Katy Elliott

A daily design journal about new england life, home decorating resources, and renovating a 257-year-old house in Marblehead, MA.

Searching For An Old Back Door

Posted on | December 18, 2010 | 18 Comments

This past week we’ve been searching for an old back door. We cruised craigslist for days seeing a few but none I really loved. We headed up to Old House Parts in Kennebunk, Maine on Friday morning hoping we would see a whole bunch of different versions making the search easy. We saw a few 9-lights but most of them were not in great condition and needed a lot of help. Our current door is 35″ wide and we learned the wider you go the price jumps. The 35″ width is a modern size and finding an old door that wide is rare.

We left wondering when is it worth it to go old? When we saw old versions of the 9-light (circa 1960’s) they looked pretty beat up but basically looked like a plain stock door. Nothing about them screamed, old!

We were both pretty convinced at this point we should just buy a new solid wood door. The new doors come with the jam and a threshold for around $1,000. The old versions we were looking at were going to run us over $1,000 after repairs and the wood needed to build our own jam.

Old House Parts recommended we check out Nor’east Architectural Salvage on our way back home. We ended up stopping at Snug Harbor Farm, a few antiques stores, and a stop in Kittery to pick up some stripe pajamas for Greg’s sister who’s about to have a baby. I was taking my sweet time and before we knew it was almost 3:30 and ended up searching on my iphone for “architectural salvage NH”—turns out the first place that pops up was in Exeter. After sitting in bumper to bumper school traffic we arrived at Architectural Salvage. Totally the wrong place! The owner was a really nice man with some gorgeous barn doors but no doors that would work for us.

By now it’s dark and I’m feverishly trying to search on my iphone again for the correct address. We drove around in circles. My freakin’ phone kept telling me South Hampton, NH didn’t exist. I almost lost it which in turn made Greg pull the car over with mumbles about how my stupid fancy phone can’t even find an address. After some searching on his phone he got frustrated and gave up.

Driving back to the highway we happen to drive right by Nor’East at 4:40—they closed at 5. We ran in both us pretty irritated by this point, found a door from the 1920’s with the original hardware and lock for $175. Greg’s only comment, “Just get it.” I added a brass knob for $30, loaded her up, and drove away with our brand new door at 5:05. How’s that for speed shopping? I was even able to snap some photos of inside the shop.

p.s. Nor’East had this amazing set of 1770’s Federal stairs. Oh gosh they were beautiful. It got me thinking about what are we going to do with our rotten stairs in the back addition?

Related Posts:
Back Door Options
Back Door Search Begins

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18 Responses to “Searching For An Old Back Door”

  1. erin, reading my tea leaves
    December 18th, 2010 @ 11:20 am

    yahoo! hard work rewarded–looks great!


  2. mary
    December 18th, 2010 @ 11:37 am

    You hit all my favorites…especially Snug Harbor. Nor’east (so close to where we live!) had an awful fire a couple of years ago and I’m so glad that they are back up and running again – I still get sick thinking of all of the amazing historic salvage that they lost. I’m glad you found something there!


  3. heather
    December 18th, 2010 @ 1:33 pm

    Great find. My Dad lives on Exeter Road and I can’t believe I’ve never heard of that place! Will try to swing by over Christmas.


  4. fineartistmade
    December 18th, 2010 @ 1:45 pm

    definitely a great find!


  5. Kathleen
    December 18th, 2010 @ 3:07 pm

    Not sure if there is one in your area, but Habitat for Humanity has re-stores, where they resell salvage from their tear-down projects (often they will de-construct old buildings if it lowers the price of a lot they purchase for a new building project).

    I imagine that in an area like yours where there are a number of historic buildings, they get the occasional historic architectural piece. And may not know its value, meaning great deals for you! Look into it.

    You are brave people. We’re enjoying doing a vicarious remodel through your blog!


  6. Katy Elliott
    December 18th, 2010 @ 10:33 pm

    Thanks Kathleen we have a Restore up in Portland, Maine my mom often checks it out for me. They do have really great stuff! http://habitatportlandme.org/restore/ReStore_Main_New.htm


  7. Susan
    December 19th, 2010 @ 6:35 am

    Looks like you made a great choice! I would have been so overwhelmed by that huge selection. Those stairs are beautiful!


  8. mopar
    December 19th, 2010 @ 8:09 pm

    OMG, is it the black one? I just love it. It is absolutely perfect! You just have the best taste, that’s all there is to it.


  9. Katy Elliott
    December 19th, 2010 @ 8:12 pm

    #1 photo and #3 in the bottom set. It’s white on the front, black on the back. Nor’east is in the photo attaching a brass knob for me.


  10. Don
    December 19th, 2010 @ 9:05 pm

    Great post! I may want to get that white door in the first picture. Our back door needs to go. I think it’s original (155yr). And you know where that stair case would be perfect? In the front as the first flight of stairs!

    Good stuff, Katy.


  11. Jane Flanagan
    December 21st, 2010 @ 4:11 pm

    Looks great! Well worth the mission!!


  12. Jen
    December 22nd, 2010 @ 12:38 pm

    Love all those places. The place in S.Hampton/Amesbury was a few doors down from us in downtown Amesbury many years ago. I would drag ridiculous stuff back to our condo (mirrors, screen doors….). Salvage places are like a drug to me. I’m planning on the place in Exeter for a school porcelain water fountain to install outside so during the warm months to stop the constant flow of little ones running thru the house.


  13. emily @ thirtyeight20
    December 24th, 2010 @ 11:43 am

    I love salvage stores. There’s no way we could do our renovation without them. The wild goose chases can be so frustrating, but it’s a sweet day when you finally get what you’re looking for — especially at such great deals. It keeps you going. The door you found looks perfect, and what a savings! Congrats!

    And Merry Christmas ☺


  14. Jacqueline Wein
    December 24th, 2010 @ 4:24 pm

    Congrats! The door looks perfect. And sometimes the best finds just happen fast!


  15. Vanya
    December 27th, 2010 @ 10:05 pm

    oh my goodness this place looks like my idea of heaven! Must have been really hard to come home with just a door……


  16. Virginia
    January 6th, 2011 @ 10:26 am

    I got my sink and marble top there. Love those salvage places!


  17. Beth
    April 19th, 2011 @ 3:26 am

    Have you had any buyer’s remorse about your door? I have been through the same search for a cool old door, and keep thinking that after all the renovating and insulating, I will be bummed if the door I get leaks cold air into my bedroom. I am leaning toward a Simpson’s door for that reason, but I hate bailing on the dream.


  18. Katy Elliott
    April 19th, 2011 @ 10:46 am

    Hi Beth!

    No buyer’s remorse yet. The door I got is really well built. New or old I’m sure I’ll have some draft because I have so many single pane windows. But this door is in my someday kitchen/mudroom not in a bedroom. Hope that helps.


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