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How to Install French Doors–Updated

Tuesday October 15th, 2019

Blending privacy with visibility is what makes French doors such an attractive option as an interior or exterior door. The fact that they’re beautiful doesn’t hurt either. French doors create a timeless design that stylishly connects two spaces. The wide windows allow light to enter while still protecting privacy. Whether they divide your living room from your dining room or an outdoor patio from your kitchen, French doors make a gorgeous statement piece in your home.

Transform the look and feel of your home with a stunning set of French doors. Whether you’re looking to add a French door to an existing door frame or install pre-hung French doors, we’ve got some step-by-step tips to help you do it yourself!

How to Install Interior and Exterior French Doors in an Existing Opening


Step 1: Prep the Opening

More than likely, you’re going to be removing the drywall and/or trim around the area that the French doors will take up. A safe way to remove the trim without damaging the wall is to score some caulking around it and then pry it off with a crowbar or pry bar. Once you’ve got the trim off and enough drywall removed, measure the width.


Step 2: Install the Pre-hung Interior French Doors

First, remove the head and inside jambs. Next, slide the pre-hung French doors into the rough opening while making sure the jambs are flush with the wall.

Note: Make sure you check that the doors can open without any obstruction.


Step 3: Use a Shim

To make sure the door is level and straight, you’ll want to shim the jamb plumb. Keep slipping shims under the side jambs until the head jamb is level.


Step 4: Studs, Meet Frame

Now it’s time to nail your frame to the studs using #8 finishing nails through the frame and shims and into the studs. Before you finish nailing all the nails, check the door to see if it opens and closes appropriately.


Step 5: Apply Trim

Use some #6 finishing nails to drive through the trim and into the studs behind the wall. Next, trim any exposed shims, then cut and install trim for the other side of the doors.
 
If that’s all the room that your space will allow, then you’re done. Get ready to enjoy your new French doors!
 
BUT, if you’ve got a bigger space to fill, or just want to get fancier with your French doors, then you’re going to need to build and install a transom window for the top of the doors.
 
Here are some helpful steps to accomplish that DIY French door installation project.
 

How to Install Pre-hung Interior French Doors with a Window Transom


Step 1: Pick Up Where You Left Off

First, pick up where you left off in Step 5 of our French Door installation tutorial above. After you have your doors in place (minus any framing on top), measure the space above the door roughly to see what you’re working with.

Note: You may want to make the window ¼ inch smaller than the allotted space’s width and height so that you can use shims to ensure it is level and plumb.


Step 2: Build & Style Your Window

Decide how many separate windows you want your transom window to have; two, three, four? Once you’ve decided, you’ll want to measure the spacing so that you can fit all of them equally. Next, choose a door jamb stock from the molding aisle of your local hardware store. It should be approximately 4-9/16 inches.

Cut two long pieces from the molding to run along the top and bottom of the transom window (along with your sides and however many dividers you decided to make for separate windows). For example, if you want a window that has three panels, then you’ll need two dividers that are the same length as your sides. Using glue and 16-gauge finish nails, you can begin to construct the window unit.


Step 3: Moulding for Window Glass

Once you have the frame piece measured and cut, you can install it with glue and 18-gauge brads to the inside of each window pane opening.

Now you’re prepped and ready to install. Just slide the window into the opening above the doors. Shimmy it in a few places and secure it with more 16-gauge nails.


Step 4: Clean It Up and Paint It

Once your transom window is installed, you can add door casing and decorative trim if you desire, as well as caulk every seam and fill in any nail holes with wood filler. Finish off with a matching paint or stain!


Step 5: Cut Your Glass

It’s up to you whether you want to cut this on your own or special order it from a hardware store. However, since your window is going to be within 24 inches of an active door, residential building code calls for the glass to be tempered. Cutting it yourself may be more than you bargained for.

Once you have your glass (1/8 in. thick tempered glass works great), you’re ready to run some silicone caulk along the flat side of the frame/trim you added earlier. Press the glass firmly into place.


Step 6: Add Another Layer of Trim

Leaving the window installed as-is isn’t safe. Once again, you’ll want to cut more quarter-round trim to serve as a second set of framing. Very carefully, nail this new bit of trim to the frame so that it sandwiches the glass safely and stylishly.


Step 7: Add Door Hardware & Handles

The last step separating you from a set of fully functioning French doors is to install any hardware, such as a ball catcher and brackets to ensure your doors don’t wiggle when closed.

Finally, you can stand back, admire your work. Your guests are sure to love your new French doors.

Check out our many different options for french doors here.

If you have questions or comments, be sure to contact us! We would love to help!


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