5 Steps to Follow to Fix a Misaligned Door Latch

white door with gold handle
If you have a door in your home that won't close properly, chances are that it has settled over time, along with the house.   If the door has become misaligned, and the latch doesn't match up with the hole in the strike plate, follow these 5 steps to solve the problem:

1.   The misalignment may not be visually apparent, so the first thing to do is the "lipstick test".  Start by rubbing red lipstick onto the edge of the deadbolt.   Turn the knob to retract the latch, close the door, then release the knob so the latch just barely touches the strike plate.

2.   If the lipstick mark is too high, tighten the hinges at the bottom of the door with a screwdriver.   If the mark is too low, raise the latch by tightening the hinges at the top of the door.   Tightening all the hinges may do the trick if the misalignment is minor.

3.   If tightening the hinges doesn't help, measure the misalignment of the lipstick marks on the strike plate.   If the latch is off by 1/8 inch or less, remove the strike plate from the door jamb and enlarge the hole slightly with a file.

4.   If the mark is more than 1/8 inch above or below the strike plate hole, you may need to reposition the strike plate.   A sharp chisel should be used to enlarge the indented section that holds the strike plate.   Hold the strike plate in the proper position and drill new 1/16-inch holes to accommodate the screws.   Use wood filler to fill in the gap in the indented section that remains visible after moving the strike plate.

5.   If necessary, remove the door's hinges and adjust them to reposition the door.

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