Q: We just moved into a midcentury home that still has the original plain builders’ doors for rooms and closets, and we’d like to replace them. There are so many different kinds of doors out there – what types of doors work best for different areas? – Claudia
A: Claudia, you’re making a smart investment in your home by replacing its old doors with better choices. Doors are so much more than dividers between spaces – they need to have the right look and function for each space in your home. Because they’re highly visible and functional elements, they can add character and style to every space they grace.
You’re right about there being lots of door choices; choosing the right one will save you time and money by helping you avoid costly mistakes. The main factors to be considered are where and how the doors are to be used and what your space will permit.
Types of Doors
Passage doors – These standard swinging doors on hinges are the most commonly used doors. You can purchase these pre-hung - they arrive from the factory with the frame and jamb attached with hinges. This allows for an easier installation.
Louver doors – Louver doors are passage doors that have angled slats instead of panels. Louvers are great where sound privacy is not considered necessary but ventilation is. Examples of good places for louver doors are closets, utility rooms and laundry rooms.
Sliding doors – Sliders are best used for wide openings in places like larger closets. Since these doors don’t swing into the room, furniture placement isn’t a problem. However, when open, they provide access to only half of the space at one time since the doors move side to side.
Bi-fold door – Bi-fold doors pivot on pins and slide on a track. They’re a good choice for closets and laundry rooms and they provide access to the entire opening instead of only half at a time (as with sliding doors).
French doors – French doors hang on hinges on each end of the frame and swing toward each other, meeting in the middle. When both sides are open, they afford unobstructed views and access. French doors classically have glass panes, and they can create an attractive architectural focal point in your home.
Pocket doors – Dating back to the 1850s, these space-saving doors have been making a comeback. Pocket doors can be double or single doors depending on the width of your doorway. They conveniently slide into and out of spaces hidden within the wall, saving floor space so furniture placement isn’t a problem. This is especially helpful in small rooms where standard swinging doors may not have enough room to open properly or where privacy is needed occasionally, as with the double-duty family room/guest room pictured or for a home office. When the doors are tucked into the wall, the space has a more open look with no obstructions, making them perfect for universal design.
Barn doors – this very popular style slides along the exterior of the wall, adding character and a new architectural element to the room while still saving the floor space a swinging door would require. Because the hardware on barn doors is located on top and is visible, it offers an opportunity for unique hardware that can enhance your décor and add a perfect spark of interest where least expected.
Door construction is equally important and also needs to be considered when making your choice. There are four types of door construction, and each works well for different areas.
Hollow core doors have veneers on either side. They are lighter weight and less expensive, but are less effective as sound barriers. On the positive side, they resist shrinking and swelling and are easy to paint. Hollow doors can help cut costs if you’re replacing a lot of the doors in your home.
Solid core doors have a particle core with an outer veneer. They have better soundproofing and are more durable than hollow core doors and offer the same style and properties as solid wood doors. As far as cost, they’re more expensive than hollow core doors but less expensive than solid wood doors.
Solid wood doors provide natural sound barriers and can be customized by wood type and architectural style to coordinate with other architectural features of your home. The panels can be stained or painted for a rich finish. Solid wood doors are great choices for bedrooms and bathrooms.
Interior doors with glass panels allow natural light into the room and offer a more open look, enhancing a more open floor plan. You can get creative with your choice of wood, glass and hardware to complement your home’s style. Frosted glass doors are decorative and afford privacy while still allowing light into the room. Although glass French doors are a favorite for balconies, their construction is different from interior French doors because they need to contain both exterior insulation and glass that can handle the weather.
Whichever choices you make, you’ll see a big difference when your doors add more style and interest to your home’s interior.