Home Improvement History Lessons: Doors

Posted on March 16, 2018 in Door Installation

door installation

Doors: you use them every day, but you probably don’t think much about them. For instance, from what materials were doors originally made? Or who invented the classic doorknob? Here, our door installation experts dive into the last part of our “Home Improvement History Lessons” series to share the history of doors:


The earliest doors for homes and buildings were created from large pieces of fabric or hide and were hung vertically in doorways. This simple design helped keep warmth inside and helped shield individuals from wind and rain. When it came to things like tombs and temples, ancient civilians used slabs of stone as doors that were meant to seal off the entrance.

Once wood was in proper supply, craftsmen began carving sturdier doors for homes and buildings; the most popular woods used were olive wood, elm, cedar, oak, and cypress. (Today, doors are often made from virtually every type of wood, but many are constructed from maple, pine, redwood, fir or oak.)

Many ancient civilizations cased their wooden doors in metals like silver, brass, or bronze to signify nobility and once craftsmen discovered how to create doors completely out of bronze, this became a very popular practice in Europe during the 11th and 12th centuries. Bronze doors could be found on cathedrals, temples, basilicas, and more.

Stiles & Rails

While ancient civilizations in drier countries like Egypt didn’t have to worry about their wooden doors warping, other countries with wetter climates did. This is where stiles and rails were introduced into door architecture. Builders would border the door with a vertical wooden panel on either side (these were the stiles) and horizontal wooden panels on the top and bottom (these were the rails). Some doors included more than two rails; the more that were included, the more stable the door.

This style of door is still popular today.

Types of Doors

When we think of more intricate doors types like sliding doors or folding doors, we likely think of them a as more modern designs. However, both of these types of doors have been discovered as far back as ancient Rome and Greece.

In addition, the very first “automatic” door was created in the 1st century A.D. by a Greek scholar named Heron of Alexandria. This door was opened via an “engine” that used air from a closed chamber heated by an altar fire. The air displaced water from a sealed vessel and as the water collected, its weight pulled on a rope and opened the door.

While doors often had door handles on them, doorknobs weren’t used until the 19th century, when a man named Osbourn Dorsey submitted a patent for the design in the late 1800s. Before that, doors were usually locked using traditional locks and keys.


Today, we incorporate doors into every type of structure, from the entrance of a grocery store to the doors that separate the rooms in our homes. You’ll find doors made from virtually any material (wood, fiberglass, glass, etc.) and in a variety of styles (French doors, screen doors, pocket doors, etc.), making the world of doors an exciting one.

If you’re thinking about a new door installation or are in need of a door repair, visit our Doors page or contact us today.

Monthly Specials

View all specials and save!