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French doors can be a bit challenging to install, even for the experienced DIYer. If they aren't fitted or installed properly, they can cause a range of issues. One of the more common issues is misalignment, which is a fairly common issue amongst doors overall. To your benefit, we've consulted with the experts to provide you with instructions on how to fix misaligned French doors.
Here are the steps needed to fix misaligned French doors:
- Take Measurements
- Tighten The Hinges On The Doors
- Lift the Jamb
- Remove The Doors
- Set The Plane's Blade Length
- Plane The Edges
- Check The Fit And Sand As Needed
- Prime The Edge
- Re-paint Or Re-stain As Needed
Adjusting French doors may require a bit of planning because even as little as an eighth of an inch of misalignment can cause them to become stuck, develop gaps, or become unable to close/open properly. Let's discuss how to fix this if it does happen.
The Steps To Fix Misaligned French Doors
Realigning French doors can be a rather complex DIY project, depending on the cause of the misalignment. A few of the steps outlined below may require the assistance of a professional.
Tools you'll need:
- Chisel or file
- Measuring tape
- Dust mask
- A dropcloth
- Wood paint (or stain)
- Eye goggles
- Cordless drill
Step 1. Take Measurements
While the doors are closed completely, take a look at the bottom and upper jams to determine the source of the misalignment. Take a look at the latches on the door to note the height difference, measure it with your measuring tape. Also, measure the amount of overlap (or space) between the doors.
Step 2. Tighten The Hinges On The Doors
If the doors aren't latching or if the hinges are loose, use your screwdriver to tighten the hinges on the left door first. Next, tighten the hinges on the right door. Be sure not to over-drill the screws into the hinges, as it could cause them to break. If the screws aren't in long enough, take a longer screw (note: 3-inch screws are most commonly used for door hinges).
If you find that the screw doesn't seem to tighten as you drill into the hole, you may need a bigger screw because the hole has probably been drilled into several times. You can also use a few wood chips to pack into the hole before inserting the screw.
Step 3. Lift The Jamb
Take a 3-inch screw and drive it into the center of the door jamb, this will have to draw the jam upward so that it clears. You may only need about less than 1/8 of space to do this, so the screw may give you just enough lift. After drilling the screw in, be sure to cover it with a matching wood filler.
Step 4. Remove The Doors
Note before starting: These next steps will likely need to be done by a professional door repair contractor.
If this doesn't work, you may need to take a hand plane to plane down the edges so that they may close properly. To do so, first mark the areas on the doors that need planing (use the measurements that you took earlier). Next, take the pins out of the hinges, remove the doors, then lay them down on the floor or a sawhorse.
Step 5. Set The Plane's Blade Length
Set the plane's blade to a very shallow depth to ensure that you don't remove too much wood with each stroke. Be sure that the plane lays flat against the door's edge as you move it across. It helps to use inward strokes (starting from the outer edge of the door towards the inner edge) to avoid chipping the door.
Step 6. Plane The Edges
Start on the left door first, removing small pieces of the edge at a time. Afterward, move to the right door and plane the edges on it as well. Be sure to remove the same amount of wood from both doors (which should be less than 1/8 of an inch or 1/16 of an inch). This is why it's crucial to take good measurements. When you're finished, hang them on the hinges to assure that they fit properly. If not, you may need to re-plane them.
Step 7. Check The Fit And Sand As Needed
Once you've planed them to fit, it's now time to smooth out the edges with a bit of sandpaper. Take 80-grit or 130-grit sandpaper and run it along the edges of the doors to remove any rough areas. Take off your workman's gloves and test the smoothness with your finger. If it's good to go, re-hinge the doors. If not, use the 80 grit to sand it until it's as smooth as the other areas of the door.
Step 8. Prime The Edges
Using a small paintbrush, apply primer to the edge of the door, and be careful not to paint the surface. Apply a second coat as needed.
Step 9. Re-Paint Or Re-Stain As Needed
Next, grab another paintbrush (or clean the one you used to prime the door), and apply the stain or paint to the edge of the door, and be careful not to paint the surface. Apply a second coat as needed.
Why Do Your French Doors Keep Dropping?
The hinges on French doors can be less robust than those on typical exterior doors. Add to that the fact that they are weighed down with heavy glass panes, and it's easy to understand how they can become loose over time, causing the doors to drop.
However, this is usually a fairly easy and quick fix that can be carried out by your average DIYer. To fix a drooping French door, you simply need to replace the hinges.
How Do You Adjust A French Door Hinge?
Sometimes dropping French doors need a simple hinge adjustment. You can actually perform this task yourself, or hire an everyday contractor to do it for you-it shouldn't take more than an hour or two.
Things you'll need:
- Electric screwdriver
- Adjustable French door hinges and screw set
- A dropcloth
- A work partner (to hold the door)
- Measuring tape
Step 1. Remove the Doors
Start by removing the pins from the hinges of the doors and then carefully taking them off (lay down a drop cloth to avoid scratching the wood on the floor). It's strongly recommended to have someone hold the door while you unscrew the hinges to prevent them from falling and shattering.
Also, be sure to note where you set your hinge screws, as it can be easy to lose or misplace them while you're working. Each hinge will usually have about 6 screws and it's typically 2 hinges per door.
Step 2. Install The New Hinges
Now, take your adjustable hinges and place them in the areas of the previous hinges. You can find these types of French door hinges online or at any local home improvement store. Adjustable hinges are ideal because they can retrofit into the original indentations of the mortise hinges, which means that you don't have to re-fit the door for the frame.
If the hinge alignment is off, use your measuring tape to determine how much space is needed (or should be removed).
Step 3. Inspect The Alignment
Make sure that the door's hinges are lined up perfectly against the door frame. Then, have your partner set and hold the door in the frame while you use your screwdriver to drill in the hinges.
Next, set a small book against the bottom of the door to ensure that they are level. Adjust the hinges as needed until the doors are level. When they are, remove the book (or any leveling device) from the bottom of the doors to make sure that they can close completely and properly.
Can You Replace Just One French Door?
It depends on the brand and the model. It may prove more difficult to replace more expensive models, as French doors are typically purchased as one door unit. However, it may be easier just to replace any panes of glass that have been broken in the door (the most common type of replacement with French doors).
It's best to contact the store or dealer from which you purchased the door to determine whether or not you can replace a single door or if you'll need to buy a completely new French door unit.
Why Is The Door Binding?
Sometimes French doors can bind or stick together when they're not fitted properly to the opening of the door area. This can also occur when there are changes in the foundation beneath the home that cause it to shift, or if there is grime or excess paint caked up in the edges or the frame of the doors (which can easily be removed with most home wood cleaners).
Another common reason for this is excessive humidity, which causes the wooden panels of the doors to expand, making them too wide for the door frame. Often, the doors can be sanded down so that they can fit inside the frame space properly.
Wrapping Things Up
French doors can add a touch of elegance and decorum to a room as well as supply a good amount of light. If you're installing French doors for the first time, it's best to have a professional contractor do this for you or perhaps watch a few videos to make sure that you don't run into problems later on.
Before you go, be sure to check out our other posts: