One of the questions that we are asked most often is: "How do I adjust a ball catch"?
First, let us explain what a door ball catch is, and what it does. A ball catch is a small piece of hardware that is inserted into the top of an interior door. Ball catches are typically used on doors that do not have a standard door knob with a latch and strike plate, such as double-closet doors that have dummy door knobs. The ball catch is a steel ball with a spring underneath which, when the door is closed, "catches" (hence, the name) into a small indent on the ball catch strike plate. There are generally two types of ball catches:
Drive-In Ball Catch
A drive-in ball catch does not have a plate, and is inserted directly into the top of your door.
Mortise Strike Plate Ball Catch
A mortise strike plate ball catch incorporates a plate that is mortised into the top of your door.
Quite frankly, unless you have ever stood on a chair and looked on the top of your door slab, you probably did not know which type you have. The good news is - for the purposes of this article - it does not matter. The process of adjusting the ball catch is identical regardless of which type you have.
Next, let us explain exactly how a ball catch works. A ball catch is a metal ball sitting on top of a spring.
That ball and spring are encased in a cylinder, and on the outside of that cylinder it is threaded (like a large screw). That cylinder is seated inside a second, larger cylinder which also has threading. When you turn the inside cylinder clockwise within the larger outside cylinder, it will go down, or recess. When you turn the inside cylinder counterclockwise, it will go up, or rise.
Sounds easy enough, right?
Not exactly. The trick is how to turn the cylinder. We have read in other places online, and even seen YouTube videos stating that you can do this by hand. That may occasionally be the case, but only if you are lucky and the inside cylinder is very loose within the outside cylinder (and it usually isn't).
Furthermore, you should use caution even attempting to do that. The author of this article learned the hard way when reaching up on top of the door and blinding pressing his thumb down on top of the ball catch to try and rotate it. What he was left with was a deep 270-degree circular cut on his thumb, and a ball catch that was in no way adjusted.
Here are the two best ways to adjust your door ball catch:
First, get yourself up on a stepladder or sturdy chair, and take a look at your ball catch. Take special note of the two grooves, or "notches", on the inside ball catch cylinder.
Option 1.) Use a 3/4" chisel, and press downwards directly on the steel ball until your 3/4" chisel is inside the two notches. A 3/4" chisel may be a little wider than the distance between these notches, but it will still do the job. This can also get a little tricky because your chisel will want to slip off the steel ball. However, with a little patience and perseverance, you will see that it can be done. Once seated within the notches, turn the inner cylinder clockwise to lower the ball catch, or counterclockwise to raise the ball catch.
NOTE: We have read an article online suggesting that you use a quarter to do this method. This may work if the inner cylinder turns easily, but it often does not. If it is as firm or stubborn as the ones that we have worked on, a quarter will not provide as much leverage or turning ability as a chisel.
Option 2.) Use a hammer and a nail set, by seating the tip of the nail set into just one of the notches at an angle that will move the ball catch in the desired direction. Tap the other end of the nail set with a hammer to get the cylinder moving - it may be stubborn at first, but once you get it moving, it will be much easier. If you do not have a nail set (we assume you have a hammer), we highly suggest investing in one. The are useful for all sorts of DIY projects around the house.
Sometimes, dust, and debris can affect the spring and ball inside the ball catch cylinder, and moisture can even cause some rusting. If that is the case with your current ball catches, consider replacing them. It is a very easy project, and your doors will open and close smoothly as they were originally did when the home was new.