Fixing a crooked door.
June 28, 2006 7:58 PM   Subscribe

Fixing a crooked door...

Last summer I knocked out a window, cut down the wall, and installed an exterior door. Installed an oak threshold and the door fit perfectly. Used a big square and a level to make sure it was level and plumb. All was well, so I installed a storm door, painted, and cased the interior. It look like all was fine...

But nothing can ever work out that easy. Something shifted, and both the door and the storm door are crooked in the frame. The hinge side is fine, but the latch side is about 1/4" lower. So, either the latch side fell or the hinge side went up.

Any ideas on fixing this? I suppose I could pull everything out and start over, but I really don't want to.
posted by Marky to Home & Garden (14 answers total)
try loosening the screws that secure the top hinge to the frame just a litte bit. that will allow the door to sag slightly.
posted by cosmicbandito at 8:03 PM on June 28, 2006

Just how much of the wall did you take out before installing the door?

It sounds like it "shifted" because it was load bearing, and you weakened the structure of the building with what you removed. I would advise you to get a competent carpenter in to take a look to see if it's necessary to add more support to that wall to replace what you took out. (After all, something has to hold up the roof!)
posted by Steven C. Den Beste at 8:04 PM on June 28, 2006

to clarify, is the door 1/4" to low, or is the frame 1/4" too low?
posted by cosmicbandito at 8:04 PM on June 28, 2006

If you cut your sill plate when you "cut down the wall" in order to install your oak threshold, and didn't go to the trouble of building up the right framing in sleepers, cripples and headers, to support the wall while handling the door's loads, you'll probably need to do so soon. Having a door come out of plumb a 1/4" if there is no visible deterioration of hardware isn't good. Consider that you're getting a warning of framing problems, and look carefully for drywall problems elsewhere on that wall to confirm.
posted by paulsc at 8:14 PM on June 28, 2006

I suppose I could pull everything out and start over, but I really don't want to.
Well, if you don't mind a jury-rigging approach, you could plane the edges of the door with a hand planer (or a power planer, which would fix it in seconds). Of course this won't work for a metal door. Planing is usually just for fixing minor problems with interior doors.
posted by chef_boyardee at 8:23 PM on June 28, 2006

cosmicbandito: If I loosen the top hinge, the problem would just get worse. The gap between the door and frame is on the knob side.

Steven C. Den Beste: I don't think the shift is a roof load problem, I removed a window to put in the door. The door is the same width as the window was, I only removed the cripples and the sill. Never touched the wall studs.

paulsc: The header, king and trimmer studs were never touched. I cut the plate, and attached it to the rim joist nailing through the subfloor.

chef_boyardee: No planing, it's a fiberglass clad wood door.

Hmm... I know its a bit lame... Maybe shims behind the bottom hinge?
posted by Marky at 10:00 PM on June 28, 2006

Marky, a conventional house wall is only as stiff as its framing, fasteners, and geometry allow it to be. By cutting the sill plate, you've basically converted the one wall section you had when the window was there, into 2 wall sections loosely linked by your new door. All the extra framing illustrated in the Ace Hardware page I linked above is generally needed to replace the tension strength of the sill plate you cut, and to carry triangulated loads (static, like roof load, and dynamic, like wind load) around the door.

1/4" of vertical movement at the door doesn't sound like much, but it is an early indication that something has moved, more or less permanently, particularly if you can't find an obvious problem in the door hinges. If you are really sure your door was squarely hung initially, you could see the total wrack that has now developed by measuring diagonally across both cross-axis of the door; the difference in the measurements should be less than 1/16" for a properly framed door. At 1/4 to 3/8 inch of wrack, as you're finding, doors won't close properly, and beyond that, it's usual to start to take immediate corrective action. If your latch is down as much as a 1/4" you may have 3/8" to 1/2" of total wrack in the door frame at this point, and that would usually be indicative of severe foundation issues, or degradation affecting the framing (termites, water leak, etc.)

