Welcome to our Hall of Doors! Today, we’re updating on the installation of all of the new doors in the ground floor of Unit 1 and dishing out our personal door selection tips.
Progress at the Two Flat continues – but with lots of precautions in place. Our contractor and his small crew of 3 are the only people we’re allowing into the house, and we’re only stopping by briefly when they’re not around. Construction is allowed to continue under Illinois’ shelter in place mandate and we are glad that we’re able to continue contributing to the team’s livelihood. All decisions are being made through daily FaceTime calls, and we’re finding ways to make safe but steady progress. The first phase of their work was installing and repairing more than a dozen new and reclaimed doors! They’re still at it, but the ten new doors (two of which are doubles) in the den / lower level of Unit 1 are installed, and what a difference it makes! May I show you around?
Unit 1 Den
We’ve been through the door selection process many times, and we’ve learned a lot along the way, so we’ve compiled the things you’ll need to keep in mind to ensure a smooth ordering process.
Tip No. 1| Slab vs. Pre-Hung
The very first consideration when selecting doors is whether you’ll need a door ‘slab’ or a ‘pre-hung’ door assembly. Here’s the difference between the two:
- A slab door is just that – a door. There is no frame or hardware of any kind included. Slab doors are a perfect option if door casings and jambs are in good shape and you’ll simply be changing the style of door.
- A pre-hung door, on the other hand, includes the door, frame and hinges all connected in one assembly. Pre-hung doors are great for situations like ours where all new door frames were installed during construction and the doors need to be installed from scratch. This makes installation much quicker for new openings, but would require the removal of all trim otherwise.
Once you’ve decided which type of door you need to order, it’s time to narrow down the style that’s right for your home! Which brings me to…
Tip No. 2| Door Style
Like many Chicago homes built in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s, the Two Flat was originally full of 5-panel doors, so we did our best to match the existing doors as closely as possible. We quickly landed on the Reliabilt Conmore 5-Panel door as a starting point and worked through the special order process from there. Keep in mind that there are dozens, if not hundreds more door options than can ever be displayed in a retail store! They’ll just need to be special-ordered and are usually ready in a couple of short weeks.
Tip No. 3|Hollow Core vs. Solid Core
The next consideration when selecting special order doors is determining the core style that’s right for you. If you’re unfamiliar, here’s the difference between the two:
- Hollow core doors are comprised of a wood frame that encases a hollow cardboard ‘honeycomb’ interior structure. This whole assembly is skinned with a fiberboard or composite exterior. Hollow core doors have their benefits; they are significantly less expensive than solid core doors and are much lighter, making them easier to install.
- Solid core doors on the other hand, feature – you guessed it! – a solid wood core. This makes them heavier and slightly more difficult to install, but the added weight has a lot of benefits. Solid core doors offer much higher insulation and sound dampening qualities than their hollow siblings. They’re also less prone to damage and can provide a high return on investment to potential buyers (or in our case, renters).
In this case, we’ve selected solid core doors. We think the added upfront cost is worth the investment not only for the reasons listed above, but simply for the way solid core doors feel. The added weight gives a feeling of substance and heft that we really, really appreciate!
Tip No. 4| Door Swing
Door swing selection has a tendency to be a little bit tricky until you’ve done it a few times, but there are endless handy charts available online. Here’s one that breaks it down effectively:
In addition to using a chart, it’s very helpful to physically stand in a space and determine which way you’d like the door to swing. Kim and I literally stood in every empty door opening and pretended to ‘open’ an imaginary door. We asked ourselves:
What makes the most sense based on the size and layout of the room?
This is an important decision for both pre-hung doors and when replacing slabs, as the routing pattern for the hinges will vary depending on the swing of the door.
Tip No. 5| Hinge Finish (Pre-hung Doors Only)
When purchasing new pre-hung doors, there are almost always a few options for hinge finishes! In our experience, standard, off the shelf doors usually come equipped with brushed nickel or similar silver-toned hinges, but the sky’s the limit when ordering custom! In this case, we wanted the hinges to act as a design element in the space since the sheer quantity will make them hard to ignore. We selected an Oil-Rubbed Bronze finish, which in this case is nearly black (which is what we were hoping for!).
There can be a small difference in price to upgrade hinges, but it’s a small fraction of what you’d pay to completely replace the hinges down the line, so it’s worth it to get it right the first time. We can’t wait to select some hunky handlesets to complement the upgraded finish.
Note: You’ll notice that the hinge pins are slightly popped up from the hinges, which allows for easy removal of the doors if needed. Once they’re painted and trimmed, we’ll secure all the pins so that they’re flush with the hinges.
Tip No. 6| Door Finish
The final step in ordering a custom door is selecting the finish of the door itself. Doors can usually be pre-finished in a host of paint colors, but we like to ensure that the finish color matches the color of our trim exactly. To accomplish this, our doors were ordered primed and will be painted at the same time as the trim and walls. Solid wood doors can also be ordered stain-ready or in a large variety of pre-stained finishes. Something to consider: Door cost will vary based on the finish selection, but purchasing pre-finished can actually provide time and/or cost savings depending on your level of comfort with finishing yourself vs. hiring someone to do the work.
We’re excited for this step to be finished and are expecting the delivery of the trim and millwork any day now! Once we have functioning doors in every opening and the millwork has been installed, this place will really start feeling like a house again. We hope you’ll stick around, because things are about to get interesting!
PS: You can learn more about our Two Flat renovation from the very beginning right here.