Builders typically use standard door swing practices that have been in place for years when installing doors. When the swing varies from standard installations, it's usually to accommodate architectural design or for safety reasons such as making a room more accessible in case of emergencies or preparing for extreme weather.
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The home building industry is ruled by codes, but the International Residential Code doesn't have a requirement for swing direction. The rule of thumb is to hang interior doors to open into the room, not out into a hallway or other common area. This is to prevent doors being opened into a traffic path and possibly blocking or bumping into someone going by. When aging becomes a design consideration, bathroom doors may open out away from the room to prevent the door being blocked by someone may have fallen inside the room.
Garage Entry Doors
Garage-to-home entry doors may be an exception to the inward swinging rule. Some builders have them swing inward to the garage instead of the home for safety reasons. If there's a fire or explosion in the garage, the outward swinging door blocks damage to the interior of the home more effectively than an inward swinging door.
Left or Right Swingers
The design of the room typically determines the left or right swing designation for doors. An inward opening door should swing in the direction needed to provide adequate passage. If it bumps or blocks passage because of a wall, barrier or other object when you open it, such as a toilet or cabinet, the door should swing in the opposite direction.
Identify Your Door
To identify a left or right swing door, stand inside the door opening with your back against the hinges. If the door opens to your right, it's a right hand swing door. If it opens to the left, it's a left hand swing. When purchasing a door for any reason, the left or right hand distinction should be established first and the door ordered accordingly. If you realize after the door is installed that the door swing direction is wrong and prevents access to the room, or results in a cramped or blocked area, the swing direction can be changed if needed by modifying the door jamb, and sometimes the latch edge of the door, which is slightly beveled to reduce the gap when the door is closed.
Exterior doors traditionally are installed to open inward. This places the hinges on the inside of the door, preventing them from being accessed by criminals. However, most contemporary door hinges are thief resistant and can't be tampered with when exposed on the exterior of the door. Contradictions to inward swinging exterior doors are common in areas with possible high winds and or water penetration such as Florida, where many exterior doors swing outward. The outward orientation blocks water and wind better because the doorstop prevents the inward movement of the door.
Other exceptions to inward swinging exterior doors might include interior light switches or electrical controls that are covered by the door when it's open. When purchasing an exterior door, first determine which type of door you need for a particular installation, whether it's inward or outward swing. Local codes typically don't enforce directional exterior door swing, but be sure to check the codes before installation.
A pocket door is a door that doesn't swing either way like a regular one does. It slid into a "pocket" into the wall to open, and back into the doorframe to close. These are particularly helpful if there is someone older or mobility impaired in a home. If they happen to fall in a room that a door swings into, they may block the door with their body, which will delay getting them help. But with a pocket door, this won't be an issue anymore.
This kind of door also gives a few aesthetic options. They're also a great option for anyone who wants to switch up their room. A wider pocket door can be used to create an open concept room when open, or a regular room when shut. Any space can go from one room to two with a sliding door that's easy to hide. Small rooms that have a lot of furniture or items in them won't have to worry about being banged up or having extra space taken up by the door if it slides into the wall.
Specializing in hardwood furniture, trim carpentry, cabinets, home improvement and architectural millwork, Wade Shaddy has worked in homebuilding since 1972. Shaddy has also worked as a newspaper reporter and writer, and as a contributing writer for Bicycling Magazine. Shaddy began publishing in various magazines in 1992, and published a novel, “Dark Canyon,” in 2008.