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September 28, 2011 4:34 PM   Subscribe

The front door to my house gets stuck on humid days. How can I prevent this?

I live in Philadelphia and recently we have had rediculously humid days. On these days I am unable to open my front door from the inside. I just cant generate the force necessary by pulling on the doorknob. I usually need to walk around to the outside and hip check the damn thing open.

I don't want to replace the door because in the colder months and less humid days the door is fine. I fear that if I replace the door in a humid time, it will be drafty later.

I believe the door is the original one that came with the house when built in 1960-61. Solid wood, completely painted.

Is there anything I can do to remedy this situation?
posted by WeekendJen to Home & Garden (9 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Either the hinges need to be adjusted, or a door edge needs to be planed. You could also try rubbing the edge of the door (where it is sticking) with a bar of soap.
posted by HuronBob at 4:38 PM on September 28, 2011

If you don't care about the paint on the edge of the door, you could sand it down a bit.

I used to work in a brand-new building. The first summer, when it started getting humid, we had a ton of trouble with all of the wooden doors. The custodians had to go around and sand the edges of the doors so that they would open and close! Luckily, none of them were painted.
posted by Elly Vortex at 4:50 PM on September 28, 2011

My door has the same problem, although it is older than yours by 40 years. My guess is that successive layers of paint have an effect here, in that they are already adding some thickness to the door. If your door needs repainting now, you could start by stripping it well on the edges before repainting it. This might alleviate the problem enough, although, if you've stripped down the door already before repainting you could also plane the edge before repainting.
posted by OmieWise at 5:07 PM on September 28, 2011 [1 favorite]

You should have weatherstripping (bulb type works, brush type not so much) to keep out the drafts and have the hinges adjusted or plane the door and frame until it swings freely even on a humid day.
posted by meinvt at 5:28 PM on September 28, 2011 [1 favorite]

If it's sticking because of humidity, it's swelling up when the wood absorbs moisture. That should not happen if it really is completely painted - the paint should keep the wood from absorbing moisture. Put a small mirror on the floor and see if the bottom of the door actually is painted. Check the other edges, too. If any of them aren't painted, wait for a dry spell, then take the door off and paint the edges.

It's possible that the hinge reliefs and lock and latch holes expose enough unpainted wood to cause the problem. If the edges are all painted, take all the hardware off and paint the bare wood.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 6:50 PM on September 28, 2011

Hi, I live in Philadelphia and also have to (semi-gently) kick the door open. Remember that not only does the door need to be well and truly painted, but the doorframe does, too.

(For us, it's on the list of things to do, but I'm determined to try to rescue the old woodwork of the doorframe and replace the door with a nicer vintage wood door. So for now, we have a door that sticks mightily.)
posted by desuetude at 8:23 PM on September 28, 2011

the paint should keep the wood from absorbing moisture.

Not so. Paint slows down the moisture transfer, but doesn't stop it. It will still expand in humid seasons and contract in dry seasons, just not as suddenly and perhaps not quite as much.

As suggested above, check to make sure the hinge screws are tight and the hinge leaves pulled snugly into place in both the jamb and the door. If it's still a problem, the door needs to be shaved down (planed, sanded, etc.) so it's a bit narrower, then the edge needs to be primed and repainted. Also check that the jambs are caulked to the threshold; if there's no porch or porch-like roof sheltering the doorway then rainwater sitting on the threshold can get under the jambs and wick very quickly up into the end grain. Oh, and make sure the bottom edge of the door is painted too; rainwater can bounce off the threshold, hit the bottom of the door and get sucked up into the stiles, which will widen the door in a hurry.
posted by jon1270 at 9:57 PM on September 28, 2011

If the door is sticking near the top, you can fix it by shimming the bottom hinge. Remove screws to detach hinge from frame, and place a piece of cardboard between the hinge and the frame -- then put the screws back in. The cardboard shouldn't be corrugated, and you can layer thin cardboard to get the thickness you need. The cardboard should be cut to the same size as the hinge.

If the door's sticking near the bottom, shim the top hinge.

If the whole door is swollen, you can wait for drier weather, when the door will shrink. Once it's gotten small enough, coat the top and bottom edges with with a non-water based primer/sealer, such as Kilz or BIN. The primer will dry very fast. When it dries, put a coat of oil-based paint on the door's edges.

I agree with Jon1270 that paint can't completely prevent all swelling. But in my long experience owning 3 different homes, the paint method I've described has never failed.
posted by wryly at 7:31 PM on September 29, 2011

If the door is sticking near the top, you can fix it by shimming the bottom hinge.

This is easily misinterpreted. If the door is sticking near the top of the long vertical side, shimming the bottom hinge might work. If it's sticking at the top horizontal side, that will make it worse. Same comment applies to the "near the bottom" situation.

In any event, if it's sticking so hard that you can't pull it open (as in the question), I don't think shimming alone is going to cure it.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 6:06 AM on September 30, 2011

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