A Buyer’s Guide to Interior Doors
A BUYER’S GUIDE TO Often an afterthought when finishing the interiors of your home, internal doors can make a real difference to your design — and there’s more to consider than one might think. Daisy Jeffery talks with the industry’s experts to find out w
What you need to know before buying your doors
There’s a lot more to specifying internal doors than choosing your preferred style. If you’re building from scratch, you’ll need to decide whether you’re opting for a doorset or hoping to source the door leaf and separate elements yourself; this decision will have an impact on installation, too. If you’ve ever been disappointed with the way a featherweight door shuts, you’ll know that the materials from which a door is made, more specifically the core, will also be a factor in your choice. Here, we explore the key decisions you’ll need to make.
Doorsets vs Door Leafs
When purchasing internal doors, there’s often confusion around doors and doorsets. If you’re simply buying a door, you’ll be buying a door leaf, whereas a doorset includes the door leaf, the door lining (also referred to as a frame or casing) and architrave (designed to cover the gap between the door, wall and lining), plus hinges, locks, latches and so on (the handle may or may not be supplied). You should be clear with the supplier what you are after from the outset.
“With off-the-shelf doors you will have to pay for the frame, hardware and everything else on top, plus extra for a carpenter to hang the doors,” says Elizabeth Assaf, designer at Urban Front. In addition, doorsets also benefit from accuracy and speed of installation (the work may be completed by a competent DIYER, more on which later), as well as knowing that the parts you’ve ordered have been engineered to work as a complete set, both from an aesthetic and functional perspective — making them a worthwhile choice for new homes.
However, if you are carrying out a renovation project and intend simply update the door leaf, then you may consider buying single doors on a supply-only basis — especially if you already have a carpenter on site. “Doorsets lend themselves well to new openings but separate doors can be best if you’re carrying out a refurbishment as the frames will already be in place. It depends how much work you want to get involved with, as ripping out frames can be problematic if you don’t know what lies underneath. When fitting a standard door it’s just a case of measuring the opening, bearing in mind the floor level, and hanging new hinges plus the new door,” says Chris Miller, product manager at Jeld-wen.
If you’re opting to remove the door lining and architrave in an existing home, it’s important to remember to measure the opening and not just the door itself. “It’s best to measure wall to wall – top, middle and bottom width – in order to get the most accurate measurement, and the same with height: middle and each side,” explains Ian Chubb, founder of door specialist Deuren.
“Check if you need to allow any tolerance with your supplier too. There’s nothing more irritating than an ill-fitting door – especially when it’s been designed to the wrong specifications – so employing an expert [your builder, carpenter and so on] to get it right is undoubtedly worth it.”
Most standard doors can be installed on a DIY basis, but the time it takes largely depends on the type of product being installed. The task of installing a new door where there is not an existing lining and architrave involves fitting the lining and architraves, painting them, planing down an oversized door to make it fit, hanging it and then adding the door handles and latches. You may need to paint or finish the door if you’ve bought a primed or untreated model, too. The process can take the best part of a day. It’s often more cost effective to ask your carpenter to undertake the task for you. (Fitting a door to an existing opening will obvi-
ously take less time.) Doorsets, on the other hand, provide a more time-effective alternative, with arguably a superior end result. The door is already pre-fixed to the lining as part of manufacturing process, so only the architraves may need adding and cutting down to size, and the handles added. All the necessary alterations and finishing take place in the factory rather than on site.
“The length of [installation] time can vary between one to two hours,” says tradesman Martin Cavender of MJC Carpentry and Joinery. “This also depends on the type of handles, locks or latches being fitted.”
It may be worth factoring in the cost of all the separate components and the labour associated with installing a door leaf before ruling out a doorset.
Hollow vs Solid Cores
The key difference between hollow and solid core doors is the way they are constructed. “A hollow two-skin door has air spaces within the core; it is less robust, lighter in weight and usually cheaper,” explains Martin Hile of JB Kind. Not only do solid core doors feel heavier and more substantial, but they also provide superior soundproofing and are less susceptible to warping.
“Those with an engineered timber core are by far the best option, as they are less likely to twist or change shape than standard wood when conditions change throughout the year,” says Deuren’s Ian Chubb.
“Ordinarily, lighter equates to cheaper, so homebuilders might expect to pay from £30 upwards for a standard size door with a hollow core. The price tag on heavier products is understandably higher, but with good reason — there is no substitute for a well crafted, premium quality, solid door,” Ian explains.
