Dealing with Sticking Windows and Doors

Dealing with Sticking Windows and Doors

Having a hard time opening a window when you want a breath of fresh air? Is that patio door harder to close than you remember? These are problems countless homeowners often to deal with. They're also problems we tend to ignore until we just can't take it anymore. 

Sticky windows and doors can be frustrating, but fixing the problem might be surprisingly simple. Here's what you need to know about why windows and doors stick, and how you can get them un-stuck.

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What Causes Windows and Doors to Stick?

Contributing factors range from everyday wear-and-tear to paint or debris getting in the way. In many cases you can chalk it up to movement in the house’s foundation.

What Causes Windows to Stick?

Humidity is often to blame for windows sticking, especially if your windows have wooden components. Moisture in the air causes wood to swell, and if you notice that your windows stick only during the sweltering summer months, then humidity is likely to blame.

Windows also stick because the tracks that the sash slide up and down on get dirty and gunked-up with dust, dirt, pollen and debris. Windows can also have a hard time sliding open if they've been repainted↗, and the new layer of paint has slightly widened the frame. It's a problem we see all the time in newly-renovated homes. 

What Causes Doors to Stick?

Just like windows, humidity is often the culprit↗ behind sticking doors. In other cases, the issue could be as simple as screws coming loose and the hinges getting pulled out of alignment—something that happens naturally after years of frequent use.

In many cases, sticking doors are simply caused by structural shifts in the house. That might sound scary, but houses really do "settle" gradually, and even the smallest shifts can be enough to throw a door out of alignment. In some cases, this indicates a more serious foundation problem. 

Can You Repair a Window or Door That Sticks?

The good news is that sticky windows and doors can be fixed. In many cases, it's actually a simple DIY repair that the average homeowner can handle on their own. How you proceed depends on the cause of the problem, but you have several options when a window or door is sticking. 

How to Repair a Window That Sticks

  1. Clean the window jambs to remove debris from the tracks the window sash slides on.
  2. Replace the window balance.
  3. Remove paint build up from the window sash and frame.

In most cases, cleaning and lubricating↗ your windows is enough to fix the problem. Slide the sash up as far as it will go, and wipe the tracks with a dry cloth to remove dirt. It might also be helpful to vacuum it out using your vacuum cleaner's brush attachment; then use a damp cloth with hot water and a bit of white vinegar to clean the tracks more thoroughly. After allowing the area to dry, spray the tracks with a silicone-based lubricant (available at most home improvement stores). 

In some cases, you may need to replace the balance to fix a sticky window. This is easier on some windows than others, and it can also be challenging to find the correct balance. Contact a professional for window repair if you find yourself in a tight spot. You may also be able to loosen up old wooden window frames that have been repainted by sanding them down slightly.

How to Repair a Hinged Door that Sticks

  1. Adjust the door by tightening or loosening the hinges.

Making adjustments on doors is often even easier than windows. Step one should be to check all the hinges, and tighten up the screws↗ so that they're flush with the door frame. Tighten the lock and strike plate too. In many cases, simply making sure every screw is fully tightened will pull a sagging door into place and allow it to open and close smoothly. 

In other cases, a little more elbow grease may be needed. For wooden doors that stick due to humidity or house-settling, a common solution is to remove the door from the hinges, and use a belt sander to plane down an edge to allow it to close without sticking. Be sure to take note of exactly which edge of the door is sticking before removing it from the hinges. If humidity is the cause of the problem, you may also want to invest in a dehumidifier as a more long-term solution. 

Mind the Warranty!

Keep warranties in mind. Making alterations to a window or door can void the warranty, which could backfire on you if it turns out that the issue is related to a defect in the product. If you have more questions, be sure to contact a window and door professional!

What to Do When a Window or Door Can’t Be Repaired

While you may be able to easily fix a window or door that sticks on your own, there are also situations in which the solutions are not so simple. When in doubt, always seek the opinion of a window and door repair specialist (or a handyman). A professional can offer more solutions, and make recommendations for window and door replacements if necessary. 


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