How to Un-stick a Sticky Interior Door

Do you have an interior door that’s driving you crazy because it’s a game of tug-of-war each time you open and shut it? Although a sticky door can be an excellent workout for your biceps, it can also be a major source of irritation. If you have a bicep-builder-door at your house, you don’t need an arsenal of power tools, saw horses or a place to work on a bulky door in order to fix it.

My son, Ross, had just such a door at his condo. It was so tight that it was impossible to close all the way. You can see where all the paint had worn off the jamb from the door scraping against it.

 How to Un-stick a Sticky Interior Door / HomeStagingBloomingtonIL

This is all the farther it would shut.

 How to Un-stick a Sticky Interior Door / HomeStagingBloomingtonIL

The solution—my $3.00 rasp that I scored at a garage sale. I don’t know how much a new rasp is, but this handy little device isn’t much more than a beefed-up cheese grater with a handle on it, so I can’t imagine that one would be too pricey. This is also a good tool to have when distressing furniture to wear down square corners and such.

 How to Un-stick a Sticky Interior Door / HomeStagingBloomingtonIL

Since Ross didn’t have a ladder or step stool at his house (Oh, Santa…), I had to use the rasp while standing on a not-nearly-tall-enough chair, which meant working over my head. Not the best arrangement, I must say. Leverage on a scale of one to ten in this scenario was a one.

Basically to use a rasp, you simply place it on the surface you’re wanting to reduce, and drag it across the wood. You need to apply pressure to the rasp so it digs into the wood as you slide it. There’s really no way to mess this up.

 How to Un-stick a Sticky Interior Door / HomeStagingBloomingtonIL

I knew I was making some headway when the little rasp pocket filled with these adorable, banana-curl wood shavings.

 How to Un-stick a Sticky Interior Door / HomeStagingBloomingtonIL

After I’d taken several passes across the top of the door, I shut off the light in the bedroom I was working in, and shut the door. The light from the hallway on the other side of the door would show through the crack at the top of the door except where the door was too tight. This told me exactly where I needed to keep shaving. (Obviously this light trick will only work at night.)

After a few minutes, boo-ya! The door shut like it was supposed to!

 How to Un-stick a Sticky Interior Door / HomeStagingBloomingtonIL

I’ve taken doors off the hinges to cut them down before, and I can tell you that using a rasp on a door that is hung, is infinitely easier than trying to man-handle a door onto some saw horses, cutting off a tiny sliver with a circular saw and re-hanging it. And trying not to scratch the door on the saw horses, or scrape it with the saw is just a little more pressure than I need. It’s an especially rasp-worthy situation in a case like this one where only an eighth of an inch or so needed to be removed.

I’m guessing this process would be pretty difficult on a solid oak door or another hardwood, but it worked well on a hollow core door like this one that had a pine strip lining the edges. Hopefully, if you try this, you’ll have access to a ladder!

This post was written by Tracy Evans who is a Certified Home Stager, Certified Redesigner and Journeyman Painter servicing the Central Illinois area. Feel free to visit her website at to view her portfolio for more before and after pictures of her projects. And if you enjoy gardening, you may want to visit her gardening blog at MyUrbanGardenOasis.


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