Not Open And Shut: A Guide For Planning To Replace Doors In Historic Homes

You've either purchased a historic home and are renovating it, or you want the look of a historic home in a newer model. The interior doors are probably either original to the home and desperately need to be replaced, or non-authentic doors have been installed sometime before you took ownership. How do you decide what doors to install that are true to the look of the period when the house was built?

Do Your Research

You want to make sure you know when your home was built, and then go from there. Don't rely on what your interior doors look like now, as they may have been reworked or replaced and are no longer original. Seek sources that can help you with identifying period-specific looks:

  • Online sources that show examples of windows and doors used in that time period.
  • Historical records and photos from your city or county that show your home or similar homes.
  • Restored homes like yours in the community.
  • Restoration groups for your neighborhood.
  • Interior designers with a special interest in your time period.
  • Stores that specialize in period-specific styles or antique hardware.

If there are several older homes built the same time as yours, you may find there is a group of restoration-minded owners in your area who can offer more information on the research they've done.

Know About Building Codes

Does your neighborhood have specific guidelines for how a historic home should look, or is there any sort of Homeowners' Association that will provide input on an accepted look for exterior doors and windows?

Or, if your home is on the National Register of Historic Places, you may find you need to adhere to very specific methods and materials for restoration. The good news is that you may be able to get special grants or tax credits for doing restoration work on a historic home.

Incorporate Modern Conveniences

Most high-end door manufacturers offer a historic line of exterior and interior replacement doors that are appropriate for recreating a particular style or period. Look at details like decorative glass or grids in the doors to best match the look you're going for.

You'll also want modern features in your historic looking doors. Decide what is important to you and look for energy efficient options to replace outdated single-pane doors and windows. However, some older doors are made of thick wood and are actually better than some options on the market. You may decide to have such doors refinished or reconstructed rather than replaced.

Because older homes are often not level, and doors in these homes may be different sizes or have been installed in ways different from how we now work, it may be challenging to replace them. Replacing historic doors with modern versions can be done yourself, but you may run into issues. Hiring a knowledgeable contractor from places like Duranotic Door Inc to install your replacement doors can give you better results -- doors that open and shut correctly without obvious gaps.