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Hardscaping 101: The Ins and Outs of Dutch Doors

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Hardscaping 101: The Ins and Outs of Dutch Doors

May 22, 2017

Here’s a door with a split personality. Open and welcoming on the one hand, private and protective on the other. We’re talking, of course, about the Dutch door. A precursor to the screen door, it keeps unwanted visitors out while allowing sunlight and breezes to wander in. The Dutch door may be rooted in agricultural history, but it’s perfect for modern living. Find out if it deserves a spot on the front (or back) of your house (or even inside):

Dutch door on facade

What is a Dutch door?

Simply put, a Dutch door is one that’s divided into two parts horizontally, so the bottom half can remain closed while the top half is open. When the connecting hardware is locked, the two halves act as one, posing as a solid door.

What is the history of Dutch doors?

The name is a dead giveaway (though they’re sometimes called stable doors, half doors, and double-hung doors). Dutch doors were common in the Netherlands in the 17th century. They were devised for use as exterior doors on farmhouses to keep animals out and children in, while allowing air and light to come and go. Dutch settlers brought the style to the US, where it appeared on rural houses in New York and New Jersey. The style soon migrated to the cities, where they kept out vermin, street dirt, and debris. They also allowed residents to interact with deliverymen and the like without letting them inside the house.

Architect Barbara Chambers has a dutch door at her home in Mill Valley, California. Photograph by Liesa Johannssen for Gardenista.
Above: Architect Barbara Chambers has a dutch door at her home in Mill Valley, California. Photograph by Liesa Johannssen for Gardenista.

What are the benefits of Dutch doors?

Besides adding a certain historic charm and casual indoor-outdoor feel, Dutch doors also:

  • Keep pets and/or small children contained to the outside or inside while still letting in the sun and breeze.
  • Act as a solid-door alternative inside the house, for example as the door to a laundry room or office, where you want to let light into the room but still have a barrier for pets or children.
  • Allow airflow into a garden shed or tool shed, while keeping out visitors such as wandering chickens or unwanted vermin.
  • Act as an attractive and functional alternative to an indoor baby gate, especially at the top of stairs.
A Dutch door welcomes visitors to a Mill Valley, California home designed by architect Barbara Chambers. Photograph by John Merkl.
Above: A Dutch door welcomes visitors to a Mill Valley, California home designed by architect Barbara Chambers. Photograph by John Merkl.

Are there different styles of Dutch doors?

Most variations in Dutch doors are found in the choice of wood, the panel designs, and the height of the dividing break in the door. And, while the design DNA of Dutch doors is country, their appeal hasn’t escaped minimalist modern remakes.

Dutch doors offer the flexibility of two styles in one, as you may choose different designs for the top and bottom. While the bottom half should be solid, many doors have a glass panel for the top half. Designs for both glass and solid panels vary widely: single or multiple-paned; clear or stained glass; flat, raised, or board-and-batten panel faces, and more.

Hardwood is the recommended material. Many homeowners choose to paint their doors, and a high-gloss, richly hued Dutch Door Paint exists for just this purpose.

Dutch Door by C&M Windows

Above: This traditional Dutch door with a paned top half has four sturdy hinges, a heavy-duty Dutch door bolt, a classic knob with lock, and a deadbolt on the upper half. Image via C&M WIndows & Doors.

Do Dutch doors require special hardware?

Here’s the lowdown on hardware:

Hinges: Dutch doors require a minimum of four hinges, two for each door half (standard doors only need three). Standard door hinges will work if they meet the weight requirements. Period hardware is often used, such as sturdy Colonial-style strap hinges.

Knobs and Locks: The door knob and lock are installed on the lower half. For added security, a deadbolt can be placed on the top half.

Latch: This is the special piece of hardware you need to interlock the top and bottom leaves of the door. The bolt must be used when the door is closed, but you can leave it in place when the door is open for traditional door functionality.

Dutch door hardware

Above: Heavy door bolts are commonly used for latching the two halves of a Dutch door. The Deltana 4-inch Heavy Duty Dutch Door Bolt in oil-rubbed bronze is $22.50 at Amazon (other finishes available).

Dutch door hardware quadrant

Above: The quadrant is another option for latching top and bottom. The Baldwin Non-Handed Dutch Door Quadrant is offered in 16 finishes and is $54.60 at Low Priced Doorknobs.

Any tips for installing Dutch doors?

  • Consider whether to have a paned or solid top half. Do you want light to come in when the door is fully closed? Or do you want full privacy?
  • Remember the door swing. We’re not just talking about the standard door swing, but where your open top half will rest. Will it be in the way physically or visually? Is there ample space while it’s in open position?
  • Think about how you’ll hold the top half of the door open. My contractor and I failed to consider that detail when we installed a Dutch door on our kitchen in Seattle. But it came to my attention during a dramatic finger-pinching event: My son had his hand over the lip of the door’s bottom half when the wind blew the open top half (nearly) shut. We quickly installed a hefty hook and eye to hold the top section in place when open.
  • For an exterior door, you’ll need weatherstripping between the upper and lower leaves to keep wind and wet from sneaking in when the door is shut.
  • We recommend hiring a professional installer, especially for exterior doors where security and sealing out the weather elements is important. That said, if you’re an avid DIYer, there are many tutorials available. (This DIY Interior Dutch Door tutorial from HGTV explains how to turn a solid door into a Dutch door.)
Guest bedrooms at A West Texas Ranch with a Worldly View are outfitted with Dutch doors by Texas-based architect Hugh Jefferson Randolph. Photograph by Jacob Bodkin courtesy of Hugh Jefferson Randolph Architects.
Above: Guest bedrooms at A West Texas Ranch with a Worldly View are outfitted with Dutch doors by Texas-based architect Hugh Jefferson Randolph. Photograph by Jacob Bodkin courtesy of Hugh Jefferson Randolph Architects.

Where can I get Dutch doors?

Many door and window manufacturers offer Dutch doors, if not in their regular stock, by special order. Oregon-based Jeld-Wen seems to have one of the larger ranges of Dutch doors. Reclaimed doors are available through architectural salvage suppliers. And a few online suppliers offer Dutch doors, including Sun Mountain and Vintage Doors.

Dutch Door Recap

Pros:

  • Keeps out unwanted elements while letting in light and fresh air
  • Adds a casual and welcoming personality to an entry door
  • Offers a visual connection between indoors and out, or between two indoor rooms
  • An alternative to a baby gate indoors

Cons:

  • Might not be good in insect-ridden areas (it’s cumbersome to install a screen with a Dutch door)
  • Can be easy to pinch fingers between the door halves

For more door inspiration, see 5 Favorites: Daring Red Doors and 7 Retractable Garage Doors, used not for cars but for large entries to living spaces. And on Remodelista, they examined the Ins and Outs of French Doors and offer more Dutch Door Ideas.

Planning a major outdoor renovation? See all of our Hardscaping 101 Features.


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YesterYear's Vintage Doors

Dutch Doors

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