There are lots of expressions incorporating the word door.  For example, higher education can open doors to better paying jobs.

This of course means: to provide new opportunities or possibilities.

The Myriam-Webster definition of open door is:

1 :  a recognized right of admittance :  freedom of access; also :  a policy providing such freedom

But if you have a disability, the opposite is true.

Doorways and hallways can themselves become barriers to accessibility by preventing you from moving easily around your home. They can keep you separated from the rest of your family if you can’t get through them into certain areas.

A maze of corridors with doors in all the wrong places may be good to get your numbers up on fitbit, but are a real hassle if you use a wheelchair, walker or crutches.

The trend of open plan living reduces many barriers due to its’ very nature of eliminating dividing walls to create large adjoining spaces. This makes a home feel much bigger and helps keep families connected and not segregated. You can keep an eye on the little ones and be ready to come to someones’ aid whilst getting on with your own tasks in a nearby work space.

The importance of door location

The location of doorways affects furniture placement and therefore affects traffic flows.

You don’t want to have to weave between or around any furniture pieces to get in or out of a room. Any main pathway through a room from doorway to doorway should be 36in/91cm wide, be unobstructed, and be as direct as possible. TIP: think about how you want to use each room and how to arrange furniture in the planning stage before you move in.

Locate doorways at the side of the room that is used most, and align them with each other across the rooms and across the hallways. If a door opening into a room creates a problem, maybe it would work better opening out.

Don’t limit yourself to a swing door if a sliding door would work.

Doors that slide are a good option if a swing doors would get in the way of traffic flow. Many people find the sliding action easier to use, especially from a stationary position.

Utilizing good quality hardware will assure the door slides well with little effort. TIP: Pocket and barn-door styles are not as sound-proof as swing doors, so use a good quality solid core door to help in noise reduction.

Alternatives to swing doors

Barn door style

  • easily mounted to the surface of a wall
  • some furniture could be placed in front of the door, such as buffets
  • great to use for extra-large openings like hallways or archways

Pocket doors

  • excellent space savers because they disappear inside the wall. TIP: Install in a 6in/15cm wall for best wall strength
  • adds a nice architectural feature
  • hardware can be tricky to use for some people, so you may have to install D-handles

Sliding glass doors

  • the modern ones slide very easily with little effort
  • make sure to install one with easy to use hardware. TIP: Or add an extra D-handle
  • the thresholds are often higher than .5in/1cm. They can be recessed but be careful of water penetration, or install mini-ramps

7 Important door attributes

#1) Your front entry opening should be at least 36in/91cm wide. This will add a sense of style and a high level of practicality to your home. Read more about front entries.

#2) The rest of your home should have door openings that are at least 32in/81cm minimum. TIP: you can widen existing doorways by using offset hinges. These will allow the doors to swing clear of the jambs and can add up to 2in/5cm of additional clearance.

#3) Install lever-style door handles on all doors (including closet doors). TIP: The longer the lever the easier it is to open.

#4) Doorway thresholds should be zero (flush with floor) or a maximum height of .5in/1cm. This rule also applies to changes in flooring surfaces, which often happen at doorways.

#5) Important: Make sure your door openings are the sizes mentioned above and not just the door itself. This will make a big difference to accessibility.

#6) Make sure there is a minimum of 18in/46cm of clear floor space on the handle side of each door. This area is used to get close enough to reach the handle, and to stay clear of the swing when opening it. This is especially useful if you use a wheelchair.

#7) Use 32in/81cm wide openings on closets too. If you lack space, install two smaller doors rather than one large one. Or just remove the door altogether. Bi-fold doors are good options for closets as they intrude less on circulation areas when open. TIP: Replace knobs on bi-fold doors to D-style handles.

Bathroom Door Safety

In this potentially slippery room install a door that can be unlocked from the outside and that swings open out of the room. This way the hinges will be easily removable in an emergency if somebody falls against the door and you need to reach them.


When deciding on your new home plan, pay attention to the hallways. Is one really necessary, or perhaps you could shorten it? If there is no way of avoiding one in your home, apply the following rules to it;

  • minimum width of 36in/91cm. But 42-60in/107-152cm is better
  • place doorways across the hall from each other to make travelling between rooms much easier with fewer steps
  • avoid turns

Action plan…

Take some time to reassess your own needs for doors and hallways (even walls) in your building or renovating plans. If you can leave a few out you will be saving yourself some money and creating a home that is more open and easier to move about in. This will also be a home where everybody will feel more connected to one another with the barriers gone.