I Want to Alter a Door

Wherever possible, keep historic doors – both internal and external. They play a key role in your house’s character.

If your house is listed or in a conservation area you should seek advice before making changes as you may need consent.

Your original front door

If you are thinking about replacing the front door, check if it is a historic one. Historic doors should be kept wherever possible, along with their ‘furniture’ – usually a knob, knocker and letterbox. There are several reasons for this. The front door was purpose-made for the front of your home and is usually the most important feature on the most visible side of the house. It was specifically made to fit the doorway, which is unlikely to be the same size as standard off-the-peg doors. It is also valuable because it is authentic: it’s always been there.

The wood used for old doors is usually of much better quality than timber available today. Even if your door is over 100 years old, it will last many more years if it’s well maintained. A good joiner will be able to make repairs and ensure sure it fits well and keeps out draughts. For advice on repairs, see SPAB - Technical Q&A: Old Doors. For advice on draught-proofing, see our short guide to draught-proofing and our publication Energy Efficiency and Historic Buildings: Draught-proofing windows and doors.

Doors are rarely beyond repair, and it will be cheaper to repair one than to replace it. You can order a new door made to match the old one exactly, but this should be a last resort.

Finding a style to suit your house

If your front door is not original, you may want to replace it with a door to suit the style of the house. Before you do this, it’s worth remembering that very old houses have changed over time, and the door could still be interesting, even if it’s not the ‘original’. Medieval houses, for example, can have Georgian doors that are important and worth keeping. Different doors are part of the story of some houses. Find out more about your house before you make a decision – see Your Home’s History for more.

Replacing an inappropriate modern front door with a historic door style will improve the look of the whole house and restore its character. Find out about the style of the original door. Look for old photographs, or copy the style of original doors on neighbouring houses, if they are like yours.

There are firms that specialise in making traditional doors to order, or you may find a similar second-hand door that will fit. Avoid having to cut a door down in size as this weakens the door and may not look right.

If your house is listed, you may need listed building consent to take out the old door and replace it with a new one, and if you are in a conservation area there may be Article 4 directions (which restrict work you can normally do without planning permission). 

Internal doors

Some of the same principles apply to doors inside the house. Doors are part of the design of a room, created to fit its style and proportions. This is especially true in Georgian and Victorian houses where panelled doors are important features.

Earlier houses often have simple boarded doors with iron latches and ‘strap’ hinges. These doors are becoming rare, and if yours is like this, don’t be tempted to ‘upgrade’ it to a panelled door as this will spoil the character of the house. If you remove a doorway and it’s possible to store the door somewhere, you could re-use it in the future.

Saving energy

If you are looking to take energy saving measures, one of the most cost effective and least intrisuve ways to do this is to reduce draughts.

For further information, see our publication on Draught-proofing windows and doors.