Our homes' doors separate the interior from the exterior, define interior spaces, add privacy, slow sound migration, and imbue our homes with beauty and style. Learn the types of doors used in homes to make a sound decision when it comes time to buy.
Exterior Front Doors
All homes have exterior front doors, and all exterior doors have a few similar features. Every exterior front door is solid, not hollow-core. The door swings inward and is capable of being fitted with both a doorknob and a deadbolt for greater security. Beyond that, it is a matter of personal choice for style and security.
Wood has long been the material of choice for exterior front doors since it is solid and is both stainable and paintable. But wood requires regular maintenance. In recent years, insulated steel and fiberglass doors have been finding their way onto more homes. While steel and fiberglass do have a different look—they must be painted—they offer years of durability against the elements.
Interior doors separate rooms and define spaces. Since interior doors are not required to provide security or stand up against rain and sun, they are usually lighter in weight and are built of less substantial materials than exterior doors.
Hollow-core interior doors made of pressed board or veneered wood are common and are a way to economically provide many doors for a house. The downside to hollow-core doors is that they damage easily and do a poor job of slowing the transmission of sound. Solid-core medium-density fiberboard (MDF) interior doors eliminate both of those downsides but cost three to four times more than hollow-core doors.
A Dutch door is a type of exterior door that is split in half so that the top and bottom halves operate independently. The door can also open and close with the two halves locked together.
While Dutch doors do lend tons of charm and personality to a home, they also are quite functional. If you have children or pets, a Dutch door can be closed on the bottom half to keep them indoors and safe. With the top half open, you'll still receive fresh air. Though the two halves are sealed and weatherstripped, outside air still can leak through. If you live in an area with especially inclement conditions, you may want to confine the Dutch door to a protected side of your house or skip the Dutch door altogether.
French doors are double doors composed largely of glass panes. The two doors open inward. When shut, the double doors meet, with one door securely attaching at both the top and bottom of the doorframe.
French doors usually are used as exterior doors since they give a room plenty of extra light—especially when a room is lacking windows or is low in windows. For all the light they give, French doors can make a room harder to keep warm or cool due to the glass within the doors.
Pocket doors are interior sliding doors that disappear into the wall when they are open. To slide the door, flip the latch to use as a handle and pull it shut. The latch can also fit into a receiving plate on the doorframe as a type of lock.
Pocket doors excel where space is tight or when the door swing will conflict with other elements in the room. One frustrating aspect of pocket doors is when the doors come off-track. However, if the doors are treated gently, they should give years of service without a problem.
Bifold doors are lightweight interior doors that fold inward, toward the user. As the doors fold, they simultaneously slide open.
Bifold doors are commonly used to cover clothes and laundry room closets. While bifold doors sometimes come off-track, they are easy to re-position. Bifold doors are thin and do little to block sound transmission.
Garage Fire Doors
If your home has an attached garage, you cannot install any type of door of your choice between the house and the garage. To protect the home against fire, most local building codes modeled on the International Residential Code (IRC) require solid or honeycomb-core doors that are no less than 1-3/8-inch thick and with a minimum 20-minute fire rating.
Sliding Glass Doors
Sliding glass doors are exterior doors usually used on the back or side of the house, often opening onto a patio or a deck. Sliding glass doors let in lots of light, but they can also be drafty. Look for a sliding glass door with high-quality seals. For bright and sunny areas, opt for extra heat control window film.
Storm doors are meant to be installed in the early fall and removed in the spring. While some homeowners may find this a troublesome annual task, the benefit provided by the storm door is well worth it.
Screen doors can save energy by limiting the use of A/Cs. Home with two screen doors—one in front, one in back—can benefit from the whole-whole cooling effect of a cross-breeze. Due to their light construction and the thin screen, screen doors damage quite easily. So, be sure to have a spline roller and extra screen on hand for any impromptu screen door repairs.