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All About French Doors: A Useful Overview

The exterior of your home can say just as much about it and you, as the interior. Which is why external doors are so important, not just logistically, but aesthetically. If you're looking for a set of external doors, you've probably already checked out what's available. But let us attempt to educate you further on one of the more common, yet no-less desirable options; the French door. Understanding the differences between French doors, bi-fold doors and patio doors is vital. Each have their own constraints and advantages and will be suitable for different situations.

What Are French Doors?

French doors are traditionally hinged double doors which open onto your garden, patio or conservatory. They contain a central frame with multiple see-through panels. French doors usually come in pairs. The main advantages of French doors are their clean looks, easy installation and accessibility. But there are many other reasons to consider French doors over other traditional options. Traditional options such as patio or sliding doors and bi-fold doors. French doors tend to be a more desirable choice due to their affordability, uniformity and easy installation. As the doors are set with numerous glass panels, it means that they bring lots of light into the house but do so without sacrificing space or efficiency.

Other factors to take into consideration regarding French doors include, but are not limited to:

Cost – The cost of your doors will depend not only on the quality of the doors, but on the opening of the aperture in which they’re to be installed. For larger openings, sliding doors or bi-fold doors are more cost effective due to the locking mechanisms and hardware involved. French doors might need to be filled out with sidelights or additional windows. But for smaller openings, French doors are generally considered to be more desirable.

Access – When your French doors are fully open you should have full access to the width of the opening. But you will be limited by the maximum leaf size (generally around 900mm), so a maximum opening with both doors open would be about 1800mm wide. Having access to the full width of the opening is great for smaller properties where space internally or externally is limited. 

Security – Most French doors will be built with multi point locks. These lock the frames together when they're closed and cover splines to fill the space where the doors meet, as this is the most vulnerable area. Opening restrictors are also a good idea, as a common injury inflicted on French doors is to crack after being blown back by a strong gust of wind. You might also want to consider reinforcing the glass panels if you are particularly worried about intruders. Overall, French doors are an incredibly secure option for your home.

Performance – If the window panels in your French doors are double glazed, they can also offer decent thermal efficiency for your home. Which will not only cut down on heating costs, but will also leave your home feeling more comfortable. Lighting during the day will also not be an issue. It's easier to install a set of curtains over French doors than over other external doors should they be required.

The History of French Doors

So, what exactly is so “French” about French doors? From what little factual information exists, we've learned that French doors originated in the south of France towards the end of the Renaissance period in the 17th century. The style then spread throughout the country and the rest of Europe over the course of the 19th century. They were originally used on balconies to allow more natural light into the room before the days of electricity. They were initially known as French windows and were essentially large windows with single panes of glass.

As time went on and electricity became the norm, French doors were designed more for their aesthetic value. As such, you'll notice that the original French doors were much larger, but modern ones tend to be a lot more compact and with more panes. It's interesting to note that Renaissance architecture generally focused on symmetry, proportion and geometry. There was also a heavy emphasis on light, so glass was obviously favoured during the period. French doors were originally made with wood and iron framing, which housed one large, single pane of glass. But over time as the glass industry developed, small, individual windows became the fashion. Today, French doors are generally made with hardwood, PVC and aluminium, because these materials are not only light, but deceptively strong.

Which Way Should French Doors Open?

There seems to be some confusion around which way French doors should open, so allow us to clear up a few misconceptions. The short answer to the question is simply “either way". But we understand you might want a few more specifics cleared up. There is, for example, a rumour that French doors opening outward are prone to leaks, but a decent quality door will be built with weatherproofing and sealed so shouldn't matter either way. It's also generally believed that inward opening French doors, take up more space. This is partly true, but it's nowhere near as big a deal as people think and many doors will sit almost flush. Conversely, outward swinging doors be a nuisance if you live in a particularly windy area. A strong gust of wind could potentially rip them right off their hinges! This is incredibly rare though, unless you happen to live in an area prone to hurricanes!

Ultimately it's all a matter of preference. If you want to maximise internal floor space, get French doors that open outward. If you want French doors with better weatherproofing that maximise patio or garden space, get inward swingers. However, that in the UK and the rest of Europe, outward swing is generally considered to be the default option. So, if you want to go with inward openers, you might want to make enquiries before completing your order. Either way, you won't be able to get French doors that 'swing both ways' due to the locking mechanisms required.

Conclusion

Hopefully we've been able to clear a few nagging questions up here. Whether you decide you go with French doors or not, remember to make sure you don't need planning permission before you get started!