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My house had a door removed by previous owners. The recesses in the jambs for hinges and catch were filled in with pieces of board (I don't know exactly what, but not solid timber), and painted over.

I've hung a door there, removing the filled parts and placing hinges in the original locations. After a few months the door has sagged, and I cannot tighten the screws in the top hinge - they just turn in place.

I was advised at my local home/hardware store that to fix this, I should spray some wood hardener into the screw holes, then when that has dried, fill with builder's bog and re-drill.

There's a similar problem described on this site, where the answer suggested gluing toothpicks into the hole, using longer screws, or drilling larger holes, gluing dowel in and re-drilling. These options sound easier.

So (finally) my question:

Do I only need to go down the wood hardener path if the frame is rotten? And if so, how can I tell if the frame is rotten? It doesn't seem to be rotten from looking at the visible surface - can it still be rotten inside? It's an internal door, and I have no other reason to suspect rotten wood.

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It's a similar scenario, but I have a specific question (re wood hardener) not covered by that other question. –  Ergwun May 27 '11 at 14:37
    
Ah - sorry. I'll remove the comment, but there's nothing I can do about the close vote. –  ChrisF May 27 '11 at 14:38

5 Answers 5

up vote 5 down vote accepted

Rot needs moisture to get started, so it's unlikely that an interior door frame would be rotten without you seeing other signs of water damage on the walls, floors, ceiling etc. nearby.

A quick test for rot in wood is to try to push the point of a pick or the blade of a small flat-head screwdriver or into the wood: if it resists, the wood is sound and if it pushes in easily, it's rotten.

If you're really concerned that the frame is rotten, you should think about replacing it: it would be very hard to be sure that you've covered the entire rotten piece with hardener just by going through the screw holes.

Otherwise, I'd just go with my advice from the question you linked to.

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Neither toothpicks nor longer screws did the job, but drilling a larger hole, glueing dowel in, then re-drilling seems to have done the trick, thanks. –  Ergwun Nov 1 '11 at 12:30

You want to fill the hole in with solid wood. Wood hardener will harden the wood, but still not provide anything for the screw to bite into. Wood fillers won't have enough grip to hold a door...

There are several easy ways to do this. If you have some scrap wood around, you can cut a chunk out that is a bit bigger than the screw hole, cover it in wood glue and hammer it into the hole. Or you can buy a piece of dowel from the hardware store. Just be sure it's a big bigger than the hole, and use glue. Don't worry if the plugs sticks up a bit at first. When the glue is dry, trim the plug with a chisel. If you don't have a chisel, you can use a utility knife to trim the plug down to the surface.

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Gluing in pieces of dowel and drilling into that seems to have worked, thanks. –  Ergwun Nov 1 '11 at 12:30

An alternative to repairing the hole is to use longer screws. I have fixed similar situations by using 3" deck screws that anchored back in the stud behind the jamb. Not an option if there is masonry behind the jamb, but in most wood frame construction there is a stud.

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I use this trick all the time when jambs are thin and holes are too worn to fill with dowels etc. –  shirlock homes May 29 '11 at 11:54

I'd try the toothpick idea first. One or two in a stripped out screw hole usually works for me.

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I haven't had such good luck with this method. Tends to pull out pretty easily. However, it's really easy to do, so it's an easy thing to try first! –  Brian Knoblauch Jun 1 '11 at 19:56

The wood probably isn't rotten, it's just worn out.

If it was rotten - damage caused by water and bacteria - you'd eventually need to replace the frame. Unless you've had water damage or high humidity, this probably isn't the case.

That said, I'd try the longer screw idea first, especially if the current screws are 1.5" or less.

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