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front doorYou can spend a lot of dough on doors. So doing your homework here can help you make sure you're getting what you really want, and what you can afford.

Exterior doors are ordered when framing is nearing completion (as are the windows) so that the home can be closed up as soon as possible.

The interior doors are scheduled to arrive on the scene after the drywall is installed and finished, to be installed as part of the "interior trim" package.

We'll cover some of your choices here - types, styles, and materials, as well as an insight into how you should specify your doors when ordering.


This is the door you think of when you think “door.” This door is used alone or in pairs. Used alone, it is said to be either a right hand or a left hand door.

door swingThe way you tell the “hand” of a door is to put your back up to the door frame where the door is hinged and stretch both arms out in front of you.

The arm which most easily duplicates the swing of the door tells you what hand the door is . . . if you swing your left arm, it is a left hand door.

Remember that the hinge pin will be exposed when you stand on the side of the door that swings towards you. To prevent an intruder from removing the pins from the hinges and gaining entry, you should either make sure exterior doors are in-swing doors, or that they are equipped with special hinges which prevent the pins from being removed.

T-astragalIf you have a pair of doors (double hung), one of the doors in a pair will have a special piece of trim called a “T-Astragal.” This will provide a lip for the other door to close up to, and will cover the small space between the doors when they are closed.

front door with circle top transomENTRY DOOR
The entry door is mentioned specially because it may be the most expensive door you put in your house. It is available in a great many styles - from hand carved to stained glass.

It will also be available as a single or double hung, with or without sidelights and transom (a narrow window above a door).

These are usually glassed and lead to a deck, porch, or patio. They are the least energy efficient because of the difficulty in providing a really good weather stripping, and because of the large amount of glass area they expose to the outside air.

These doors are usually hung in pairs on a track so that they slide by one another to gain access to a space - usually a closet. They come in many styles and materials, including mirrored.

These are convenient when the space required for a normal door swing is limited.

This door disappears into a cavity built into the wall. Actually the whole thing - door and cavity - comes pre-assembled in one unit.

The biggest problem with the pocket door is that it is difficult to service once it is installed and covered up with the wall material.

The people installing your drywall or paneling should be cautioned not to let a misplaced nail interfere with the door’s function.

patio doorsPATIO DOORS
Many people are choosing this alternative to a sliding glass door. There is less heat loss with this door.

You will normally find these doors used on closets. They usually have four vertical sections, hinged together in pairs, and opening from the middle. One edge of each pair is hinged to the jambs.

The other edges are attached to a track at the top or bottom or both. Sometimes a single pair is used for a smaller opening. In this case, it would open from one of the sides instead of the middle.

french doorsFRENCH DOORS
These doors are full of windows. They’re usually hung in pairs and lead to an outdoor space.

Sometimes an inoperative door is installed. No, this isn’t like the cartoons where a door opens to a brick wall! Sometimes, when a pair of doors are hung together, one of the pair is fixed. It actually serves as a kind of sidelight window.

This is a door which looks like it has been cut in half about waist high. Either half can be opened. This is the type of door you would expect to see in the locker room when you go up to get a towel.

This door has special hinges which allows it to swing in both directions. It is spring loaded to make it return to a closed position.

garage doorCAFE DOORS
These are short swinging doors like on the front of the Longbranch Saloon on Gunsmoke.

Garage doors are either single (8') or double (16'). They come in a wide variety of designs. One familiar style has a row of windows near the top. Garage doors come as solid units which swing up when opened, or hinged sectional units which ride up on a track.


Exterior doors come in a wide variety of styles. The illustration and photos here show some standard styles of exterior doors that are available. Interior doors will either be flush or panelled, and may even be circle topped.

door styles


Doors come in many species of wood and in synthetic materials like masonite. They may be flush, panelled, or louvered. They may be solid or hollow core.

Hollow core doors have wood frames (stiles) covered with wood veneer or hardboard. They are filled with a kind of corrugated cardboard material for rigidity. You wouldn’t want one of these for an outside door, since it’s pretty easy to put a fist through one! The building codes also require a solid core door between the garage and the home. This is a fire regulation.

Solid core doors take longer to burn, giving you more reaction time in case of a fire originating in the garage. Many exterior doors are now covered with metal and filled with Styrofoam. Some of these have wood stiles or some other thermal break between the inside and outside surfaces. Many come with magnetic weather stripping. Use of this type of door is an excellent step in preventing heat loss and infiltration.


Most of the doors you use in your home will be prehung. That is, they will come already hinged to the door jamb and ready to set in place. Interior doors may have a split jamb (a tongue and groove arrangement that allows the jamb to be pulled apart and reassembled easily when installing the door in the rough opening). When split jambs are used, the door unit usually comes with the casing trim already stapled to the jamb. This is a great help and really speeds up construction.

If you don’t use prehung doors, each door will have to be “hung” individually - which is tedious and time consuming. Also, you’ll probably get some variations in performance.

threshholdFor each door you’ll need to specify the:
1. Size
2. Type (entry, pocket, etc.)
3. Material (wood, metal, masonite, etc.)
4. Style (flush, six panel, etc.)
5. Hand (right or left)
6. Casing type (see section on “Finishes”).
7. Boring (exterior doors sometimes have an extra bore for a deadbolt).

Exterior doors also come with a sill, weather stripping, and a threshold. Thresholds come in aluminum and hardwood. The fancier thresholds may include a thermal break and adjustable feet to get them level. An oak or marble threshold may also be used under bathroom doors.


Specifying doors and windows is easily done in a table called the “Door and Window Schedule.” This information Should be included right on the plans.

door and window schedule


For additional information on doors,
see Lesson Seven and Lesson Sixteen of our online course
Successful Home Contracting

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