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All About French Door Handles

A set of French doors will introduce a little bit of classic grandeur into your home. Coming equipped with large glass panels, they’ll also allow natural light to percolate through your property while forming a visual centrepiece for any room to which they’re attached. What’s not to like?

If your French doors are going to look their best, however, they’ll need to be equipped with suitable hardware. This means selecting hinges, locks and handles to complement the rest of the door. Of these, handles have the greatest impact on the way your door looks and functions. Pick out the right pair, and they’ll take your French doors to an entirely new level!

With that in mind, let’s examine some types of internal French door-handles, and see if we can help you work out which will best suit your needs.

french door handle

Door Handles for Internal French Doors

When selecting door handles for wooden French doors, you’ll have plenty of options to choose from. Both in terms of the design of the handles themselves, and the material from which the handle is made. Bear in mind that only one of your handles will actually control the movement of the bolt – but there are plenty of dummy door handles for French doors available, packaged alongside their more functional counterparts.

Let’s take a look at some of the more popular designs and materials.

Designs

Lever

This is the classic lever-style handle, most often mounted onto a rectangular backplate. They’re undoubtedly the most popular sort of door handle for inside French doors. You’ll find them throughout the country on a majority of doors. The plate can house locking mechanisms, keyholes and provides a classic look that’ll work with just about any set of doors.

A more modern approach comes in the form of a smaller ‘rose’ style housing – these occupy the area immediately around the handle. Most roses are of the round variety, though square ones are also available. If the door needs to be locked, then you’ll find the rose accompanied by a separate locking mechanism, shielded by a small metal disc called an escutcheon. This means two metal protrusions on your French doors, which can potentially look a bit untidy. Be sure to consider this when contemplating a rose backplate for your lever handle.

Doorknob

In America, doorknobs are more widespread than lever-handles. They’re more difficult to open than levers (since they don’t provide as much leverage) but this minor downside is easily forgiven if the look of the doorknob appeals to you. If you’d like to set your doors apart from everyone else’s, then a doorknob-style handle is a pretty straightforward way to do it.

Materials

Your handles can also be made from any of a range of different metals. They vary significantly in their look, and some don’t last as long as others. You’ll want to choose yours to complement your French Doors.

Brass

A classic, gleaming metal that’ll stand apart from the door. It’s inexpensive and available in polished or satin finishes. Brass tends to work well alongside darker stains, as it’ll provide a brightly-coloured visual accent in the centre of the door.

Iron

Iron is fantastic for white doors, as it’ll naturally pop out. Cast iron handles are protected from rust using a finish of durable wax or paint, which is typically strong enough to last for decades. Iron handles make a great match for period properties, especially countryside cottages.

Stainless Steel

Being the go-to material for industrial applications, stainless steel is an obvious choice for door handles. It’s relatively lightweight, inexpensive, and capable of lasting for ages while still looking as good as new. Stainless steel door handles come in just about every shape you can imagine, and they tend to offer a contemporary look.

Aluminium

Aluminium is lighter than steel and comparable in looks. Since aluminium can be easily recycled, it’s also an environmentally friendly choice. If you’re weighing up a stainless-steel door handle, then the chances are that an aluminium one will do the job just as well.

Porcelain

Porcelain is extremely hard-wearing, and won’t need maintenance over time, save for the occasional wipe clean. It’s naturally shiny and looks best when set into a metal housing. Porcelain looks very different from the other materials we’ve mentioned here – and it’s more often used on chests of drawers than on door handles.

Glass

Much like porcelain, glass is hard-wearing and great to look at. Also like porcelain, glass is rarely employed on French doors as it’s very showy – but if you judge it right, the results can sometimes be spectacular. It’s best paired with neutral colours on the door itself.

Of course, we’ve just touched upon the broad categories of handle available – there are hundreds of minor variations on each formula to choose from. Take the time to select the right one, and you’ll help your set of French doors to fulfil their potential.

How to Fit French Door Handles

french door handles

Photo by Jilbert Ebrahimi on Unsplash

Once you've fitted your internal French doors you'll need to consider how to install French door handles. On a standard, single door, the job of the handle is to move the bolt back and forth. When the handle is up, the bolt sits within the frame of the door, preventing it from moving. When the handle is down, the bolt is removed from the frame, allowing the door to be opened and closed.

This arrangement isn’t possible on a set of double-doors (including French doors). Instead, just one handle actually opens and closes the door. Instead of moving in and out of the frame, the bolt moves in and out of a strike-plate mounted to the other door. A full set of door handles for a French door, therefore, comprises an ‘active’ handle and a ‘dummy’ handle.

So which way do French door handles go? Before you fit your handles, you need to decide which side will be active and make the corresponding changes to the cylinder pin. This piece of metal runs through the door and is what moves the bolt. If the active handle is on the left-hand side, it needs to move clockwise (away from the other door). And vice-versa if it’s on the right.

If you’ve just got brand new doors, you’ll need to drill suitable holes in them to house your handles. In some cases, you’ll be fortunate; your new handle will precisely match the old one, and you won’t need to bother with drilling new holes.

The position of the holes will vary considerably from handle to handle. Some (typically round, rose-style handles) will demand that you use a hole saw to create a perfectly round hole on either side.

You’ll find comprehensive instructions on where to drill the holes bundled alongside the handles themselves. Make sure that you measure everything carefully and match your measurements on both doors using a spirit level. Mistakes at this point will be difficult and time-consuming to correct later! If you have a separate locking mechanism, you’ll need a separate hole to house it.

You’ll need to join the locking mechanism with the actuator by inserting it through the hole at the edge of the door. Depending on the handle’s design, you might need to insert the actuator first and then the bolt, or you might need to do it the other way around.

You should now be ready to screw the face plates into position, usually exterior first. Then attach the handles using a set screw before sliding the latch through the hole at the edge of the door and screwing the plates into place so that it can’t escape. Test that the handle works properly before moving onto the dummy side.

On the dummy side, you’ll have a much easier job, since the handle doesn’t need to be connected to any locking mechanism. You will, however, need to attach a strike-plate to the edge of the door. Make sure that it’s properly aligned with both the latch and the locking bolt, marking carefully before affixing it into position with a screw.

Removing and Replacing French Door Handles

We’ve looked at how to install a new set of handles to your French doors. Now let’s take a look at how to remove French door handles. The process is largely similar to the one we’ve described above – except in reverse. Remove the plates and slide out the bolt. You can then remove the handles themselves. Since you don’t need to worry about alignment when you’re removing the handles, you can usually get the job done in next to no time.

French Door Handle Problems and Maintenance

Much like any other piece of machinery, frequent use will cause your French door handles to develop problems. Happily, these problems can be guarded against with a little bit of maintenance. In many cases, this maintenance may only take a matter of seconds.

How to tighten French door handles

If the screws around the handle are exposed, you can correct any looseness by simply tightening them with a cross-head screwdriver. If they aren’t, then you’ll need to loosen the set-screw on the side and then pry off the cover to reveal the screws.

How to baby-proof French door handles

If you have children in the house, you might not want them attempting to use the door on their own. There are several products available which can help. The most interesting of them, in all likelihood, will be plastic covers which sit atop the handle, preventing it from being used.

In Conclusion

If you choose the right set of handles, your internal French door can be made to look even more spectacular. While certain combinations tend to work better than others, your ultimate choice of handle will depend on your personal taste. Fitting is straightforward, but if you’d prefer to have peace of mind, you can always bring in a professional to take care of it.