Determining whether a door is a “right hand” or “left hand” door mystified me until I discovered that it has historically meant the hand that would pull the door knob when you are facing the door.  But that’s confusing–people don’t actually pull the door knob on the right with their right hand. because they would need to change hands half way. Confused?  read on….

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Door hand for interior and in-swing exterior door

INTERIOR DOORS: You can push an unlatched door from one side, but you must pull it from the other side, so interior doors are determined from the inside using this method.  If standing facing the door from the inside your right  hand is next to knob, you have a right hand door. If the knob is closer to your left hand, it is a left-hand door. (If you have a pair of French doors, treat the door as if it is the only one in the opening.)

door_hand_hingeHinge methodOpen the door. Standing with your back against the hinges, inside the frame, take note of which of your hands is closest to the door. If the door is to your left, it is a left-hand door. If it’s to your right, it’s a right-hand door.

Silly hinge method: With the door closed and your back against the hinges. If the door is on your right, you want to open it in to your left. It is a left hand door. (If you were standing in front of it, the knob would be by your left hand.) Ditto for the right.

ENTRANCE DOORS, IN-SWING (Normal Swing) — (The results are the same, but the procedure can be a little confusing). Door swings for exterior doors are often determined while standing on the outside facing in. While facing the door, and if the door opens in, it is “Normal Swing”. If looking from the outside the hinges inside are on the right side of the door, the door is “right handed” or “right hand hinge” (inside, the knob would be by your right hand). If from the outside the hinges (again, on the inside)  are on the left, it is “inswing left handed or “inswing left hand hinge” ( facing from inside the knob is by your left hand). So, this is similar to interior doors. But having two different phrases that mean the same thing is not good.  Since you don’t put your hand on the hinge, it should just be “left hand” inswing

Determining hand for Entrance doors

REVERSE SWING ENTRANCE DOORS, (OUT-SWING) . Brosco, a huge wholesaler of doors, uses thisconfusing way to determine swing.  If the door swings outward, it is “Reverse swing” and the hand is described in reverse:
“Left hand reverse (LHR)”: Standing outside the house facing the door, the hinges are on the left, the knob on the right.
“Right hand reverse (RHR)”: Standing outside the house the hinges are visible on the right, knob on left,  So, how to remember this one exception for the hand?  Entrance doors opening outward are “Reverse” so, the hands are reversed from normal.  Better yet, use one of the following methods to describe swing:

Handing for outswing doors


“Right-hand Outswing”: From outside, the door swings out, is hinged on the right side, and the lockset is on the left.
“Left-hand  Outswing”: From outside, the door swings out, is hinged on the left side, and the lockset is on the right.

SLIDING ENTRANCE DOORS. Standing outside, the direction that the door must slide determines whether it is right or left hand. Facing the door from the outside, if the handle is on your right side, you are going to open it with your left hand so you can slide it fully to the left. It is a left hand door.

MAKING SURE:   In the 35 years I’ve been hanging doors, I’ve heard it explained many ways, sometimes wrong, especially when referring to outswing entrance doors. When ordering a pre-hung door unseen, make sure to describe the direction the door opens and which hand will pull on the door. Draw a little sketch to make sure.