Fixing a Door Strike Plate With Repair Realism

I’ve been struggling to find a word or phrase for those many times, especially in an old house, when you just resign yourself to a repair solution that just kinda works without fixing the underlying problem. I’m thinking of calling it “repair realism” as a nod to Mark Fisher’s idea of capitalist realism (the sense that we can’t imagine a way out of our current mess and we’ll just have to accept it).

We’ve got this door that moves up and down with the seasons. Sure it would be great to repair the foundation and beef up the floor joists. But since the hasty builders who slapped together this bungalow a hundred years ago didn’t bother to give us a basement or even enough of a crawl space to access the foundation, those structural repairs ain’t gonna happen.

So to make less tedious the yearly task of adjusting the strike plate of the door so that the latch bolt will go into it, I came up with a “repair realist” solution: just notch the damn strike plate so that you can move it up and down. Then all you have to do is loosen the screws rather than have to drill new holes or worse, have to repair the holes before you can drill them again.

Strike plates are a kind of security theater anyways. They don’t really do anything. One meek kick to the door and the strike plate will break away. Why even bother with them? I suppose they keep the wood from getting rubbed away by the latch bolt but they don’t do much else.

While we’re at it we need to find a clever solution for doors that swell and contract. One of the signs of spring here is neighbors hiring people to cut down their doors. We should have doors with tops and bottoms that extend and contract. Much of the knowledge of furniture making relates to how to allow for seasonal wood movement so that your table or cabinet doesn’t pull apart between the cold of winter and the heat and humidity of summer. Consider the repair realist notion of adjustable doors as a downmarket idea related to cabinetry’s more lofty methods. To paraphrase ├╝ber-realist ghoul Margaret Thatcher, “There is no alternative.”

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8 Comments

  1. Thank you:) My 100-year-old South Texas pier and beam house shifts with the seasons and the amount of rain, causing strike plate issues. This sounds like a solution for me to try.
    I am fortunate that a room was added onto the house. That add-on created a new front door. The old front door, that leads to the former front room (now my messy office) is, once again, stuck shut. When the house shifts, the frame tightens around the door, and it won’t open. I have already had the frame removed and reinstalled once.
    I do love old houses and their quirks, though.

    • It rained last week, and now I don’t have strike plate issues. When the ground dries out, the issues will return!

  2. Ah, doors in old houses. A sticky subject. My present home is “only” 62 years and the newest one I have ever lived in. But it has the worst door problem. I cheated on one of the bedroom doors. I completely removed the strike plate. No matter what I did I could not get it to close properly. Now it does. Maybe this is ‘tacky’ but I am at a stage where I don’t care if anyone notices.

  3. Why not make the hole in the strike plate longer, so that it will accommodate the shifting position of the latch bolt in all seasons? A bit of filing should do the trick. You’ll need to make the recess in the wooden door jamb a bit bigger too.

    Of course, this will not work if the enlarged hole needs to be so big that it encroaches on the screw holes. In this case, make a new latch plate or buy a new house!

  4. My bathroom door is currently in the “will barely close” winter mode. Luckily, it’s upstairs and privacy isn’t too much of a concern? Because the cat can open it with her nose because it won’t actually shut …

  5. My house was 117 years old and had no door problems. Now, I wonder why. There were problems, but I love old houses.

  6. I went to Home Depot and bought a security latch strike by Defiant. It has extended openings for both the latch and the deadbolt. I had to cut the middle out to be able to use it. I have not needed to adjust the stride plates since.

  7. My 1923 sewing machine has a repair like that. The buttonholer would very often move the needle juuuuuust enough that it would hit the needleplate and snap. I took a dremmel and made the hole bigger so a few millimeters of needle wiggle stopped snapping my needles.

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