Self-closing or Opening Doors: Structural Movement or Installation
It probably isn’t a ghost
When doors in a home seem to self-close or self-open, there is a pretty good chance that it is not a ghost, but relates to installation of the door or some structural movement.
When first walking through a house you may see rubber of wood door stoppers slid under a door to keep it from swinging shut. Sometimes people will use a brick or a decorative heavy metal piece; these are not ghost busters ☺.
There are usually two main reasons that doors self-close or open
Self-closing doors are a common occurrence in many homes. They may swing open a little or shut a little. Generally the reason is that the jamb is out of plumb. If the jamb isn’t perfectly plumb, then the door may want to swing in one direction or the other on its’ own.
- If the door was not plumb when it was installed, then it wants to swing one direction or another on its own. That is why you see door installers using a level when they are installing the door. They are checking to make sure that the jamb is plumb in both directions, especially the jamb side where the hinges are. This is important, for they know the door may not operate properly.
- A second reason for a jamb to be out-of-plumb is that the house may have settled or moved a little. Over time mother nature may cause the house to settle or heave. This results in the jamb becoming out of level. A home owner may notice that as the seasons change, that the door closing or opening increases or decreases. This is because the slab or foundation is shifting on a seasonally bases. (Read more about settlement)
Newer home may experience some adjustments or changes in the first few years, due to the moisture content of the lumber changing, which may cause the jamb to move a little. Also, some initial settling may occur in the first few years or even over longer period of time.
Signs of some settlement or movement of the home
- A large number of self-closing or opening doors
- Self-closing or opening doors that are also sticking or rubbing; hard to open and shut
- A group of doors that seem to open or shut; all in the same direction
A qualified handyman or door hanger can usually adjust a door easily so that it doesn’t self-close or open. He may adjust the hinges, shim the jamb or make other adjustments that will stop the doors from self-closing or opening. These will usually solve the self opening or closing issues.
Determining the cause
One of the first things a home owner may want to do is check to see if the floors are level or do they slope? If they slope, there may be a foundation or framing problem. These may be caused by a number of things, many of which relate to soil movement issues, including:
- Settlement (Read about settlement)
- Expansive soil (Learn about expansive soils)
- Slope creep (Read about slope creep and foundation issues)
Homeowners or buyers may also wish to consult a structural or geotechnical engineer for answers to some of their questions or for further investigation.