A look at the various styles still available in stores

Arrol Gellner
Inman News

Doors can carry all kind of mystical symbolic meanings, but sometimes a door is just a door. This is one of those times. Below is a simple rundown of the basic types of residential doors and their uses.

First, some general information. A standard residential door is 6 feet 8 inches high. Most exterior doors are 1 3/4 inches thick, while most interior doors are 1 3/8 inches thick. Standard door widths range from 24 to 36 inches in 2-inch increments.

A door that’s completely flat, with no panels or molding, is called a flush door, while a door with recessed areas is called a panel door. The direction in which a door opens is called its “hand.” The door itself is called the leaf; the wooden frame it fits inside is called the jamb; the trim surrounding the jamb is called the casing. A door with glass in it is called a glazed door.

Swinging doors are the most familiar type. Exterior versions come in an almost limitless number of designs, both glazed and unglazed. Interior swinging doors are available flush or in a variety of true wood panel or molded panel styles.

Over the years, the panel arrangement in doors has varied according to architectural fashion; Victorian doors, for example, often had four tall narrow panels, while Craftsman doors usually had a stack of five full-width horizontal panels instead. Bungalow homes of the 1920s and ’30s featured doors with a single large recessed panel, while plain flush doors were the norm for postwar houses until the 1980s. All of these styles are still available — though often for a price. Visit a competently staffed lumberyard to get an overview.

Pocket doors (often mistakenly termed sliding doors) slide on an overhead track and disappear into a pocket in the wall. The door leaf itself is available in pretty much all the same styles swinging doors come in. Naturally, no part of the door can be thicker than the pocket it slides into, which precludes any projecting moldings or hardware. Also required is an adequate chunk of adjacent wall to accommodate the pocket.

Bifold doors have pairs of tall, narrow panels hinged in the middle and along one edge so that they fold outward and to the sides. They’re useful in areas such as wardrobe closets where the opening is too wide to use regular swinging doors. Bifolds are widely available in wood, metal or molded products, in flush or panel styles, with half-height or full-height functional or false louvers, or with mirrors.

Dutch doors are swinging doors with upper and lower halves hinged separately; some have a sort of shelf topping the lower leaf. These doors were most popular during the Rancher era that followed World War II.

Bypassing doors (also mistakenly called sliding doors) slide on two pairs of tracks at the top and bottom of the opening, with the two or more panels bypassing one behind the other. Like bifold doors, they’re best used for very wide openings, and are available in wood, metal and molded composition materials. The functional drawback of bypassing doors is that you can never get at more than half your stuff at a time.

Copyright 2008 Arrol Gellner

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