It pays to throw on some sensible shoes and old clothes that you don't mind getting grubby, then head off to scour demolition yards for bargains. You'll find a wide range of price points and options available, and you can often negotiate a price down a little. Some yards price their doors depending on the condition they're in or the quality of the wood that lies within, while others seem to randomly select a price based on how wealthy or gullible they think you look. Whatever-the-case, in Australian yards you should be paying between $30 and $120 per door, with the average price point for Victorian and Edwardian style doors being between $60 and $70.
Some say the traditional four pane Victorians are becoming scarcer. It's hard to know what to wish for. If you find a lot of them about, it clearly means a number of Victorian homes have been taken down by wreckers. But at least if the doors have been salvaged you might assume that the house was deconstructed with some level of care, rather than entirely smashed up and taken straight to the tip, as is increasingly happening in some quarters.
It's not just the issue of environmental and embodied energy wastage that is appalling when that sort of ignorant destruction occurs, but the lack of regard for the labour, craftsmanship and cultural heritage that is heart-breaking. There's a third reason to encourage recycling as well, of course, and that's a matter of social responsibility. If old doors (or any built fabrics for that matter) can be given another lease of life for a new generation, why not encourage that? It may save some struggling families quite a bit of money, and also help encourage their creativity. We can not all afford perfect new things all of the time.
Recycled doors don't always have to hail from standard residential properties either. We've picked up old doors from pubs, business' and even boarding houses, so you just never know what stories they hold. Some are heavily textured while others are smooth as silk. Some are roughed up and split, and often they've already been cut down in height or width to suit an earlier context. You can always adjust them to fit your door frame, assuming you're good with a plane, or know someone you know is.
It used to be, in decades gone by, that you could have old doors chemically dipped to remove all the layers of ancient paint, but that process has been outlawed as far too toxic for the poor workers involved in such a practice. Therefore, the options these days are to either sand them back as best you can (a laborious task), or just paint them in a colour of your choice to freshen them up. If you're fine with the rustic look, a half baked sanding effort is probably adequate.
The most challenging part about using pre-loved doors is in deciding what to do with the existing, or non-existing, handles, locks and trimmings. This requires you to be confident with 'bogging-up' holes, and preferably handy with a power drill, as well. You can always peruse certain antique stores for pre-loved handles, buy new 'heritage style' versions or be brave and pair a modern handle with an old door. All options can work - Just depends on what suits your tastes.
Of course, if that all sounds too hard, just make sure you buy a door with an existing handle on it that you can live with. You will, however, still need someone to help you install an appropriate lock-set into the frame. Hanging doors accurately is a massive pain though, so you're probably best to pay a handy-person to do the job for you, and have them install a bunch of doors all in one visit.
It's certainly not for everyone, but if you're fond of having items in your home that are totally unique and affordable, then it's an option well worth considering. Just make sure you take a tape measure with you on your journey to junk yards, and a pen and a notepad for jotting down specs. Never assume that all doors are the same thickness, because they're absolutely not!
Here's a range of pics to get you thinking... If you're a real 'neat freak' you are not going to like what you see below.
How finessed the end result is can be entirely up to you, at the end of the day. In past homes, we would make old doors look pristine, but lately we're kind of liking the ramshackle look. Many of the examples you will see below are 'works in progress' anyway, and will wind up looking a lot more complete some time soon. It's quite amazing what you can achieve with some gap filler, putty, paint, polish and elbow grease.