Why Do Doors Open Outwards in Sweden?


The unique customs and traditions of countries around the world make them fascinating to many outside their borders.One example of this is doors that open outward in Sweden. In many other countries around the world, doors open inward. So, why do doors open outwards in Sweden?

Doors open outwards in Sweden because, traditionally, Swedish homes had double-entrance doors. One door opened outward, away from the home. Another door opened inward, swinging into the home. The purpose of the double-door entrance was for warmth, spaciousness, and safety.

While it might seem unusual to someone coming from a different country where houses are designed differently, outward-opening doors are common in Sweden. [1]

Sweden gray door
Blue door in Kivik, Sweden

There are good reasons behind this practice and this article describes some of the main purposes. It’s just another reason why Sweden is interesting to so many people.

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Doors that swing away from the home

Historically, a person would pass through two sets of doors when entering a home in Sweden. One set would swing outward and another would swing inward. There were four main reasons for this:

They were used to retain heat in homes

Double doors, assuming they were made of solid wood or another material of similar strength, would keep cold air outside and warm air inside.

High-quality doors would naturally provide such a barrier, but having two sets would decrease the likelihood of even slight temperature variations in the home.

red door in sweden
Red door in Stockholm, Sweden

Regulating the temperature, in part, through utilizing double doors, helped Swedish families save money on how they heated their homes, especially during the winter. [2]

Over time, using single-entrance doors helped builders and homeowners save money. In recent decades, doors have been engineered to maximize their insulating characteristics. Some believe this improvement offsets the potential losses of no longer using double-entrance doors.

However, some new homes in Sweden feature double-entrance doors, partly to connect with national traditions and partly for economic efficiency of adding another insulator.

They were used for pushing

Some people believe that it is more natural for people to push doors open, rather than to pull them open.

If this is true, then the outward-swinging doors in Sweden are set up for what most people are inclined to do.

They helped ensure safety

Is safety a reason for doors to swing outward? Yes. Various dangers exist inside the home, including but not limited to, fire. Before modern inventions that fight fires, like fire extinguishers, dangerous and out of control flames could easily threaten people inside.

In such situations, the fastest way to escape would not just be to run through the door, but to run through an outward-swinging door.

door swing outward Sweden
Outward swinging door in Sweden

Tragedy in Finland

A tragic incident occurred in Finland, Sweden’s Nordic neighbor in Scandinavia. A fire alarm sounded and created instant panic among those gathered and resulted in a stampede in the middle of a church service, as people rushed to get outside. [3]

Sadly, people lost their lives in the stampede. They died, not because of the fire – which was a false alarm – but because they were crushed in the chaotic rush for the inward-swinging doors.

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As more and more people pressed against those in front of them, the doors became impossible to open. Too many people were pressed up against them. In their panic, people weren’t thinking clearly, they were just desperate to get outside.

Some unfortunately asphyxiated – they died for lack of air because they were being crushed by those behind them. 

This incident led to establishing outward-opening doors in Finland, a feature not uncommon in Sweden.

There have been other incidents, too, where stampedes occurred due to the panic and mayhem that ensued in moments of crisis.

There have also been other tragedies where people have died inside the house behind unlocked doors due to sheer panic as the doors do not lead out. [4]

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They allow for more inside space

Older apartments in many places in Sweden were built in small spaces. Due to their compact nature, doors that would open inwards would take up more room.

So, outward opening doors were introduced so that it does not take away the interior space as the doors open outwards.

Having an outward opening door adds to the sense of spaciousness and is especially helpful in making your home feel roomy when living in compact apartments. [5]

Protection Against Cold Winters

Scandinavian countries like Sweden face harsher winters when compared to many countries. Residents of Sweden need to endure cold dark winters when the air is especially frigid. [6]

They experience a lot of rain and snowfall and their winters can stretch for months. Naturally, they need to build houses that are resistant to such a cold and harsh climate.

Outward-opening doors help reduce any probability of rain, sleet, or snow from entering the house. It also keeps cold drafts at bay by swinging outwards and pushing the bitter and cold air away rather than bringing it into the house.

Swedish Doors May Take Some Getting Used To

Some would consider it unusual to have a front door that opened outwards, but it has a lot to do with their home region. What works well in one country may not be the best-suited solution for another.

Many accounts of visitors to Sweden mention how they felt trapped in their apartment when they moved to Sweden because they would try opening the door inwards, but it would not budge. [7]

Trying to push a pull door is the natural instinct if a person is from a country where its doors open inwards. Perhaps once one understands why this is done, it will be easier to remember that the doors open outwards.

The Concept Is Now Being Adopted in the United States

After Hurricane Andrew ripped through Florida, more and more houses there made a shift to constructing houses with outward opening doors.

Many homes in Florida have outward-opening doors after the building regulations changed in the aftermath of the hurricane.

In hurricane-prone regions, it is believed that heavy objects that are picked up in a hurricane and moving at a strong speed with the wind have a lesser chance of smashing through outward opening doors than those that are inward opening.

Strong winds push inward opening doors in the direction they were meant to open while outward opening doors provide resistance to the very same winds causing less damage.  

Conclusion

It is not just the harsh weather that the Swedes need to endure, but also the added sense of space needed in any home, and a sense of general safety and security that compels the Swedes to have their doors constructed so that they open outwards.

References:

[1] https://www.doorstop.com.au/blog/why-do-doors-some-countries-open-outwards#:~:text=Years%20ago%2C%20houses%20in%20Sweden,retain%20warmth%20inside%20a%20home.

[2] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Building_insulation

[3] https://www.doorstop.com.au/blog/why-do-doors-some-countries-open-outwards#:~:text=Years%20ago%2C%20houses%20in%20Sweden,retain%20warmth%20inside%20a%20home.

[4] https://www.azcentral.com/story/opinion/op-ed/claythompson/2016/09/01/ask-clay-sweden-why-do-doors-open-out/89722992/

[5]  https://www.treehugger.com/swedish-house-design-data-driven-4854811

[6] https://sweden.se/nature/swedish-climate/#:~:text=Winters%20here%20are%20long%2C%20cold,of%20up%20to%2030%20degrees.&text=This%20opens%20in%20a%20new%20window.

[7] https://www.thelocal.se/20160217/eight-things-that-surprised-me-about-living-in-sweden

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