Changing your interior doors will have an immediate impact on the ambiance of your home. Hallways or landings may well be more door than wall for example, where there can be up to six doors in a relatively close space. If you have a dull or darkened hallway, changing the doors will transform this space.
The main entrance door, that is your front door, will be your first line of defence against the outside world. Your door’s style and choice can say to the world “welcome” as well as “we are secure”. A quote from ‘The Poetics of Space’ by Gaston Bachelard conveys this perfectly: ‘With their furniture of lock and key, handle and hinge, letterbox and knocker, doors open to communicate and embrace, close to protect and hide’.
Back doors, according to recent statistics, are the first choice of attack by would-be intruders, if access to the back garden can be obtained, and that doesn’t necessarily have to be via a side gate either; a neighbour’s back garden that adjoins onto the target is often used. Burglars prefer this as the back garden is often hidden and out of sight. Having robust security on the main entrance door and compromising on the back door is a false economy. ]
So where do you start? Let’s say you wish to replace your internal doors. You may have an idea of what you would like. You’ve even been along to a supplier and taken a look. Briefly, start with measuring what you have – the width and the height and the thickness. There is no such thing as a standard door size; there are common sizes, however. These are 27”,30”, 32” and 33”. Most doors are probably 78” high or thereabouts, apart from the 32” which commonly is 80” high. Bathrooms and kitchens commonly have 27” doors, whereas 30” are common to living rooms and bedrooms. Because the majority of the housing stock in this country is pre 1971 (pre metric), the door industry still adopts the imperial measurements when it comes to supply. However, many suppliers adopt imperial sizing for width and height but metric for thickness, so you could end up having a conversation where you order a 2’6” x 35mm door, 35mm being the thickness of most internal doors.
If your doors are not 35mm but 40mm thick, this usually means that you have metric doors. These are commonly 626, 726, or 826mm wide and 2040mm high, although other sizes are available. An exception to this rule would be imperial width fire doors that come in the sizes stated previously, but which are 40mm thick. On the other hand, a few years ago internal fire doors became available in a 35mm format.
At this stage, bear in mind that the actual door you are replacing maybe under-sized. An example is a nominally 30” door which now is actually 29.5” by 77”. This is not unusual. Most doors need to be shot-in (cut to size when fitted). That’s where it starts to become apparent that you need a carpenter.
If you live in a pre-1930s property, you may have a 28” door that is 72” high and maybe only a 1” thick. To date I know of no supplier that has these sizes off the shelf, so a handmade version of what you need may be your only option; this is something I can advise you about.
Often I hear householders say that they would like to keep the door but it’s a bit tatty. They are usually referring to previous locks that have been fitted and subsequently removed again, leaving holes. In most cases I can sort this kind of problem out by letting-in (fixing an insert) using reclaimed timbers to match.
When it comes to styles, the choice seems never-ending, but bear in mind the function of the room when making your decision. If it’s a bedroom, then maybe the hollow 6 or 4 panel doors are fine, but you may wish to consider a ‘safe and sound’ (filled-in) format as this gives a certain amount of acoustic protection and feels more solid. A kitchen door may need to be part-glazed or maybe a fire door. Living room doors should be ‘safe and sound’ to keep the noise from the TV out of the rest of the house. You may be pushing the boat out and considering oak veneer or hardwood internal doors. These can look fantastic against sympathetic décor, but bear in mind that commonly these have only a 6mm lipping (the edge), so if more than 5mm needs to come off the sides they may require a suitable veneer. Whatever your requests or ideas, I am happy to advise you on suitability.
If you want to change your main entrance door or back door, consider please the old adage: quality endures long after price has been forgotten. It usually costs no more in labour to fit a quality door than an inferior door. Look out for ‘M&T’ on the label which stands for mortice and tennon; this is the method of construction that is both traditional and strong. Cheaper doors are doweled and will not last. A quality hardwood door, properly painted or stained and periodically maintained, will last for many years. Main entrance and back doors are usually 32” or 33”, and always 44mm thick. Again, older properties may have narrower or wider doors, the 3ft Regency or Victorian being examples.
Should you go for solid or veneered hardwood? Most hardwood doors are veneered. They are engineered with particulate stiles and rails, and the panels are often plywood with a veneer overlay. This is a perfectly acceptable method of construction. You could choose solid hardwood but I can see no clear advantage. Softwood for a back door is often the choice people make, but it will need a bit more in the way of maintenance. A typical back door design is the half glazed and half panel design. Beware – the panel may be only 6mm plywood: one kick and they’re in! Remember, intruders prefer privacy as they go about their business and that 6mm panel is no defence. I always remove this type of panel and fit a replacement 18mm one glued and fastened in place.
With regards security, the main entrance should have a dead-locking night latch, so that if some one breaks the glass they cannot operate the latch without a key, and an insurance-rated mortice lock. These should be fitted as far apart as is practical to spread the locking points, and if it’s an outward opening door, there should be hinge bolts as well. I went to a customer once who had been broken into; they had an outward opening front door fitted with 3 locks, but the intruder had simply removed the hinge pins and the door had literally fallen out! They had no hinge bolts.
Similarly for the back door, there should be at least an insurance-rated mortice sash lock and a top and bottom surface mounted bolt, but ideally a mortice sash and a mortice dead lock. All this security is great, but remember “it aint no good if you don’t use it”.
I am able to visit and advise you on any aspect of door maintenance, repair or replacement and am happy to supply and fit, or fit only.