When you do a remodel or even just a minor alteration in your house, like the addition of a new pantry, you find yourself asking questions that have simply never occurred to you before. I had certainly never thought so much about the size of a door before I was faced with this question myself.
The IRC does not regulate pantry door size, but some local codes, like Michigan’s, do specify allowable sizes. 32” to 36” by 78” to 80” are good for accessibility and should be easy to find. Closet-style pantry doors can be smaller, even as small as 24” wide.
Below you should find all you need to know about pantry door sizes.
As a general rule, a walk-in pantry door should be at least 32" wide. To provide access for people with different physical abilities the door should be 36" wide. Closet style pantry doors can be narrower at 24 inches.
The IRC Does Not Specify Pantry Door Size
I have learned over time that the first thing to do before attempting any home DIY project is to check the building codes. The (seemingly) oddest things are regulated, so rather check before you start; in this case, it is definitely not easier to ask forgiveness than permission!
Happily, the International Residential Code (IRC), which is the main building code governing many countries and areas, including all 50 American states, only specifies the dimensions of egress doors (doors leading outside).
In fact, after providing the egress door minimum dimensions (which you can see in the next section), the IRC (Section 311.2) states:
“Other doors shall not be required to comply with these minimum dimensions.”
Egress Door in the Pantry?
Having an egress door in your pantry is not something I have really heard about, but when I was trying to discover how big the pantry door should be, I encountered one person who said that their pantry would have a door leading to the outside.
Just in case you are also looking to do this, I will provide you with the IRC-defined egress door regulations. After all, I’m here to help!
You will find the required exterior door dimension in Chapter 3 of the IRC, specifically Section R311.2. This section states the following:
“The egress door shall be side-hinged, and shall provide a clear width of not less than 32 inches (813 mm) where measured between the face of the door and the stop, with the door open 90 degrees (1.57 rad). The clear height of the door opening shall be not less than 78 inches (1981 mm) in height measured from the top of the threshold to the bottom of the stop.”
Many people are quick to interpret this as meaning the door must be at least 32” wide and 78” high. In the case of the height, this interpretation is correct.
However, the code says that the clear width (the width of the door opening) must be at least 32” as measured from the face of the door to the stop. This means that the door actually has to be wider than 32”. How much wider will depend on the thickness of your door.
The best way to see what I mean is to grab a measuring tape and measure the clear width of an existing doorway in your house, and then measure the actual width of the door (make sure your door is open 90 degrees when measuring). When I did this, my clear width was approximately 30”, but my door is approximately 31.5”.
What About Local Codes?
While the IRC is widely accepted, many states, counties, and cities make adaptations and or additions to the IRC to better suit their jurisdictions. This makes sense when you think about something like the weather conditions, which are vastly different across the 50 states of America.
For example, flood protection is far more important in Florida than it would be in Texas, and Alaskans have to worry a lot more about snow than do Hawaiians.
But those are big issues; would door size really be worth the effort of adding and adapting the IRC? In some states, the answer is yes, although I can’t quite tell you why.
I will give you a few examples of different states, but you will have to double-check with your own local codes.
Great news if you live in Alabama! There are no amendments pertaining to door size in your local residential building codes. You don’t have to take my word for it, though. Check out the Alabama Residential Code yourself (this is actually a great website for finding local codes for most states, and not just the residential codes).
Illinois is another state that adopts the IRC without changes. They state that residential dwellings are controlled as per the 815 ILCS 670/ Illinois Residential Building Code Act, but this document simply refers to the IRC.
I want to mention here that a Google search for Illinois building codes and door sizes will likely lead you to Section 1010.1.1 of the 2018 Illinois Building Code, which has a lot of rules about door size and even door swing and door opening force.
However, the Building Codes are different from the Residential Codes and do not apply to:
“Detached one- and two-family dwellings and townhouses not more than three stories above grade plane in height with a separate means of egress….”
This is a quote from Section [A] 101.2 of the Illinois Building Code.
You can watch out for this if you are searching other states as well.
Now, the Michigan governing authorities have gone to the trouble of altering the IRC when it comes to door sizes. They have included a section on interior doors, Section R311.2.1, which states the following:
“Interior doors shall be not less than 24 inches (609 mm) in width and 6 feet, 6 inches (1980 mm) in height. Exception: Doors to areas less than 10 square feet of floor area.”
