Installing French Doors: What You Should Know

One of the most popular entry doors, especially for patios and side entrances, French doors can allow light and a breeze into your home. Read on for style, purchasing and installation tips.

Whether it’s an exterior entrance off your home’s dining room, living room, master bedroom or any other space, French doors are a classic and timeless way to bring the outdoors into your home and easily transition from one space to another. These doors are particularly popular because they allow for some privacy, while still offering 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 to allow a breeze into the home. Curtains and blinds are sometimes installed, just as with an exterior window, to provide more privacy. 

Styles, Sizing and Door Swing

There are a few selections you’ll need to make before purchasing a set of French doors including the window type, glass type, the material of the door, its color and size. Overall, perhaps the most popular design for French doors is the iconic divided-glass-panes design. Manufacturers offer standard French door styles that are readily available to fit standard door openings, and custom options that suit unique and older spaces. Additionally, for entry French doors, you can also purchase models with an inactive door option, leaving just one door that provides exterior access. For security, select a door with a three-point locking system that locks the door to the head jamb and the sill, instead of just to each other.

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. Whether you are installing interior or exterior doors, 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.

Standard door sizes start at 1 foot 6 inches and are offered at 2-inch increases up 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. 

Installation Tips

As noted above, one of the most important parts of installing a French door is measuring the radius of the swing and ensuring it is clear. The next thing to check is the jamb depth of the opening. 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 are also available in pre-hung kits, making installation simple and straightforward. Pre-hung doors eliminate many of the steps necessary to installing a door. Always follow the guidelines supplied by the manufacturer.

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