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Should Exterior Doors Open In or Out?

Exterior doors set the stage for your building; be it residential or commercial. It’s the first thing that people see when they drive by or pay a visit. It also serves as the primary point of entry, so it makes sense to spend time considering what type of door to get.

Choosing a type doesn’t refer to just picking between sliding and French doors. You also need to think about the direction in which the door will swing. 

Here’s the tricky part, both doors that open in and out work flawlessly. So your decision will be informed by other factors that we’ll examine in this article. Read on to learn more. 

Should exterior doors swing inward in or outward?

Unfortunately, there’s no clear-cut answer to this question. External doors can swing either inwards or outwards. It all depends on:

  • Local and national building codes
  • Your local climatic conditions
  • Level of safety

Before we delve into these factors, here’s an overview of the differences between an inswing and an outswing door. 

Outswing vs inswing exterior door

What is the difference between inswing and outswing doors?

The primary difference between these two types of doors is the direction in which they open. 

With an outswing model, the door is designed to open outward. Conversely, an inswing version is designed to open inward.

Are you still having difficulty distinguishing between the two types of doors? Then perhaps taking a practical approach will help. 

Stand outside your front door. Now ask yourself, anytime you want to make an entry, do you usually pull the door out towards you or push it in to open? If you have to pull it towards you, it’s an outswing, and if you have to push it in, then it’s an inswing door. 

Now that you have a clear understanding, let’s look at the factors that should inform your decision when choosing between the two designs.

Which swing should you choose for your new doors?

Selecting the type of door to buy isn’t as straightforward as it seems. There are a couple of things you’ll want to take into consideration, namely:

Building codes

Oftentimes, the decision to install an inward or outward opening door will depend on both federal and state laws. Some regulations are applied countrywide while others are specific to certain regions. 

The law that governs the swinging direction of exterior doors is The International Building Code, set by the International Code Council. This code states that exterior doors of public buildings should only open in the direction of egress travel if:

  • The door is servicing a space or area that has 50 or more occupants
  • The entryway services an area with hazardous contents

This means that doors that swing inward are the most preferred. However, there are instances where entry doors that open outward are the best option. One example is if the entryway serves a high-traffic room- occupied by 50 or more individuals. 

Similarly, if the exterior door services a room that’s used to store or produce hazardous contents, then one that can swing outward is better. This way, the occupants can safely open the door and exit the space in a quick fashion. This is particularly important in the event of an emergency like a fire or risk of explosion. 

Security

One factor that sparks a lot of debate when it comes to choosing between inward and outward opening doors entails security. There are two largely divided parties: those who believe that outswing doors are more secure and those who believe that inswing models are more secure.

The first camp proposes that given how outswing doors are mounted, it will be impossible for criminals to break into your premises. 

The latter group believes that since the hinges of an inswing front door are located on the inside, it’s not easy to tamper with them. On the other hand, removing the hinge pins on an outward swinging door would be much easier. 

Others argue that since inswing doors open inward, it would be easier for intruders to force their way in. 

Ultimately, there’s truth to all these schools of thought. So it all boils down to the extra measures that a homeowner takes to make his/her entry doors more secure. 

If you opt for an inswing version, you can add elements like deep-screwed strike plates and deadbolts to enhance its security. 

On the other hand, if you go for outward opening doors, search for ones with complex hinges like security butt hinges. With this design, closing the door causes the two halves of the hinge to interlock, making it impossible to unscrew or remove any pins. 

Another model you might be interested in is the concealed hinge. As implied in the name, this hinge remains completely hidden from view once the door is closed. 

Weather

Climate is another factor that comes into play when choosing between inswing and outswing exterior doors. 

If you live in an area that snows a lot, an inswing door is the safest option. This guarantees that you can safely exit a building even if a massive pile of snow blocks the entryway. 

But there are other areas where installing doors that open outward is in your best interest. A good example is Florida, which is one of the most hurricane-prone states in the U.S. Here, the law mandates homeowners and building owners to install outswing doors. 

If a hurricane strikes in Florida, an inswing door cannot offer ample protection against forceful winds. As such, objects flying in the air at high speeds may end up breaking through your door and wrecking your home’s interior. To prevent this, an out-swinging door is considered a safer alternative. 

Conclusion

Exterior doors can swing either in or out; neither one is superior to the other. Choosing between these two depends on aspects like the climatic conditions of your area, state laws, and the level of security you prefer. 

If you live in states like Florida that are prone to hurricanes, homeowners should consider installing out-swinging doors. 

This way, they’re guaranteed their homes are protected from the flying debris outdoors. On the other hand, those living in snowy areas could benefit from inswing doors that won’t lock them inside in case of the snow blocks their entryway. 

When it comes to the level of safety, each design has unique benefits, so it will boil down to individual tastes and preferences. 

Outward opening doors enable you to safely exit spaces in case of an emergency like a fire. Inward opening doors, on their part, have features like locks and hinges located on the interior; hence, making it difficult for intruders to break in. 

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