For easy openers: hints on combating rattles, swells, and warps

Doors are supposed to close and open freely, windows to glide up and down easily, and drawers to slide in and out without fuss. As a homeowner or apartment dweller, you don't have to put up with anything less.

If you are, and you happen to be a homeowner, with patience and know-how you can solve these annoyances. If you live in an apartment, check with the landlord or building superintendent about the windows and doors. If the drawers belong to your own furniture, then the responsibility is up to you.

The following tips will help you make the necessary simple repairs on the doors, windows, and drawers that you use every day:


If a door rattles, balks at opening, or won't close, don't reach for a piece of heavy, coarse sandpaper or a plane immediately. Perhaps the simple answer is to tighten a few loose screws in the hinges. Also, remember that wood expands in the summer and contracts in the winter.

* Shims: Stop doors from binding at top or bottom by shimming out one hinge with cardboard - bottom shim for bottom bind, top shim for top bind. Simply loosen the hinge screws and insert a thin piece of cardboard into the mortise between the wood and hinge. Then rescrew.

* Loose screws: If hinge screws are loose and won't hold, try longer screws. You can also plug the holes with wooden pegs dipped in glue; then reset the screws. Plugging the old screw holes with wooden toothpicks or matchsticks works well, too. Again, reset the screws.

* Sanding: If the hinges are tight, yet a swollen door still sticks near the latch side corner, use sandpaper and block. Use a piece of cardboard between the closed door and frame to find the contact spot. Sand the rubbed edge with the grain.

* Planing: Use a plane only if the door is too wide or too high for the opening. If too wide, remove the door hinge pins and then the screws that hold the door side hinge leaf. Plane the hinge edge and reset the hinge. Plane the top edge toward the middle to avoid splintering.

* Door warp: To make a warped door fit better against the stop bead (wood strip on the door frame), pry up the stop bead. Close the door and renail the strip.


Too much paint in the wrong places causes double-hung, wood windows to ''freeze up.'' Sometimes expanded moldings are the culprit.

* Breaking the seal: Carefully hammer the blade of a putty knife between the stop molding and the window frame. Rotate the knife edge back and forth and up and down along the length of the window. Also work the knife edge along the bottom of the windowsill.

Remove excess paint from the window channel after you loosen the sash. After cleaning thoroughly, apply silicone spray.

* Swollen windows: Sometimes wood swells too much for any amount of lubricating or forcing to move the window sash freely. Then you should remove the stop molding, carefully letting the nails pull through the wood. Use a claw hammer to pull out the nails. The sash will then slide freely.

You can inspect the lower window opening space after you remove the stop moldings. Unfasten the sash cords on each side (on older windows) and lift out the window sash.

Clean and sand the edge of the molding along the area where the window sash glides. Do the same to the sash. Renail the stop molding, making sure the window operates smoothly.


Whether you live in your own home or an apartment, you can do something about sticky drawers.

* Twisting:

Large chests and heavy double dressers, when not sitting level on wavy or uneven floors, may develop sticky drawers because the chest or cabinet may be twisted. Use a carpenter's level to check the problem. Proper-size wedges will shim up the low legs until the chest is exactly level.

* Swelling:

Dampness causes wood to swell. First remove any dust, dirt, and jammed objects. Use lubrication on the uncovered way and guide strips after removing the drawers. Apply paraffin on bare wood, and grease stick over paint on ways and guides which show wear. Silicone sprays work well.

Make sure slides and guides are anchored firmly. Reglue or replace screws and tacks where necessary.

If the wood has swelled so much that you can only get the drawer out partially, place a light bulb screwed into the socket of an extension cord. The heat will shrink the wood in a few hours to allow the drawer to come out. To prevent scorching the contents of a drawer, wrap the light bulb in tinfoil or place it in a tin can. You also can use a trouble light.

If more than lubrication is necessary, try sanding points where the wood rubs.

For seriously swelled drawers, planing may be the only answer. Determine where the drawer rubs. Then brace the drawer firmly against a wood block to prevent the joints from collapsing. Use a sharp plane and remove only as much wood from drawer sides as needed.

* Front sagging:

Metal drawer glides on the frame, located an inch or so in from the front, don't allow the drawer to be lifted and closed the last inch or so. A cabinet scraper (not a plane) drawn over the back of the bottom edge of the front board helps align the sides.

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