Tommy’s Tips: Period Front Doors

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I was recently asked by a friend of mine on what he should do to renovate the front and back doors to his period Victorian property.  My first point is to say how important the front door is, it’s the first point of reference visitors have of you, and can say much about your character and personality!

Period front doors often speak volumes about the time of construction of the property, and I think retaining and restoring major period features are crucial, rather than replacing with a new unsuitable and inferior type, in particular, plastic double glazing type doors, which do have their place, just not in period properties!

Good solid front and back doors are hugely important, but they are only as good as the frame they’re in!  Ensure there are at least four substantial fixings to both vertical sides of the frame, using wooden packers behind the fixing positions to avoid distorting the frame.  I always fit as extra security a purpose made metal bar over the “lock keep”side of the frame as extra security, to avoid the door being forced open by someone breaking the lock side of the frame.  I also recommend using three or four hinges to hang the door on, again to reduce the chance of forcing the door open, by breaking the back of the frame on the hinge side. For the front door, I would recommend fitting two locks, a latch lock approximately a third down from the top of the door, and approximately a third up from the bottom, a five lever dead lock, this spacing of the locks gives the best protection, and retains the integrity and strength of the door. When fitting replacement locks, take the old lock with you as a pattern, so you get the perfect match for ease of replacement! Use a heavy grade push bolt fitted internally top and bottom of the door, for extra security whilst at home, (far safer to escape in a crisis, than trying to find your keys to unlock the door to get out!).  With the back door fit a five lever sash lock approximately in the middle with a spline key lock, top and bottom, and of course push bolts top and bottom (optional) for extra security.

If the door is exposed to the weather (not in a porch or portico) fit a weather board to the bottom of the door, and ensure good quality draught excluders are fitted.

When it comes to decoration, I always take the door off and put it on a pair of stools, or a bench, in order to sand it down and prepare the surface properly, and it’s a great way of avoiding runs when painting, remember two undercoats and one topcoat (a very light rub down with very fine paper between coats, wiping off any residue with a white spirit sodden cloth) and I always use gloss on the external faces of the front and back door.  Remember how important the front door is, choose your colour carefully, and remove all door furniture, including lock cover plates, and you must be patient if you want to achieve a finish anything like the most famous front door in the world; 10 Downing street, wouldn’t it be nice to have the luxury of two or three front doors as they do, so “no 10” is always pristine whilst they work on the spares!

Tommy Tip, if the door is rubbing on the frame remember wooden doors may swell in the winter, so be careful not to sand down too much, or it may become gappy in the summer! And if it’s an old door, replace the hinges, because as they wear the door may drop towards the jamb as the hinges suffer play from wear!  Which reminds me, as a useful DIY tip, occasionally apply a couple of drops of lubricating oil to  the door hinges all around the house, alternately you could change all the hinges for self-lubricating ones, but beware they cost about £50 a pair, a tin of “three and one” is a lot cheaper!

Tommy

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