Basic Guide to interior Doors

A Basic Guide To Interior Doors

Ian Mutuli
Updated on
Ian Mutuli

Ian Mutuli

Founder and Managing Editor of Archute. He is also a graduate architect from The University of Nairobi, Kenya.
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Interior doors are the gateway to any room in your building. They also complete the enclosure of the space to provide privacy and security. While it may not seem a priority to many, you need to make proper decisions when choosing the right interior doors. That way, they’ll serve their purpose, as well as add aesthetic to your home. So, if you're building or renovating a property, here are some things you need to consider when it comes to choosing interior doors:

1. Size And Measurement Accuracy Matters

When you have an old home, it's best to measure your new door carefully. That's because doorways of older homes may not be the same as the standard sizes today. The standard size is usually 80" x 24-36", which you can find in newer buildings. Thus, replacing your old door requires measuring its height, width, and depth accurately. If you don't measure it properly, you may end up with a door that’s too small or too big.

However, you also need to measure the clearance of your door when it fully opens, the direction when it swings, and the like. This is useful for the trim, which frames the door. This also means the measurements above only apply to the door itself. Thus, you'll need to add trim, depending on how much it can take up space on the sides of your door.

2. Door Styles Vary

You should also know what styles to incorporate. This way, you can employ the most suitable door design that can complete the visuals of your home. This means choosing a style should depend on your overall interior design. For instance, if you want your small space to appear busy, go for a more ornate door. But, if you want a simple one, then do away with architectural door designs.

In addition, you need to familiarize yourself with the terms being used for doors so you won’t get lost when you’re shopping. For more information on basic terms that you need to know, you may click here.

Combining such things can help you select the most suitable style from the following options:

  • Bifold: This design, also known as folding or concertina door, has hinges to hold the sliding doors. They attach to the hinges through end pivots on pins, and they also use mechanisms of sliders. With such, you can use bifold doors in the pantry, kitchen, bedroom closet, laundry room, and other small spaces. Or, you can use them to connect indoor spaces to outdoor areas, like conservatory, balcony, and garden. This is so because they allow natural ventilation and sunlight for your open spaces. In addition, they're suitable for contemporary designs, too.
  • Double: This vertical type of door meets at the door frame's center. Double doors are like regular ones that use their hinges, which means they don't require any form of operation to open. This design is perfect for adding aesthetic value to your property as it creates a stunning entrance. And, since they occupy a lot of space, they're most suitable if you have large areas. You can even use them for your main entryways as long as the materials are high-quality. Moreover, you can customize their sizes, colors, and designs to ensure that they complement the overall theme of your home.
  • Pocket: Pocket doors are like sliding doors, making them popular in interior designs. However, unlike the sliding ones, these work by rolling only one side into an open space in your wall. But, because of technological advancement, you can now find pocket doors that you can slide on both sides. However, such require top jambs on the track and side jambs to receive the doors to make them work. And, they can glide smoothly if they have rollers attached to them.

This design is best for small spaces to partition your study rooms, storage areas, closets, and children's rooms. And, if you have areas where you rarely close the doors, this style is perfect. Moreover, you can use pocket doors to complement both modern and traditional interior designs

  • Glass: Make clear demarcations with glass doors, which are perfect for homes with an open floor plan. Depending on your preference, you can choose various materials or go for full glass. But, generally, glass is about ½ to ¾ inches thick, making it strong and durable.

Moreover, you can use glass with metal or wooden frames, commonly seen in sliding glass doors. For swing glass doors, they’re more often used in residential areas. And, you can choose from frameless or hinged for a modern look. Moreover, you can use frameless glass doors in shower enclosures and bathrooms. Or, use them to balance the heavy look and blandness of wooden entryways.

  • Flush: This design is popular due to its simplicity and affordability. It doesn't have any ornamentation or panels, but only a plain and flat surface. You can buy flush doors in lightweight, hollow-core and solid forms. The former is hollow inside; the fiberboard or veneer wraps the honeycomb cardboard interior. On the one hand the solid form has wood composite or wood materials inside.

As for their finishes, you can opt for painted or stained wood. But, if you want to customize its finishing, you can buy it pre-finished. What's great about a flush door is you can easily blend it with just about any room due to its simplicity. Moreover, it has insulating with proofing options besides being durable. Thus, it's a perfect choice for simple spaces.

3. Materials Also Vary

With the styles above, you may now have an idea that doors can be made of different materials, too. From glass to wood to steel, your choices are vast. And, by knowing the materials of which doors are made, you can choose the perfect fit for each room in your home.

