Installing French doors gives your home a dramatic esthetic and the energy efficiency of natural lighting. Whether creating easy access to a patio or an artful flow between your kitchen and living space, a French door can customize a home to reflect your unique style.
French Doors: What to Consider Before You Buy
- French Door Styles
- Modern Craftmanship
- Cost of French Door Materials
- Cost of Installing a French Door
- Standard French Door Sizes
- Best Places to Install French Doors
- French Door Hardware
With the wide variety of styles, sizes, materials, and hardware available, you are guaranteed to find a customized French door that fits both your design inspiration and structural needs. Let’s take a look at some of the major questions and topics to consider when purchasing and installing French doors.
What Are French Doors?
Before purchasing a French door, it’s important to understand the door’s unique history and design. French doors originate from (you guessed it!) France—specifically between the 16th and 17th century, after France’s invasion of Italy. Artistic influence was driven by exposure to the art and architecture of the Italian Renaissance, which placed an emphasis on symmetry and natural light. Originating as a series of singular, symmetrical paned pieces of glass that stretched from ceiling to floor, the French window was installed in many living spaces and soon transformed into what we know to be a French door. The design became an important home feature by allowing sunlight to flow from the exterior throughout the interior, illuminating dark rooms before the invention of electricity.
French doors were traditionally made of wood with decorative wrought iron that added beauty and elegance to French homes. As time went on, French doors made their way over to England, and have since become a design staple in many homes around the world.
French Door Styles
Today, there are many styles of French doors that can be tailored to the unique design of your home. Traditional French exterior doors (including front doors and patio doors) can swing inward or outward, fulfilling the same role that they did hundreds of years ago—brighten your home with exterior light. Often, homeowners choose to install double French doors in their entryway or for access to a patio or backyard. These double doors, commonly referred to as French windows, increase both the functionality and the artistic appeal of the architecture.
There are also many interior options available for those who wish to bring a decorative elegance to their living space. While French interior doors swing on a hinge, French bypassing barn doors slide one in front of the other. Similar in motion to bypassing barn doors, pocket doors are paned, single-panel doors that slide along walls when opening and closing. These doors are often used to cover closets or cubby spaces. Converging pocket doors include double sliding panels and can be used in front of larger storage areas or as a living space divider. French pocket doors and French bypassing barn doors are convenient for homeowners who desire the beautiful aesthetic of a French door but want to conserve space or can’t allow for the radius of the traditional door’s swing.
Modern Craftsmanship and Cost of French Door Materials
French doors were historically manufactured exclusively using wood, wrought iron, or a combination of the two. Modern craftsmanship honors this tradition by using improved versions of these materials. Beautiful anti-warp iron and popular styles of lumber, like mahogany and oak, are used to create long-lasting, quality doors.
For exterior doors that lead to balconies, patios, or front porches, many homeowners choose the following weather-friendly materials that still maintain the look of a classic French door.
Aluminum: This lightweight material is less porous than wood, making it more energy efficient. Both eco-friendly and secure, this durable material is also recyclable
Fiberglass: While heavier than aluminum, fiberglass is just as energy efficient. Fiberglass is more malleable than most materials and can fit easily be customized to mimic wooden frames or to fit into non-standard spaces.
Clad Doors: These are sturdy, wooden frames covered with weather-defying materials like fiberglass, vinyl, or aluminum. Many consider clad doors to be the best of both worlds, creating an affordable door that boasts the structural beauty of a wooden frame with a durable, weather-resistant exterior coating.
Cost of French Door Materials
The chart below represents the average costs for standard material and does not consider labor or customized designs.
||Cost of Aluminum
||Cost of Fiberglass
||Cost of Clad Doors
||Cost of Wood
No matter the frame material, you have the option to choose a manufacturer that uses insulated glass for exterior doors. These double-layered panes are affordable, costing around $15-$25 dollars per square foot, and they also help to regulate your home’s temperature, without sacrificing the benefit of natural light. This means that the investment in French doors will eventually pay off, as you see your energy bills decrease throughout the seasons.
Cost of Installing a French Door
Though it might be tempting to install a French door DIY with the help of YouTube or online forums, it’s often better to hire a professional. This is especially true when altering door openings or switching out older, existing windows and doors for new French doors. These professionals will make sure that your French doors fit seamlessly into the structure of your home.
