posted by halfguard at 11:16 AM on May 29, 2010

I would charge more in labor to repair the door than to install it. Not only would I have to install it properly, I would have to take it all down first- without damaging the trim. Tricky and takes time.
posted by Monday at 11:40 AM on May 29, 2010

I wondered if it wasn't someone you knew. In my experience it's just not a good idea to get friends to do work on your house unless you know they're exceptional and would have no problem fixing their errors if they see them and in this case I don't know how he could walk away from this. Were it one of my friends I would just call him up have him look at it and ask if there was any way you guys could close the gap. If he's a good friend and a decent contractor he'll offer to do it for you. I wouldn't go demanding he fix it if your husband wants to keep his friendship in tact.

$250 is pretty darn cheap considering even a cheap entry door is going to run about $150.
posted by no bueno at 1:10 PM on May 29, 2010

"In my experience it's just not a good idea to get friends to do work on your house unless you know they're exceptional and would have no problem fixing their errors if they see them and in this case I don't know how he could walk away from this."

Ah, and learn, right? :P

He's already offered to fix the problem. I'm just not sure that he understands what needs to be done. I hope so, because I don't want to be in the position of explaining to him that his proposed solution isn't good enough because some people on the internet said so...know what I mean?
posted by halfguard at 1:28 PM on May 29, 2010

Haha yea I understand that completely, I would just try to let him down as easily as possible if he doesn't fix it the second time. And go elsewhere rather than making a big deal about it. I know it sucks but I'm sure the friendship is worth more than a few hundred dollars especially if the guy is just incompetent and not being a jerk about it.
posted by no bueno at 2:13 PM on May 29, 2010

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