Adjusting a Door that Does Not Latch

How to Steps for Fixing a Door Latch

By Mark J. Donovan

There are a number of reasons why a door won’t latch closed. It could be due to the fact that the door wasn’t installed properly to begin with. It is also possible that the door may have warped over time or that the house has settled causing the door to rack. Finally, it could be simply due to the fact that the door is frequently used.

Tools Required

  • Screw Driver or Screw Gun
  • Chisel
  • Drill
  • Jig Saw

Loosened Door Hinges

The first and easiest area to check are the door hinges. If a door is used frequently the screws that hold the hinges in place may have worked loose over time.

Using a screw driver make sure all of the hinges are securely fastened to the door jamb. Due to some basic laws of physics it is frequently the upper hinges that may be loose.

If in the process of tightening the hinge screws you find that one or more are stripped, replace them with longer or thicker screws.

After tightening the hinge screws check to see if the door closes and latches properly. If not, read on.

Strike Plate not sitting Flush with the Door Jamb

Examine the strike plate and make sure it is sitting flush in the door jamb. The strike plate, if installed correctly should sit flush with the door jamb.

Usually this is accomplished by the area behind the strike plate being milled or chiseled out. If this is not the case, and you observe that the door is not closing due to the fact that it is hitting the strike plate, remove the strike plate and chisel out the area behind it.

Before removing the strike plate use a pencil to trace around the perimeter of the strike plate.

Use you chisel to remove 1/16th to 1/8th inch of wood material in this area. Basically you want to remove an amount that is the thickness of the strike plate.

Once you have chiseled out the wood material reinstall the strike plate and confirm that the strike plate is sitting flush with the door jamb. 

How to adjust a door latch so the door locks properly.

Try closing the door and see if it latches properly. If not, then continue on with this article.

Misaligned Strike Plate and Lock Tongue / Latch Bolt

Try closing the door and examine the area of the strike plate and lock tongue / latch bolt. If you observe that the lock tongue is not engaging into the strike plate hole, you have a misalignment problem. To fix this problem, the best solution is to adjust the strike plate. You can either adjust it up or down, or inward or outward. To do this you will again probably need to employ the use of a chisel.

Another alternative to adjusting the strike plate location, is to increase the size of the strike plate hole. After removing the strike plate from the door jamb, use either a file or a jig saw to increase the size of the strike plate opening.

Door hitting Doorstop

Typically centered inside the doorjamb is a strip of wood that is known as the doorstop. The doorstop runs up both sides of the door jamb, as well as on top of the doorjamb. Sometimes the doorstop is positioned improperly or moves slightly due to settling or warping. This may cause the door to not latch closed, due to the fact that the door is hitting the doorstop before it can latch closed.

To resolve this type of problem use a block of wood and hammer to adjust the doorstop position such that the door closes and latches properly. Note, if the door jamb and doorstop are painted, you will want to first use a carpenter’s knife and score the seam where the doorstop meets the doorjamb. This will prevent unwanted paint cracking when adjusting the position of the doorstop.

For information on how to install interior door trim, see the “Installing Interior Door Trim” eBook from  The “Installing Interior Door Trim” eBook provides step-by-step instructions on how to install interior door trim. Pictures are included for every key step in the process.

Related Information

Additional Door Resources from

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