Costs can vary when installing a new French door within a formerly enclosed space or replacing a pre-existing window or door with a French door. In addition to the price of materials, installation costs can range from $500 to upwards of $2,000. The price variation depends on the contractor and the amount of work that may need to be done to the structure of the door opening. Many older homes simply do not have the jamb depths that fit the dimensions of a standard French door, making jamb enlargements a necessity. For additional costs, these jamb depths can usually be easily altered to fit your preferred French door style and size.
Standard French Door Sizes
A standard, single French door ranges from 1.5 ft to 3 ft wide. Its height begins at 6 feet 8 inches and increases in 2-inch increments up to 8 feet. Generally, these dimensions are determined by the manufacturer. Any dimensions that fall outside of this range will require customization—an option that is often more readily available when ordering from a specialty company, such as Rustica. It’s important to accurately measure (or hire someone to measure) the size of your current or desired door opening to determine your options for French doors.
Where to Install French Doors
Homeowners often choose to install a door within a previously enclosed wall or renovate pre-existing doors and windows with new French doors—the possibilities for function and design are endless! Often, traditional sliding patio doors are replaced with the elegant swing of a row of French doors, maximizing sunlight within the living space and creating an almost seamless site journey from the interior of the house to the backyard. French doors that open up to a balcony add drama to your home’s exterior and a flood of natural light to the upper levels. Installing adjacent doors in the corners of a room creates a feeling of spaciousness if you lack ideal square footage. Many homeowners choose to install French doors on opposite entry points of a room to create direct light and air traffic in linear floor plans. Frequently, this placement is used when potential privacy within a more open-concept layout is desired.
For those whose interior spatial restrictions cannot afford a swinging door, sliding French doors are a beautiful alternative for room dividers or for closet areas that display dinnerware, books, or decorative pieces. These types of storage doors alter our perception of space, making a room appear larger. Whether moving sideways or converging, sliding French doors can easily add aesthetics to a tiny home.
French Door Hardware
A wide variety of hardware options are available for all types of French doors. Interior door knobs range from traditional push-lock privacy knobs and levers to door pulls and passage knobs and levers that have no locking function. Door hinges can likewise be customized to design style. Often, a set of interior French doors includes one functioning door with a swinging hinge and one that is latched in place. Matching decorative knobs and surface bolts can be attached to these stationary doors. Usually, these bolts can be unlocked if a homeowner desires to open both doors. For pocket and bypassing doors, owners need to purchase hardware that allows the doors to slide. This hardware includes metal track sets that come in a variety of finishes, like iron, steel, bronze, chrome, copper, or a painted exterior coat.
Hardware products for front entry doors are also customizable. Owners can choose their preferred type of security from key and electronic locks, deadbolts, or tubular entry sets. Manufacturers usually suggest a minimum three-point locking system that secures the doors together as well as to the sill and the head jam. It’s important to keep in mind that stock doors often arrive prepped with pre-drilled holes, which may determine the type of lock. You will need to review exactly how it has been prepped and if it’s been drilled to standard measurements. If purchasing a customized door, you can determine what type of lock you wish to use so that your manufacturer can prep the door accordingly.
Benefits of Installing French Doors
Historically, it’s clear why France felt inspired to bring the Italian Renaissance’s love of symmetry and light to the doors and windows in French homes. Today, a French door is an obvious choice for creative homeowners who wish to reap from its functional benefits while also personalizing its structure to their unique design inspirations. There are virtually endless possibilities for customization when considering the options for material, hardware, dimensions, placements, styles, and uses. French doors provide a classic and elegant aesthetic, creating a feeling of increased square footage by interconnecting rooms and exposing the depth of storage areas. Additionally, their sturdy structure and insulated glass work together to lower energy bills by maintaining the temperature of both interior heat and air-conditioning. When installing French doors, you are naturally adding comfort, style, and sustainability to your living space.
French doors are a worthwhile investment in your home that will increase both the market value and appeal of your property. As with generations before, you are sure to fall in love with the ease and grace of their vibrantly lit panes. Perhaps more importantly, French doors allow you to live in a home that is bright, beautiful and elegantly designed.