How To Sand Down A Door So It Stops Sticking

Ever been trapped in the bathroom? We were. All the time. Every spring and summer, thanks to a bit of increased humidity, our full bathroom’s door used to swell just enough in the top left corner to keep the door from opening on the first pull. Or the second. Or the third. In fact it usually took some serious “door flapping” (grabbing the knob and rocking back and forth until it sprung free on the fifth or sixth tug) to get out of the bathroom every time we used it. And forget about our poor friends and family members who innocently ducked in there and then freaked out about a minute later when they thought they were locked in the bathroom permanently (screaming and pounding usually occurred in those instances- if not at least some mumbled obscenities).

The odd thing is that we put up with this silly inconvenience for such a long time. Especially when there’s such a simple solution. One day when John had our $50-ish Black & Decker hand sander from Home Depot out (while working on something for our new office- more on that tomorrow) I mentioned that he should hop up on a chair and sand down that dastardly left side of the bathroom door to keep it from sticking ever again.

And it worked like a charm. It seriously took him less than sixty seconds of running a hand sander across the top of the door to ever-so-slightly slim it down so it no longer got caught by the door frame as snugly on those hot and humid days. And even if we didn’t have a hand sander, we’re sure about five minutes with a sanding block or even a piece of sandpaper and some elbow grease would have also done the trick. Oh and painting the top edge after you sand it (priming first = extra credit) will further keep it from expanding again, so your door will be shaved into submission for the long haul.

So if you have a sticky bathroom (or any other room) door that you’re dealing with, just break out that sandpaper and get ‘er done. Or you could wait four years and titter every time you hear friends and family members panicking when they think we’re trapped in the restroom forever. Either one.

And we’d love to know what simple project you guys have been putting off for weeks, months, maybe even years. It always seems like the tiniest to-do’s get put on hold the longest…


  1. beabee says

    The second option seemed to be more popular at our house growing up… the garage door was missing a door knob for at least four years. Now I’m married to a very handy engineer, and it’s bliss!!!

    • says

      Hey Liz,

      Since you have the opposite problem, it sounds like you have to build up your door a bit so it doesn’t shrink and shake with every gust of wind. Have you tried adding some weatherstripping around it to beef up the seal? That would probably be our first suggestion. Hope it helps!


  2. says

    Hahaha! We just put an offer on a house with some seriously sticky doors. Assuming we get it, we might need to break out this tip right away!

  3. says

    It’s always the smallest jobs that you procrastinate on. then when you eventually get around to it, you slap yourself for taking so long when the solution is so easy. Funny how life works sometimes!

  4. says

    Ohmigosh! This has been happening in our master bath since we moved in, and we have had NO clue how to fix it. Neither one of us are very handy. Hahah I’m sending this post to my husband right this minute!

  5. says

    For me, the problem is usually hanging things. I’ll print out and frame photographs or buy a piece of art, and then it takes me forever to get around to hanging it. It’s not the work – which is pretty simple – but the decision-making process that petrifies me. What if I hang it and it looks horrible? What if it’s not in the right spot? What if I put 8,000 holes in the wall and have to repain the entire room???

    Yeah… I have problems. :)

    Oh, and it took us about 3 weeks to finally caulk our backsplash (10-minute job) after installing it. Why is it always those little things?

  6. sj says

    I just did the same thing to my door so it wouldn’t stick. I also noticed we have the same doors. I added trim to 5 of my doors to make panels. It was a great update for $20. Congrats on Clara, she is gorgeous!

  7. says

    We don’t have a sticky door situation, but we have certainly had our fair share of other easy fixes we’ve put off. In fact, I just wrote about it!

    Love your tips!

  8. says

    My parents’ front door swells in the summer and shrinks in the winter, and it seems like I’m always either fighting open it or accidentally slamming it shut. My dad refuses to sand it down though because original wood must be preserved, whatever the price.

    My husband and I want to replace the hollow-core exterior doors on our house before next winter, and for this reason alone I’m convinced metal (not solid wood) is the way to go, even if it means sacrificing some style.

  9. Meredith says

    We had this problem with the antique knobs in our house…the knob would come off in your hand when you tried to turn it; someone on the outside would need to let you out! We “solved” it by switching the knob with one on a closet, but we definitely had a few episodes of “will you let me out please?” first!

  10. Catherine M. says

    That used to happen to us too! Make sure to paint the sanded side (even just with primer if you don’t have much time b/c of the bambino!) because as soon as it gets humid again the door will swell up again, sanding or no sanding.

  11. Beth says

    We have a sticky guest bedroom door and our kitchen door out to the garage is without a door knob, so we have to pull it open by the locks. We have been in the house for 9 months now, and have done a lot of “bigger” projects, so it really does seem that the smallest jobs get put off!

  12. Kasey says

    To funny! This just reminded me that we also have to take care of our bathroom door issue.

    We live in Florida and the humidity down here is just disgusting. Our guest bathroom door swells to the max and it’s hard, especially in the mornings when my Husband uses the guest bath before work and the door makes a loud scraping and creaking sound as he tries to open it.

    I’m glad the sander worked… now im gonna go give it a try! :)

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