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Planning Retirement Online

50plus handyman         March 2006

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The handyman column 
By Roger Runswick

Replacing a door?

50plus Handyman director Roger Runswick looks at replacing interior and exterior doors and considers how to avoid the pitfalls



Changing doors is a fast way of refreshing a dated property, but before you make a decision, a word of caution is appropriate. If your home is Victorian, Edwardian or older, take a careful look at what is in place. Just because the doors don’t look panelled, it doesn’t mean that they aren’t. The 1960’s, in particular, saw a phase of tacking hardboard over what we now consider fashionable doors, and often a careful examination will reveal a door of reasonable quality beneath a dull exterior.

If you do need to replace an internal door, then go through a few basic checks before buying:

  • Check the door is not a ‘fire door’. If it’s leading to a garage or to an individual living space in a rental property, then it has to meet specific requirements of the Building Regulations to prevent fire and smoke spreading. If this is the case, call an expert or talk to building control at your local council who can advise on the requirements for the specific location.

  • Check the size. This may seem obvious, and it is true that most doors are of a ‘standard’ size, usually in an imperial measure (inches). Replacements must be of the same size, at least approximately. Remember that you cannot cut more than about an inch off a modern ‘hollow’ door, as the wood around the perimeter only extends for limited distance internally. If you have a non-standard sized door, don’t worry - it’s usually possible to reconstruct a standard-sized door.

  • Check that the door is suitable for its location. Front and back or side doors opening onto the street or garden need to be of specific quality.

  • Remember to measure both sides and top and bottom of the door. Many doors will have been cut to fit frames that are not square, particularly in older properties

  • It’s usually advisable to replace the door ‘furniture’ (the handles, hinges and lock). Not doing so is often a false economy, unless you are concerned about restoring originals. It can cost more in time to recover the old parts than the cost of new ones. If the old hinges are in reasonable condition, it can be best to reuse them, especially if replacements are of a different size.

When replacing doors, do not remove the old until you have the replacement on site. The old door forms a ready template for cutting the new one to size. Without it, the work can take far longer.

Finally remember a new door will need painting. Even if the door comes with a white finish, at least 2 coats of paint will be required. Paint can be rolled onto doors and often rolling leaves a better finish, as well as being faster.

How long will the job take? Changing one door is typically a two-hour job excluding painting and assuming the new door is a reasonable fit. The same does not however apply to external doors, so let’s take a look at these.

External doors (apart from UPVC) are normally of solid wood and take far more time to install, because cutting to size and fitting is a longer job. It is worth investing more in quality exterior furniture, as cheaper finishes will not take the ravages of the British climate for long. Preventing ingress of rain is important, so don’t forget the weather strip if your current door has one. Many suppliers sell these separately.

If the external door needs cutting to size, it makes sense to have the supplier do most of the work. But don’t get the replacement door to an exact size, as the chances are it will be wrong. Careful use of the old door coupled with measurement on site is key to fitting an external door that won’t be draughty or ill-fitting.

Finally, the finish on external doors must be undertaken carefully. Entrance doors make an immediate impact on the value of a property, so a good and lasting finish is important. A lacquered wood finish could be more enduring than a painted one.

Roger Runswick is a director of 50plus Handyman and a member of the Institute of Electrical Engineers. He can be contacted at .

Previous articles in this series:


Fixing drips and changing your taps

Can I still change my light switch?

Fitting an outside light

Pre-winter maintenance

Thinking of installing a shower?

Decorating – are you getting your money’s worth?

Estimate or quotation?

Replacing a door?



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