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

Homebuilding & Renovating - - Contents -

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

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”

Rang­ing in Style

Clock­wise from top left: Ur­ban Front’s Raw In­ter­nal doorset (shown here in Amer­i­can Black Wal­nut) is per­fect for con­tem­po­rary in­te­ri­ors while adding the tex­ture of tim­ber; Bench­marx’s Glazed Pine SA77 door fea­tures 15 pan­els and is re­versible; These be­spo

Mod­ern vs Tra­di­tional Per­fect for larger spa­ces that war­rant a full-height fea­ture door, this ex­am­ple ( left) from Deuren is made be­spoke to ac­com­mo­date the ex­tra wide spec­i­fi­ca­tions and fin­ished in a satin wal­nut. Mean­while, the Solid Rus­tic Oak ledged

Fea­ture Doors The Vog in­ter­nal door from Ur­ban Front fea­tures a mod­ern ver­ti­cal grain in a nat­u­ral hard­wood fin­ish with stain­less steel de­tail, which can be spec­i­fied in a range of tim­bers as well as painted in a va­ri­ety of RAL colours. Com­ple­mented by a

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