My Top 5 Tips for choosing and installing a reclaimed period door

December 7, 2017

Reclaimed Victorian Front Door Tips Farrow Ball Light Blue Eggshell (1)

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Image: Design Soda

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You may remember from my recent post on giving the front porch a makeover that the saga had a somewhat unhappy ending for me in the shape of a very smashed front door some weeks later. Well very happily, we now have a beautiful reclaimed Victorian front door freshly installed and painted in the same shade of Light Blue by Farrow & Ball. I am super pleased with it and for the first time in two years we have a door that doesn’t make my heart sink. I am so pleased with it that I treated it to the full Christmas makeover some weeks ago with a beautiful festive wreath by Gisela Graham sent to me by Amara which looks so perfect against the cooler tones of the door. It seems that buying a reclaimed door is a bit of an unknown and daunting realm, the smallest mis-measurement can add hundreds onto your carpentry bill and I am so pleased with my elegant new door that I thought I’d elaborate on my tips today. Having shared the journey on Instagram Stories, which prompted a whole plethora of questions and enquiries each time I shared, this post is for people who want to install an old door but are anxious of doing so or don’t know where to start. 

 

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Reclaimed Victorian Front Door Tips Farrow Ball Light Blue Eggshell (1)

Image: Design Soda

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It really isn’t as daunting as it sounds, there are a few golden rules to be aware of that I’ve detailed below but on the whole a Victorian door will be made of great quality and having lasted over a hundred years and should be a good investment if you are looking to restore the period details on your property. 

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Reclaimed Victorian Front Door Tips Farrow Ball Light Blue Eggshell (1)

Reclaimed Victorian Front Door Tips Farrow Ball Light Blue Eggshell (1)

Image: Design Soda

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You should be able to source a door for between £300-700 depending on the design and condition so it is a far cheaper option than getting a new door and if you like period details an old door is far more aesthetically pleasing. We bought our door on eBay, some doors on there are a total rip-off (in the same way some people chance with any vintage items) but be wary of cheaper doors with rot, missing glass (this will be expensive to replace) or actual chunks kicked out of it that a decent sander can’t get past! Good luck! 

 

 

My Top 5 Tips for choosing and installing a reclaimed period door

  • Period authenticity is my first tip. Have a look at the doors on your road, is there one design that is most common? If so, this will be the original door design. I had a lot of freedom with our door choice as we are one of only five Victorian properties at this end of our road before Edwardian & Inter-war homes start, and not one of our neighbours have their original door, so I was able to choose a standard London door with little concern for it jarring, but adding a reclaimed piece from the wrong period or wildly different to everything else on your road can do the opposite of adding value to your home so be weary of just choosing the door you love! 
  • Visit at least one reclamation yard in person first to get an idea of what you like in and to research market values. I went to several yards and discovered that leaded and stained glass push up value of average doors by about £200-300, that we have a non standard sized door and that London Three Arch doors were my preference.
  • Your replacement door must be the same size, in width, length and depth. We had to buy a door with a greater depth as we were switching from an internal door to an external one and the depth dimensions of these tend to differ, but it meant a lot of hacking into the frame and hours more work making it more expensive by several hundred pounds so what seems like the small detail of a centremitre is actually a lot of cold hard cash.
  • Small details like the side the door hangs on and where the locks are are important if you don’t want to spend a fortune on installation as a door the other way round will require a carpenter to move hinges, unistall locks and fill, then install new ones on the other side.
  • Avoid Banham locks! Look at the locks on the door you’re buying, you will likely not get a set of keys as these doors are commonly sourced from demolition projects and some doors have almost insurmountable safety options. The door we bought had three Banham locks on them which I knew were expensive, very secure and aesthetically pleasing. I knew that you can’t get a Banham key cut but have to apply to Banham for them as a security measure. What I didn’t bank on was that it’s impossible to remove a Banham lock from the back with a screwdriver in the way I always have when swapping over Yale locks. Banham locks have to have their barrels drilled out, which actually looks quite easy but I was cautious of doing it myself incase I permanently got the lock stuck and locksmiths always cost A LOT OF MONEY even if you don’t call them out on an emergency, in fact my particular joker wanted to charge me an extra £100 just because he was parked on a yellow line(!) but that’s a whole other saga! 

So those are my top tips, it really is relatively easy and if you follow all of the above you shouldn’t run into too many difficulties, good luck!  

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