Framing that shifts that much is weak enough to fail when stressed, often due to wind load, and usually pretty suddenly. Having your house start popping apart in a storm is bad news. Take this seriously.
posted by paulsc at 10:30 PM on June 28, 2006 [1 favorite]

I agree with Paul. What you're seeing isn't a primary problem, it's a symptom of something much worse. It's pretty clear that you have weakened the structure and it has to be fixed.

Your previously-square door has become a trapezoid -- and so have the two wall segments. It means that the roof is shifting laterally.

Paul is right. Take this seriously. It's not a joke.
posted by Steven C. Den Beste at 11:06 PM on June 28, 2006

While it is possible that there is a structural problem, I think it is premature to jump to that conclusion. It sounds like Marky knew what he was doing with respect to the header, king and trimmer studs. If all he did was remove the window sill and cripples, then there should be no problem. There is nothing wrong with cutting the sill plate as long as he firmly attaches the cut ends to the rim joist, which he did. I would be more inclined to guess that something was wrong with the installation of the door frame and that it has shifted.

I am having a hard time picturing exactly what is wrong with the door -- where the crack is, and exactly how the frame is out of square. The door itself is square, so the crack all the way around the door seen from the interior should be even unless the door frame has shifted out of square. If you can describe where the crack is wider and where it is narrower, it would provide a better idea. As cosmicbandito said, from your description it is unclear whether the latch side of the door is too low or the latch side of the jamb is too low.

There are only two possibilities. Either one jamb or the other has moved up or down so that the jambs are still plumb but the header is no longer level, meaning the jambs were not tight to the subfloor originally, or else the jambs have tilted out of plumb, leaving the header still level, meaning that the jambs were not securely shimmed and attached to the trimmer studs.

Take all the same measurements as you did when you installed the door. Check if the jambs are plumb and the sill and header are level. See if the height of the two jambs is the same and if the header and sill width are the same. Then measure diagonally from corner to corner. The two diagonal measurements should be the same. You might have to take off the interior casing to see what has shifted.

Also, if the frame has gone out of square I would expect the miter joints for the interior casing to open up.

When you installed the frame, you should have removed one screw from each hinge and replaced it with a 2-1/2 or 3 inch screw that goes all the way through the jamb, through the shims and into the trimmer stud. This ensures that the hinges cannot move or pull away from the trimmer stud. Fiberglass doors are relatively heavy so the hinges really need to be securely fastened to the studs.
posted by JackFlash at 12:18 AM on June 29, 2006

unless the door frame has shifted out of square.
Which is what it sounds like has happened. Which is why I think paulsc is more right than wrong. If the door has sagged so it's 1/4" lower on the latch side, then the ends of the cut sill plate have probably moved apart. The bottom of the doorframe has widened, while the top of the doorframe is tied together. Get a carpenter to look at it.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 4:00 AM on June 29, 2006

You can check what I said. Measure the diagonals of the opening, bottom corner of the hinge side to top corner of the latch side, then the opposite. If the measurements are much different, the frame has shifted (assuming you made it square to begin with).
posted by Kirth Gerson at 4:06 AM on June 29, 2006

What percentage of the area wall is the door?

What is the wall sheathed with? Is it possible you cut through a let in brace that ran below the window?
posted by Mitheral at 8:02 AM on June 29, 2006

This may help. Try removing the middle screw on the top hinge and replacing it with a long drywall screw, 3-4 inch.
It usually will lift the door and should fix yours.
posted by lee at 9:44 AM on June 29, 2006

Good golly! All this unfounded alarmism about eminent catastrophe, collapsing houses, etc. The door and door frame are a separate entity that floats in a structural opening that is larger than the door frame. This is to allow adjustments so that the door can be installed square and plumb independently of the structural studs. Occam's razor suggests that the most likely problem is that the door frame has shifted, not that the house has moved. You would have everyone think that every time they have a sticky door that their house is about to fall down.

The sill plates can't move apart. They are usually fastened to the floor joists every 16 inches and Marky also said that he fastened the loose ends to the rim joist.

If you remove the interior trim you should be able to see the spacing between the studs and door frame and see if the shims are still in place and tight. You may have to make some adjustments either to the side shims or on the floor under one of the jambs.
posted by JackFlash at 11:52 AM on June 29, 2006

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