A collage of glass doors displaying various stile and rail designs.

What is a Stile and Rail Door?

In the commercial door industry, Stile and Rail Doors are another way of referring to Monumental Doors. 

Typically, you see Monumental Doors in high-traffic entrances such as storefronts and public and institutional buildings. Those areas are where doors can take a beating. Restaurants, schools, and arenas are other familiar places where you will see Monumental or Stile and Rail Doors. 

We’ll dive more into Stile and Rail Doors below. First, it’s helpful to understand the common parts that make up a door. Understanding how versatile a door can be will help you make the best decision for your project. And we wouldn’t be who we are if we didn’t explore customizations. 

Parts of a Stile and Rail Door 

When evaluating a new door for your commercial building, many terms might already be familiar from home. From here on out, we’ll focus more on a commercial angle.  

If you step back and look at any door, you’ve got the doorway, the part you walk through. There’s the door frame, which supports the door, and a Door Panel, which swings open and closed. 

Stiles are those vertical components on the outside of the door – on both sides. It’s where you will find the lock, latches, and whatever hinges your project requires. 

Rails are the horizontal sections of the door panel at the top and bottom of the door. In between, you have a Mid-Rail or a Mid-Panel. 

Stile and Rail Doors are a combination of horizontal rails and vertical stiles. In between, you have panels. 

Parts of a door explained: Rail, lite, stile, mid-rail, lite, and bottom rail. Door example is the SL-15 Wide-Style Monumental Door.

Other Common Door Terminology

Below are some other helpful terms to know when working with your preferred door manufacturer: 

Lite: Vision Lite (light) is a glazed opening in a door or a piece of glass intended for a door.  

Cross rail: Also referred to as a Mid-rail, it is the horizontal piece between a door’s top and bottom rails. A Mid-Rail adds strength to a door. 

Muntins: Moulding used to separate glass in a sash (stiles and rails made into a frame to hold glass) into multiple lites. They can be vertical or horizontal. They are often used to create a grid or a divided lite look. 

Mullion: You may also see this as an intermediate stile; its use will help define it. With a single door, it is the component that joins two window or door units between a door and side-lite. If you have a double door opening, that component in the middle allows both doors to function. Also known as a Center Post. 

Door Sweep: Weatherstripping at the bottom of the door forms a protective seal against air and water. Ideally, it’s energy-efficient and weather-resistant.

Astragal: Component that covers the clearance gap between door pairs. It acts as a weather seal, minimizing noise, reducing smoke infiltration in case of a fire, and further increasing the energy efficiency of the entrance. It can also increase security by reducing the ability to force doors open. 

Mid-Panel: An exclusive Special-Lite feature that adds a design accent and functionality to the center of a Rail and Stile Door (more on that below).

Infographic illustrates unique construction of Special-Lite doors.

How Stile and Rail Doors are Made 

Most of the Stile and Rail Door information uses wood as a primary construction material. Wood Stile and Rail Doors are typical for interiors. They use dowel rods and glue to hold those crucial pieces together. Often, the result is a heavy door that can add difficulty to the installation. It also places a heavy burden on the hardware you purchased to protect your building’s accessibility. On top of that, you have a door more susceptible to all the downsides of wood: rot, warping, and splinters. There is a better alternative.

Where Stile and Rail Doors are used, and why 

Monumental Doors are best suited for high-traffic entrances with touch bar exit devices used on the Mid-Rail. Likewise, a well-designed Mid-Panel will add even more strength, durability, and a design accent to the center of a Monumental Door. The handle, hidden access control devices, and even branding (see customization options below) are attached to or installed inside a Mid-Panel.  

Steel doors are also heavy and unnecessarily bulky. Both add extreme wear and tear and additional costs further down the road by compromising the longevity of the entrance and your hardware. Aluminum Doors are the ideal solution to these issues. 

Design Options and Beyond 

Of all the Stile and Rail choices, most size and finish limitations can be heavy. Only some give you the versatility and customization you might be looking for, no matter what design style you want to complement and enhance. 

Stile and Rail Doors made from aluminum alloy, like those at Special-Lite, are uniquely constructed using true mortise and tenon joinery. That provides exceptional strength by transferring the weight of the glass and door directly to the hinge stile. 

Full-width top and bottom tie rods secured with hex nuts inside stile and rails are superior to inflexible welds or dowels with glue. Even better, with Special-Lite products, you can include up to 5 tie rods per door, depending on the configuration. 

Integral exterior glass stops in Special-Lite stiles and rails provide additional security and strength over snap-in stops.  

Those same Stiles and Rails are a rugged one-piece 6063-T6 aluminum alloy extrusion with a minimum 1/8” wall thickness to resist denting and provide a secure attachment for your hardware. 

Custom panels and muntins, cut-out mid-panels, engraved mid-panels, custom colors, oversized doors, and curved framing are all additional considerations when choosing your commercial door manufacturer. Can you get these kinds of customizations from your manufacturer? Are you sacrificing design, durability, and strength? If you answered yes, it’s time to consider some alternatives. 

Stile and Rail for Interior Spaces 

If you’re looking to bring a Stile and Rail Door to your interior spaces, Special-Lite’s SLI Doors bring the element of privacy with the added benefits of a durable, full-vision lite to your commercial building. Available in a Narrow, Medium, and Wide Stile, SLI Doors are also available as a Smoke-Rated Entryway Solution.  

Making the Best Choice 

When choosing a door for your commercial project, whether it be new construction or a retrofit, you can choose from various materials, styles, and features. Other important considerations – your specific needs and budget – probably come to mind first. Before you get too far into planning, ordering, and sourcing, don’t forget about quality. You want a door that will stand up to the surrounding environment. And you don’t want to worry about the maintenance costs associated with something crucial to your building. 

Next steps

Check out our SL-14 and our SL-15 for more information. And when you’re ready to proceed, let us help you contact your local Rep to learn more about how Special-Lite can help you get the inviting, full-vision entrance you want. There is no need to sacrifice functionality, security, and durability. 

Inspiration Gallery