Fix a loose or jamming hinge
There's poetry, mystery and humour in hinges. Just line up a few of their names: from butt hinges and flush hinges to slip hinges and friction hinges,
face-fixing hinges and Parliament hinges to piano hinges and invisible hinges
and — in the realm of true science fiction —lift-off hinges, counter flap hinges, rising butt hinges and double-action spring hinges. But when it comes to a hinge that doesn't work properly, there's no joy and no poetry.
Hinges that jam and creak
We exercise our own joints and moving parts, we feed them and care for them, wash them and moisturise them, but do we care for our household hinges? No!
Our door, window and cupboard hinges are working things and they need
maintenance to keep them stable and mobile.
If the screws that hold a hinge in place are allowed to loosen, the hinge
will begin to twist. With twisting, pressure will be set up on the hinge, which
loosens other screws and causes more twisting.
If wet paint is allowed to run behind a hinge or build up around the working
parts, it'll cause pressure on the hinge when it dries. Years of built-up paint
can cause it to bend to such a degree that the position of the window or door can change, causing it to jam or refuse to shut.
Most household hinges are made of steel, often coated with rust deterrents.
However, over time they'll succumb to rust if they're not oiled occasionally.
Oil the working parts of hinges with a light oil about once a year - particularly hinges near outside walls. Use them or lose them. Regular use keeps them mobile.
If a hinge has been allowed to seize, it is difficult to bring it back to full working order, as chipping dry paint off it or hitting it with a hammer
(not surprisingly) can cause surface damage. Soak the working part in a fine
penetrating or spray oil before attempting to unjam it. Replace the hinge if
Replace a window or door hinge
If a hinge has seized irreparably or has twisted causing the door or window
to jam, if you're lucky it might be just a simple matter of needing to unscrew
the hinge screws, buy another hinge the same size and screw it on.
Unfortunately, it's not always that straight- forward. If the hinge has rusted and seized, more than likely the screws have rusted too, or perhaps some
old paint is jamming them. Chip the old plant away and use penetrating oil to
help shift them. Push forcefully forwards when unscrewing them to prevent the screwdriver slipping and burring the screw. Use a manual screwdriver rather than a power drill as this will give you more purchase and allow you to unscrew more slowly. Press down firmly on the screw.
STOP before you burr a screw head. Unscrewing it once burred is harder than
anything else you might want to try.
Borrow an impact driver from a well-tooled friend or a local engineering
shop. Place the driver in the screw slot and hit the top of the impact driver
firmly with a hammer. Internal gearing in the driver turns the screw.
Failing that, you could buy a cheap power-drill screwdriver bit, clean out
the screw head as much as possible and superglue the bit to the head of the
screw ( see cyanoacrylate adhesive in 'Glues and adhesives' ). Once it has set, unscrew it. Works well for only one screw though.
If your efforts have burred the screw you will need a different approach.
If a few applications of penetrating oil have not helped you move a screw,
try one of the following steps.
Remove a stripped screw
Sometimes just a bigger bit of the same type will work. Sometimes the worn screw head will accept another screw bit such as a square head, Allen key (hexagonal) or Torx (six-pointed star) bit (See 'Selecting the driver to fit the screw' in 'Screws' ).
A screw extractor is cheap ($10—$20) and will probably be the answer. Use it
like a normal screwdriver. The rough strong metal threads at its tip will burrow
into the screw head.
If, however, it can’t get a grip, you might have to drill a small hole into the head of the screw to allow the extractor bit to bite. Use a metal drill bit to drill into the screw head, using a small size and not drilling in so far that you destroy the screw head.
A multi-spline screw extractor has splines that fit over the head of the screw and internal teeth engage the round head. Typically you would buy one of these in a ‘bolt extractor’ set, and it would only be of use if the screw head is exposed.
Last resort methods
Two last-resort methods of removing the hinge are quite destructive, but
might be necessary:
You could drill through the length of the screw with a drill bit slightly smaller than the shaft of the screw (takes a long time). Before you start, punch the slot of the screw with a large nail punch to allow the drill bit to start working.
If the surrounding wood is soft wood, you could lift the hinge with a jemmy
bar, pulling the screws with it. This, of course, will tear the screw holes. Using wider gauge screws might give enough purchase for replacement, or filling the holes with a strong drillable builder's mastic might be the answer (talk to your hardware supplier).