Secrets and doorways

Hidden doorways are fun, but they’re also practical. Sixty percent of the time they’re installed for security purposes, such as concealing panic rooms, secret escapes and vault rooms. When installed for fun the other 40 percent of the time, they typically hide the entrance to theater rooms, children’s play rooms and similar spaces.

Secret passageway projects typically begin with homeowners describing the ideal application. “What does it look like? Is it a fireplace, an armoire? We need to get a grasp on their vision,” says Steve Humble, founder, president and mechanical engineer for Creative Home Engineering in Gilbert, Ariz. “Then, we walk the homeowners and remodelers through the options: which species of wood, how tall, what’s the architectural style, in which direction will it swing? We supply a written proposal, and if accepted, we build it, test it and ship it for installation.”

The key to success is getting the manufacturer involved as early as possible, to allow for the most concealment options and proper engineering. Hidden passageways require specialists to get the installation right, Humble insists.

“Most contractors don’t realize that a company like ours exists. They end up going to a local millwork shop to do the work. Nothing against millwork shops, but a secret door is a specialized engineering machine requiring load reinforcement and other special requirements. A millwork shop might put a door on a piano hinge, and the door eventually sags and carves an arch into the flooring. The homeowner is upset and the contractor is on the hook and has to rip it out and replace it, adding time and cost to the project,” he says.

Until recently, every door was custom, but the company now offers only one off-the-shelf product that resembles a large wall mirror. Humble’s team can provide guidance to designers wondering how to arrange a floor plan to best conceal the existence of a secret room. “We can advise where to move walls around so the secret door is least noticeable. We also can conform to any style of home. Frankly, this is the easiest problem to overcome,” he adds.

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