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Interior Door styles, pluses and minus
7 Door Types, Their Uses and Drawbacks
  

   It would be a gross understatement for me to say that I have set a thousand doors. The truth is that as a finish carpenter for more than 25 years and a home builder for 20, I have set thousands and in the course of my career , I have formulated my own personal opinions regarding the seven basic types. These include the single pre-hung, hinged door, the bi-pass door, the french door, the pocket door, the slider and the bi-fold and this short list encompasses pretty much every door you can select to put in your new home.

  Let's start with the wide closet door options which for the most part gives you the choice between bi-fold and bi-pass. The bi-fold door is the type that folds to the sides of the opening with hinges in the center of the two side panels and operates on a pin at the wall side below and above and a sliding roller pin at the the top of the far door panel. It is a complex door with too many working parts to hold up for years and years. But there are several situations that it remains the best alternative such as a wide and shallow kitchen pantry where it is necessary to have the doors open wide to give full access to the items stored behind. The bi-fold is also more attractive than the bi-pass and so it is often used more in wide closets in the public areas of a house such as hallway closets.

   These advantages of the the bi-fold door are really the main drawbacks to the bi-pass closet door. The bi-pass door is mechanically superior because it simply runs on rollers at the top and so it less prone to failure and easier to adjust, but it only exposes one half of the closet at a time. While this drawback is sometimes too inconvenient and necessitates the wide opening feature of the bi-fold, the bi-pass is the simpler and thus sturdier door and should be used in all openings over four feet wide when possible.

  Next you have the pocket door which, I suppose, has it's calling as a space-saving door that slides into the wall cavity rather than swinging into one of the two rooms it allows passage between. The trouble with this door, from a mechanic's view point, is that it slides into the wall cavity where repairs and adjustments are difficult to perform. I live in a well built old house where the pocket door in our master bedroom rubs inside the wall and keeps me from tackling it because I would have to tear part of the wall out to fix the problem and so it remains at the bottom of the honey-do list year after year.

   Then you have the french door option, which is almost always chosen for cosmetic reasons. I have no major quibble against them on the interior of a house except in regard to the fact that they have the inherent drawback of having to securely close against each other and the fact that neither door can truly be secure in the middle of the opening. Again, I have these doors in my own house and have seen minor failures in the face of constant use.

  I do have great reservations in regards to french doors on the exterior walls of a home. Exterior doors open and close thousands of times over the years and french doors are simply a weak sister when it comes to a secure, snug closure through the course of time. The reason is that the primary operating door is supposed to bed firmly into the opposite door which is just that, a door and not a jamb fixed securely to a wall. It would take another article to explain why few homes are built correctly enough to allow two opposing doors on hinges to align perfectly in the middle and create a long lasting, air tight seal. French doors are pretty, but far from foolproof as exterior doors.

   The other widely used and cosmetically correct option for exterior openings is the sliding glass door. While this is a vastly superior choice over the french door, it has it's drawbacks. Maintenance-wise it is a big window that requires a lot of effort to keep attractive. Mechanically speaking, it is a very heavy
door that has all it's weight bearing down upon four small wheels. Additionally, many consider this door to be a security hazard requiring after-market lock mechanisms to ensure homeowner peace of mind.

  The remaining door type, the single pre-hung hinged door is my personal hero. If I could, I would put this between every two spaces in a home, interior or exterior. The reason is simple to me as a carpenter, builder and homeowner: they are easy to install properly and securely in the first place and then they hold up through the years because they are the one door type that is a single unit and securely fixed to both sides of the opening. In my experience they are the most foolproof, time-resistant door.

  I understand that many situations do not lend themselves to the single pre-hung door and I myself opt to put in other door types when necessity demands after determining that the single pre-hung is not an option. But I always wish that I could install this door rather than one of the inferior options and I always recommend this door if it is feasible.

   All this being said, I think much of the problem arises in the superior quality and workmanship of yesteryear. I myself have seen beautiful solid oak pocket doors or french doors set 100 years ago operating perfectly today and I always marvel at them. But I know that these beautifully built doors only keep homeowners longing for the classical look of french doors or beveled bi-fold doors when the reality is that they just do not make them like they used to, nor do we have many craftsmen who install them like they once did. So the best alternative, in the face of reality, is to use the single-hung door whenever possible. When it is not possible, it is important to shop carefully and buy top grade alternative doors made with high quality materials and hardware.

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