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How to Repair Loose Hinge Screws

How to properly repair loose hinge screws with hardwood dowel pins and glue.

One home maintenance job that is postponed is repairing loose door hinges. Occasionally the screws are tightened or replaced with larger ones, but this rarely fixes the problem. The screws used to hold hinges on entry, passage, and cabinet doors can become loose as the threads work their way out of the jamb and the holes become enlarged. Loose hinge screws allow the door to sag which can damage the door, the hinges, or prevent the door from sealing properly. With the right techniques this repair can be completely properly and keep the door functioning for years to come.

For most doors, loose hinges occur at the top as the weight of the door pulls the top hinges away from the jamb as it swings open. The bottom hinge is compressed and if there is a center hinge it is usually near the center of gravity for the door and the force is minimized.

Common Causes for Loose Hinges

There are four primary reasons that a door hinge becomes loose:

1. The hinge and screws are undersized for the weight of the door. As the door opens the weight of the door on the screws creates a slight twisting motion that causes the screw to work loose. Note: The screws supplied with hinges typically match the strength of the hinge. If the screws are pulling out, the hinges are probably inadequate for the weight of the door.

2. Leaning on the door or pulling on the handle which applies additional stress to the screws.

3. Accessories mounted on the door such as coat hooks, shoe racks, mirrors, cabinet door racks, etc. which increase the force on the hinge screws. The hinges may not be strong enough to hold the weight of the door and the additional items.

4. The door was not positioned in the opening correctly. If the door was not hung properly it could be hinge bound. Check to make sure that he door is not hitting at any point on the jamb or head and that you do not have to apply additional force to completely close the door. If the door springs open slightly when you try to latch it, then it is hinge bound. This added force can pull the screws out of the jamb.

Common Repair Mistakes

One of the most common repair mistakes is to replace the current hinge screw with one that has a larger diameter. Hinges will only work properly when the screws are completely flush with the surface of the hinge. Any protruding screw head can deform the hinge and damage it.

Another mistake is using a wood filler to repair the enlarged screw hole. While this may work for a while, once the screw is reinserted into the hole, most of the filler is removed and there is not enough material for the wood filler to hold onto the wood jamb.

The last home remedy that eventually fails is attempting to wrap thread around the screw before reinserting it into the hole. Some recommend applying a small amount of wood glue to the screw and thread. Again, this may last for a year or so, but the thread and glue cannot replace the structure of the wood.

The correct way to repair a loose screw is to drill out the screw hole and insert a dowel or dowel pin that is glued into place. The instructions for this repair are found below.

Proper Repair

Prior to repairing any loose hinge you should inspect the hinges to verify that they are not warped or the hinge pin bent. It is almost impossible to straighten a warped hinge to its original shape, so it is best to purchase an identical hinge before repairing the screw holes. Reusing a damaged hinge will cause your repair to be misaligned and the door will be out of position. This may mean that you will have to sand or plane down the door later if it rubs against the jamb or floor.

Tools and Materials

Dowel or dowel pins

Flush cut saw

Drill with wood drill bit

Wood glue

Sand paper or electric sander

1. Use a drill bit that corresponds with standard dowel pin sizes to create a tighter repair. It is best to use a dowel that is close to the size of the screw head so that enough of the dowel remains to hold onto the screw threads. Usually 5/16 or 3/8 inch dowels make an acceptable repair. It is better to use a Forstner or brad point drill bit instead of a spade bit to maintain a straight hole that is not larger than the drill size.

Hardwood dowel pins make the best repairs since your door jamb is probably a soft wood like pine and that is why you have to repair it. Items such as cardboard, toothpicks, bamboo skewers, or wood matches do not work well and will only lead to having to make the same repair in the future.

2. Using carpenters glue insert the appropriate size dowel in the hole, flush with the wood surface. If it is necessary to sand the dowel pin flush with the wood, wait until the glue has dried before sanding. Tip: Use high quality wood glue. If you are using expanding wood glue like a polyurethane type, make sure that you protect any painted surfaces as the glue can drip down as it expands and dries.

Dowel pin glued into hole

Dowel pin with gluing groves

3. Once the glue has dried and the dowels sanded flush, place the hinge in position and mark the center of the screw holes in the hinge. It may be necessary to separate the hinge leafs by removing the hinge pin.

Marking the center of the holes in the hinge

4. Use a small drill bit to drill a pilot hole on the mark. The diameter of the pilot hole is relative to the size of the screw. The pilot hole should never be larger than the diameter of the shank of the screw.

5. Screw the hinge in place and replace the hinge pin. It is important that the hinge screws are driven in straight. If the head of screw is not flush with the surface of the hinge it can cause the hinge to warp as it would with a screw that is too large.

If you have determined that additional weight on the door has caused the hinge screws to become loose then you may need to add an additional hinge to prevent the problem from reoccurring. Most exterior doors have three hinges while interior doors have two hinges, but if you have solid wood doors, or your have large interior doors, you may have three hinges.

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Comments (1)
Ranked #2 in Home Repairs

Excellent presentation. Clearly explained and easily understood.

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