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I have two interior doors where the latch doesn't catch anymore. I see the contact points and the wear lines on the strike plate but for the life of me I cannot figure out if the misalignment is horizontal or vertical. So I'm not sure if the strike plate should move up/down or sideways... I've looked at tons of Youtube videos and none of them explains how to figure out the misalignment. Any pointers are much appreciated.

Thanks

  • It's almost certainly vertical if the latch functioned before. A warped door is still closable with a little pressure. Examination of the gap around the door will probably tell the story. Post up some photos. – isherwood Oct 9 '17 at 19:11
  • A picture of the strike plate and latch would help a great deal – Machavity Oct 9 '17 at 19:27
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    @user3400090 Ecnerwal has the right answer for you. Place paper over the striker area , mark the LATCH with something like chalk, ink or wet paint, turn your knob to keep the latch inside the door .. close the door - let the door knob/latch to release into the striker area. Several times - then hold the door knob/latch open and open the door. Your mark should be clearly visible. – Ken Oct 9 '17 at 20:47
  • Can you tell us if the reveal (gap) is consistent all the way up the hinge side, or does it get wider toward the top? You might need a longer screw pulling the hinge tighter to the jamb. – Aloysius Defenestrate Oct 10 '17 at 0:45
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Put something on the latch that will make a mark - wet ink, paint, possibly even chalk, crayon or graphite from a pencil. Close the door and look at the mark, or if feeling like that will be too messy, tape paper over the strike area and then close the door with the prepared latch.

If you have old, now uncommon, typing materials, "carbon paper" could be laid on top of the paper on the jamb/latch and that would allow the latch to make a mark without having anything directly applied to it. But the stuff is so rare now I don't assume you can easily get it.

In the vast majority of cases the strike needs to move down, unless something like tightening the hinge screws will bring the door back up. Doors tend to sag under the influence of gravity. But if the house itself has shifted, some other direction may be required.

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    if I might suggest a small addition.. if he places paper over the striker. Marks his latch with chalk (or whatever) holds the doorknob/latch in the open position - closes the door while still holding the doorknob- then releases the doorknob/latch to the closed position. Then by opening and holding the doorknob/latch in the open again ; opening the door - the op will then be able to see a well defined good clean mark where the latch is resting. – Ken Oct 9 '17 at 20:53
  • i just spit on the striker and see where it's wet, but that's me... – dandavis Oct 10 '17 at 4:26
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An easy adjustment fixed my plate problems and I didn't see it mentioned in the other answers, so I thought I'd share my success story:

I recently moved into an older house and literally none of the interior doors closed correctly. Almost all had plate alignment issues, which I fixed without moving a single plate. Only one french door required a dremel to expand the hole about 1mm...

All of the other plate mis-alignments I fixed by tightening the door's hinge screws, on the other side of the door. Too low? crank the top 3 screws more. Too proud? tighten them all. Bangs on the bottom? Crank the bottom. It took me only a few optometrist-style "better or worse" driver turns to figure out the proper adjustments. I'll admit: I had no idea what I was doing, but what I did worked perfectly.

  • Thanks. That's the first thing I did... But that didn't work – Franco Oct 11 '17 at 18:28
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Look at fixing the underlying problem

If the door is no longer aligned well (look at how even the gap around it is on each side), you might want to look at fixing the underlying problem. As @dandavis suggests in a comment, start by just making sure all of the hinge screws are tight. If that doesn't fix it and the door is still sagging a small amount, you may be able to square things up by sticking cardboard spacers behind hinges as shims where needed. That may realign the latch with the striker plate and you won't need to do any "surgery".

Striker Plate - two approaches

If you still need to adjust the striker plate, there are two approaches. The problem is that the existing hole no longer lines up with the latch. You can either make the hole bigger or move the striker plate so that the existing hole lines up with where the latch is now. Enlarging the striker plate hole requires removing steel from the striker plate. Moving the striker plate may require a little simple wood working. Depending on the tools you have at hand, one approach may be faster and easier than the other.

If things haven't shifted much and you have a Dremel tool (or a file and some time), Ecnerwal's answer gives you a way to figure out where you need to enlarge the hole, and you can probably do it in place. If things have shifted more than a trivial amount, moving the striker plate may be faster and easier. The method I'll describe to locate where it needs to move can also be used as an alternate way to identify where to enlarge the striker plate hole if you want to solve it that way.

Door jamb hole

With either solution, if the door has shifted more than a small amount, the striker plate may not be the only problem. You can get the latch to clear the striker plate only to find that it no longer clears the hole in the jamb behind the striker plate.

My approach starts with removing the striker plate, which you can do with either approach. While it's off, close the door and verify that the latch still clears the hole in the jamb. If the alignment is off enough that the latch isn't clearing the hole, use a Dremel tool, a drill with a rotary rasp, or a file or chisel to enlarge the jamb hole in the area needed.

Hole location

Now to the striker plate, which at this point has been detached. An easy way to locate where the hole needs to be for the latch is to use the latch to position it. On the back side of the striker plate at the top and bottom, stick some double-sided tape or a thin layer of tacky putty such as is used to stick light things to a wall.

Slide the striker plate over the latch in its normal orientation and slide it against the door. Slowly close the door while holding the striker plate in place against the door so that the latch being partially pushed in by the door jamb doesn't knock off the striker plate (it might help to use a tiny dot of the tacky putty or short length of temporary tape). With the door closed, use something thin to push the striker plate into position against the jamb, and apply enough pressure so that it sticks there. Make sure the striker plate has fully separated from the door if you've used anything to hold it in place, then turn the knob and open the door.

Mark the outline of the striker plate on the jamb. If you used clear double-sided tape, you will probably be able to see part of the original screw holes through the holes in the striker plate. Otherwise, you can remove the striker plate, pull off the adhesive material and hold it in place using the marked outline to view the hole alignment. That shows you where the striker plate and its original latch hole need to be for the latch to clear it. Now you have a choice of either repositioning the striker plate there, or enlarging its hole so that the hole extends to there when the striker plate is in its original position.

Moving the striker plate

If you move the striker plate, the jamb notch-out for the striker plate may not be big enough for where it now needs to be. You can either enlarge the notch-out using the marked outline, or reassess whether enlarging the hole in the striker plate would be easier.

To move the striker plate, you will also need to move the screw holes in the jamb. Use toothpicks coated with a little glue to pack the old screw holes. When the glue dries, sheer off the toothpicks at the surface. Put the striker plate where it needs to go using the marked outline, and mark the new centers for the screw holes. Drill pilot holes and screw the striker plate in place.

  • When I remove the strike plate, the door latches with no problem – Franco Oct 9 '17 at 23:04
  • @user3400090, that's great. It means that the latch hole in the jamb doesn't also need adjusting (if things have shifted too much, you can also need to adjust that because the latch could clear the striker plate but still get blocked by the wood behind it). So the only thing you need to adjust is the striker plate. You can do that either by moving it so that it lines up with where the latch is now, or enlarging its hole so the latch clears the striker plate in the original location. – fixer1234 Oct 10 '17 at 0:09
  • @user3400090: if that's the case, tighten the heck out of all the hinge screws and see if it's fixed... – dandavis Oct 10 '17 at 4:37
  • I did tighten the hinges. In fact I replaced the screws with Deck Screws (longer) but that didn't help – Franco Oct 11 '17 at 18:27

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