French doors were invented during the Renaissance period, back when rooms were primarily lit by natural light. By creating a door that was made largely of glass, this allowed more light inside, even if the door was closed. The idea came about in France, hence the name. If you are redoing exterior doors that open up to a garden, patio or balcony, consider using these light-friendly doors. Below is a description of exterior French doors and some ideas on where to use them. If you are an avid DIY enthusiast, you may be able to handle some of these ideas. Otherwise, call your friendly, neighborhood contractor.
What Are French Doors?
As indicated above, French doors are made using a number of glass panels. The panels, which vary in number and size, are set inside a door frame. Traditional French doors have wooden frames but they are also available in easy-care vinyl or composite frames.
Exterior French doors are usually double-paned to provide added insulation. Weather-stripping is attached to the bottom of the doors to prevent drafts. Designs are often embedded into the glass, both to add charm and to prevent someone from walking into a glass panel. Theoretically, this could happen if the French doors are made of maybe one or two large glass panels with minimal framing.
Two doors sitting side by side and opening outward is the most popular configuration, often referred to as a French window. There is no center post on the double-sided version. When both doors are open you have a panoramic view of your outdoor space.
Single-side French doors are also available. A variation of these is the half-and-half door, where the top half can open separately. These are popular in cottages that have smaller kitchen doors but still want the advantage of all that free sunlight.
Popular Places for Exterior French Doors
Kitchen and Living Room Entryways
Most homes have a doorway from the kitchen or the living room that open onto a patio or garden space. In the kitchen scenario, you could have a small door, as described in the cottage above, or already have sliding glass doors. French doors work equally well for both. French doors in the kitchen are particularly appealing if you have an herb garden right outside that door. You can take a look at your "crop" without even stepping outside, a plus in rainy weather.
Replace the sliding glass doors with French doors and add charm and grace to your living room space. Special screen doors are available so you can open the doors up wide even during the evenings when many insects are active. Installing sheer curtains inside adds a degree of privacy, but still lets light in. You may also opt for drapes you can open and close when needed. The latter is a great option in colder climates because the drapes help keep the cold air out.
Bedroom and Home Office Entryways
French doors are great for opening up your master bedroom or home office to the outdoors. Sliding glass windows are sometimes used in these scenarios, but French doors have that added flair. For example, you have a master suite with adjoining bath that is done in an elegant French provincial décor. A modern sliding glass door leading to your private balcony clashes with all that period charm.
Or, your home office window looks out onto a private patio, but the only access is a single wooden door into the backyard. Replace that wooden door with a single French door and you instantly brighten up the room. If you really want to do some renovations, replace the window and the wooden door with double French doors. You'll have to tear down most of a wall to do so, but the results are well worth it. You may be stuck inside working, but with the French doors wide open you get the illusion of being in the great outdoors.