Tom Shafer

Help for windows and doors that don't close

November 16, 2016

It's that time of year when you want to close and lock your windows and doors due to advancing cold weather or, in the case of homes in the South, increasing chances of heavy rain from tropical storms.

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If you have windows and doors that don't close tightly, you probably want to know why -- and what to do to fix them. Before you go to a lot of bother, however, make sure the problem is not dirt buildup in the track or on the sill.

Why your windows and doors won't close--and what to do about it

Many areas of the country favor double hung and single hung windows. They've been around for a long time. Many are wood, and when they won't open they typically are painted shut.

Double hung windows. Paint can also be the culprit when you can't get double hung windows to close. Excess paint on the frame can prevent the meeting rails -- the horizontal sash members that meet in the middle -- from tightly connecting and locking.

Single hung windows. When they won't close completely, look for one of these two reasons:

  • A broken balance can cause the window to jam in the open position. You can either replace the balance or remove it altogether just to get the window closed temporarily. Keep in mind when you remove it, you won't be able to open the window until you replace it.
  • A crowned sill, one that's higher in the middle than on the ends, is typically the reason, particularly in brick homes. It's a difficult fix that involves brickwork and pressure on the sill to flatten it.

Casement windows. If they don't shut tight, look for a problem with the locking mechanism. Unless casement windows are installed perfectly plumb, the locking handles cannot latch and pull the sash in. The repair involves shimming the lock. Another reason: the crank operator, or handle, may be stripped and need replacing.

Entrance doors. As your house settles the door opening may no longer be square. In that case, a corner of the door frame can become too tight for the door to fit into the jamb. Plane or sand the door in that area until it moves freely.

Patio slider doors. Sliders that do not completely close may need the door adjusted if it's not square with the jamb. Virtually all patio slider doors have adjustment screws on the bottom rail, either at the ends or behind a button on the face of the door. A screwdriver inserted and twisted to either raise or lower that side of the door usually fixes the problem.

For safety, security and air tightness, make sure your windows close and lock.


To find a door or window expert now,
call toll-free: 1-866-969-5157