You may have noticed that most doors in homes open inwards — but why? Is there a particular reason for it, and can you choose to make doors open outwards instead?
In this article, I’ll dig into the debate behind inward vs. outward swinging doors, which ones you should use for certain situations, and how you can change the swing of your indoor doors. Let’s get into it!
Can Interior Doors Open Outwards?
Yes, interior doors can open outwards. They‘re usually opened inward by default so you don’t hit someone in the face or block a hallway, but outward swinging doors can be beneficial for small and/or disabled-friendly rooms.
Should Interior Doors Open Inward or Outward?
The Case for Inward Swinging Doors
They’re Better for Hallways
The main reason why inward-swinging interior doors are so common is that rooms inside houses usually open into hallways.
Imagine for a second that you’re walking along a hallway, minding your own business, and then WHAM! A door hits you in the face.
This would only happen with an outward swinging door.
Now imagine that you’ve come out of your room, and the hallway is right in front of you.
Except, oh no, you can’t get through the hallway because all the doors are open! Now you have to close every single door to get through, which is really just a hassle.
They’re Easier to Barricade in an Emergency
I remember when I was younger, I would sometimes put my body up against my bedroom door to prevent my little sister from barging in on me.
If I’d had an outward swinging door, that wouldn’t be possible — she’d just open the door, and it would take more force for me to pull it closed than passively block it from opening.
Of course, that was a pretty low-stakes situation, but the same principle applies in an emergency. If an armed robber was trying to break into my room, I’d much rather have an inward swinging door.
I could use a nearby chair, table, or other heavy furniture to barricade the door and keep it from opening.
The Hinge Pins Can’t Be Removed from the Outside
One of the major security flaws in outward swinging doors is that the hinge pins are located on the outside of the door rather than on the inside. If an intruder is in your home, they could pretty easily take the hinge pins out and remove the door, removing your first layer of protection.
The Case for Outward Swinging Doors
They Make it Easier to Escape
The reason that outward swinging doors are the standard in schools and other public buildings is that they make it much easier to escape in an emergency.
With an inward swinging door, you have to step back before being able to exit, whereas with outward swinging doors, you can just open them and be on your way.
They’re Better for Small Spaces
Imagine that you have a small closet that’s stuffed full of items. If the door swings outwards, then you can simply open the door and access whatever you need.
But with an inward swinging door, you’ll have to push back against the items in the closet. It’s much more difficult, maybe even impossible, to get anything inside.
The reason this happens is that inward swinging doors need a certain amount of clearance in the room they open into.
Smaller spaces have much less room for full door clearance (if they have it at all) which is why they usually open outwards into a hallway or larger room with more clearance.
They’re Better for Staircases (Going Down)
Now here’s another situation — let’s say you’re at your friend’s house for the first time. They tell you that the bathroom is just down the hall, but you get a bit lost along the way.
You end up opening the door that you think is the bathroom, and you end up opening the door with a bit too much force. As you open the door, you tumble forward all the way down the stairs.
This is a situation where outward swinging doors are better. Even if you put a little too much force on the knob, you’ll have to open it towards yourself first, giving you time to see the stairs.
But with an inward swinging door (towards the staircase), the stairs may come as a total shock if you weren’t expecting them. It’s much more likely that you’ll tumble down the stairs and seriously injure yourself.
Adding a Window to Doors
You won’t have to worry about hitting people in the face if you have outward swinging doors with windows.
Crossing Door Trajectories
In the house I grew up in, there was a short and narrow entranceway leading from the kitchen to the living room. On one side was a closet, and on the other side was a bathroom, both with outward swinging doors.
When both of the doors were opened at the same time, it completely blocked the living room, so you had to close both to get through.
This is just one example of how crossing door trajectories can be inconvenient in your home. Had one of the doors swung inwards and the other outwards, I would have been able to navigate around the outward-facing door or just close one of the doors.
Confusing Mix of Doors
Of course, be careful about mixing the interior door swing types too much, especially along two sides of the same hallway.
