Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Musical Doors

I need to hang two doors in the newly modified Butler’s Pantry. First, I want to hang a door in the new opening that separates the Butler’s Pantry from the new utility room. I don’t really need a door here right now but I want one. I like to define spaces. Nothing defines a space better than a door.

It’s just stuck in there right now. This is a 1926 door that was originally a door to the bathroom that was added to the kitchen during the apartment conversion.

The other door I want to hang is the back door leading from The Buiter's Pantry to the side yard. This doorway is the door seen in the picture below (not the actual door). This doorway used to give access to a rental kitchen that was part of the 2 story addition I removed last year. The door that is there now was slapped up there in a hurry last year when I removed the addition. It does not have a lock of any kind, and to be honest, it’s not a very good door. It is a 15 light door but the “lights” are wood. It was nothing more than a quick fix. I screwed a board in front of it to keep it from opening, and up until a few weeks ago there was a 300 pound claw foot tub in front of it. Needless to say, I need a proper door here.

The Temp Door

This can’t be just any old door. This is an exterior door and it faces south and there is no over-hanging porch. It will take a beating. The other thing about this door is it needs to have a dead-bolt, which leaves me in an unpleasant situation. I don’t currently have any 32-inch wide doors that have been drilled for a dead-bolt. I can do one of 3 things here. I can buy a new door, which is offensive on a number of levels. I can find an old door that has already been drilled for a dead-bolt. And finally, I can drill an old door for a dead-bolt.

The second option is the ideal situation, so I headed out today and made the rounds at the local places that sell old doors. There are only 2, and their selection is limited, so it was a short trip. I found nothing. So I headed up to the door room (a back bedroom in my house filled with old doors) and searched for a door that would make a good candidate for a back door. It needs to be in really good shape. No cracks in the panels, and no loose tenons.

There are two doors I bought about three years ago shortly after I bought the house. They came out of the Ellory Building on 4th Street shortly before it was demolished to make way for a parking lot. The Ellory Building was built in the 1880s but had not looked like an 1880s building for a very long time. Fourth Street is THE main street heading south through downtown. None of the original buildings from the 1880s on Fourth Street retain their original facade. When last seen before it’s demolition The Ellory Building had those 1950s enameled steel panels on it.

The Ellory Door

Surprisingly, though, the second floor of The Ellory Building was an 1880s time capsule. It was a treasure trove for the local salvage people. I bought my 2 Ellory Doors several years ago from one of the 2 salvage places I went to today. They don’t really match the other doors in my house but I was in a bit of a panic when I bought them because at the time I wasn’t able to find any Eastlake doors like I needed. These two doors were a close match and they were in absolutely beautiful shape. Over the years, though, I’ve been able to scrounge true Eastlake doors here and there and now The Ellory doors area bit of an anachronism in the house. Be that is it may, they are still great doors. They are solid redwood and just as sturdy and solid as the day they were built. One of them happens to be a perfect size for the opening to the side yard. Sadly, it needs a dead-bolt. Big sigh.

So I’ve decided to use it as a backdoor. Before I drill for a dead-bolt I’m going to see if I can find an old lock-set that has a strong bolt. The old mortise lock-sets that take a skeleton key have a dead-bolt but just about any skeleton key can open it. I need a real lock. For now, I’m going to go ahead and hang the door and continue to use the board screwed in to the framing to keep it locked. There is a motion detector just inside the door, so it has some security. This is the area of the house that I’m going to paint first when I paint the house this summer. My goal is to have a real lock and have it on the alarm system before I paint.


Gary said...

You need a nice GRANITE door. GRANITE is much harder than WOOD and even harder than MARBLE!

Nyuk, nyuk, nyuk.....

Anonymous said...

Love your site. We're restoring a 1905 house. I work at the oldest hardware store in Portland, OR., where we cater to old house owners.

If you can't stand to drill such a large 2 1/8 inch hole for your average deadbolt, there are a couple of options.

1. Baldwin makes a "low-profile" deadbolt that requires only a 1 3/4 inch hole (I believe), and also does not protrude so far(on outside or inside), so would be less offensive on an old door. (This is what I plan to use on our house).
Baldwin is expensive, however (used on high-end houses) The deadbolt might be 50 or 60 bucks.

2. As you've noted, you can use a mortise lock with deadbolt. A higher quality old (bit key) mortise lock would not be openable with any skeleton key. Look for one that has a number stamped on the end of the deadbolt (this indicates the key number). The better ones require the key to lift not one, but two (or more)internal levers, both of which must line up (at their different heights) before you can throw the bolt.

3. Fit a newer (1910?) mortise entry lock with a pin-tumbler cylinder in it. This probably requires a larger mortise in the door, and a bigger hole on the outside only, for the mortise cylinder, but you still wouldn't have a separate deadbolt showing. The older mortise locks have deadbolts that only protrude 1/2 or 3/4 inch, not 1 inch like modern ones. You can add some security by blocking behind the door frame (between the door frame and the trimmer stud) so that a burglar can't simply pry the doorframe to one side to clear the deadbolt.

Greg said...


Very helpful, thank you. Some friends of mine own a 1910 Four Square with the lock you described on their front door. I think I saw one a while back in a local shop, but I don’t recall the condition. The Baldwin low profile lock is another good idea. Thanks again.

Anonymous said...

Glad to help. You're obviously a purist, which I am to perhaps a lesser extent.

The front door on our 1905 house had antique copper smooth butt hinges, but there were some ornamental cast iron hinges on bedrooms. So, we found enough of the ornamental ones on ebay to do the house. We're backdating it just a little, but our justification, is that it was built with parts (stud, sheathing, lath, etc.) from the 1895 house that stood on the site previously. So, they COULD have kept more of the 1895 hinges, etc.

Still, I feel slightly guilty about it. I may reuse the antique copper hinges on the back door.