French doors are elegant, and can immediately upgrade any part of a home. They’ve been around since roughly the end of the Renaissance period, popping up first in France and then in Germany. Certain misconceptions exist about French doors. They are not necessarily two doors hung on one door frame, as many believe them to be. French doors can actually be either single or double doors. Simply put, French doors are doors with glass set from top to bottom. A true French door has multiple “windows,” or panes of glass (also referred to as lites) set into it, often separated by “mullions,” or dividing bars of varying materials. Many less expensive French doors use a single pane of glass with a glued-on divider grid to make it look like the glass panes are separated.
Exterior French Doors
Many decisions must go into the search for the perfect exterior French door. Make sure to buy from a company that gives ample variety in the following categories: paint, stain, style, material, construction, and (of course), glass. When deciding on a material, choose one that complements the surrounding style of the home. Aesthetics is important, but for an exterior door, performance in harsh weather conditions should also be a top priority in one’s search. Some common exterior French door materials include wood, aluminum, steel, and fiberglass. Wood tends to be the least durable in the elements since it can rot or warp, whereas aluminum, steel, and fiberglass prove much tougher.
French Patio Doors
French patio doors are a great way to ventilate a space and give easy access to the backyard landscape. It is common to find French patio doors in colonial and southern traditional architectural style homes. Look for a low maintenance, strong door with good locks for security and reliable warranties to guaranteed backing by the manufacturer. Also make sure the French patio door is well insulated and energy efficient.
French Door Installation
A proper French door installation can be accomplished in just a few easy steps. Remember to always double check any measurements and never rush. It’s also a good idea to have some assistance, as some steps involve lifting heavy pieces (for help installing a French door, refer to a general contractor). Before beginning, make sure these materials are readily available: a tape measure, a straightedge, silicone caulking, shims, screws, a screwdriver, insulation, paint, and a paintbrush. The following are the basic steps to a successful French door installation:
- Measure the French doors, frame and all, and the doorway opening.
- Unwrap the doors without removing any of the clips that come with it.
- Run lines of caulking along the bottom of the doorway, where the doorsill will be.
- Position the French doors over the caulking and tilt them up slowly.
- Temporarily secure the jam with two screws. Place these around the locks and about 6 inches above the sill and 6 inches below the head jam.
- Shim any gaps around the doors on top and bottom. Avoid shimming about the head jam. Do this until the unit is perfectly even and level. Use a straightedge for this step.
- Double check that the French doors can sweep evenly with the floor and close evenly with each other. Shim as necessary.
- Secure the doors with screws all the way around. Follow the door instructions for specifics.
- Place fiberglass insulation between the wall framing and the door jam. Do not stuff it in too tightly.
- Caulk along the outside of the door frame. This prevents air leakage.
- Finish the doors according to the manufacturer’s instructions.
- Paint the doors as desired.
Congratulations on completing the home improvement project
! Now just sit back and enjoy the beauty and glamour French doors add to a home!