Brownstone Boys: Replicating Original Brownstone Doors

The house and its single replacement front door. Photo by Susan De Vries

Editor’s note: Welcome to the 60th installment of Brownstone Boys Reno, a reader renovation diary about renovating a brownstone in Bed Stuy. See the first one here. They also blog at www.thebrownstoneboys.com.

Double entry doors are one of the most distinctive features of a Brooklyn brownstone. They are usually two tall, skinny doors with glass panels and decorative moldings. There is sometimes a transom above them or occasionally the door itself follows a curved arch of the facade above.

front door

The door that was here when we purchased the place. We’re still confused by all the locks and keypads that were on the door

If they are still there and in good condition after more than 100 years after they were installed, then you’re lucky! Unfortunately, as it goes with pretty much anything after that much time, they require a lot of maintenance. Since these are not a standard affair, they require very specialized skills and can be expensive to repair. And even more expensive to replace. It usually runs $10,000 to $20,000 to have your very own custom set of Brooklyn brownstone double doors built. Because of that it’s very common to see these beautiful double doors replaced with a less expensive standard single door (of the type you might see on the shelf at your local home improvement store) with wood panels on either side to fill the larger space.

front door

Once the doors were framed we added the door surround, insulated with spray foam and then added the molding

Unfortunately our original doors were long gone when we got our place. It was a big priority for us to at least restore our place with a set of double doors. If you have followed along you might know that we renovated our place on a very low budget. Building custom double doors to match something similar to what might have been original at a cost of over $10,000 just wasn’t an option. So we found a company, Midwood Doors, that could provide a more standard size double door that wasn’t especially ornate but at least echoed the original look and feel. We measured the opening from where we could see the original wood posts on either side. It was 52 inches wide so we knew the standard 48-inch-wide set of double doors would fit even with the frame, which was also provided.

brownstone front door

Beautiful mahogany doors replaced the white door. We love the double door look

After a wrong set of doors were delivered, and then our original wood choice was unavailable, we ended up with an upgraded pair of mahogany doors. Even at first sight these doors aren’t trying to pass for the originals, but they look great in their own right. They are tall and heavy with long, stately glass panels. The only decoration is a small inset panel on the bottom of each. They’re simple and clean but echo the idea of what was there originally.

We spent the weekend installing our new front doors. First we attached the doors to the frame provided, then we added the doorway surround, insulated with spray foam and then added the molding. While we love the look of the wood, we also love a pop of color. We’re still debating whether to paint or stain the door.

The cost of the set of double doors? An affordable $1,500.

[Photos by Brownstone Boys unless noted otherwise]

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