I actually find this very interesting because a width of 24” is very small if you think about the size of furniture these days. This dimension seems more reminiscent of construction a century or two ago. For a pantry or closet, it makes sense, but this applies to all interior doors, and it is the actual door width, not the clear width.
But we’re currently only interested in pantry doors, so, in Michigan, if your pantry is bigger than 10 ft2, your door will have to be at least 24” wide and 78” high.
How Wide Should a Pantry Door Be?
There are no rules about how wide a pantry door should be, but a good size in terms of accessibility and door availability would be to look at a 32” door. If you would like the pantry to be accessible by persons of different physical abilities, then aim for at least 36”.
How Tall Should a Pantry Door Be?
As with the width, the height of pantry doors is not regulated by the residential codes, but between 78” and 80” is a good place to start.
How Thick Must a Pantry Door Be?
Your pantry door is not serving a security or privacy function, so technically, it only has to be thick enough to ensure its own structural integrity. However, sourcing a thinner-than-normal door is unlikely to be worth the trouble.
So, I would say, if you can, stick to what the stores are stocking, which is most probably 1⅜”
Does a Pantry Need a Door?
To pass a home inspection, your pantry will not likely need a door (unless you are using it to house an appliance that is required to be kept behind closed doors). However, pantry doors hide a multitude of sins when guests come over, and they also keep the kids and pets out!
Now, let’s run through the factors that you have to consider when choosing the best size door for your pantry.
What Type of Pantry Do You Have?
The perfect door size for your pantry will depend on what type of pantry you have.
You can get away with a smaller door on a closet-style pantry, but it is more practical to go with a larger door if you are designing a walk-in pantry.
For walk-in pantries, you also have to consider accessibility for people with disabilities. This may be relevant to you if you or someone you live with requires the aid of a walker or wheelchair, but it is also something to consider if you plan on selling your house at any point.
You can read all about door openings and clear widths for accessibility in the ADA Standards for Accessible Design, but basically, if you are aiming to cater to people with physical disabilities, then a walk-in pantry should provide a clear width of a minimum of 36”.
Then again, maybe your pantry is more of a long kitchen cabinet, in which case, you are looking at a completely different type of door altogether.
What Will You Store in Your Pantry?
Food, obviously! But what I mean by this is, are you planning to install any appliances? A spare refrigerator, perhaps? What about a chest freezer? (Wouldn’t it be amazing to have a pantry large enough to house a chest freezer!).
If you plan to keep any large appliances in your pantry, I really recommend going for a bigger pantry door, 32” to 36” wide and 80” high.
Even if you think that it’s in for good, electrical appliances have a knack for breaking down when it is least convenient, and you don’t want to add “remove the pantry door” to your list when you are trying to get your refrigerator to a repair shop before they all close down for the holidays.
What Type of Door Are You Installing?
Are you going for a normal swing door, or are you considering a pocket/barn door? What about French-style doors?
With a normal swing door, you will need to take into consideration the swing arch and your wall space. If your wall space is limited, then aim for a slightly narrower door (like 28” to 30”). You can even get away with 24” if the pantry is not a walk-in.
In most cases, an outward swinging pantry door is best.
Pocket and barn doors still require wall space, but less intrusively as you can slide them into their designated wall pocket or behind the refrigerator or shelving, so you can go as wide as you like.
Furthermore, the size of the door does not have to interfere with the size of the doorway—you can have a regular 30” to 32” opening, but a wide statement pantry door like the ones littering Pinterest!
With Fresh-style pantry doors, you have to consider the fact that you are reducing the clear width by having two sets of hinges. The doors themselves will probably be smaller, but the doorway would have to be wider to accommodate this if you are planning a walk-in.
Off-the-Shelf Is Easiest
If you are looking for a standard interior door for your pantry; one that you can buy from your local hardware store and just install, then you will most likely find a door with one of the following dimensions:
- 30” x 78”
- 30” x 80”
- 32” x 78”
- 32” x 80”
- 36” x 78”
- 36” x 80”
Now that you are equipped with the knowledge to buy your pantry door, you can check out the pantry ventilation requirements, so that when you close your lovely pantry door, the indoor air quality is maintained.
Related article: Bathroom Door Sizing Guide (All options listed)