Choosing the Right Finish
The decision here tends to be between a factory finish, a primed (ready for painting on site) door, or an unfinished product — ready to be treated with a wax, stain or similar. The finish you opt for will be another factor which impacts on the cost of the door.
A timber veneer or painted finish is the most popular when it comes to interior doors. Oak and walnut veneers cost around the same as a sprayed colour finish, with both lacquered wood and painted options providing a striking and durable aesthetic. More premium veneering variations such as satin walnut and ash are more expensive, while additional features such as inset glazing – to allow light to flow between rooms – also increase the price.
The Rise of the Oversized Door
“The standard sizing for doors dates back to old Imperial measurements from the 1950s, and equates to 0.7-8 x 1.9m,” begins Ian Chubb. “However, as modern houses are increasingly being built with higher ceilings, designers and architects are starting to realise that internal door heights also need to be enhanced to maintain proportion with the room. So, taller doors are becoming more and more popular,” he explains.
However, going from a standard-sized door to a bespoke, oversized one will be reflected in the price — especially if you’re specifying a full-height 2.4m-high door, as this will also require stronger hinges or pivot hinges. If you’re renovating, the opportunity to choose over-sized doors will be limited unless you widen the structural opening. However, if you have a blank canvas and factor it into the wall construction phase, there is much more freedom and scope for interior doors to become focal design features.
Fire doors are usually required when the property is more than two storeys – so they may be needed when a loft is converted, for example, to meet Building Regulations requirements – and/or if the garage is integral.
Many suppliers have also noticed an uptake in converting their standard doors into fire doors, particularly on rooms such as kitchens. “This is purely for peace of mind; it’s not a requirement for every door to be a fire door except doors which are en route to escape,” explains Chris Miller, product manager at Jeld-wen.
Fire doors contain a fire-tested core, but it is the associated parts such as fire hinges that allow the fire door to work efficiently. The doors also feature an intumescent strip which swells as a reaction to heat and forms a seal around the door and frame. Where fire doors are specified, these will tend to be rated as either FD30 or FD60 (meaning they will give either a 30or 60-minute protection). Expect to pay between 10-20% more for a fire door.
Words of Advice for Buying Online
While the evolution of online shopping has opened up a world of opportunity for homeowners taking on building projects, and allows you to purchase goods easily, it also carries an element of risk. Online imagery can be deceptive, especially when the doors are on the cheaper side, so it is perhaps better to view the doors in person first, or at least have a good understanding of what’s included.
“With online products, lead times can range from a few days up to the standard eight weeks for normal doors, de- pending on where they are coming from,” advises Elizabeth Assaf of Urban Front. “It’s very important to inspect doors on delivery immediately. It is also a good idea to check if the doors can be altered in size as some are easy to adjust while others aren’t.”
When Should You Buy Your Doors?
For internal doors to have real impact within a homebuilding project, they should be considered in two separate phases. Firstly, a decision about the sizing and configuration of your doors should be made as early as the architectural plans are drawn up. Take pocket doors as an example — the cassette into which pocket doors slide will need to be built into the wall, so it’s helpful to know these requirements before the walls go up. This way, the openings will be perfectly sized and no disruptive alterations will need to be made when it comes to fitting them.
Secondly, the finish of the doors should be considered at the same time as the rest of the interior design scheme. It’s natural for ideas to change throughout the planning and building process, so factoring in the aesthetics at the start allows for these to develop. Of course, there is so much to consider with a homebuilding project, and there’s nothing wrong with choosing doors right at the close of a project, but it’s important to be aware that there are limitations when this approach is taken.
How Much Will Your Doors Cost?
The price of internal doors varies greatly depending on key factors: material, finish, construction quality, and whether you’re buying a door leaf or a doorset. At the cheaper end of the scale, if you are buying on a door-only basis you may be looking to pay between £50-£200 per door — budgeting a further £30-£40 per door for handles, latch and hinges, plus installation costs.
For doorsets, to show how greatly prices can vary, JeldWen offers sets ranging between £90-£300, while Urban Front advertises doorsets starting at £1,200.
Ideally your internal doors should stand the test of time, and you are far less likely to change your internal doors than opt for a new kitchen or bathroom, for instance, so think about investing in quality doors from the outset and prioritise your budget accordingly. H
“The finish of the doors should be considered at the same time as the rest of the interior design scheme”