A Home Inspector’s Weblog by Frank Schulte-Ladbeck

exploring homes and the lives in them around Houston

Do Not Go Through That Door

It happens often when I am inspecting a home that I find something wrong with a door. This fact surprises people, since they often do not look at the doors in the home that they are about to purchase.

Most builders use a hollow core door for interior doors. These doors are light, inexpensive, and readily available. Most homeowners do not replace these doors once they move in, but this is a quick way to improve the look and feeling of quality in your home. A hollow core door has a solid frame with a light panel covering it. The hardware (handles and hinges) are attached to the solid frame material.

If you are alright with the door, and you want a quick way to enhance it, install a new door handle. A good interior door handle costs around $30, and they are an immediate improvement over the standard door handles, which come with the builder’s doors. Generally, you will only need a screwdriver to do this job, and it is not a difficult task for anyone. There are easy instructions with the door handle. When doing this upgrade, I like to think about the idea of universal design. This is the concept of making your house where it can be used by anyone, no matter the handicap. Instead of a knob, I replace my handle with a lever handle. This option is great for the elderly or those with problems with their hands. On one occasion, I injured my hand when working outside. Since I had installed lever handles on my doors, I was able to easily open the doors with this wound. Another quick option for a new look is applying a design to the door. Most home improvement centers have wood or plaster design elements which can be glued onto the door. You can find pieces which can emulate door designs that you might admire, but you would not need a new door.

The next upgrade would be replacing the door with a solid core door. These doors offer more sound deadening, so they afford more privacy. There can be designs carved into these units. Solid doors have a weight to them, which makes the user realize that this door is better. Installing these doors can be done by the homeowner if they have some ability. A new solid door would need holes cut for the door handle assembly and latch, and the hinges need a space to recess into. All of this needs to be laid out to match the current arrangement on the jamb. If you need to replace the jamb and trim, I would then recommend using a contractor to have the job done right.

If your door is not aligning properly in its frame, an adjustment to the hinges will solve this issue. To see if you need this step, close the door, and look at the gap between the door and frame. It should be even all of the way around. Shims behind the hinges on the frame can move the door to correct this gap. A new product on the market specifically for this task is a plastic shim.

I hope this gives you an idea of a simple step that you can take to improve the value and look of your home. If you are preparing your home for sale, this would be a great home staging step. I think that you would only need the new handles, particularly for the bedroom doors.

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