French Door FAQs: A Need to Know Guide
Whilst almost all of us will be aware of French doors and might even have them installed in our homes, few of us actually understand them. This is important because to get the most out of them, they need to be understood and appreciated. Here we've made a list of answers to common questions those not familiar with French doors might ask:
What are French Doors Exactly?
French doors, as the name suggests, have a history dating back to the French Renaissance era. When they were initially installed as single frame windows, they would open onto a balcony. Over the years, the style became more popular elsewhere in Europe and it evolved as tastes did likewise.
These days, French doors are hinged doors that generally come in pairs. Using wooden frames to house numerous panels of glass to allow plenty of natural light in. Providing an unobstructed view of your garden or patio area.
How do French Doors Work?
They work in much the same manner as all other hinged doors. Swinging either outwards or inwards depending on your preference. French doors are typically used as external doors leading to the outside, however, they generally swing inwards.
French doors are generally secured using a bolt lock or a more advanced locking mechanism. The glass panels tend to be double glazed, not only for security reasons, but also to improve energy efficiency in the home. Installing your own French doors is certainly easier than installing bi-fold or sliding patio doors.
It's still not a job to be taken lightly though unless you have a decent amount of DIY experience under your belt. If you are installing your own French doors, make sure you plan. Not just for the opening where the doors will fit, but the space around them too.
As a rule, you'll want to measure a radius around the pivot point on both sides of the jamb. This is to see how much space you'll need to allow for swinging. The design options when it comes to French doors are quite exhaustive, as they are one of the more standard and desirable exterior doors. You can also install a screen door system and/or curtains/blinds if you value your privacy.
How do I Weatherproof my French Doors?
French doors are often perceived as being less weatherproof than sliding or bi-fold doors. This is a common misconception, if they're secured and sealed properly, you shouldn't have any problems with the weather.
You simply need to make sure the gaps between the door and your opening are sealed correctly. First, check your seals by removing any decorative trimming from the threshold. Then, put a piece of paper under the door, closing it and pulling it out slowly.
The amount of debris you pull out with the paper will tell you how tight the seal is and whether you'll need to caulk any gaps. Caulk is inexpensive and easy to use, so don't worry, you don't need to be a DIY expert to use it!
If the gaps are too severe for caulk, you might need to install a foam backer rod or weather stripping (or both if the problem is severe enough). Fitting the backer is simple; just measure the gap and cut a piece of rod to fill it.
Secure the rod with a bead of caulk, then caulk both edges to completely seal off any gaps. You don't need to be particularly neat here, as you'll be placing a decorative trim over the gap to hide your rod work.
Weather stripping is even easier to install. You'll want to remove any old weather stripping before replacing it. Make sure you have the right kind of stripping (if you have the instructions provided with your doors, now would be the perfect time to fish them out).
Once you have the stripping, start from the bottom of your door and make sure it sticks evenly into the corners. Using a knife to wedge the strip into the corner seam may be necessary. At the top, cut the excess from the strip and press the end into the corner, then remove the tape covering.
Do the same for all other sides of the doors, making your way to the top door jamb first and then the other side. Your French doors should now be completely weatherproofed!
Are French Doors Draughty?
If they are fitted correctly and have been properly weatherproofed (see above) then you shouldn't have any problems. Weather stripping is your best defence, if your doors are feeling a little draughty, follow the instructions above to install it. You might also want to check that whatever locking mechanism your doors use is secure.
How to Paint French Doors
There's nothing more annoying than trying to get paint off glass, it could even lead to the glass being damaged. can prove problematic unless you know what you're doing. Thankfully, we do.
First, decide on your colour. You're going to need a few supplies: A sheet, a sander, a foam roller, an angled paintbrush, a utility knife, a painter's tray and some painter's tape. Tape off the doorknobs, the hinges and the corners of your windows then sand down the door until the original layer of paint is gone.
If your door was painted with oil based paint and you're painting over with latex based paint, you'll need to apply a coat of primer. If not, get that roller ready for the first coat. Paint one side of the door at a time, always watching for drips, and make sure to apply at least two coats.
If you do manage to get paint on the glass, wait for it to dry, then use a razor blade to scrape it off. This will be a lot easier if you've used a latex based paint.
How to Adjust French Doors
Even French doors that have been perfectly installed will occasionally need to be aligned as is the case with any double-glazed doors. First, make sure the doors sit square at the corners. If they don't, they'll need the full “toe and heel” treatment, which you'll definitely want to hire a professional for.
If the doors are good at the corners, remove the hinge cover plate and see if the hinge is tight on the door and square. If not, you'll need to loosen or tighten the screws until the hinge fully supports the weight of the doors. The hinge can drop over and cause opening and closing problems, but once it's been refitted properly you should be all set.
You'll have to adjust the hinge vertically, horizontally, in and out or a combination of the three. Normally it is the horizontal adjustment that needs changing, and this can be adjusted by simply using an Allen Key to tighten or loosen the bolt.
The height adjustment is a lot easier. Just remove the hinge cap and use the Allen Key to adjust the hinge up or down until you are comfortable with the fit. The in and out adjustment is normally best left in the neutral position. It will also move the door to the left or right if altered, leading to further misalignment.
But if all else fails, use your trusty Allen key in the same manner as the height. It's best to make small adjustments to all the hinges at the same time rather than large adjustments to one hinge. It's very much a trial and error game, so be patient! It's all about finding the right balance.
Hopefully all your most pressing questions have been answered here and you are feeling a little more confident with your external French door knowledge.