How to Square Up a Door Frame That Has Settled

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,


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

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  • Don Says:
    September 16th, 2016 at 3:42 pm

    Limit what yo do to the internal door frame only. Jacking around on the floor is only going to cause more issues everywhere else. Completely remove door and all trim. Replumb door frame and reset door trim, etc.

  • Joe Says:
    June 4th, 2016 at 9:26 am

    Michael, Saying jacking up the side that’s down is the stupidest thing you ever heard, is the stupidest thing I have ever heard. It is not the door frame that is out of level or out of plum, its the house. Frames just do go out of plum for no reason and on their own. Now it may not be the cheapest way to go but it would be done properly. Other doors or windows would also be out of square so this solution would fix all the problems. Hope your not a contractor!

  • Michael Says:
    February 18th, 2016 at 10:01 am

    Jack up the area that has settled? This is the dumbest suggestion I have read. Have a carpenter re-plumb the door frame.

  • Janet Says:
    November 28th, 2015 at 8:19 pm

    I, too, have a similar problem to Charles except that my house is on a crawl space. We have had monsterous rains this year and I am wondering if they have caused my house to settle–it is almost 50 years old. If I have to get a structural engineer to check this out and correct this problem it would be beyond my income as I am retired and live on a fixed income. Does anyone have any helpful suggestions or cure for me?

  • charles Says:
    November 18th, 2015 at 6:30 pm

    I’m on a slab.

  • tmelonas Says:
    February 2nd, 2015 at 8:57 am

    Hi, I have a basement so what else can I do besides jacking up one side?

  • Julia Carlson Says:
    December 22nd, 2014 at 12:43 pm

    I really enjoy your blog, because you always give such great advice. I just moved into a really old home, and I face a lot of the problems that you have addressed so far in this blog. Right now I am trying to fix my door frame that has settled, so hopefully this helps. I think I understand your instructions well enough to do it on my own, but my husband may need to help a little. I don’t want to ruin our door even more.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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??

  • 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.

  • 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.

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How to Square Up a Door Frame That Has Settled