10 Easy Steps on How to Fix A Door that Won’t Close or Latch

Frustrated by your door that won’t latch? There can be many possible reasons why your door won’t stay shut. It could be due to frequent use for years, or you just upgraded your front door hardware and for some reason, it refuses to close.

Here’s a short guide on how to troubleshoot common door problems to regain your sense of privacy and security at home.

Common Causes Why Your Door Won’t Close


The first thing you should do to fix a door that won’t close is to determine the cause of the problem. Is it a loose hinge? A misaligned hinge or strike plate hole? The reasons could vary and once you know the root cause, you’ll realize that these are fairly easy to fix. 

Here are the common things you should look for:

Door Hinges

Is your door sagging when you try to close it? Do you see loose screws? Then the problem might be the door hinges. Make sure to examine it to know if you need to change the hinges. 

Door Latches

Do you hear a grinding noise when you try to shut your door? Then the door latch could be the culprit. One clever way to check it is by using the lipstick test. Place a tape at the center of the door’s strike plate and mark its latch with lipstick. Close the door then open it. If you can’t see a lipstick mark on the tape, then the door latch is the problem.

Door Jambs

Does your door get stuck or scratched when you try to open or close it? Check the upper or lower corners of the door when you close it - your door might be misaligned. From here, you’ll know that the door jamb, the part that meets the door frame when you shut the door, is the problem. 

Tools You Will Need

Fixing your door issues is easier when you have the right tools. Depending on the problem, you might need some of the tools below:

  • Wood chisel
  • Hammer
  • Drill bit set
  • Philips-head screwdriver
  • Cordless drill
  • Metal file
  • Utility and putty knives
  • Wood filler

How to Fix a Door That Won't Close or Latch: Step by Step

Here are the easy steps you can follow to repair your door that won’t close or latch:

Step 1: Diagnose the Problem

We’ve already mentioned earlier the three common problems why a door won’t close or latch. These could be due to loose hinges, a door latch that sits below the strike plate, or misaligned door jambs. Knowing the specific problem will help you know the right solution to fix your door.

Step 2: Adjust the Hinges

Source: https://civiconcepts.com/blog/door-hinges-types

Not sure why your door sags? Then loose hinges could be the culprit. A quick fix could be tightening the loose screws using a screwdriver. But be careful - don’t make it too tight to prevent changing the door’s plumb!

If the door still won’t latch after adjusting the screws, then try to replace one of the hinge screws with a 3-inch screw. The reason why we chose a longer screw is to pull the door jamb slightly to the hinge side. This will fit the latch tightly on the strike plate hole.

Step 3: Lower or Raise the Strike Plate

Sometimes, you will find that the culprit is a latch that is slightly below the strike plate hole. You can either lift the latch by replacing the top screw of the hinge, or lower the latch by replacing the bottom screw of the hinge. Make the necessary adjustments until the latch perfectly fits the hole.

Also, try to push the strike plate down to accommodate the latch. Get a chisel and point it to the strike plate’s lower lip. Using a hammer, strike the chisel gently downward until the plate is about 1/8-inch down. Adjust accordingly until the latch fits on the strike plate hole.

Here's a video on how you can fix a misaligned strike plate:

Step 4: Adjust the Hole Size of the Strike Plate

If the issue is not a loose hinge or a latch that sits below the strike plate hole, then you may need to enlarge the strike plate hole. 

First, remove the screws that hold the strike plate to the door jamb. Then move the metal file back and forth rapidly through the strike plate hole, focusing on the lower lip. This will remove some metal from the plate and create enough clearance to accommodate the latch. Try to reinstall the strike plate and check if this solves the problem.

Step 5: Change the Strike Plate Position

This step should be done if the previous steps won’t work. To change the position of the strike plate, unscrew the strike plate from the door jamb. Then follow the next step below.

Step 6: Mark the Strike Plate’s New Position

The goal of this step is to change the position of the strike plate while preventing the old screw holes from overlapping the latch hole. Move the strike plate about 1/8 or 1/16 inches below the old screw hole and mark the new position using a pencil.

Also, mark the position of the new screw holes on the door jamb (use the screw holes on the plate). This will be your guide later on when drilling the plate on the door.

We also recommend that you mark the bottom edge of the plate with a line. The line will be your guide when chiseling the area to fit the plate.

Step 7: Fill in the Old Screw Holes

Once you’ve marked the new screw holes position, you need to fill in the old screw holes to prevent the screws from being accidentally placed in the old holes.

To do this step, you can either use a wood filler or glued toothpicks. If you’re going to use the glued toothpicks, make sure that you dab enough super glue on the toothpicks to stick it well into the holes. Push the toothpicks deep inside as far as possible. Do this until the old screw holes are filled. Allow at least 10 minutes for the toothpicks to settle in the hole before trimming its hanging side with a utility knife.

Step 8: Drill New Screw Holes

Once everything is set, it’s time to drill the new holes!

We highly recommend that you start making small holes first on the markings you’ve made earlier. This will guide the drill bit later on (and prevent it from sliding to the wrong position). Do this using a pinhole nail and hammer.

Then, attach the smallest drill bit and start drilling. Use the small holes you’ve made as a guide. After drilling a small hole, change the drill bit to the next size and continue drilling. The idea is to gradually increase the size of the hole. This will create a clean hole and protect the jamb from any damage. 

Step 9: Chisel Out the Mark for the New Strike Plate Position

Now that the new screw holes are ready, it’s time to chisel out the new position of the plate. Remember the trace line you’ve made at the bottom edge of the plate? This will be your guide to create the space for the plate. 

Use a utility knife to gently cut the marked line you’ve created. Run through this line several times until it’s deep enough to fit the chisel. Point the chisel to the gorge and gently strike a hammer to remove some pieces of wood (make sure not to damage the door jamb). 

Create a clean wedge to perfectly fit the strike plate to its new position. 

Step 10: Reinstall the Strike Plate

The last step would be to reinstall back the strike plate to its new position. Secure the plate to the door jamb and fasten it with screws on the new screw holes. Then try to close the door and see if it latches perfectly.

Additional Tips

To ensure that our doors are on top shape, you can follow the extra tips below:

Make sure to lubricate locks

We highly recommend that you spray a lubricant into the keyhole and deadbolt at least once a year. Lubrication is a very important routine for maintaining your door locks (and therefore should never be overlooked). Try to use dry lubricants instead of liquid lube that will collect dirt and potentially make the problem worse later.

When to Call A Professional

Assess the condition of your door. If you’ve done the steps above and the problem is not fixed, then it’s time to ask for help from a professional. The service might cost you more, but solving it on your own may cause more damage. Besides, installing a new door altogether is more expensive (between $300 and $1000) than paying a professional to fix your door (between $120 and $330).


A door that won’t close or latch is a common problem to every homeowner. The reasons why a door won’t latch could vary. Following the steps we’ve recommended here will help you solve the problem easily. Calling a professional should be your last resort if any of the solutions presented here doesn’t fix the issue.