Door closes by itself? Two simple solutions

Posted: February 11, 2005

Question: Our bathroom door closes on its own. How do we fix it so that it stays open without using a doorstop?

Answer: Your house has settled and your door is no longer hanging level in its frame - that's why the door closes. Philadelphia carpenter George Sliwinski says the solution is an easy adjustment: wedging something between the lower hinge and the door frame to compensate for the settling and help level the door.

There are two ways to do this without having to remove the door. One is to loosen the screws that hold the lower hinge to the door frame just enough to slide a cardboard shim underneath the hinge. (Any flexible piece of cardboard will do.)

Retighten the screws. If there is some improvement but not enough, loosen them again and fold the cardboard to make the shim thicker, Sliwinski says. Fine-tune the shim until the door stays open by itself.

The second technique involves removing the door pin from the bottom hinge. Bend the pin slightly by striking its head gently with a hammer on a hard surface such as concrete, and then tap it back into the hinge. The bent pin will create enough resistance to keep the door from closing by itself.

Warming up a wall

Q: I live in a small brick twin. The kitchen is over the garage, which has been closed in (the garage door removed) and is now used as a recreation room. The kitchen's rear wall is extremely cold; when I open a cabinet door, cold air rushes out. Is there a way to have insulation blown into the walls?

A: For a brick house, an insulation contractor can drill holes through the interior walls, blow in insulation, then plug the holes when the job is finished. Typically, the insulation used is loose-fill, made of fiberglass, rock wool, or cellulose (recycled newspaper treated with fire-retardant chemicals).

How much should you expect to pay for the work? Material and labor costs can vary by region. I went to Contractors.com. On its cost estimator (www.contractors.com/cost_estimator/free_estimates.html), I entered some typical wall dimensions and the thickness of insulation recommended by the Department of Energy for this area, which is 3 1/2 inches and referred to as R-15. (R value measures how well insulation resists heat flow.)

The estimated cost in a randomly chosen zip code (I chose 19107, Center City west of Broad Street) was $683. Your job, of course, may be more complicated, and more costly.

Before deciding to insulate the wall, however, ask yourself whether that's all you'll need to take the chill off. Could cold air be entering the house through inefficient windows and doors, or through an attic?

Where and how to insulate is best determined by an energy audit. Check with your local utility - some companies offer such audits for free, while professional consultants can charge up to $500. Check the National Association of Energy Service Companies (www.naesco.org) for a list of experts in your area.

Have questions about home improvement or real estate for Alan J. Heavens? E-mail him at aheavens@phillynews.com, or write to him at The Inquirer, Box 8263, Philadelphia 19101. Read his recent work at http://go.philly.com/alheavens.

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