All About French Doors

French doors are used as both entry patio doors and as interior doors that separate two spaces. These doors are popular because they allow some privacy, while allowing a visual connection between two spaces. Patio French doors often open on to a deck or a backyard patio, and may be used with a screen door system. Interior French doors are often found in the entryway between a dining room and kitchen or living room, the doors allow light to flow between the spaces. Curtains and blinds are sometimes installed, just as with an exterior window, to provide more privacy. A divided-glass-panes design is the most popular.

Installation Guidelines

French doors are offered in both in-swing and out-swing fittings. When selecting doors for the interior or exterior opening of your home, be sure to plan for space around the door swing. Unlike pocket doors and sliding doors, French doors command more space for operation. Take the width of the door and layout a radius around the pivot point on both sides of the jamb to see how much space you'll need to allow.

French Door Design

Design options for French doors include window types, glass types, material of door, color and size. Manufacturers offer standard French door styles that are readily available to fit standard door openings, and custom options that suit unique and older spaces. Usually installed as a pair of doors that swings out from the center of the door opening, there are two standard types of French doors available: In-swing and Out-swing. There are a number of design options available. Your doors can have a flat panel of glass with no grills or grills with simulated divided lites, which are more common. The lites usually extend the entire height of the door, as shown to the right. Lites also are available in half-view and three-quarter view options, allowing some light to filter into the space and affording more privacy.

Standard door sizes start at 1 foot 6 inches and are offered at 2-inch increases to 3-feet wide. Fitting with standard door openings, stock door heights are 6 feet 8 inches; 7 feet; and 8 feet. If you live in an older house or have an unusual door opening, there are manufacturers who offer custom sizes. Doors are also available in a variety of colors. Blinds and shades are commonly used, just as on windows to filter light and add privacy to a space.

Installing French Doors

The most important part of installing a French door is measuring the radius of the swing. Make sure there are no furnishings planned for the area within the door's swing path. The next thing to check is the jamb depth of the opening, and plan to purchase a door that will fit inside that depth. If you have a newer home, you will probably have an easy fit with a standard-sized French door. Older homes have non-standard sized openings, so you may need to install a new jamb inside the opening to fit the French doors of your choice. For standard door frames, French doors also are offered in pre-hung kits, making installation much easier and more straightforward. Pre-hung doors eliminate many of the steps necessary to installing a door. Always follow the guidelines supplied by the manufacturer.

If you are planning to install French patio doors to replace sliding doors for deck or patio access, you will need to purchase entry French doors. Some French patio doors can be purchased with inactive doors, meaning there are door panels that match the look of the doors that open, but these inactive door panels do not open and close. Offered typically in wood, steel or aluminum, they should be maintained and painted as often as windows.

For security, always look for French patio doors with a three-point locking system. The three-point system locks the door to the head jamb and the sill, instead of just to each other. Hanging these doors involves a similar process to hanging an entry door. Just with any other type of door, make sure the door is hung plumb inside the door frame, so that your doors stay open when desired and close tightly.

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