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How to Open a Door Quietly

A door is one of those things we take for granted. That they just work. Until one, or more, start making noise. Invariably, you notice the noise when you are trying to be quiet–like trying to quietly open the bedroom door when your spouse is sleeping or when checking on the baby.

Here are a few suggestions on how to open the door quietly, figuring out what is causing the noise, and fixing it.

boy and girl opening a door quietly

 

5 Ways to Open a Door Quietly

Or as quietly as possible.

 

1) Lift on the Door Handle

Before turning the door handle, start putting some upward pressure on it. This should help deal with 2 potential areas of noise. Even hollow core interior doors that weigh about 20 lbs. will sag and/or wear down hinges. Worn hinges have a tendency to squeak or squeal. Also, if the hinges are worn enough or the sag is bad enough, the door handle bolt will drag on the strike causing a scraping noise when you turn the knob/handle.

By lifting on the handle, you are relieving pressure on the handle bolt and raising the slab enough (hopefully) to keep the hinges from squeaking when opening the door. 10 -15 pounds of pressure should be enough to do the job. If you are exerting much more than that to get a positive result, it is probably time to consider some hinge lubrication, repairs, or replacement.

Note: This process does have a potential downside. Some handle sets–especially interior handles–are notoriously cheap. They do not have an interior chassis or filler to keep the handle stable inside the door slab. Only 2 screws holding the thing together, and a drive-in latch assembly eliminates the faceplate–and the 2 faceplate screws. The more times you lift the handle, and the more pressure you use, the better chance of the handle moving around on the door slab. Which angles the lock bolt down causing more scraping on the strike and/or preventing it from latching. Not to mention the scarring of the door’s surface.

 

2) Open the Door Quickly

When most people hear the noise, they tend to stop opening the door. Or to go slower. Neither of these choices will work, especially if you know it is going to squeak anyway. At the very least, opening it quickly–without slamming it into the wall–can shorten the noise to under a second, instead of prolonging the racket. Approach it in the same manner as removing a sticky bandage. Just rip it open.

 

3) Force the Door Slab Towards the Hinges

Not only can hinges and hinge pins wear, the screws holding them into both the door slab and frame can become loose. The usual culprit is the top hinge because most of the door’s sag weight is exerted on it. Loose hinge screws allow the slab to sag more. If they are loose enough the slab can touch, or jamb against the strike side frame. By pulling on the handle in the direction of the hinges, you can relieve the pressure. This can be done in combination with lifting the door handle. Just apply your lifting pressure in a diagonal direction towards the top hinge instead of straight up.

Note: It seems that some small children develop the habit of hanging from doorknobs. (At least ours did.) This will not help the screws to stay tight.

 

4) Turn the Knob Towards the Hinges

This is just a common sense habit to get into. If you are lifting the door slab while opening the door, it is much more natural and effective to turn the knob towards the hinges. Twisting it away from the hinges while trying to lift the slab towards the hinges is more difficult and does not work as well. Try opening a door both ways; you will quickly feel the difference.

 

5) Find the Problem and Fix It

Door noise has probably been happening for a while before you noticed. It usually starts small, and slowly escalates to the point of being really annoying. The noise problem will almost never fix itself. And eventually none of the previous suggestions will work. You will have to find the problem and get it fixed.

 

Finding Noisy Door Problems

The noise you hear when opening doors almost invariably comes from 4 different parts of the door.

  • Hinges. Hinge knuckles wear down from constantly rubbing against each other with the weight of the door pressing them together. And if they ever had any lubrication, it is long gone. The screws holding the hinges into both the jamb and door slab can become loose–allowing the door to sag.
  • Handle. Door handles wear out, get loose, or the bolt will not retract completely (for a variety of reasons). All of which can make opening a door much louder than necessary. Also, the strike may not be adjusted properly, making the bolt too tight.
  • Slab/Frame. The door slab can come in contact with the frame–usually on the strike side–because of worn hinges, sagging slab, swelling, or even movement of the building. Your door will stick or scrape when opening. And if it is bad enough, the slab could bang the frame when closing and need to be lifted just to get it to latch.
  • Sweep. Interior doors very rarely have a sweep. Exterior doors almost always have a sweep. As doors age, and maybe start sagging, the sweep can begin dragging on the floor. (Note: Some sweeps are meant to ride on the floor.) It is usually pretty easy to hear this type of noise, and if it is really bad, the door will be more difficult to open and close.

 

5 Ways to Quiet Noisy Doors

Most door noise is caused by the hinges–generally in 2 different ways. Wear or loose. Noise from the other areas listed are not as common, and quite often will disappear once the hinge problems are solved.

 

1) Lubricate the Hinges

Of the many hinge lubrication options, I think these two provide the best chance of success.

  • Spray Silicone. Dry spray silicone lubricant appears wet because of the accelerant used. But that evaporates quickly leaving just silicone. This lubrication method has the advantage of not requiring any hinge disassembly. Just spray the outside of the hinges and the lubricant will work its way inside to the pin. Quick, easy, and usually provides instant quiet.
  • Grease. Remove the hinge pins one at a time and apply a thin layer of Permatex 80345 White Lithium Grease to the pin, and using something like a Q-Tip, apply another thin layer to the inside of the hinge knuckles. If your hinges have non-removable pins, you will have to use the spray silicone.