Generally, door materials are made with special reinforcements that can last daily usage. But, it also depends on the materials since not all of them are created equal. Some may only be good for light traffic areas, while others are more durable. With such, here are some of them:

  • Engineered Wood: This material comes from stamped hardboard (masonite) and medium-density fiberboard (MDF). These two materials don't have natural wood grains, but they're easy to paint. And if you're looking for a material that's warping-resistant, the MDF is of better quality.
  • Fiberglass: For your entry door, this type of material is a popular choice. What's even great about it is that its R-value is four to five times more than wood. R-value refers to the ability of the material to resist the heat energy flow; hence, the ‘R’ for resistance. And, if the longer a material retards the heat movement, the higher the R-value is.

With its non-conductive heat and cold attribute, fiberglass is one of the most energy-efficient materials indoors. While it can come at a high price, fiberglass requires refinishing every three to five years. This means it's low-maintenance. In addition, it's also lightweight and den- resistant, making it a practical choice.

  • Steel: This material is popular for exterior doors, but it's also good for interior. It's inexpensive, providing a great return on investment if you decide to sell your home. Moreover, you can choose the two steel 'skins,’ which means it has an insulating foam core. You can also treat this material with a faux wood stain.
  • Wood: This material is the most common and a classic choice as it provides a natural effect. Although you need to refinish it biannually or annually, it's the best wear-and-tear resistance material. If you have a big budget, you can go for solid wood. But, if you want a budget-friendly alternative, solid-core wood is an option. This is a wood fiber backer or hardwood with laminate or plywood coating. However, it’s more vulnerable to fading and moisture.

4. Swing Direction Or Handing Is Important

Another important consideration for interior doors is their functionality, which means you need to ensure you have the correct door handing. If you can't explain its swing direction, you may end up buying the wrong handles. Thus, here's an explanation of how to determine a swing direction:

  • Know Which Side Is The Outside: First, when going inside, you're on the outside of the door if you're standing at the door. Another is if you're looking at your bedroom door in the hallway, it means you're also outside of that door. You're also outside if you're standing in a bedroom that has an inside bathroom. Lastly, you're outside that door if you're going inside your home when you're in the garage.
  • Understand The Inswing Or Outswing: For this, it refers to the door being a left-hand reverse if its hinges are on your left-hand side, and it's a right-hand reverse if the hinges are on your right-hand side.
  • Know The Handing Of The Door: You'll know its handing by facing the door when you're standing outside it. You'll need a right-handed door set if the door frame's hinges are on the right-hand side. And, you'll need a left-handed door set if the door frame's hinges are on the left-hand side.

5. Painting Them Right

After choosing what materials and design to have, it's also best to know how to paint your doors that'll match the other aesthetics of your space. You can make your doors stand out from the walls by decorating, but this doesn't apply to all interior doors. Depending on your room's attributes and layouts, you can either blend your doors or make them catchy. Do so by considering the following tips:

  • Consider Your Wallpaper: If you're placing the door on a wallpapered wall, use the lightest color from the wallpaper for its trim. And for the door, use the darkest or dominant color of the wallpaper. That way, you can ensure that they'll go well together.
  • Subdue Some Areas: As mentioned, not all doors should be the focus of the room. Thus, you can subdue the ones that are standing out too much. For instance, consider the architectural detail or raised panels subtly by using a lighter shade of color from the wall. This way, they'll complement each other.
  • Make Dual Personality Doors: This means painting each side of the door differently. Do this by making the edges in the entryway appear visible when you open the door inward through painting the edges. As a result, it can show one color if it's open. And, when this happens frequently, you may want to use a color that can blend well with the interior and exterior walls of the room. If you have dark walls, you can use beige, gray, tan, taupe, white, or any other neutral shade.
  • Allow It To Grab Attention: With this method, you're contrasting the colors of your wall and door. For instance, if you want your entryway to be the center of attention, use a color that can go against your wall color. For example, an orange door can contrast nicely with bright blue walls. But, you may want to use your room's accent color if you want your entrance to be in a bold color.

For a minimalist look, go with tan or pale gray. Go modern with bright colors, go classic with deep shades of red or green, or go chic with pale aqua, minty green, or pastel yellow. You can also use high-gloss paint if you want to give the door more presence.

  • Hide Your Doors: On the other hand, you can hide the entryway by painting it and its trim the same color as your wall. This is especially true when your door is at the end of a hallway or in an awkward place. But, to give it a minor distinction, you can use semi-gloss paint.


Whether you're buying an interior door for a new property or a replacement, you have to decide on several factors. These include the design, materials, swing direction, and paint color so that you won't regret your purchase afterward. Also, by doing so, you can ensure that the door you’ll be purchasing would go well with the overall aesthetic of your home. Thus, you'll not be wasting your money on a door that might not complement your interiors, forcing you to buy a new one later on.

Ian Mutuli

About the author

Ian Mutuli

Founder and Managing Editor of Archute. He is also a graduate architect from The University of Nairobi, Kenya.
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