Advice & Guidance


There is no need to assume that a old or damaged door will automatically need to be replaced. Most historic doors can be adequately repaired at far less cost and may outlive newer examples, as the quality of historic timber is often better than the materials now available.

Oak doorTimber door sills are more exposed to weather than any other element of joinery and deteriorate quickly, even when made of hardwood. Cracks or open joints may therefore need to be filled to prevent water getting in. You should also take note of the condition of any paintwork. Blistered or flaking paint will allow water to penetrate the timber and become trapped, leading to decay.

It should be possible to open and close a door easily, without using any force. Worn or badly fitted hinges can damage both the door and the frame, whilst open joints can allow the frame of a door to sag, making opening and closing difficult.

Check to see whether the door has warped or deformed due to joint failure. Problems like these can be put right by an experienced joiner.

Painted  doorThe principle to adopt in all joinery repairs is to retain as much of the original as possible and to replace only what is necessary, using matching timber.

The tops of large door cases and porches also need protection from the weather so it is a good idea to make sure that any metal coverings and flashings are intact and in good condition.

Action point: You should inspect all timber doors, door frames and associated joinery checking particularly for cracked and rotten wood. Painted external joinery can deteriorate rapidly if finishes are not maintained.

Find out more about choosing and maintaining paint finishes.

Peeling modern paint

Ironmongery: Door fittings such as hinges, locks and handles are often highly decorative and are therefore hugely important to the character of old doors. For this reason, they should be repaired and retained if possible. A skilled blacksmith or locksmith may be able to help.

Action point: Lubricate door ironmongery (but not with oil or grease) and check the security of any locks.

Further information

SPAB Technical Q&A 5 : Old Doors

The Ancient Art of the Locksmith by Valerie Olifent  from the Building Conservation Directory

Locks: Understanding and Maintenance - A short guidance note prepared by Richard Phillips

© SPAB 2013