How to Square Up a Door Frame That Has Settled
By: Danny Lipford
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
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,
- Foundation Problems (article)
- Foundation Cracks (video)
- Leveling the Foundation and Floor on a House (video)
- How to Determine if a Foundation Crack in Your Home Is Serious (video)