Modifying doors

Preventing doors from rattling

Have you ever been lying in bed on one of those windy nights with your door closed and your window open and felt the urge to rip your door off its hinges because it rattles incessantly? Does your door rattle like someone is trying to get in every time someone opens another door in the hallway?

Dorms have a lot of air pressure differences and air currents. More than they should, it seems. This causes doors to slam and rattle a lot. The rattling is also due to the fact that the door latch has a lot of play in most dorm room doors.

Well then. Let's put an end to that. There are three basic procedures which can ameliorate the situation.

Pad the stop

The strategic placement of one those two-sided foam adhesive squares on the edge of the door facing the stop can keep the door from rattling because of air currents. Make sure to place it so that it still allows easy closure and latching of the door, but prevents the door from rattling. You may need more than one piece of foam adhesive depending on what the gap between the door and the stop looks like. The optimum arrangement pushes the latch snug against the room-side edge of the hole and prevents the door from moving back and forth with the latch hitting this metal piece.

Pad the latch

Another method is to pad the latch itself. We don't want to mess with the latching mechanism on the door, but we can pad the inside edges of the metal hole into which it latches when the door is closed. Duct tape does the job nicely. This dampens the metallic sounds that come when the door slams or rattles. When coupled with padding of the stop, this essentially eliminates door noise. Sleep well.

Call B&G

Sometimes the latch itself is broken and the door never completely closes. When Mission was just remodeled (Fall 2003), some of the latches closed incompletely, meaning that unless the resident made sure the door was shut by pulling on the door handle when he or she left, one could break into the room simply by giving the handle a sharp downward/inward shove. B&G should know about this problem; it affected 3 of the 5 doors in my Mission suite.

Removing automatic door-closing hinges

Many dorm rooms, such as those in Currier Hall, Fitch House, Thompson Hall, and probably elsewhere, have doors which swing shut automatically. This can be a pain, especially when you want to leave your door open but don't have a doorstop and the contents of your recycling bin don't yet have enough mass to hold it open, or when you go to take a shower but realize, just as your door swings closed, that your door is locked and you are in a towel in the hallway without your keys. If you want to solve this problem and are willing to exert a little effort, read on.

But first, a disclaimer: automatic door-closer-thingys are Fire Safety Equipment. So you're not really supposed to take them off. And you could conceivably be fined if you do: $50 plus the cost of replacement. They've been mandated here and across the US since the Uniform Building Code book was first published in 1927. They exist to prevent fire and smoke from spreading into your rooms and/or common rooms. You have been warned. But I have this... uh, friend... who had his automatic door closer off for an entire school year, and no one ever said anything about it, probably because no one really noticed.

The automatic closing action is caused by a special spring-loaded hinge in the center (vertically speaking) of the door. The hinges at the top and bottom are normal hinges which swing freely. Therefore, detaching the center hinge from the door is all that is needed. Another disclaimer for Prospect residents: the doors to Prospect rooms have spring hinges not only in the center but at the top, and obviously you can't remove both of those and hope to operate the door, so this method does not work for Prospect doors.

CAUTION: the spring in the spring-loaded hinge is VERY STRONG. Try closing a door just by pulling/pushing it right next to the hinge and you will get an idea of the torque that is needed. If the spring-loaded hinge were to snap shut on your fingers it would be VERY BAD. So use the utmost caution while working with the hinge.

First, you will need a standard screwdriver (check which kind is required; probably Phillips) as well as a hammer, crowbar, or other strong object which you can use to hold the hinge open. The hinge is held to the door with three standard screws; WHILE PUSHING FIRMLY AGAINST THE HINGE PLATE with the hammer/what-have-you to hold it open, carefully remove the screws from the hinge plate, being careful to keep your fingers far away. After removing the screws, slowly and carefully remove the hammer. At this point one of two things may happen: the hinge may simply close when you stop holding it open, OR it may remain stuck open if it is tightly wedged into the rectangular hole cut for it in the door. In the latter case, simply use the hammer to give the door a good firm tap a few inches above the hinge plate, while keeping your fingers far, far away. This should be enough to pop the hinge plate free, which will probably snap shut quite violently.

Keep the screws in a safe place; when the time comes to reattach the hinge plate to the door, you can do so with the same tools. Getting the hinge open is the tricky part: making sure you have a strong screwdriver, insert the blade of the screwdriver in the small gap between the hinge plates at the top of the hinge. You can then use the screwdriver as a lever to pry the hinge plates open a bit. Once you have the plates separated far enough using the screwdriver, you can use the hammer or other strong object to push the hinge plate open the rest of the way, and push it into the hole in the door. DO NOT USE YOUR FINGERS for any part of this operation! Once you have the hinge plate inserted in the door, it is a simple matter of reinstalling the screws while continuing to hold the hinge open with a hammer.