Door hinges require flat mortises to work properly.

How To Get the Hinges to Lie Flush in a Door Frame

by Wade Shaddy

Hinge problems can be the result of improper milling, installation and/or stripped screws. Most doors and door jambs are pre-hung. This means that a machine has routed the shallow mortises that contain the hinges. Occasionally, the machine or the person running the machine doesn't do the job correctly, and high spots are left in the mortises. Other problems occur when the hinges are screwed on in haste and do not fit, or installers screw them on wrong. Other hinge-related problems happen when the screws in the hinges strip or pull loose, causing the hinge to rise above the mortise.

Remove the screws from the hinge, using a drill/driver. Measure the screws and replace them with screws that are 1 inch longer than the originals.

Drive the longer screws into the hinges with enough force to drive the hinge back into the mortise.

Remove the screws if the hinges do not lay flush into the frame or mortises after driving them in. Unscrew the hinge from the door and remove it.

Place the tip of a chisel, bevel side up, perpendicular to the hinge at the opening of the hinge mortise. The opening is on the side of the doorjamb. It's a shallow, 1/8-inch deep opening in the side of the jamb on the interior side of the door.

Push or tap the back of the chisel to shave the surface of the mortise off flat. Repeat tapping and pushing, peeling back the wood across the grain. Test-fit the body of the hinge into the mortise. If it doesn't lay flat, continue shaving the bottom out of the mortise with the chisel until it is flat when you test it.

Screw the hinge back onto the door. Screw the door back onto the jambs, using the longer screws.

Items you will need

  • Drill/driver
  • Wood screws
  • Chisel


  • Check the corners of the mortises. Some hinges have a different corner radius, or even square corners. This could also be the problem. Use the chisel to cut the corners of the mortise to fit the hinge.


  • Wear safety glasses when working with wood. Never force a chisel toward a body part.

About the Author

Specializing in hardwood furniture, trim carpentry, cabinets, home improvement and architectural millwork, Wade Shaddy has worked in homebuilding since 1972. Shaddy has also worked as a newspaper reporter and writer, and as a contributing writer for Bicycling Magazine. Shaddy began publishing in various magazines in 1992, and published a novel, “Dark Canyon,” in 2008.

Photo Credits

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