How to Fix a Tight Door

Doors that fight too tight are too large for the frame.
This often occurs after installing a door into a different frame, but could also be the result of humidity or the home settling over time. If your home is rather humid, wait for a cool day to repair the door. Once the humidity dissipates, you may find the door closes just right. In the case of house settling, you will need to adjust the door to the settled frame since this won't fix itself. .

Step 1

Determine how much bigger the door is compared to the frame, and where the fit is tight -- top or bottom, left or right side. Measure the width of the inner door frame, and the width of the door, and subtract the difference to get the excess width of the door. Do the same to find the excess length of the door if applicable. If the fit is tight, it is most likely 1/8 to 1/4 inch too large for the opening.

Step 2

Insert the tip of a flathead screwdriver into the bottom of the door hinge knuckle. Tap the pin inside to unseat it, then pull it out with your fingers. Repeat the process to remove the second pin from the hinge.

Step 3

Take the door off the hinges once the pins are removed, and set it on a flat work surface.

Step 4

Measure in from the hinge side or bottom of the door the amount of the excess width or length. Or create marks 1/8 inch in from the hinge side of the door or bottom, and place them periodically down the length -- or width -- of the door. You will use these marks to help create an even shave of the door.

Step 5

Shave the excess width or length from the side or bottom of the door with an orbital sander. There is no need to remove the hinges at this point.

Step 6

Reposition the door within the frame, line the hinge knuckles up and reinsert the pin. Now attempt to close the door. If it is still too tight, remove the door and shave an additional width or length from the door -- not more than 1/8 inch at a time -- but this time from the other side of the door, not the hinge side. If you shaved from the bottom of the door, now shave from the top.

Step 7

Reposition the door and try to close it again. It should close with ease now. If not, follow the next step.

Step 8

Remove the door from the frame and place it flat on a work surface. Remove the hinges from the door with a Phillips screwdriver. Then mortise, or create more shallow grooves, into the hinge side of the door with a chisel. Make sure the groove is flat and level, then replace the hinges and reposition the door within the frame.

Things You Will Need

  • Tape measure
  • Flathead screwdriver
  • Orbital sander
  • Phillips screwdriver
  • Chisel


  • Remove the hinge plate on the door and place a shim underneath to loosen the hinge side of the door. This will keep the hinge from being so tight and make it less difficult to open and close the door.

About the Author

Si Kingston has been an online content contributor since 2004, with work appearing on websites such as MadeMan. She is a professional screenwriter and young-adult novelist and was awarded the Marion-Hood Boesworth Award for Young Fiction in 2008. Kingston holds a Bachelor of Arts in English from Mills College.