March 1, 2023

Door latch doesn’t line up with the strike plate

Door latch not aligned with strike plate

Does your door latch not align with the strike plate? It may have lowered into the opening and no longer fit into the door hole known as the strike plate recess. It can be frustrating when the door latch does not fit into the strike plate with a hook. This can lead to difficulty opening or closing the door and safety issues. This post will discuss the most common causes of door latch misalignment and offer solutions to fix the problem.

Inspect the door and latch

Inspect the door and latch to determine the cause of the misalignment. Check for any visible signs of wear or damage and try to move the latch by hand to see if it is loose or stuck. Before you fix the problem, you should know whether the latch is missing above or below the strike plate hole. 

To test where contact is occurring, apply lipstick to the door latch. Put a strip of masking or painter’s tape on the strike plate, then close the door. Open the door. The lipstick should have left a mark where the latch contacted the strike plate hole.

If the mark is below the strike plate hole, the problem may be sagging hinges. If contact is above the strike hole, then it’s more likely that the position of the strike plate is the issue.

The misalignment may not be clear, so you may need to run the lipstick test. Start by rubbing red lipstick onto the edge of the deadbolt.   Turn the knob to retract the latch, close the door, and then release the knob so the latch does not touch the strike plate.

If the lipstick mark is too high, tighten the hinges at the bottom of the door with a screwdriver. If the lipstick mark is too low, raise the latch by tightening the hinges at the top of the door.   Tighten all the hinges if the misalignment is minor.

The cause involves checking where the latch hits the strike plate or door frame, where the latch hits can reveal if it is by loose hinges, misaligned hinges, a narrow strike plate hole, or a misaligned strike plate hole.

Adjust the strike plate

  1. Start by inspecting the hinges. They should be tight so that the door does not sag.
  2. If the door strikes a bit, remove one of the smaller screws from the uppermost hinge and replace it with a big 3-inch screw. Use an impact driver or a drill to drive the screw through the jamb and into the framing at the side of the door (Familyhandyman.com). That is enough to pull the door back into working order.  If that does not fix it, reposition the strike plate.
  3. Reposition the strike plate. The new position of the strike plate will be about 1/8” lower, meaning there is a better chance that the new screws will want to drift over into the old screw holes for loose hardware. Always just put some monster 3″ screws in the strike plate and hope they do not drift, use another less aggressive way of doing this. The door latches tightly if your strike plate is too close to the frame. The weatherstripping may have a tight seal, pushing against the latch. You cannot open the door from the outside since it is too tight. Move the strike just a little bit away from the door. Use wood filler to fill in the gap in the indented section that remains visible after moving the strike plate.
  4. Remove the screws from the strike plate and add them to a new position that will allow the door to latch properly. Remove some wood from the door jamb using a wood chisel or a small power tool like a Dremel or a RotoZip. Use it like a router to do this in style.
  5. Fill the old screw holes by breaking toothpicks in half, dabbing some wood glue on them, and tapping them into the holes.  Three will fit in a hole. Cut the ends off with a knife.
  6. Let the glue dry overnight, and finish the project tomorrow. 
  7. Place the strike plate into the correct position on the door jamb, and use a self-centering drill bit to drill the new holes.
  8. The holes get placed in the middle of the strike plate screw holes, making it. The strike plate stays in place. If you do not have a self-centering bit, use an awl to get the holes started where they need to be. Either force the screws into place without pre-drilling or use a 5/64″ drill bit to make nice pilot holes for the screws.
  9. Put the screws in. If you do it right, your door latches properly. If not, start over.

Adjust the latch

  1. If the door latch is misaligned, the strike plate itself may need to be adjusted. Use a sharp wood chisel to remove wood material from the door jamb. 
  2. Determine whether the strike plate needs adjustment up or down by marking where the latch meets the strike plate. 
  3. Once you figure out which direction the strike plate needs to be adjusted to, remove the strike plate, and use the chisel to remove wood from the jamb as needed.
  4. If the door jamb is damaged, use shims at the strike plate to resolve the issue (Dispatch.com). If the door jamb is broken, it may require repair or replacement.

Check the door hinges

Misalignment may be an issue with the door hinges. Before trying any other repairs, make sure the hinges are tight. If the hinges are loose, the door will sag. To fix the door, tighten the screws. 

If tightening the hinges does not help, measure the misalignment of the lipstick marks on the strike plate.   If the latch is off by 1/8 inch or less, remove the strike plate from the door jamb and enlarge the hole with a file. If necessary, remove the door’s hinges and adjust them to reposition the door.

Conclusion

In conclusion, there are multiple causes of the door latching failing to line up with the strike plate. The door hinges may be loose, or the latch might have been damaged. Try the above steps to fix a misaligned door latch, to seek professional help if the problem persists. Tighten the screws and reposition the strike plate. Following the above methods may leave your door latch sorted.

David D. Hughes

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