Know Your Doors: Transitional Doors

Transitional doors are early doors like plank doors but are usually constructed with an overframe that helps hold the boards together more firmly. A transitional door may be thought of as a “refined” or “fancy” plank door. Nails with decorative heads are usually seen on these doors. Doors of this type developed in the Medieval and early Renaissance period and are appropriate for a variety of styles.
Transitional oak door with vertical planks hidden behind a Gothic overframe. The door itself is square, but the overframe has a four-centered arch. By Hull Historical



Characteristics of Transitional Doors Include:

Overframe: a grid of horizontal and vertical boards is applied to the front of a set of plank boards to create an overframe. The overframe helps hold the boards together more tightly.

Nails: Holding the overframe and boards together, the pattern of nails reveals the construction method. Decorative heads add more refinement than simple cinch nails.

Boards: Like plank doors, boards of wood are laid up side by side to form the body of the door.


This door has diamond and rectangular shaped ornamentation between each section of the overframe. From Old English Doorways by W. Galsworthy Davie & Henry Tanner Jr., 1903.



This Colonial style Dutch door with fine wrought iron hardware is an example of an early transitional door. Built in 1762 of Eastern White Pine, a simple frame on the backside keeps the door planks from twisting. Hardenbergh Bedroom, Winterthur Museum



This transitional oak four-centered arched door was made for an English style home in South Carolina. It has an overframe fastened with decorative nails, carved spandrels and European hardware.



A pair of transitional oak four-centered arched doors on the garage of the same home in South Carolina.


Windows are not typical in transitional doors as they weaken the strength of the construction.

For more on transitional doors in the American, English and French styles, download a copy of our resource guide, Authentic Historic Doors.

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