How to close a frozen door
Winter in Nova Scotia, well, I have to tell you it gets cold. Really cold, and snowy. That can cause a problem for both tenants and owners. We get at least one call every year about a door that will not close.
I have seen some cases where, the smallest piece of ice will cause a door not to close. I have gained experience over the years, so I now know what to look for if I get a call about a door not closing in the winter.
In this case you see in the picture, there were a couple of issues. What Shelly and I did, was bring a hair dryer a knife and a towel (the towel is to clean up when you are done). This door leads to an unheated entrance way.
Here is what happened. We have had a lot of snow and cold (-10 degree) weather. The snow and ice built up around the edge, and under the door. Also the weather seal around the door had ice build up.
We used a knife to scrape away the larger chunks of ice, then we used a hair dryer to melt the rest of the ice around the door. When we were finished the door closed perfectly.
This particular case was easy to solve. Not all frozen door problems can be solved like this.
Here are some examples of other problems and possible solutions:
Key will not go into lock – Sometimes moisture will get inside the door lock and not only prevent the door from opening properly, but causing the door to not open at all. You can usually get into the lock quickly with either lock de-icer or a hot cup of water. This will get you in, but will not solve the problem. What you want to look for is a way that the water got in, now it could be just a one time deal, or water could be getting in behind the lock. You can use silicone around the edge of the lock to prevent water from getting in again. You can also use a silicone lubricant or similar product and spray it into the lock to prevent a future problem.
Door will not close, but no ice around the door – This problem can be a bit tougher to solve when it is very cold out. We have seen doors expand. The expansion prevents the door from opening or closing. We have seen this with older doors that have metal on the outside and wood on the inside and around the edges. When you run into this problem, you will need to make a judgement call. The door could be old and starting to fall apart (leaving gaps for water to enter). If this is the case, you can start with your heat gun (or dryer) and try to thaw the door. You can also use a bit of force with a hammer (only if the door is close to the end of its usable life). Shelly and I had a door in the back of a house once that basically we had to leave closed for the winter. It became extremely hard to open and close as soon as it got cold. If the door is the main or only entrance to an apartment, then replacing the door and frame might be necessary.
The reality is that in colder climates you may not be able to avoid a frozen door complaint. It is also important to realize a tiny piece of ice in the wrong place can cause a door not to close. Try and educate the users of the door about clearing all snow away from it. I hope this post helps provide you with some guidance on what to do, when a door will not open or close.
Michael P Currie