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    Finding a door-lock fix that sticks

    A lot of the time, a door-alignment problem is caused by sagging, worn-out, or loose hinges, house settling, or a heavy door that wasn’t installed well.

    Q. We have Anderson French doors that lead to our patio. They are about eight years old, and in the past two years, it has become increasingly difficult to lock them. My husband can do it because he is stronger, but I cannot. It appears that the door’s mechanism needs adjustment. A handyman tried and failed to find the cause. Who should I call to correct the door’s mechanism?

    S. JENKS

    A. It’s no fun to have to lift or put a shoulder into the door to get it to latch or lock. You probably have an alignment issue at the strike or latch plate. A lot of the time, however, the alignment problem is caused by sagging, worn-out, or loose hinges, house settling, or a heavy door that wasn’t installed well.

    Problem-solving steps:


     First close the door and inspect the reveals — the space between the closed door and the frame or jamb. Look for even spacing. Uneven spacing may reveal settling of loose hinges;

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     If the door has swelled, planing a small amount of the edge sometimes solves the issue;

     Inspect the hinges knob and strike plate for loose screws. Tighten them if they are loose. Some French-style doors have adjustable hinges, and you might be able to solve your problem by readjusting them;

     If the door still will not latch, then use a mill file or Dremel tool with a grinding bit to remove a little of the strike plate metal on that “rubbing” edge until the latch catches or deadbolt slides in easily;

     If you need to remove a large amount of metal, or you are having trouble using the file in such a small space, remove the latch plate and place it in a vise;


     You could also remove the strike plate and realign it to the door strike or deadbolt latch. This repair usually involves filling the old screw holes with small pieces or wood and glue (wooden matches and toothpicks work well) prior to drilling new holes and reinstalling the screws;

     If the hinge screws are loose and will not tighten, you can fill the screw holes with new wood and glue (again wooden matches or toothpicks) and reinstall the screws.

     Installing a longer screw, one long enough to reach the framing, will often stop a heavy door from sagging and loosening the hinge. Install this screw in the top jamb side hinge.

     If all else fails, reinstall the door plumb.

    Q. Our contractor recommended replacing our kitchen floor with a vinyl or laminate “floating floor.” A friend said she had a floating floor that began squeaking after a few years. What are the pros and cons about floating floors?


    SUSAN GANNON, North Reading

    A. I’m a carpenter, so it should come as no surprise that I am a big proponent of solid-wood flooring. Laminate flooring is less expensive to install and very durable, but it does not repair easily. I like to see laminate flooring in basements because it has a high resistance to moisture.

    Laminate floors have a relatively short life span compared with hardwood flooring, probably 20 to 25 years, depending on use. Laminate floors cannot be sanded and refinished, and they eventually end up in a landfill. Hardwood flooring, on the other hand, can be sanded six or seven times, refinished a number of times, and even touched up. It can last 80 to 100 years if cared for properly.

    Lastly, hardwood floors are 100-percent organic solid-wood planks produced from single pieces of wood. Laminate floors, on the other hand, are the result of bonding various composite materials and melamine resin at high temperatures and pressure. While many laminate-flooring manufacturers adhere to strict industry standards, producing products with zero harmful volatile organic compound emissions and using formaldehyde-free glue, others do not.

    Rob Robillard is a general contractor, carpenter, editor of, and principal of a carpentry and renovation business. Send your questions to or tweet them to @globeaddress or @robertrobillard.