Windows and Doors

Doors and Hatches

Image of white painted French doors and flagstone patio
Exterior French doors


Doors are simple operable panels that allow passage through walls. They are equipped with metal hinges that allow them to swing open (usually in one direction.) They also have knobs or lever-type latches and locks to keep them closed and provide some level of privacy or security.

Both interior and exterior doors are available in a plethora of styles to meet almost any design taste. They are also made with many kinds of materials including glass, wood, metal, plastic, fiberglass and composites. If used on the exterior they need to be weather and water resistant. All exterior doors should be fitted with thresholds and weatherstripping to seal off the outside from the inside. Exterior units can also be equipped with screens or storm doors. Screens allow fresh air to come in while keeping out insects, while storm panels seal out the cold and rain when weather is bad. Check back to learn more about screen doors.

French and sliding glass doors are great for letting in views and light and can be made to encompass entire exterior walls for the ultimate Al Fresco experience.


Doors can of course be custom made for any opening, but most come in a range of standard sizes. The standard sizes will meet most needs for homes with typical modern construction. Sizes are described in feet and inches. For instance, the standard height is 6’-8” (80”). I am not sure why 6′-8″ is the standard height (many professional athletes have wondered also,) it just is. I prefer 8’ tall specimens myself, and have this size throughout our home. Apparently enough other folks prefer taller sizes also because all of the major manufacturers now offer 8’ versions of their products. Eight footers look much more to scale in homes with high ceilings.

Standard widths are: 18”, 24” and increase in 2″ increments from there. Most interior (room to room) doors are 30″ x 80″ (762 mm x 2032 mm). The standard width for exterior doors is 36” and wheelchair access units must also have a minimum width of 36”. The standard thickness for most pre-fabricated doors is 1 3/8″ thick (for interior) or 1 3/4″ (for exterior).


  • Keep a spare access key for your home in a lockbox locates somewhere handy on the property in case you lock yourself out by accident.
  • Keep a duplicate key for bathrooms in the event someone gets locked in. The top edge of the casing is often a place to keep the key.
  • Avoid the slamming of doors.
  • Do not allow kids to hang from knobs and do not place spreader type work out bars in the door jambs.
  • Learn how to fix a stripped wood screw.


  • 1x per year: Hinges need lubrication at least once a year. Frequently tighten the hinge screws. Quickly repair any loose or stripped hinge screws. Check hardware, knobs, handles, strikes and locks for tightness and smooth operation. Applying a small amount of silicone lubricant to eliminate squeaky hinges. Avoid using oil, as it can gum up or attract dirt. Avoid applying too much Graphite as it can create a gray smudge on the door or floor beneath the hinge.
  • 2x per year: Doors operate within fairly tight tolerances, so slight movements of the structure can affect the latching mechanism and cause rubbing on frames or floor. This condition will require an adjustment or repair.
  • 1x per year: Inspect exterior finishes on surfaces, jambs and thresholds. For homes with wood exterior doors and thresholds, it is critical to maintain the paint and finishes. Deterioration of the finish coats will quickly lead to structural damage. Doors that are made of wood panels can shrink and expand with changes in temperature or humidity causing bare areas that will need to be touched up with paint or stain.
  • 1x per year: Roller latches located at the top of some doors can accumulate dust that will settle in the rollers causing them to stick.  Clean these with compressed air and lubricate with silicone.
  • 1x per year: Lubricate and operate locks. Bathrooms usually have privacy locks. Lubricate door locks with graphite or other waterproof lubricant. Avoid oil, as it will gum up.
Quality wood doors, windows and screens

Hinges and hinging

Normal hinged doors can only swing one direction. In fact, they are usually described by the direction of their swing (right or left). The easiest way to tell if one is a “right hand” or a “left hand”, is to close it and stand on the side where you can see the hinges. If the hinges are on the right it is a right-hand door and if they are on the left it is a left-hander. Simple as that. The uniform building code (UBC) requires that a door into the garage from the home must be solid core and be fitted with self-closing hinges for fire safety.

A pocket door is a type of sliding unit that has no hinges. They are designed to slide into the wall cavity and thus disappear from view entirely when open. Pocket doors are useful in tight spaces where a swinging door is impractical. NOTE: Remember not to drive nails into the sides of the door pocket.

Another type of sliding door that has become very popular is the barn slider. Barn-type sliders are suspended from tracks that extend out from the wall across the top of the wall opening. The door can then slide across the front of the opening to close or open. Barn sliders don’t seal off openings very tightly, but they look great! Order a barn door hardware kit here.

Image of sliding barn-style door
Sliding barn style door


Residential doors are mostly wood products, but they can also be made from plastic, fiberglass, steel or glass. They come in a wide range of quality levels. “Hollow core” are inexpensive and light. “Solid core” are more expensive and heavy. Doors can be purchased as an assembled “pre-hung” unit, with frame, door and hinges.  Or they can be purchased as a “slab,” which is just the panel without frame or hinges.

It’s not that easy to install a door. It requires some good carpentry skills that most homeowners do not have. The job is especially taxing if you are hanging it from scratch and installing the jamb (frame), hinges and hardware separately.

Once installed, fluctuations in humidity from forced air furnaces, showers, and dishwashers may cause wood doors to swell or shrink slightly and require minor adjustments. Building settlement can also affect smooth operation if the tolerances are tight.


To achieve a longer life for exterior wood doors (or windows), you must plan to refinish them often. In very short periods of time, tiny cracks will develop in the finish. As a result, water and sun can penetrate to the wood surface and cause damage. The damage will spread quickly and quietly. Stained exterior doors with clear finishes seem to weather faster than painted doors. Wood doors in harsh direct sunlight may require refreshing with a wood preserver as often as every six months. This is a lot of work, but necessary to prevent an expensive one-of-a-kind door from drying and cracking. Again, you must reseal stained exterior doors whenever the finish begins cracking or crazing.

Other door material


This is a more durable, energy efficient and secure material for exterior applications. One drawback is when exposed to direct sunlight, metal can become extremely hot to the touch.

Screen doors

Screens are especially nice when you want to let the fresh air in without the bugs. Nearly all swinging doors can be equipped with them. Please refer to my post on Montana Screen Doors. Horizontally retractable or disappearing screens are also available for openings that otherwise might be difficult to fit a conventional swinging screen door. You may want to get a local installer to help you with these.


Slamming doors can damage them, the hardware, the jambs and can even cause cracking in adjoining drywall. Do not to hang on knobs or place any spreader-type pull-up bars or other equipment in the openings or on the door jambs.


Homeowners will need to enter their crawl areas and attics from time to time for inspections and possible repairs. To safely do this, the openings must have certain minimum dimensions. When it comes to access, bigger hatches are better.  Because you may need to get equipment in or out. Hatches cover and close off the access points for crawlspaces, attics, basements and sometimes for roof access.


  • Locate and note all your access hatches both in and out, note the locations and inspect the covers for a tight seal.
  • Check each hatch located on the interior of your home to see if there is weatherstripping in place.
Image showing an open floor hatch leading to a crawlspace
Crawlspace hatch on the interior of the home.

Crawlspace and attic hatches are the covers for doorways into nasty areas. Hatches must be weatherstripped and able to close tightly. Tight hatches will help prevent filthy air, insects and rodents from passing into the living space. Hatches exposed to the elements must be water resistant and weather tight. Attic hatches can be fit with pull-down, folding ladders. These are very handy and eliminate the need for dragging a ladder to the opening for access. Be sure you get an attic hatch with an insulated door. Order one here.

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