Once upon a time (because this is the way these stories begin), I had a house with a dutch door. When the weather was fair, I kept the bottom of the door closed and the top open. Warm breezes wafted through my little cottage. Deer grazed on the property and squirrels scampered on my deck. It was a charmed existence. You too can have a charmed existence simply by installing a dutch door.
Dutch doors have a few problems, though. For one--as you'll see in this article--they're... hard to find. When the top portion of exterior dutch doors are open, they let in as many flies and mosquitoes as if the door were completely open. They keep dogs in, but cats merrily jump over them. Because of that crack in the middle, they are energy-wasters.
On the good side, practically-speaking, exterior dutch doors have a very inviting feeling. They say, "Come on over and talk." Interior dutch doors work great at the top of stairs, as attractive alternatives to child safety fences. They provide a visual barrier to places like kitchens and home offices, where you want semi-privacy from kids and spouses. All that said, they're lovely and fun, and sometimes those are strong enough reasons to do something--forget practicality.
Manufacturers and Suppliers
Jeld-Wen is the only major door manufacturer that will sell you a dutch door. Other big door makers appear to have given up on the idea. This Oregon-based company custom-makes gorgeous dutch doors out of alder, cherry, juniper, mahogany, oak, walnut, and other domestic or exotic wood species. Even though they don't advertise it on their site, they also sell more affordable dutch doors in less precious woods like hemlock. Check with The Home Depot for their under-$500 dutch doors.
The online retailer Yesterday's Vintage Doors is another good place to find finely-crafted dutch doors.
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Walnut Exterior-Side Dutch Door
Jeld-Wen doesn't specify the type of wood used for this dutch door, but I'm guessing walnut. An exterior door, it opens to a back or side yard. Dutch doors work great when opening to less public areas of your property than the front. Cats come and go, vaulting the lower half. Neighbors saunter over to discuss kids, HOA, schools, or just to borrow that proverbial cup of sugar.
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Craftsman Dutch Door
Here's a dutch front exterior door in cherry wood from Jeld-Wen. This simple yet strong design has two faces. With both panels closed, its fierce Craftsman face provides safety against intruders and the elements. Yet with the top open, its friendly--or at least friendlier--face beckons visitors to come and chat for awhile...and maybe share a pot of tea.
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Glass Dutch Door
Despite owning an exterior door with a full lite (i.e., glass from top to bottom), I'm always a bit nervous about glass below waist-level in a door. The potential for accidentally breaking it is just too high. But such is the price of beauty, isn't it?
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Hardwood Dutch Door With Upper Window
At Yesterday's Vintage Doors, you "build" your dream dutch door using their online tool. At the cheaper end of the scale, a knotty pine exterior dutch will run about $1,805.
You'll never want to use the softer woods such as knotty pine or knotty alder in exposed locations. They work best in places that are fully covered by a porch.
(Note that the company's site quotes the same $1,805 price, even for finer exotic hardwoods such as African... mahogany. We assume that this is in error; we have contacted them for clarification.)