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How Do You Determine an Exterior Door Swing

swinging door

Determining the swing of an exterior door is a fundamental aspect of door installation and design that affects both functionality and aesthetics. The direction in which a door opens can influence a room's layout, traffic flow, and accessibility. Whether installing a new door as part of a construction project or replacing an old one in a commercial building, understanding how to determine door swing is crucial. This knowledge ensures that doors fit properly and meet the operational needs and safety standards required in different environments. For commercial properties, where functionality and ease of access are paramount, choosing the correct door swing can also align with compliance and security considerations.

Understanding Door Swing Terminology

Before diving into the steps for determining the swing of an exterior door, it's essential to understand the common terminology used to describe door swings. This section will clarify terms that are often confusing but are critical when selecting or installing doors.

Inswing vs. Outswing

  • Inswing Doors: These doors open inward, towards the interior of a building. This is common in regions with limited exterior space or where the inward opening is required to avoid external elements like wind or snow.
  • Outswing Doors: Outswing doors open outward, away from the interior of the building. They are often used in commercial settings for safety reasons, as they allow for a quick exit in emergencies and can be more secure against forced entry.

Left-Hand vs. Right-Hand

  • Left-Hand Doors: When facing the door, if the hinges are on the left and the door swings towards you, it is a left-hand door. This is often abbreviated as LH.
  • Right-Hand Doors: Conversely, if the hinges are on the right when facing the door, and it swings towards you, it's a right-hand door, often abbreviated as RH.

Visual aids such as diagrams or photos can be beneficial in identifying these types. Understanding these distinctions is crucial for those involved in commercial construction to ensure that doors meet functional and code requirements. For detailed visuals and further explanations, visit our pages on Commercial Automatic Doors and Steel Doors, which provide insights into different types of door installations suitable for various commercial settings.

Tools and Materials Needed

Before determining the swing of an exterior door, it's important to gather the right tools and materials. This preparation will ensure accuracy and ease throughout the measurement and installation process.

  • Tape Measure: Essential for measuring the door and the doorway to confirm size and swing.
  • Level: Used to ensure the door and frame are perfectly vertical and horizontal.
  • Pencil and Notepad: For noting measurements and observations.
  • Screwdriver: Needed to adjust or remove hinges during installation or reversal.

Optional tools that might help:

  • Digital Angle Finder: Useful for checking the angle of the existing door frame.
  • Plumb Bob: Helps in verifying vertical alignment.

Step-by-Step Guide to Determining Door Swing

To accurately determine the swing of an exterior door, follow these detailed steps:

Step 1: Stand in the Correct Position

  • Positioning: Stand outside the door to determine its swing. For exterior doors, "outside" means the side facing away from the interior of the building.

Step 2: Check the Hinge Placement

  • Hinge Location: Observe where the hinges are located:
    • If the hinges are on your right side, it is either a right or right-hand reverse door.
    • If the hinges are on your left side, it is either a left-hand or reverse door.

Step 3: Determine the Swing Direction

  • Opening Direction: Push or pull the door:
    • If the door swings towards you, it is a reverse door (outswing).
    • If it swings away from you into the building or room, it is a standard door (inswing).

Factors Influencing Door Swing Direction

Several factors can influence the decision on whether a door should be inswing or outswing, as well as right-hand or left-hand:

  • Environmental Factors: Consider the climate and weather exposure. Doors that open outwards can resist wind blowing open and are generally more weather-resistant.
  • Building and Room Layout: Space constraints and the room's layout often dictate door swings to avoid obstructions like walls or furniture. Safety and Accessibility: Building codes often require outswing doors in commercial buildings for evacuation purposes, and accessibility standards may dictate door swings to accommodate people with disabilities.

Common Mistakes to Avoid

When determining the door swing, common pitfalls can lead to functional inefficiencies or require reinstallation:

  • Misinterpreting Hinge Placement: When you assess hinge placement, ensure you are standing on the correct side (outside for exterior doors).
  • Incorrect Measurements: Double-check all measurements for accuracy. An improperly sized door can impact the intended swing and functionality.
  • Neglecting Environmental and Usage Considerations: Always consider the door’s environment and usage, including wind, rain, and the type of traffic it will accommodate.

These steps and considerations will help ensure that your door fits perfectly and functions as intended, enhancing security and accessibility.

Tips for Installing Exterior Doors Based on Swing

Proper installation is crucial for ensuring the door functions correctly and lasts many years. Here are some tips to consider when installing exterior doors based on their swing:

  • Check Alignment: Ensure it is aligned correctly before permanently fixing the door. Use a level to check that the door is plumb and square in the frame.
  • Security Hardware: For outswing doors, security hinges with non-removable pins should be used to prevent the door from being removed from the outside.
  • Weatherproofing: Install weather stripping around the door to ensure it seals appropriately against weather elements, particularly for outswing doors more exposed to weather.
  • Thresholds and Sweeps: Properly install and adjust thresholds and door sweeps to prevent water ingress and enhance energy efficiency.

Case Studies and Real-Life Examples

To illustrate the importance of correctly determining door swing, here are a few case studies:

  1. Commercial Building Entry: A commercial facility initially installed an inswing door that blocked hallway traffic when open. Switching to an outswing door improved flow and complied with fire safety regulations.
  2. Home Renovation: A homeowner replaced an old wooden door with a new steel door but needed to account for hinge placement, resulting in a reversed swing that blocked the entry to the kitchen. The door had to be reinstalled correctly to restore functionality.

These examples highlight how door swings can significantly impact the functionality and compliance of a space.

The Correct Door Swing

Determining the correct swing of an exterior door is more than a technical necessity—it's crucial for safety, functionality, and compliance with building codes. By understanding the terminology, correctly using the proper tools, and considering all relevant factors, you can ensure that your door installation meets your needs and regulatory requirements. Remember, taking the time to determine the correct door swing during the planning phase can save time and costs associated with rework.


  • Can the door swing be reversed after installation?
    • The door swing can often be reversed by rehanging the door and hardware. However, this may require additional work and adjustments to ensure proper fit and function.
  • Are there security concerns with outswing doors?
    • Outswing doors are generally more secure against break-ins because they swing outward, making it hard to force open. They also typically feature security hinges.
  • What is the difference between commercial and residential door swings?
    • Commercial doors often require outswing for safety and compliance with fire codes, while residential doors typically use inswing to protect against the weather and maximize indoor space.
  • How do I choose the right swing for disabled access?
    • Accessibility standards usually recommend swings that maximize usable space and minimize obstructions, with handles and hardware that are easy to operate.

By carefully considering each aspect of door installation and operation, you ensure that your doors are not only functional and compliant but also contribute to the overall safety and aesthetics of your building. For further information and guidance, check out our pages on Commercial Garage Door Installation and Fire-Rated Doors.

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