Doors 101

Choices abound in interior and exterior doors for your home. Doors provide more than privacy, fire protection, and weather barriers. They can be works of art or decorative accents. It’s important to consider the architectural style of your home in order to select a door that matches or compliments that style. Most libraries and bookstores carry references that may assist with the identification of your home’s style and suggest features that fit with it. Here are some things you may want to know about existing doors in your home, and information to consider if you’re in the market for a new door.

Interior Doors

The most common and cheapest interior door is made from wood and wood veneers and is hollow. Not only is there no “heft,” or feel of substantiality to these doors, but they are easily damaged. A rambunctious child can easily put a hole through a hollow interior door. In a home that is upscale, or in a home with lots of activity going on, it’s probably wiser and more economical in the long run to invest in higher-quality, solid interior doors.

Standard-use interior doors can come pre-stained from the factory, or unfinished to be stained or painted on site. Wood doors can be raised panel, flat panel, or paneled to suit a particular décor, such as arts and crafts, or mission style. However, standard wooden doors are not the only choice for your comings and goings. You might want to investigate the following door options:

French Doors

French doors are constructed with a wood or metal frame around a center rectangle of glass. The glass can be plain or paned, etched, stained, or beveled. French doors are often used as exterior doors, but can provide beauty and ambience when used to divide interior space. For instance, French doors installed to close off a formal living room or music room do provide privacy and sound reduction, but they also lend an inviting touch to the closed room, beckoning the visitor to enter.

French doors with panes can have “mullions”—wood dividers between the panes—or mock dividers between large panes of glass. Panes with real wood dividers look richer and more genuine, but take additional time to clean.

French doors can be mounted as bi-folds by hinging a pair of doors together and opening them like an accordion. This type of installation demands a high-strength glide system but can span a larger opening.

Café Doors

Picture the saloon doors in your favorite western movie. Café doors swing open from the center and are often spring-loaded to close behind you. They are not full-height, so they don’t completely cover the doorway from top to bottom. They’re usually installed chest-high. Café doors are casual. They break up the visual space, so they do divide living areas. They’re best in western décor, farm décor, or even traditional Dutch.

Pocket Doors

A pocket door has no hinges. It slides into a groove in the wall. Gone are the days of the ugly, flat finished pocket door. Any door can now slide into a pocket, even a French door. Pocket doors are great when there’s no room to swing a door outward or inward. Pocket doors are especially good for handicapped access, since there’s no door swing to interfere with wheel chairs or crutches. Any doorway can be modified to accept a pocket door. Remember that handles must be flat or recessed.

By-pass Doors

By-pass doors are mostly for closets, but they can divide rooms, as well. They are normal doors mounted to slide past each other on tracks. They can be light-weight French doors. Since they overlap each other when closed, they demand flat or inset handles.

Multi-fold Doors

Multi-fold doors open accordion style and can enclose a large space, as long as there are an equal number of panels on each side. It’s advisable to do some research to obtain the most reliable track system for easy opening and long wear.

Vintage Doors

When building or redecorating, you might want to search for recycled antique doors. Doors from old barns, demolished houses, churches, or even elevators, can provide interest for your décor. Another option is to use new doors and search for unique, recycled hardware and knobs. The Internet is a good resource to begin your search. Remember to check for termites when purchasing vintage wooden doors.

Exterior Doors

 Exterior doors can be beautiful, as well as functional. The front entry door welcomes guests and establishes the décor of the home. It also protects against weather. Doors that lead to gardens or patios can inspire and add romance as they fulfill their normal functions. Here are some options in exterior doors:

Storm Doors

 A storm door is mounted in front of an entry door and is true to its name—it protects against the weather. If the original entry door is very plain, a storm door can add decorative interest as one of its functions. Storm doors have evolved over the years, so they’re more exciting than ever. Of course, they include a good-sized pane of glass, but newer models can have adjustable glass, rolling screens, or inset shades.

Entry Doors

Choosing a door as the entry to a house is always a priority when building or remodeling. It sets the mood of the home and makes a statement about the people who dwell there. Entry doors can be made of wood, fiberglass, paintable steel, iron, or other materials. Often, they are a composite of materials and include insulation in the core for weather protection.

Entry doors often come with circlehead and side windows or transoms in decorative glass. All elements come as one unit, including the frame and mounts. Some entry doors come with multi-lock security systems. When choosing an entry door, be certain that your contractor knows the weather conditions you’re up against. A door facing south or west might get a lot of sun. A door facing north might bear the brunt of bad weather.

Patio Doors

Nowadays, you rarely see the old standard patio door—a simple rectangle of glass surrounded by a metal frame, sliding on tracks. Sliding doors now are more decorative. Some are sliding French doors. Some are constructed with two panes of glass with rolling blinds or shades between them. Some are paned. French doors don’t have to slide. They’re often mounted as standard, swinging doors, usually as a pair. Both can open, but only one has a door handle. The other is braced, but can be unlocked and opened up. Window panes or decorative glass do more than add a decorative touch—they’re easier to see than a plain piece of glass, so you’re less likely to have a guest or child accidentally try to walk through a closed door.

Architectural Salvage Doors

As with vintage interior doors, these are doors that have been salvaged from older sites. Again, they can be from churches, barns, old homes, stores, or elevators. There are dealers that gather such jewels from all over the world. If you can afford it, salvaged doors can provide an unparalleled uniqueness to your home.

Vanishing Walls

 Do you have a gorgeous backyard or pool area? With new technologies available, you can make the entire back wall of your family room disappear and bring the outside in. Marvelous for parties and entertaining, disappearing walls can open up a vast amount of space to the outdoors. Most systems consist of folding and sliding French doors—enough of them to compose an entire wall. They can accommodate a curved wall or corner wall, as well as travel in a straight line. Heavy-duty tracks, ball-bearing glides, and locking systems provide easy movement and durability. The doors also offer full weather protection.

Today’s marketplace offers more styles and functionality in doors than ever before. If you are planning to replace a door in your house, be sure to take proper measurements and know your needs before you head out shopping.


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Author: Gale Boyd