Home Improvement Expert Danny Lipford

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How to Square Up a Door Frame That Has Settled

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The entry doorway of my 1913 house has settled so there’s a large gap on one side of the door. I’ve been told to buy a new door, jack up the house, add another hinge, and cut off the bottom of the door on one side and add to the top on the other. I really want to keep my original door. What should I do? -Lynda

Hi Lynda,

This is a great example that there’s always more than one solution to most home improvement problems. However, whoever told you to cut off one side of the door and add a piece to another side needs to consider a different career. I also disagree with the “just buy a new door” approach.

The problem probably isn’t your door, but an out of square opening. After almost 100 years, the house has settled, due to either a foundation pier sinking or a sill rotting.

Think of it as a geometry problem. Your door and the opening were both rectangles when they were installed – with the opposite sides parallel and the corners at 90° angles. But over time, your rectangle has become a parallelogram. The opposite sides are still parallel, but the angles on the frame are no longer 90°.

The best solution is to square the frame back up, by jacking up the low side from under the house, then your door will work fine. While you might be able to jack up the house with the door frame in place, you’d need to go slowly – since it took many years to settle – to keep from breaking or damaging the wood frame or any plaster on the walls. In extreme cases, you might need to remove the door frame before jacking up the house, then rebuild the frame to fit the door.

Jacking up a house with a hydraulic jack requires proper placement and a delicate touch to keep from damaging the house, so you might want to hire the work out to a competent contractor.

Once the door frame is back to a rectangle shape with the sides plumb and top and bottom level, the original door should work fine. A little weather stripping can then be installed to reduce any remaining draft around the door.

Good luck with your project,

Danny

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5 Comments on “How to Square Up a Door Frame That Has Settled”

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  1. laughton Browne Says:
    March 6th, 2011 at 6:34 am

    With concrete block houses jacking up the house is not possible thus adjusting the door frame would be the only alternative.

  2. chris Says:
    May 13th, 2012 at 9:10 pm

    Yea i’m in a similar situation but it’s in an old NYC apartment. We just renovated it and now realized we should’ve kept the old doors. I just bought some new 24″x80″ doors and not sure what to do from here.

  3. Edith Fransen Says:
    September 17th, 2012 at 4:11 pm

    There is no crawl space under the house, so it can’t be jacked up. What now??

  4. Jim Says:
    July 4th, 2014 at 10:07 am

    Jack up the house? Hello? Why not build a new house or building around the door frame.

  5. Steve Says:
    November 28th, 2014 at 6:36 pm

    My 1911 house has a bay front door but no foundation was built under the bay. They simply rested it on the porch. In this case jacking worked. The door no longer sticks. i agree it is not a good idea to trim an old door. Better to have two square items than two things out of square.

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