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Top Tips for Repairing Damaged Door Frames

Door frames are, like many items in the home, vulnerable to wear and tear. Since they’re overwhelmingly made from wood, they can form problems over time, as the fibres that comprise each piece of wood will change shape in response to changes in temperature and moisture.

Of course, ideally we’d take preventative measures to stop this from occurring. Ensuring that the door frame is secured to the wall as well as possible, and that ambient temperatures and humidity levels are kept constant, are sure to go a long way toward extending the lifespan of the door.

But while we can delay the point of failure, it’s largely impossible to prevent it from ever occurring. What if you’re reading this after the damage has already been done? Don’t despair – depending on the sort of damage we’re talking about, it’s possible to reverse it (or at least disguise it), and thereby restore the door to a semblance of its prior glory. Let’s take a look at the more common sorts of damage, and how they might be reversed.

How To Fix a Warped Door Frame

In response to changes in temperature and humidity, your wooden door frame will change shape. Eventually, these changes might be so severe that your door doesn’t open or close properly, instead catching against the top or bottom of the door.

The good news is that slight warps can be corrected with just a little bit of sandpaper. But even if your warping is more serious, you needn’t search for a replacement door just yet. To perform your repairs, you’ll need:

  • A hammer
  • Nails
  • Shims
  • Putty knife
  • A saw
  • Mallet
  • Wood putty
  • Sandpaper

First, use a chisel to remove the casing from the door frame. Do this very carefully and evenly with the back of your hammer. If you find shims between the door frame and the wall, remove them. Then, straighten the frame by hammering it with your rubber mallet. In order to avoid damaging the frame as you to this, place a thick piece of wood over the area you’re hammering in order to distribute the force.

As you go, be sure to keep measuring the gaps between the frame and the door. You want them as even as possible on every side of the frame. You’ll be able to correct any minor warping with the help of replacement shims on each side of the door – and by readjusting the hinges at the top and the bottom to keep the door plumb. Once you’ve achieved the right result, you’ll be able to re-install the casing, and cover up any cosmetic problems with wood putty, sandpaper, and a coat of paint or varnish.

While it’s possible to correct for even severe warping, there are some doors which have warped beyond repair. These will need replacement.

How To Fix a Split Door Frame

When wood dries up or becomes excessively cold, it’ll contract. This will cause the door jamb to split. Splitting can also occur as a result of kinetic force.

To repair a small split, you’ll need:

  • Wood putty
  • Fine Sandpaper
  • Paint

Splits can be severe, and seriously inhibit the function of the door. Even a small split can do this if it occurs in the right place – the hinges and strike plate being the most vulnerable areas. If you’ve got a more superficial split, then your job is a great deal easier; simply fill the offending area with wood putty and cover it with paint (or varnish) in order to disguise it. Be sure to sand down the putty so that the surface is consistent with the surrounding wood before applying your lick of paint. Do this right, and the door is certain to look much better.

If the split is more serious, it might be necessary to glue it together. For this, you’ll need:

  • Wood glue
  • A clamp
  • Trim screws
  • Finish nails
  • A hammer
  • Crowbar
  • Shims

In order to access the frame, you’ll need to first remove the casing. Do this very carefully by scoring around the edge of the door with a razor-blade, and then gently working your way around the edge with a crowbar. Then add a pair of shims to support the area you’ll be repairing, and ensure that it maintains its shape as you carry out repairs.

Glue the offending split together and secure your clamp on either site of the frame. You’ll want to use a glue that’s as rugged and strong as possible.  Push the crack together using the clamp and wipe away any excess glue. Drying times for different glues may vary, so you’ll need to pay close attention to the instructions. Once the shape of the frame is restored, you’ll want to secure it on either side of the split using trim screws. Once the frame is looking straight again, you can re-apply your casing.

You’ll probably find that, after you’ve done all of this, the frame might still suffer from cosmetic issues – these should be repaired with wood putty, sandpaper and paint in the manner we first examined.

How To Fix a Door Frame That's Been Chewed or Scratched by Your Pet

Of course, the elements aren’t the only thing that can damage a door frame over time. The animals with which you share your home might decide one day that your door frame might be good to bite or scratch – in which case your door will have a few unsightly holes in it.

The good news here is that, unless you’re the owner of a particularly massive dog with severe behavioural issues, the damage to the door should be superficial. You won’t need to worry about the underlying structure of the door – just its outward appearance.

Before getting started, it’s worth considering whether the behaviour is likely to recur – if you’re looking after a puppy or kitten, you might find that biting and clawing furniture is a phase that they’re going through. That being the case, it’s probably wise to wait until the phase has passed; after all, you don’t want to spend time repairing your door only for it to be bitten again the very next day.

If you’re reasonably sure that more biting and scratching is unlikely, then you’ll want to assemble a few items:

  • Wood putty
  • Sandpaper
  • Paint

If the damage is shallow (such as the clawmarks left by a cat) or not obvious, you might be able to get away with just sanding it down. It’s probably best, however, to first fill the gaps with wood filler. Spread it over the affected area, and sand the whole thing. Once you’ve achieved a nice smooth surface, cover it with a coat of paint (or varnish). You might find that several coats are necessary to truly obscure the damage.

If the casing around the door has been really badly chewed, it’s probably wise to get it removed and replaced.  Do this with a knife and a crowbar in the way we described in the split repair section, and be sure to measure carefully when shopping for replacements.

How To Fix a Rotten Door Frame

Extreme amounts of moisture can cause a door frame to rot. Rotten wood is not only hideous to look at, but weak, too, meaning that your doorway is next to useless from an insulation and security perspective. There’s no way to un-rot a rotten piece of wood, unfortunately – but there are ways of replacing a frame piece-by-piece, rather than investing in an entirely new one.

Naturally, there’s little sense in fitting a replacement frame if the problem is just going to recur, so it’s worth first establishing where the water is coming from. Older doors might develop rot thanks to general neglect; newer ones will do so only thanks to a specific water problem.

To fix rot you’ll need:

  • Replacement wood frame part.
  • Sandpaper
  • Nails or screws
  • A tape measure
  • Wood primer and topcoat
  • Wood putty
  • Pencil
  • Hammer
  • Screwdriver
  • Saw

Rot tends to develop from the bottom, as this is where standing water tends to collect. Discover the extent by pressing against the wood with your fingers; a little bit of ‘give’ will mean that the wood underneath has rotted. When you reach the top of the rot, go a few inches further up and mark the frame with a pencil. (If this line is too far up, you might then opt for an entirely new frame).

Cut into the wood with your saw, and remove the wood below. If you find rotten wood again, you’ll need to repeat the wood-tapping procedure we’ve just described until we reach the end of the rot. Now, cut your replacement wood to size and attach it in place of the old. Use wood putty to fill in any gaps, sand down and apply a new coat of paint. All being well, the result should be a door that’s rot-free and as good as a replacement.

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