French doors add a touch of class and openness to just about any room where they are installed. For many years they have been a popular alternative to the basic sliding glass doors that we grew up with. Replacement of sliding glass doors with french doors is a fairly affordable upgrade.
First a word on terminology: Many people think that the term “french door” refers to two doors in an opening that swing out of the house. This is not correct! French door refers to the type and construction of a door… It consists of a frame, usually wood, forming the borders of the door and glass in the center. The glass can be a single piece or can be divided up into smaller panels that we call “lites”. Here are just a few of the many possible configurations of french doors. Click to see larger image:
These are just some of the basic designs. There are many other styles with arches, curves and asymmetrical layouts.
They can be installed as single doors, pairs of doors, doors with sidelites or doors with transoms. They swing in, out, fold to one or both sides, slide or they can be double acting. Typical door height is 80” but 84” and 96” are also standard heights. Standard french door widths range from 24” to 36” in two inch increments. Sidelites range from about 10” to 20”, also in two inch increments.
The glass can be be clear, beveled, opaque or there are many special order styles of glass to choose from: Glue chip, reeded, frosted to name a few. Here is a link to glass choices at one of the manufacturers that I order from: TM Cobb glass choices. I have installed many french doors that have leaded glass designs available by custom design or stock glass styles from the factory. The different glass choices provide various levels of privacy should that be a concern.
French doors can be used for both interior and exterior installations. Inside the home or office they are used to separate rooms for privacy while still keeping a an open feeling throughout. I have installed french doors in hallways, offices, bedrooms, closets and even bathroom doors (using the privacy glass described above).
For exterior use, french doors are usually used as access doors to patio or yard areas at points where we used to put narrow frame aluminum sliding doors. They can be configured to swing in, out or as sliding french door units. They are sometimes used as front entrance doors but unless you have a fairly private entry area I would not recommend them with decorative leaded glass or one of the glass styles above to block the view from the street or walkway.
The sliding french door units usually come with an included sliding screen. Inswing doors allow the use of regular screen doors. Outswing french doors do not lend themselves to screening unless you use the retractable screens on the inside of the opening. Looks a bit clunky but is a solution if you require screening.
Exterior french doors are offered in solid wood, vinyl, fiberglass and wood with clad exteriors. All can be good choices depending on the look that you are trying to achieve and the weather exposure.
I only recommend solid wood french doors if the location has good weather protection. That includes protection from both sun and rain. The problem is that most of the stock wood doors that are readily available at home centers or lumber yards are made using veneer construction. This means that While the door is made of real wood, it is actually constructed of many different pieces glued together and covered with the thinnest wood veneer (or skin) that you can imagine. Just a small amount of water intrusion or expansion and contraction will cause the veneer, especially on the bottom rail, to buckle along the line of the grain. There really isn’t a good way to repair this once it happens.
The clad doors (wood inside with aluminum, vinyl or fiberglass outside) offer the best of both worlds if you want to varnish the inside of the doors for a natural look. Virtually maintenance free on the outside, they are offered in a variety of stock colors and many offer custom colors at an additional cost. The interiors are usually left for the homeowner to finish in a paint or stain of their choice. They are generally a bit more expensive than the other options because they are only available as complete prehung units.
Fiberglass french doors are a very popular way to go. They are what I install for most of my customers. They are all dual glazed with low e available as an option. Most are installed as single lite (one big pane of glass). This type is offered with snap in grids for the interior to create a 10 lite effect (these are removable for glass cleaning). Another option is internal grids, usually available in white. These match the style of many of the vinyl windows that have been installed over the last several years. Another cool option is french doors with internal blinds window units that allow them to be raised or lowered or tilted in or out.
I install french doors all over San Luis Obispo County…Please call or email me for more information about french door choices.