It’s best to think of old doors as antique furniture. You wouldn’t throw a 300-year-old chair or table away just because it had a damaged leg. If maintained well, a wooden door can last for centuries and should be relatively simple for an expert joiner to restore.
When it comes time to choosing a door, one of the main considerations should be its thickness. The thicker it is, the more stable it is likely to be. Not all internal doors are made of solid, real timber, so be careful and make sure you gain a full understanding of what you’re buying.
If you opt for hardwoods, then check the pattern of the grain. Is the color what you want? Oak for example is a beautiful type of wood but remember there are different types depending on its origin. English or European oak differs very much from American white oak.
Salvage yards are a great place to find a wide selection of internal wood doors. However, you do need to check as to whether the door is in good condition, regardless of it being new or reclaimed. Ensure that it’s not cracked or warped.
Beware of doors that have been commercially stripped. This technique is carried out to remove paint by dipping the wood in caustic baths. Unfortunately this can lead to shrinkage and distortion. You’ll find the joints loosened and the grain raised.
It’s best to avoid cutting doors down to fit an opening. By doing this you risk spoiling their original design and also weakening them. For example, you might want to trim the bottom off a door to allow room for a new floor covering but such actions are irreversible and the antique door is likely to outlive flooring materials.
The same applies when trimming the sides during damp weather or after certain forms of building work. As the seasons change and indoor heating is used, the wooden panels in doors naturally shift and can result in cracks. It’s worth giving antique wooden doors a considerable period of time to acclimatise before adjusting or trimming.