Thursday, October 28, 2021

Should doors open inwards or outwards?

We had a bit of a discussion today on whether doors should open inwards or outwards. Ah, the level of our conversations. Deep, indeed.

I have vague memories of when we moved from the UK to Canada, many years ago, of the doors opening differently from doors in the Old Country, but I may be mis-remembering (I do that sometimes). Indeed, maybe there is no rule. Our front door opens inwards, and our back door opens outwards. Go figure.

After a little research (and a little more research), it seems like there are no fixed rules, but there are some conventions and some common sense recommendations. For example, interior doors tend to open inwards into a room, mainly so that they don't encroach on a narrow hallway or common area, and passing household members are not decapitated as they pass by. This may also save space in a restricted common hallway. Doors to restricted spaces like linen closets, though, usually open outwards because there is just no room to do anything else.

Exterior doors also tend to open inwards, but for different reasons, principally for security: an exterior door that opened outwards would have its hinges  on the outside which is a potential security risk. Inward-opening exterior doors are also less prone to being caught in the wind, damaged by rain, or blocked by a snow storm. Inward-opening doors may also be more easily fitted with additional security features like chains and latches, and make it easier to slam the door on unwelcome visitors.

On the other hand, exterior doors on public buildings, stores, etc, tend to open outwards for safety reasons: a panicked crowd trying to leave a building in an emergency can more easily do so through outward-opening doors. Fire escape doors (either official or unofficial) also tend to open outwards for much the same reason.

Sweden and some other Scandinavian countries, however, usually don't follow these rules, for reasons that are largely lost to history. Their front doors usually open outwards, probably following a serious fire at some point, or possibly so that snow does not enter when the door is opened. Sounds a bit suspect to me.

So, no firm rules, but some compelling reasons to follow the conventions. Unless you are Swedish.

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