My front door won't open!

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Old 11-11-16, 05:00 PM
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Unhappy My front door won't open!

This story began a few months ago. Coming in from the outside, the door would get stuck constantly. Eventually it just stopped opening from the outside completely, and someone would have to open it from the inside. Then the door stopped opening altogether. Looking through the crack at the latch (I think that's the word for it - the metal part that goes inside the door when you move the handle), it won't retract into the door completely. It moves a tiny amount inward and then stops. I've opened up the door to look at it, but I really don't know why I did because I have no idea what I should be looking for. And that's why I'm here. Everyone in the house currently has to go through my daughter's bedroom to use the back door. It is a bit chaotic! If you could help me I would be so appreciative.

This is what the handles looks like (not my photo but shows idea of both front and back door handles):

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Old 11-11-16, 05:32 PM
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Find the manufacturer of your door latch and look to see if they have a website, It may have diagrams that would be helpful. Also look on the web under "anatomy of a door latch",
Most door latches operate by rotational pressure from the door knobs. Take your latch out and look for any broken pieces. If you find any, replace the latch. If not, clean and lube. This should fix the problem.
 
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Old 11-12-16, 04:09 AM
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Welcome to the forums!

I'd start by spraying some lubricant into the latch will working the handle and see if that frees it up.
 
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Old 11-12-16, 07:56 AM
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I'd start by spraying some lubricant into the latch will working the handle and see if that frees it up.
Absolutely! Spray a little through the crack alongside the door, the latch is probably gummed up. You can also try spraying some over the top of the thumb side of the handle. Don't give up if it doesn't work right away, wait a few minutes/hours and spray it again... it may need time to penetrate.
 
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Old 11-12-16, 01:15 PM
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lubricant into the latch will working the handle

was supposed to read 'into the latch while working the handle'
 
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Old 11-12-16, 05:56 PM
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Open the door and close slowly to see if it's dragging some place.
There should be about the width of a nickel clearance from the door to the jamb.
Could be as simple as loose screws in the hinges, lack of the longer supplied when the door was new that are long enough to reach the framing.
No one primed and painted to seal the top and bottom of the door causing it to expand.
Close the door until the latch touches the latch plate and make a pencil mark at the top and bottom of the latch, transfer the marks over to the latch plate to see if they line up with the hole in the latch..
 
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Old 11-12-16, 10:37 PM
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Troubleshooting process of elimination:
1) Does the latch operate correctly/easily when door open? If yes, door is probably sagging or other misalignment, as described by joecaption.
2) Doesn't work any better when open than closed? Is there a difference between inside lever and outside thumbpiece? Typically a handlesets' thumbpiece will start to fail long before the inside knob or lever, due to mechanical design constraints.
If this is the case, it could be wearing out from age and/or lack lubrication. The grip handle should be removed and the thumbpiece linkages greased. Also, check alignment and tightness of lockset to door; a loose lock will sometimes allow the latch to not retract fully.
3) Do both thumbpiece and lever equally fail to retract latch? Again, remove grip handle and inner lever, leaving the latch installed. Try operating the separate components individually. If the latch itself will not retract (using a screwdriver or other tool) replacement latches are available for most common locks from your local locksmith.
 
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Old 11-12-16, 10:54 PM
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Then the door stopped opening altogether.
I've opened up the door to look at it
Ok, so which is it... does it open or not? If it opens this should be pretty simple to figure out by pushing the latch in manually... does it spring back out or not? When you operate lever and thumb, does the latch fully retract or not? If lubrication from the outside doesn't help, i'd be taking it apart. I understood that the door was stuck shut.
 
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Old 11-12-16, 11:47 PM
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argh - to clarify, i meant that i have opened up the handle on the inside - the door is still completely stuck.
 
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Old 11-12-16, 11:53 PM
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i can't seem to edit the original post, but when i said that i have opened the door to check, i meant that i took off the lever handle to look inside. the door is still absolutely stuck. when the door still opened, if i held the door open and moved the lever handle up and down, the latch would not fully retract. it moved in about the same as it does now (but then would retract enough to allow the door to open if i closed the door). this sounds really confusing to me and i'm not sure if i'm explaining it correctly. i'm sorry.
 
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Old 11-13-16, 01:15 AM
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Have you considered replacing the lock?
 
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Old 11-13-16, 01:28 AM
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You probably have either broken or worn parts inside the lock/latch mechanism. If you can see it from the inside you might try prying the latch back with a suitable tool. I've used everything from a butter knife to a stiff piece of plastic to the point of a small pocketknife to move the actual latch back enough for the door to open. Then reassemble the lock on a table and see if you can ID the problem.

If you can't get it to retract, you might be able to drive the hinge pins out and remove the door to remove the mechanism. The door is likely very heavy so get another set of hands.

Last resort, call a locksmith.
 

Last edited by Gunguy45; 11-13-16 at 06:35 PM.
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Old 11-13-16, 04:26 AM
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A putty knife also works well for slipping between the door and the jamb to pry the plunger back.
 
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Old 11-14-16, 09:39 PM
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OP probably solved problem by now, but if latch is defective it may resist efforts to push it in using knife etc,. Since the inside lever will at least partially retract the latch, (we're told) it shouldn't take too much prying with a pry bar to spread the door from the frame while holding the lever down, to effect an opening.
 
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