How to open an exterior door that is glued shut?
April 1, 2015 9:52 AM   Subscribe

My roommate improperly weatherized an exterior door a few months ago. It is caulked shut and won't open. What can we do?

My awesome, thoughtful, go getting, frugal roommate spent a lot of time weatherproofing our apartment for the winter. She went the whole nine yards, and even caulked the exterior door to the porch/fire escape. I was so grateful for her work and I'm sure it saved us money.

I tried to go out to the porch yesterday for the first time in months, but I couldn't get past the door. It's basically glued shut! It won't budge! It turns out my roommate didn't know what to do and improperly sealed the door by applying caulk to the inside of the door jambs and then shutting the door while it was drying.

I tried to remove some of the caulk with a kitchen knife, but mostly it is neither reachable nor visible. I tried pulling from the inside, then I tried pushing (and kicking!) from the outside. The door still won't budge.

What do we do?
posted by stripesandplaid to Home & Garden (17 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
If the door opens in, then you should be able to reach most of the caulk from the inside. You probably need something thinner than a kitchen knife, like a razor blade. Alternate cutting and pushing and you should eventually work it free.
posted by soelo at 9:56 AM on April 1, 2015

Razor blade. I have two doors into my apartment from the hallway and had to get through god knows how many layers of paint this way. Have you got exterior access to the balcony? Razor blade all around, then kick the door in.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 9:59 AM on April 1, 2015 [1 favorite]

I had an idiot landlord do this to our apartment windows many apartments ago. I went in with a putty knife and jimmied all the seams that way. Jammed the blade in there to sever the caulk as much as possible then peeled out the bead of caulk. Not gonna lie, it was tough work.

The putty knife was a pretty decent tool since it's thin, long enough to get into the crack, and wide enough that you get more bang for your buck.
posted by phunniemee at 9:59 AM on April 1, 2015 [3 favorites]

Might see if you can find someone with an oscillating cutter you can borrow: Should make it easier to get a blade in there and cut through the caulk.
posted by straw at 10:11 AM on April 1, 2015 [1 favorite]

How much caulk? Which part of the door jamb? If it's the part that touches the large face of the door, you'll need to approach from one side; if it's around the edges of the door, a different side. If it's a _lot_ of caulk, you might end up damaging the door in trying to fix it -- but you should definitely get it fixed, even if you have to call the landlord and lose part of your deposit.

It's called a "fire escape" for a reason.

Have you tried removing the hinge pins and using a pry bar? This is also likely to damage the door, but it's an idea.
posted by amtho at 10:23 AM on April 1, 2015 [3 favorites]

If it wasn't so dangerous, I'd think this was one of the funniest things!

Caulk is a weird product. I'm going to hope roommate used silicon based, in which case -- YES! Razor blades, carpet knife, and thin putty knives will all do the trick!!

If roommate used oil based, that stuff dries rock hard and you need a saw, even a jigsaw with a thin blade might do it.

Most caulk is silicon based. You'll know the difference because silicon is rubbery and you can pull it out in ropey strips or beads.
posted by jbenben at 10:34 AM on April 1, 2015

I would also try a hair dryer. IOW, heat a section with hair dryer, then pry the caulk out, it will be much easier. Go all the way around that way, then heat the entire perimeter as much as you can before the next attempt at opening (use TWO hair driers if you have them, or THREE, to get that whole perimeter nice and toasty. Then, have someone pulling outside while you push inside.

Let us know how this turns out!
posted by beagle at 10:44 AM on April 1, 2015

I'd remove the pins from the hinges and push it from the hinged side in- that would presumably have less caulk on that side. It would be a good idea to have someone ready to catch the door. (Edit- looks like amtho had the same idea above).
posted by jenkinsEar at 10:47 AM on April 1, 2015

You might need to remove the door jamb, which might need replacing after you destroy it.

For next year: DAP Seal & Peel is a removeable caulk. Even so, only apply a bead to the closed door, but you'll be able to get it off in the spring.
posted by H21 at 11:18 AM on April 1, 2015 [1 favorite]

Can you tell us the kind of caulk and the kind of door material? There's a few chemical things you can use (mineral spirits, acetone, hydro peroxide, alcohol, etc. depending on the door, door paint, and the caulk).

If you're not sure what kind of caulk it was, try a q-tip with just plain water and soak a part of the crack as much as you can (works better with not bare wood, because the wood might swell). Some caulks - particularly latex and acrylic - soften or break down from water. (This might affect your paint, so be careful.) You might also try testing an inconspicuous spot with regular rubbing alcohol - some caulks swell with alcohol and lift off the contact surface. Then you can try a razor blade, putty knife, just shoving it, etc.

If it's silicon based caulk and a wood door, silicon doesn't adhere well to wood. Your best bet might not be to tear through the caulk but to break the contact between the caulk and the door by running an X-acto blade (for control) along the door edge instead of in the center. Also try razoring the corners or just the "thinnest" cracks first - it might be only 1 or 2 spots that's holding the whole thing.

You could also try to wait for a very cold morning, when the door has shrunk slightly, instead of at the end of the day when the door has expanded. Hopefully it wasn't too cold when your roommate did the thing.

If the caulk is not silicon based, you might be able to dissolve it enough to razor blade it by running a q-tip dipped in a solvent along the edge. Definitely test a small part of the jamb, though, as it could also dissolve your paint or affect the door.
posted by barchan at 11:21 AM on April 1, 2015

Rather than caulk, what you want for the door (next time) is "weather stripping".
posted by amtho at 12:30 PM on April 1, 2015

So it's a painted metal door and my roommate used DAP Alex Plus Acrylic Latex Caulk Plus Silicone (35 year durability guarantee!)

The way the door is set up I can really only get to the caulk from the outside, where the caulk is kind of flush against the wide part of the door (if that makes sense). I have been using a razor blade AND a putty knife with some success, and while I can kind of see light shining through cracks here and there, the door is still stuck. I'm hoping all I need is more elbow grease.
posted by stripesandplaid at 3:20 PM on April 1, 2015

Try using a caulk remover to soften up the caulk. If its unreachable easily use a syringe to apply it.

Keep applying till it softens and try to make some space so as to get a knife edge or razor in and then scrape it away.
posted by ding-dong at 3:29 PM on April 1, 2015 [1 favorite]

I think you might benefit from some kind of sharpened hook-shaped metal implement. That way you could work the point into the caulk, then rock it back and pick the caulk out of the crevice. Maybe ask at a hardware store, or some kind of specialized hardware store.

Wear gloves if possible to reduce the chances of cutting yourself.
posted by amtho at 4:04 PM on April 1, 2015

I have been using a razor blade AND a putty knife with some success...

If your roommate still lives there then it seems like she should be the one using the razor blade and putty knife.
posted by jeffhoward at 4:51 PM on April 1, 2015 [5 favorites]

A painter's tool is just the thing for this job. They are available at any hardware store. Jam the beak end in there and drag it along. You'll have that sucker open in no time.
posted by LarryC at 10:43 PM on April 1, 2015

The door is finally open!

We had limited success with the putty knife and the razor blades and ended up getting a pull saw. It took about an hour of sawing in total and then two people pusing on the outside and one person pulling from the inside in order for the door to open. My roommate has agreed to never caulk a door again.

Thanks for all your answers!
posted by stripesandplaid at 7:16 PM on April 4, 2015 [1 favorite]

« Older Appointment(s) with new dentist: is this normal?   |   Podcast management Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.