Otherwise, it can confuse guests or cause panic during an emergency when people are trying to escape. In general, it’s better to have all interior doors go one way unless you absolutely need to swap the swing direction.
How Do I Change My Interior Door From Inswing To Outswing?
Changing a door from inswing to outswing might seem impossible at first, but the concept is rather simple.
Basically, it involves flipping the door around so what you see on the inside becomes what you see on the outside.
Here’s a step-by-step guide on how to do that:
- Take the hinge pins out and remove the door. Put it off to the side, so it’s out of the way.
- Unscrew the hinges from the door frame.
- Fill in the hinge holes in the door by squeezing wood filler into them until it slightly spills out the hole. Clean up the extra wood filler so it’s flush with the hole, and let dry.
- Alternatively, you can use a wooden golf tee. Add wood glue to the end and hammer them into the holes. Then, take a chisel and chisel the remaining parts outside of the hole until the tees lie flush with the holes.
- Grab the hinges and flip them, so they’re facing the opposite way from how they were originally (you can tell this is the case if they don’t line up exactly with where the original holes were located). Then take a drill and drill new hinge holes into the door, using the hinge as a guide.
- Using the corresponding screw bit, put the screws into the new holes.
- (Optional) Unscrew the doorknob and take both sides off, then attach them the opposite way. This allows you to lock the door from the inside.
- Go back to the door frame and measure the indentation where the hinge used to be attached using a combination square. Then make marks on the opposite side of the door (on the outside this time, facing the opposite direction the original hinge was located) to indicate where the hinge should be.
- If the hinge is rounded, use the hinge to mark the perimeter of the rounded part.
- Unscrew the striker plate and repeat step 9, but instead of measuring the hinge and marking it, do it for the striker plate. (This is only the case if you have a recessed striker plate). The striker plate should be opposite the new hinge holes.
- Using a chisel, create an indentation for the new hinge and striker plate location so they can fit flush with the door (again, only if you have a recessed striker plate. Otherwise, just apply this to the hinge).
- Using the hinge and striker plate as guides, drill new holes for them.
- Reattach the hinge and striker plate using the corresponding screw bit.
- Grab the hinge pins and hammer them back in place.
Should Bathroom Doors Open in or Out?
Well, it depends on the situation.
For small bathrooms, it’s generally better to have a door that opens outwards. An inward opening door forces you to back up quite a bit before you can leave, and furniture in the bathroom could prevent it from opening fully.
This is especially a problem for handicap bathrooms since it’s more awkward (and at times impossible) to back up all the way and get through. This is why it’s standard for public handicap bathrooms to have an outward opening door.
While you might think this is a minor inconvenience, this is actually a safety hazard. When there’s a fire in your home or some other emergency that warrants evacuation, the last thing you want to do is mess with a difficult exit.
But if you have a larger bathroom that has ample space to get in and out, it shouldn’t be an issue to have an inward opening door. At that point, your choice depends on personal preference and the factors I mentioned earlier.
Can Bedroom Doors Open Outwards?
Yes, bedroom doors can open outwards. However, it’s generally not recommended if your bedroom is along a hallway for the reasons I mentioned earlier — you might hit someone in the face or restrict someone from walking through.
If you have jack-and-jill bedrooms in your house, then in general, you’ll want at least one to swing outwards (relative to the inside of the bathroom). Having two doors swing inwards will restrict the space if they’re both open at the same time.
If neither of these situations applies, then it will depend on your exact circumstances. Weigh inward vs. outward swinging doors using the pros for both I mentioned earlier to see which option is better for you.
How Do You Secure a Door That Opens Outwards?
From the Inside
If you’re trying to secure an outward opening door from the inside, you’ll need to use a belt or rope of some sort. Tie one end to the doorknob and the other to a heavy piece of furniture to keep it secure.
From the Outside
Securing an outward opening door from the outside is all about protecting the hinge pins. Security studs for door hinges are one option — they prevent the door from being removed when the hinge pins are.