The construction method of doors has changed and adapted over time. The simplest and earliest type of door is the plank door. Planks of wood are laid up side by side and then nailed together with a batten (a horizontal board) on the back. Thick nails are also headed and driven through to tie the planks to the battens. Because of its simple design and rustic character, this type of door best suits vernacular houses, cottages, outbuildings, accessory buildings and rural settings.
Left: This wide plank door from the Hardenbergh Parlor, built in 1762, at the Winterthur Museum is held together with battens and features hand-wrought hardware.
Plank doors feature a number of authentic details, including:
Antique Wood: Antique or salvaged woods, rustic in appearance, convey a sense of age and place. Vernacular houses often used locally available woods in the highest quality the owner could afford.
Nail Pattern: Lining up with the battens on the backside of the door, the pattern of nail heads reveals the construction method and creates the decorative quality of the door.
From the 1939 New England Doorways by Samuel Chamberlain, these plank doors are from the Old Ironworks House in Saugus, MA. Nail-studded and framed with plain casings, they are some of the few surviving early Colonial style doorways from 1643.
This sliding plank door is made of Eastern White Pine was built for the basement of a Colonial Revival style home. The vertical boards are cinched to a batten on the backside. The top includes a mortised rail, which keeps the boards from twisting. By Hull Historical
This English style plank door is made of Antique Oak. The battens are not only dovetailed into the boards, but have a unique bow shape. By Hull Historical
This French style plank door is made of French Oak and features an iron rim lock. Notice the cinched nails that create a unique pattern on the battens. By Hull Historical
Plank doors are versatile and can be used in many architectural styles. Knowing how a plank door was made historically is essential in being able to design or build one for your home or project.
More information about historic doors and building techniques may be found in Hull Historical’s Authentic Historic Doors resource guide. Click here to order your free copy.