Doors are an indispensable part of any property. They help to keep our homes warm and secure, and contribute enormously to their looks, too.
The frame is among the most crucial parts of the door – they’re responsible for tethering the door to the wall, and ensuring that the two are exactly aligned with one another (and the adjacent floor). Buying, installing and caring for a door frame can throw up a raft of potential difficulties – and it’s not always obvious how these difficulties might be surmounted.
Let’s take a look at some of the more commonly-asked questions, and consider their potential solutions.
If you take a look around the inside of a building, then you might get the impression that everything is motionless. But every item in a home, including the bricks that make up the walls, will move and change shape over time. In the case of wooden items, like your door frame, these changes might be more acute.
In response to local changes in humidity and temperature, wood will expand and contract. If these fluctuations are regular and drastic, then so too will be the expansion and contraction of the door. If the door has been painted over, or has plaster leading right up to the edge of it, then you might begin to see cracks in the surface (since plaster and paint, are inelastic once dried, and will tend to split rather than stretching to cover a new shape.)
To a certain extent, cracking is inevitable. But that doesn’t mean we can’t limit its occurrence by keeping the ambient humidity and temperature as constant as possible. Keep your thermostat on a regular timer, and be sure to use an extractor fan in your bathroom to remove steam before it has a chance to affect your door frame.
Whilst it might be slightly unnerving to think about it, your entire property is held together using small, sharp bits of metal – nails. Selecting the right nail for the job is essential, and the nails you use in your door frame are no exception. Unfortunately, there are an enormous amount of different nails to choose from.
When it comes to securing your frame to the wall, you might expect that you’d use framing nails. But you’d be wrong. Framing nails are the giant, bulky nails used to secure the beams of your house to one another. Finishing nails, on the other hand, are the smaller sort which are designed to be invisible. When they’re arranged around your door, they’ll hold it in place securely – and they’ll do so without affecting the door’s visual appeal.
Select your finishing nails according to the thickness of the door frame. It’s important to consider that nails are held into place using friction; if you’d like to maximise the friction your nails can achieve when you’re installing them, then you’ll want to give them a short tap on the tip, slightly blunting them. This will ensure that your nail pushes the wood fibres to one side, rather than cutting through them. Subtlety is the name of the game here – a single gentle tap should be enough to take the point off the nail. You might need to experiment a little to achieve optimal results.
For much the same reason that cracks appear in your door, the entire frame of your door may shift over time. While shape-changing of any sort will usually result in cracks appearing, shape-changing that’s biased in a given direction will cause your door to visibly change shape; the top might start to sag downward, or the door might begin to catch on the floor as the surrounding frame warps.
All doors requires a clearance of a few millimetres around the edges to prevent them from catching – but sometimes these few millimetres aren’t enough. If you find that your door is catching, then the easiest way to fix it is to make adjustments to the hinges, rather than the door frame itself. If the door is catching at the bottom, then you’ll need to loosen the bottom hinge and tighten the one at the top. If the door is catching at the top, you’ll need to do the opposite.
If the problem is especially severe, you might need to remove the door itself and shave it to compensate for the shifting. Prevention, however, is better than cure – ensure that you install the frame properly, and that the temperature in your home is under control, and you’ll minimise any future warping and shifting effect.
Household pets sometimes develop destructive habits – particularly when they’re stressed out or looking for an outlet for their energy. Unfortunately, door frames often bear the brunt of this phenomenon – they’re great fun, after all, to scratch and bite.
There are a number of things you might do to prevent this, but the one thing you must never do is retrospectively punish your dog or cat for their bad behaviour – they won’t be able to understand why they’re being punished, and any contrition they appear to display will more likely be confusion and terror.
Instead, it’s better to provide a dog with an alternative outlet. Buy them a chew toy and encourage them to use it. Take them for longer and more regular walks (if they’re old enough to handle it). In the case of a cat, you might invest in a scratching post.
You might also consider chemical treatments. You can apply anti-chew spray to certain surfaces to make them taste bad – and over time this might encourage your pet to look elsewhere. You might also try hormonal treatments designed to calm your pet down. If your pet suffers from separation anxiety, they might become destructive – and correcting the behaviour might require more considerable training.
Of course, all of this conditioning and education takes time – during which your door frames might be vulnerable. Limit your dog or cat’s access to the frame, and be sure to intervene with a sharp ‘no’ if you catch them in the act (but don’t ever physically hit your pet).
Painting a door will require several different layers of oil-based paint, namely the primer, the undercoat and the topcoat. This will provide a hardy, durable coating for the underlying wood, and reduce the likelihood of nicks and scratches. Once the paint starts to discolour, you can simply sand it down slightly and apply a new coat or two of the topmost colour. Depending on the sort of finish you’re looking for, you’ll want to use either a gloss or an eggshell paint for the topcoat.
The colour you choose for your door frame will largely depend on the surrounding décor – most importantly the door that it’s there to house. It’s better to go with more reserved colours – which is why plain-wood and white paint is popular for interior doors. If you’ve got an exterior door that’s brightly coloured, then you might wish the surrounding frame to be darker, in order to provide a pleasing contrast. On the other hand, if you’re painting your interior, more subtle colours are a safer choice.
There’s no hard-and-fast rule dictating what colour you should paint your frame – and personal preference should obviously play a key role. It’s worth considering how you might feel about a given colour in the future; a door frame that’s especially loud and brash will draw the eye, and over time it might get a bit stale. As a rule, a door frame shouldn’t distract from the door, or the room it’s placed in, in much the same way a picture frame shouldn’t distract from a work of art.
Our final frequently-asked-question concerns terminology. For such an apparently-simple device, there’s a lot of arcane language floating around – and so it might be easy for a layman to get confused. What, exactly, is the difference between a frame, a casing, a threshold, a stop and a jamb? And is it really necessary to learn all of these words?
The frame is the part of the door that attaches to the wall. It’s the bit that you probably won’t be able to see from the inside of your home, as it’ll be covered in the casing – a decorative trim running around the door’s edge. The jambs are the inside parts of the frame – the vertical bits being ‘side jambs’ and the top bit being a ‘head jamb’. The ‘stop’ is a wooden strip inside a side jamb designed to prevent the door from swinging further than it’s supposed to. While learning these terms isn’t essential, they’ll help you to understand how the door is supposed to work – and diagnose problems further down the line.