3M Silicone Lubricant - Dry Version, 08897, 8.5 oz

Permatex 80345 White Lithium Grease, 1.5 oz.

Note: WD40 is not a lubricant. Do not use it on your hinges. It will dry out and the squeaks will come back.

 

Replace the Hinges

If there is close to 1/8″ or better gap between hinge knuckles, all the lubrication in the world will not fix them. They need to be replaced. If at all possible, buy ball bearing hinges which eliminate metal on metal rubbing. Replace one hinge at a time to save having to take down, and re-hang, the door slab. Measure the size of the hinge before ordering, or take one with you when going to purchase them.

For each hinge replace at least one short screw in the jamb with a 2 1/2″ or 3″ screw that will reach into the wall framing. This will provide way more support to the door slab, and you can adjust the fit of the slab inside the frame by tightening or loosening the long screws a bit at a time. (Note: I prefer something like a deck screw because they do not have threads on the top inch of the shank allowing them to turn smoothly in the door jamb.)

Penrod Door Hinges, Oil Rubbed Bronze, Ball Bearing 4 Inch with 5/8 Inch Radius, 3 Pack

 

2) Adjust/Tighten the Hinges

Tighten all hinge screws. For each hinge, replace at least one short screw into the jamb with a 2 1/2″ or 3″ screw that will reach into the wall framing for added support to the slab. This will also allow you to adjust the door slab inside the frame. Use something like a deck screw without threads on the top inch of the shank to allow it to turn smoothly in the door jamb.

Note: If any screw holes are stripped out, there is no need to reposition the hinge. Mix sawdust and wood glue to a fairly thick consistency and pack it into the screw holes. Let dry, predrill new holes, and insert screws.

Elmer's Products, Inc E7000 Carpenters Wood Glue, 4 Fl oz , Yellow

 

3) Replace/Tighten the Handle and/or Adjust the Strike

  • Handle. If your handle is still in pretty good shape, make sure it retracts fully and is tightened properly. If you decide to replace one, or all, of your handles, I would suggest the Schlage F40ACC619 Accent Privacy Lever. (I prefer lever handles because of ease of use. Unless you have a smart dog that figures out how to open the door.)
  • Strike. Very rarely do strikes wear out. Usually the biggest problem you have with a strike is that the screws no longer hold. Take them out, mix up some sawdust and wood glue, pack it into the holes, let it dry, predrill new holes, and reinstall the strike. Another option is to use long enough screws to get into the wall framing. (This also has the advantage of allowing you to spread the frame out a bit.)

SCHLAGE F40ACC619 Accent Privacy Lever, Satin Nickel

 

4) Plane the Door Slab

Dealing with the hinges and handles/strikes will almost always solve your door problems. But occasionally the slab will still stick in, or hit, the frame–maybe because of lumber drying out, a knot twisting something, house settling, moisture, etc.  Mark the area/areas that need work, get a block plane, and shave enough off the door style to allow the slab to open and close freely. Repaint the raw edges.

YOGEON Tiny Woodworking plane, Mini Hand planer, Block Hand Plane Planer Woodcraft Tool, Perfect for Woodworking, Trimming, Wood Planing, Surface Smoothing(3.1 in)

 

5) Adjust/Remove/Replace the Door Sweep

Rubber door sweeps can be noisy if they are dragging on the floor. (Quite often these have been added for soundproofing purposes.) Some of them can be adjusted fairly easily. Some not at all. If you cannot adjust an interior one, consider replacing it with a Holikme Twin Draft Stopper provide better soundproofing, and make for a smoother, quieter  operating door. (Note: If it is going to slide over carpet, spray the bottom with dry silicone lubricant.)

On exterior doors replace the rubber sweep with mohair sweep. Spray the mohair with silicone lubricant before installation.

Holikme 2.5” W Twin Door Draft Stopper Weather Stripping Noise Blocker Window Breeze Blocker Adjustable Door Sweeps 34” L Grey…

 

End Notes

Here is a list of some of the other ‘door noise cures’ I have seen, heard about, or tried. Most of them will work–to some extent. I did not include them in the list for the reasons given.

  • Graphite. Has been used for door hinges for decades. Works very well. Will leave black marks on slab, jamb, and possibly walls.
  • Oil. Works well for a short time and will run out of hinges and stain slab, jamb, and possibly walls.
  • Hair Spray. Don’t be ridiculous.
  • Chapstick. Don’t be even more ridiculous.
  • Petroleum Jelly. Works well but is only effective for a short time (less than 2 weeks).

Lucky Line Graphite Dry Lock Lubricant Powder, 4.5 Grams (9501), Black and White

Vaseline 1 Blueseal Pure Petroleum Jelly Original 100ml

 

Short Personal Rant

A lot of these hinge problems would disappear if we were not importing, and using, soft, crappy garbage steel products.


Terry Schutz

I have worked as a contractor, sales person, and business owner in the construction industry for over three decades--mostly in home renovations and also as a home builder. I have been married to the same wife for 46 years. We have 3 children and 4 granddaughters. I have also been writing semi-professionally for about 20 years--construction articles, personal stories, and politically incorrect social commentary.


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