LAPADA Guide to Choosing an Antique Door

Ben Couchman
Ben Couchman
UK Heritage

Whether it’s your main entrance or an interior door, these architectural features can add real personality to a home.

Many also have a story to tell – we have stocked sets of doors from the Palace of Westminster, Wimbledon and many other historic English country houses, to 20th century copper light doors from Liberty’s department store and from an Art Deco apartment block: such doors are usually of wonderful quality and will compliment a stylish contemporary interior.

Before you choose a door, we recommend considering:


If you’re designing a living space around a certain style, it’s important that you find an antique door to match. You may be interested to learn the period it was created. Is it Victorian or Edwardian? What is the panel configuration? Is it glazed or solid? These are all major considerations that will help you find the path to the right door.


Size matters when it comes to doors! You should try to find a door that will fit into the space without the need for too much adjusting. Although doors can be trimmed slightly, in most circumstances taking large amounts off will not be possible. There generally isn’t much scope to reduce widths, however there is more flexibility when it comes to height reduction. This will vary from door to door. If you are making a new opening, remember to allow enough space for the frame.

Repairs and upgrades

Many modern doors are designed and built with insulation in mind. The same can’t be said for antique doors. So if you’re thinking about inserting double glazing, rebates may need to be made deeper, or conservation glazing may need to be fitted. If your project requires building inspector approval, we advise checking that any glazed doors will comply with building regulations before purchasing.

It’s also important to consider the finish you are aiming to achieve. Will you be painting, staining or waxing your door, or are you aiming for a natural wood finish? It’s best to buy the door with an appearance as you wish to use it. Don’t assume a painted door will strip to a pleasing finish as it’s possible a reclaimed door will have been altered and repaired many times in its life. Paint or other finishes can mask these.

Door health

This is a key consideration before any purchasing decision can be made. We would never recommend buying a door with cement asbestos type panels that are attached to or sandwiched between the panels. These doors will often carry fire door signage and removing these panels can be hazardous.

We also recommend checking for woodworm. A small amount can sometimes be expected, but excessive amounts will probably render the door unusable. It’s also advisable to check for twisting or warping. Reclaimed doors have a long history of use and are therefore rarely 100% straight, but anything other than minor twisting will make the door hard to use.

That said, if an antique door has some of the defects listed above, therefore rendering them of no use as doors, there’s no need to write them off completely. On many occasions, we’ve seen some lovely, rare doors used in other interesting ways, from mirror panels to headboards, or even coffee tables.

UK Heritage

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