We have some friends who had a very stubborn front door that wouldn't latch unless it was slammed hard. While I was over at their house one day, I decided to take a look to see what Dunn DIY could do to help out.

The most common solution for fixing a tight door like that is to trim a fraction of an inch off the width of the door. If this sounds complex—that’s because it is. After asking some of Dunn Lumber’s in-house experts, the Dunn DIY team came up with a much simpler solution. But when we went back to fix the door, we discovered another problem. Their latch was no longer retracting like it's supposed to, and after getting locked inside of their house, they decided to tape the latch down and use the deadbolt to keep the door closed. 

replacing a door latch

Part One: Replacing a Door Latch

Step 1. Identify the Problem

Every door is different, and no door will have the exact same problems outlined in this tutorial. Take some time to evaluate your door. For this door, the latch needed to be replaced. If you have a similar problem, pick a latch that's the same brand as your existing door latch. You can probably find the name of the brand on your key or on the latch itself. Dunn Lumber carries different brands including Schlage and KwikSet. If you’re having trouble finding your brand, check out a local hardware store, or do a quick Amazon search. Also, be sure you purchase what's called a "dead latch".  It's for exterior doors and is a two-part latch system that makes an exterior door more secure.  Another thing to take note of is the the "backset", or distance between the edge of your door and the center of the doorknob.  The most common measurement is 2-3/4", but not all doors are drilled that way.  You'll need to match the replacement latch you purchase to the backset of the door.

door latch preparation diy

diy broken door latch

Step 2. Remove the Inside Door Handle

Now it’s time to remove the latch. Use your drill and unscrew the screws in the latch as well as the screws on the inside door handle. Then, remove the inside door handle. As you remove the pieces, make sure you keep them all together—they are pretty small and can disappear quickly.

remove inside door handle

removing a door handle

exterior door handel replacement

Step 3. Remove the Outside Door Handle

Each door set is a little different.  As we were taking apart this door handle, we found a little round plate on the inside of the door. There was a place in the side for a flat-head screwdriver to lift it off, and then a screw underneath to detach the outside door handle. Again, all door configurations are different, so you may have a different set up. Once you’ve unscrewed the outer door handle, remove it. Be sure to set all the pieces aside and to keep them together so that you won't lose them.

remove outside door handle

detach door handle

Step 4. Remove the Latch

Now, it’s time to remove the latch. It should slide out fairly easily.

remove door latch

removing door latch

door without a latch

Step 5. Replace the Old Latch with a New Latch

Now, open your replacement door handle set. Don’t be intimidated by the directions, which might look confusing. What you should be looking for is the picture next to the number that looks like the shape of your door latch hole. The standard is Figure 1, and that's the simplest. With Figure 1, you don’t need to worry about any of the extra pieces that come with the latch. Slide the new latch in, and screw it in place. Make sure you have the curved side facing the right direction (toward the outside)!

new door latch instructions

new door latch

new door latch in old door

Step 6. Reattach the Outside and Inside Handle

Now fit the outside handle back in place. We had to turn the little rod before it would fit through the latch; you may or may not encounter the same issue. Screw the outside handle back in place, and hammer the metal plate back in place with the handle of the screwdriver. Reattach the inside handle, and you've just fixed your door!

reattach door handle

new door handle

screwing in door handle

Part Two: Un-Sticking Sticky Doors

Step 1. Remove the Strike Plate

With a Phillips head screwdriver, remove the strike plate from the door frame. The strike plate is the metal plate you’ll find attached to the frame that the lock's latch goes into.

remove strike plate of door

door strike plate removal

Step 2. Widen the Hole

Use a utility knife to widen the hole which that the strike plate covers.

widen door hole

Step 3. Adjust the Strike Plate  

Next, you'll need to bend back the part of the plate that curves into the hole. A mounted clamp will make things a lot easier—use it if you have one. However, we were on-site, so we improvised and came up with two solutions. First, lay the catch plate on its back so that the middle section bends upward. Clamp a pair of pliers onto the vertical part of the plate and, while bracing the plate with your foot, begin to tap the pliers with a hammer.

door strike plate

Step 4. Reattach

We reattached the plate to the door frame, but it still wasn’t adjusted enough. So, we tried our second technique: We fit the pliers into the hole of the catch and then used a hammer against the inside edge of the catch to bend it back further.

reattach door plate

reattach door plate diy

Success!

Between the solutions applied, we did it! The door that had only slammed shut now closes with one hand and latches easily. 

how to fix broken door latch