Every summer my exterior doors start to stick to the frame, but in the winter they seem to shrink and create drafts. Why does this happen and how do I fix it?
This is a common question that we get here at Southwest Exteriors. Many people have issues with their exterior doors either sticking or creating drafts during different seasons of the year. Depending on your location and the type of door your home has, this problem can get worse with time.
Not only is it frustrating to not be able to open or close your doors easily, but it also creates a security risk. If a door doesn’t fit into its frame properly, it will often not lock securely either.
There are a few reasons your exterior doors may not be functioning correctly.
Humidity is a wooden door’s worst enemy. With moisture in the air, wood can swell, warp, or shrink. Once the door changes sizes, it won’t fit in its frame correctly and that makes for all sorts of problems.
Swelling doors are a very common issue here in South Texas where the humidity level is high, sometimes year round. If you live in the San Antonio area, then you have probably come across a sticky door or two.
Wear and Tear
We use our front and back doors a lot over the years and this causes natural wear and tear. Eventually the paint can crack, dirt and rust accumulate, and hinges loosen. Given that many older doors are made out of wood and not the more durable composite materials available today, they might be due for a replacement.
Another reason a door might not fit its frame correctly could be because of shifting in the home’s structure. If the door continues to worsen to the point it will not lock, or if multiple doors in your home are being affected, its very possible the foundation or walls are shifting. Foundation shifts are serious and can create a slew of problems for a homeowner. If you suspect this to be the issue, call a foundation specialist immediately.
Anything that is not installed with care, precision, and attention to detail is not going to work at its best. If you’ve recently had a new door installed and it is not shutting or opening with ease, it could be that it was not installed correctly. Contractors are people like the rest of us and can make mistakes or miss steps during installation. Make sure to give your contractor a call if you are having issues with a new door. It’s very possible that the door is not plum (level) and needs just a little tweak.
Do fiberglass front doors swell?
Fiberglass front doors are designed to be weather-resistant and do not typically swell or expand as the weather changes. Unlike wood doors, which can absorb moisture and expand in humid conditions or when exposed to rain, fiberglass doors are made of a non-porous material that is not affected by moisture. This means that fiberglass doors will not warp, rot, or swell like wood doors can.
However, it's important to note that the frame around the door, as well as the weatherstripping and other components, can be affected by weather changes and may expand or contract. It's important to make sure that the door is properly installed and weatherstripped to prevent air leaks and ensure proper function in all weather conditions.
Overall, fiberglass front doors are a durable and low-maintenance option that can withstand a range of weather conditions without swelling or warping.
Now on to the second part of the question…how do I fix it?
The first step is to determine the real issue.
Is it the door itself that is expanding and contracting with the weather changes? Is the hardware loose or broken? Could the foundation be shifting?
If the door is level but won’t fit into its frame, it could be swollen. If it’s crooked, it could be an issue with how the door was installed or its hinges have become lose. If the hinges are tight and the door is level, it could be an issue with the foundation shifting.
Secondly, determine if you can fix the door on your own or not.
Fixing a crooked and sticky door can be super easy or incredibly complicated. Because the measurements have to be so precise to fit the frame properly, you really don't want to try much without calling on an expert.
You can start by cleaning the sticky area with soap and water. Sometimes a little dirt gets in the way and creates a sticky door.
Next, try tightening all the hinges and screws. A loose screw can cause the door to sag and therefore, not line up with its frame properly. You can also try using WD-40 on them to see if that helps.
If these options don't fix the problem, you might need an expert.
Sometimes it’s possible to sand the expanded area of the door a few centimeters yourself. However, it’s important to be very careful doing this because you do not want to end up with a door that will be too small and drafty when the weather changes. And if the problem ends up being the foundation and not the door, then you have a door that’s too small once the foundation is fixed.
If your wood doors are sticking or causing other frustrating problems, you might want to check out replacing them with fiberglass or steel doors that are much more durable and won't expand/shrink during the weather changes.