If It’s Thursday, It Must Be The Door Latch

My oldest son has started stepping out of the house right before bed for some reason. Perhaps to get his last taste of fresh air before turning in, perhaps to look for UFOs or intruders around Nogglestead or to groom us to expect this so he can eventually sneak out at night.

However, last night, he came to get me because he could not close the front door. The plate around the latch had worked its way loose, so I screwed it in again and closed the door.

This morning, as he was preparing to leave for school, he came down and told me the door was off its hinges. Exclamation points burst into my head as I went to see it, but the he meant the latch plate was loose again. I tightened it again, and he headed for the bus stop. But I knew I would have to figure out a way to permanently tighten the plate, but I figured that was a task for, you know, daylight.

Thirty minutes later, my youngest, whom I had not yet awakened, came to my office to say that the door was open, and he found Roark (yes, an orange-haired tabby named after that Roark) out front.

We did a quick cat count, and I turned again to the latch.

Of course, it’s forty degrees and raining and still not very light. Clearly, the latch was not fully engaging. The latch plate itself was loose, as the screws were not actually engaging, so I figured the latch was moving a bit, just enough to keep it from fully engaging. I tried the trick of using toothpicks in the screw holes to increase the bite, but the screw holes were within a metal enclosure, not a wood frame, so this didn’t work.

The whole time that I’m working on it, I am exposed to the cold and the rain. And to the cats who wanted to go outside suddenly. So I somehow, with only two hands, held the plate, turned the screws, and swept cats back from the open door. I am not sure how this was physically possible. And I was using a magnetized screwdriver, which meant that I often found myself finished ‘tightening’ the screw but pulling it completely out of the hole when pulling the screwdriver away. I might have cursed, and before my youngest, who thinks that it’s a mortal sin. So many things are to him.

I tried to find some bigger screws on hand, and I did not find anything quickly, so I resolved to buy some new screws and to perhaps replace the whole handleset assembly. I purloined one of the screws holding the plate in and took the youngest to school which is near my local Ace Hardware. I did not find a comparable handleset at Ace–which is just as well, as they apparently run close to a hundred dollars–but I did get a couple of different sized screws to make sure that the latch plate stopped moving.

So I did the three-handed hold/screw/sweep cat thing with a slightly larger screw and managed to get the latch plate tightly fastened, but I’m still having trouble getting the latch to engage completely every time. I’ve tried adjusting the latch plate a number of times, and I’ve got it so that it latches when you close the door firmly, and that will do for now.

I had a brief bit of there goes the day this morning. You know, this week has been given over to going to the laundromat and troubleshooting the dryer (I hope). I fully expected a day of trying to replace the whole door kit with varying degrees of success and a couple of trips to the hardware store. I’m pleased that it didn’t turn out that way.

I might take the time to mess with that door latch again, especially if the boys have trouble shutting it firmly, but it might well hold out until we get the doors replaced. Which will be sooner rather than later now.

Also, gentle reader, my misadventures in home repair and maintenance make better blog stories than How To videos on YouTube as although I am getting more confident in undertaking them, successful completions remain elusive. More likely outcomes are “Good enough, now I need a nap.”

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