Answers to Pantry Door Questions


It’s inevitable. At some point in your pantry journey, you are going to have a pantry door question. This article tackles your most common questions.

General pantry door questions

Should a pantry have a door? It is not necessary for a pantry to have a door. The pantry owner can determine if they want to access the pantry directly (with no door) or use an alternative covering, such as a curtain.

Pantry doors exist to give privacy or hide the contents inside of the closet or space. Doors can also be a barrier to keep pets and children out or keep the room a little cooler than the kitchen. Pantry doors are ineffective at keeping pests out because pantry doors allow for enough space at the bottom of the door when hanging for ventilation, unless a mesh or screen provides extra air flow. In terms of a pantry cabinet door, a tighter seal can be obtained and be more effective in keeping household pests away from food.

Many pantry owners “decant” food into glass and plastic containers for numerous reasons. One of those reasons is to keep pests out of food.

Various types of pantry doors.

Various types of pantry doors.

Another logical reason to have a pantry door is to tie in with the design theme of the kitchen. Ultimately, if you are wondering if your pantry needs a door, consider what you are trying to achieve by having one.

What are my options for pantry doors? Pantry door options include solid core doors, hollow core doors, louvered doors, bi-fold doors, pocket doors, sliding “barn” doors, doors with glass panes, screen doors, vintage or antique doors, and artist doors (created by a craftsman/artist)..

Visit our article “Unique Pantry Door Ideas” for inspiration.

Pantry door size questions

What size is a pantry door? Pantry doors can be any size available for standard-size interior doors. Standard sizes include widths of 24″, 28″, 30″. 32″ and 36″.  A popular pantry door size is 24×80.

“Reach-in” pantry types will not require the same pantry door or cabinet door width as a passage door. The width of a reach-in pantry door is based on a practical width that allows the placement and retrieval of food items and/or small appliances. Although 12″ would be a minimum width, it would not be a very practical door size, nor is it available to buy. In addition, for cabinet doors, a too-wide width can be perilous to the hinges. 

The span and additional weight of an overly-wide single door will impact the door hinge integrity. Many cabinet kitchen designs start to split into two doors when the cabinets reach 24″ wide. Cabinet hinges are not as robust as interior and exterior door hinges.

Pantry door clearances should consider activities that include carrying food and other range of motion activities.

Pantry door clearances should consider activities that include carrying food and other range of motion activities.

Optimal accessibility

The minimum clearance for a passage door is 32″ for a walk-in pantry closet. For a person in a wheelchair, the minimum clearance for a door is also 32″. In addition, the person in the wheelchair will need a 4′ x 4′ circulation area to maneuver before entering a walk-in closet space.* For users of crutches, walkers, and canes, clearances to get through a doorway may increase, especially with crutches.

Accessibility for people with disabilities within the pantry space will be addressed in future pages. If you are interested in public spaces, check out adachecklist.org. Clearances for public spaces will closely align with private homes.

The standard width for interior doors is 32″. This may not accommodate all people, especially when arms are raised and users are carrying bags and boxes or moving appliances around. For “reach-in” pantries, the door can be narrower. The opening must be large enough, though, to handle items when placing and removing from shelves.

A nice alternative to a single door is a bifold or accordian door. This style is intended to allow for a pantry closet with a wider opening. Many pantry users find the greater access more practical. If you have the option when building, this is a door style worth considering.

How are pantry doors measured? To measure door height, measure just the door itself from the bottom to the top of the door, and the same with the width. The measurement will not include door frames, trim, or elements such as a door sweep. The thickness measurement of the door is taken from the edge. Pros recommend taking the extra step of measuring the door space itself (without door stops) to make sure no mistakes are made. Many well-known window and door manufacturers have guides for measuring doors on their websites.

The video below, or this Wiki on how to measure a door give clear directions.

*Reference: Human Dimensions & Interior Space, a Source Book of Design Reference Standards. Julius Panero, AIA, ASID and Martin Zelnik, AIA, ASID. Copyright © 1979. Although this book has not been updated since 1979, it is a perennial classic for design students everywhere and contains valuable information about range of motion activities and recommended clearances. Best design practices are to create spaces that accomodate humans in the 95% growth percentile. To quote my Iowa State University “Designing for Disabilities” professor, Dr. Mary Pickett, “When you design for those with disabilities, everyone can use the space.” 

Pantry door installation questions

Should a pantry door swing in or out? A pantry door should open or swing out. There is not enough room in a closet or walk-in pantry to swing the door to the inside space.

The only situation where the door can swing in is if the pantry is a large room. Then and only then can the door swing out.

In this example, the pantry door is swinging out from the pantry space.

In this example, the pantry door is swinging out from the pantry space.

Pantry door design questions

Should all the doors in a house match? All of the doors in a house do not need to match, especially if they are making a design statement like a pantry door. For the best design cohesiveness, doors within a floor or space would match to reduce design decisions when matching trim, walls, and floors together.

A special one-of-a-kind pantry door does make it more complicated when matching door trim, base trim, and floor coverings.  Door trim around a unique specialty door needs to make design sense with the other doors in the room. Door trim that butts up against wood floors or other floor coverings can add more design decisions.

Many people will opt to be consistent with door selection throughout the house to avoid more complicated decisions. This doesn’t mean that you can’t find a satisfactory and creative solution to add the finishing touch to your pantry door.

Trim color and pantry door color.

Each of these doors involved a color decision that coordinated with the door trim. There are no right answers when choosing door trim color.

Do you paint the door frame the same color as the door? The door frame and the door do not have to be painted the same color. It is an entirely individual choice.

Look at the picture above and note the differences between the door frames and doors. When it comes to deciding how to finish a door, it’s best to take your time and research ideas to find what most appeals to you.

Should a pantry door match cabinets? Pantry doors do not have to match cabinets. Pantry doors can be a unique design statement unto themselves and can have different colors and design that are apart from the main kitchen cabinet design theme. If the goal is to have the pantry blend with the kitchen cabinets, then it makes sense for the pantry door to match cabinets.

I hope you have found this article about pantry doors helpful. If you have a question that wasn’t answered, please leave it in the comments below and I’ll follow up!

About the author 

Renee Matt

Renee is a former kitchen designer, home remodeling enthusiast (having lived through several DIY projects), and an Iowa farmwife. Renee is passionate about preparedness, garden skills, and knowing where her food comes from. Years of being a stay-at-home mom and supporting the family farm with hearty meals has been key to Renee's pantry readiness. She uses her professional IT background and expertise to bring the Everything Pantry website to life.

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Pantry Talk for Pantry Enthusiasts!

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