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Sometimes, in an older home, the door latch can stick. The doorknob may be too tight or it may just need to be lubricated. Try loosening the screws to the doorknob a little to see if that frees up the latch. If not, turn the doorknob until the latch is as far out as it can go and spray the latch with a graphite spray or WD-40. Turn the doorknob several times and make sure the latch is moving in and out. Keep reapplying the lubricant until the latch moves in and out pretty easily.
When your door won’t latch, it won’t stay closed and you can’t lock it. Anyone can enter your home by just giving the door a little push. They wouldn’t even need to turn the doorknob or handle. That’s a big security problem.
It isn’t just a problem for external doors because it can happen with internal doors as well. Imagine being in your bedroom having an intimate moment with your sweetheart when in walks your pre-teen son. How embarrassing!
There are a few reasons that might explain why your door won’t latch properly. Constant wear and use can often strain door hinges, jams, and latches and cause the latch to stick.
The latch from the door lock should insert directly into the hole in the center of the strike plate on the doorframe. If it hits too high or low then the door lock won’t latch. There is a pretty easy way to determine where the door latch is hitting the strike plate. Coat the end of the latch with either water based paint, lipstick, or some other substance that can be wiped off later. Now close the door and reopen it. You should be able to see a mark on the strike plate that shows where the latch hit.
If the latch hits low on the strike plate, the door may be sagging. The screws could be loose in the door hinges and need to be tightened to fix the issue. If you lift the door up, it will release the pressure on the door hinges enough so that you can tighten the screws.
If the latch hits high on the strike plate, the top of the door may not be completely level. This can cause it to stick to the top and not latch properly. Carefully sand down or plane the top edge of the door in very small increments until it fits squarely in the frame.
Over time, some doors can become warped by dampness or heat and cause problems with the door hinges, doorframes, and/or latches. If you have tried lubricated the latch, tightening the door hinge screws and/or leveling the door top and the door still will not latch properly, it may require moving and readjusting the strike plate, replacing the lock, or replacing the door and/or the doorframe. You may be wise to call in a professional locksmith at this point to help you determine the best course of action.