Crittall-style doors have been popular for decades. Even though Crittall doors and windows originated in the 1880s, they’re known for bringing a sleek look to almost any interior. However, genuine Crittall internal doors are quite pricey, which has many people wondering if there’s an alternative. As it happens, there is – and they might even like the alternative better than the original!
Technically, the term “Crittall” can only be used when referring to products from Crittall Windows Limited. This company invented the concept of putting windows (and then doors) in black steel frames, and owns the trademark on the name. However, the company has left its mark, and it’s common to hear people referring to it as a style rather than a line of products. This is why you’ll also hear people talking about Crittall-style doors or windows, as a way to reference the look even if the products weren’t made by the company.
A brief history of Crittall-style doors and windows
Crittall doors and windows originated from the Crittall Windows Company in Braintree, Essex. After Frances Berrington Crittall bought the Bank Street ironmongery, he developed the company into what eventually became Crittall Windows Limited. When were the famous windows put into production, though? That happened in 1889, and was eventually expanded to interior doors and all kinds of other designs. Originally, the windows were used in factories, warehouses, and other industrial buildings; this has contributed to their popularity in spaces that are inspired by the industrial look. To this day, the company’s headquarters is still located in Braintree, Essex, and continues to manufacture the iconic black steel frames for customers all over the world.
Why people want an alternative to Crittall interior doors
Even though this style works with a wide range of interior designs, building types, and overall tastes, there are a few downsides to getting genuine Crittall interior doors. First of all, they’re pretty costly at £2,700 per square foot – a price that requires a very generous budget. Second, they have long lead times compared to other manufacturers; you’d have to be patient if you wanted interior doors from Crittall Windows Limited. Third, the steel frames are known to collect condensation and develop rust over time, which is especially unfortunate given their relatively high cost.
These (and other) considerations have led many to seek out an alternative to Crittall interior doors. The good news is, they can get Crittall-style interior doors that look just as sleek from other manufacturers, but for a lower price, a shorter lead time, and without the risk of rust. How is this possible? With the use of aluminum frames.
Comparing steel to aluminum frames
In some cases, Crittall-style interior doors get installed as part of new construction. In other cases, they’re replacing older doors as part of a renovation. Regardless, some people feel the need to stick with steel frames since they’re more “authentic”; this is most often a concern for those who are renovating older houses, and want to stay true to the original materials.
That’s certainly their choice, and their new interior doors would probably look amazing with steel frames. However, they should also consider the cost factor. Even if they aren’t ordering from Crittall Windows Limited, other manufacturers of Crittall-style interior doors will charge more for steel compared to aluminum. The material is simply more costly, and since it’s heavier, transportation will cost more too.
On the plus side, modern steel-framed windows are often galvanized to fight rust. A common technique involves galvanizing the frames by dipping them into the appropriate mix of chemicals, then applying a powdered polyester coating for extra protection.
Manufacturers who make aluminum-framed interior doors may also offer special features, such as a special thermal coating for the glass panes, or high-security locks. Here’s a breakdown of the benefits that both steel and aluminum frames share in common, plus the benefits that are only offered by aluminum frames.
Benefits of both steel and aluminum frames for Crittall-style interior doors
- Create a brighter, more open interior space with natural sunlight
- Provide the iconic look of Crittall interior doors
- Suitable for renovation of heritage sites, where third-party approval may be required
- Multiple hardware options available (doorknobs, door handles, hinges, etc.)
- Perfect for Art Deco, Georgian, Victorian, or heritage projects
- Great for modern or minimalist projects
- Suitable for French doors or internal glass partitions
Benefits of aluminum frames for Crittall-style interior doors
- More cost-effective compared to steel (since the raw materials themselves differ significantly in price)
- More likely to be customizable with enhanced thermal properties
- They weigh less, which translates to savings in transport and installation costs
- More likely to have customizable colors and finishes
- Lower-maintenance, since aluminum doesn’t rust
- Faster lead times compared to interior doors from Crittall Windows Limited
- Better options for secure locks (which is important if the doors will be both internal and external)
- More options for different formats, such as sliding partitions or bi-fold doors (depending on the manufacturer)
Why Crittall-style doors and windows have stood the test of time
How many aspects of architecture or interior design have stayed popular for over 100 years? Not many. And yet, there’s still a clear interest in the black metal-framed doors and windows that originated in Essex in the 1880s. Part of this success is due to the style’s ability to adapt, as well as offer new features over the years. For example, techniques like double-glazing made Crittall-style doors popular for French doors in the 60s and 70s. When sliding doors came into style in the 90s, these doors turned out to be a perfect fit. The same thing happened with bi-folding doors in the 2000s; then sliding doors became a trend all over again in the 2010s.
Even though these doors and windows still follow the same concept (panes of glass set in sleek metal frames), their look can also be updated to subtly follow different styles. From the robust frames in industrial spaces, to the slim frames of more minimalist interiors, Crittall-style doors can enhance a wide variety of homes, offices, and more.