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Interior French Doors: Fitting, Fixing and Finishing

Doors are an often overlooked element of interior design. A well-chosen set of doors can offer so much more than just a link between one room and the next - they are an accent to the room they are in, too. French doors are grand and stylish and can be used all around the home. They're a great investment which can make your home more appealing to prospective buyers.

A quality set of French doors can be expected to last for a decade or more, but they must be correctly installed and maintained. Poor installation could leave you with a door that looks bad, doesn’t move properly, or is easily damaged. Some basic preparation and maintenance will go a long way to ensuring the longevity of your internal French doors.

Prefinished Oak Internal French Door

Fitting and Installing Interior French Doors

Installing internal French doors is not a complex job, but it can be time-consuming and is not something you should attempt if you don’t have any DIY experience. If you’re not completely confident that you can do the job well, call a joiner or a DIY expert to do it for you - it will save you a lot of time and potentially money, too.

How to Hang Interior French Doors

  1. Before you hang a door, you will need to make sure that the opening is as square as possible.
  2. If you are replacing the frame, pry the old frame out of the opening, and install the new one, using shims to hold the frame in place as you work.
  3. Once you’ve got the frame in place, test the door to make sure it fits in the opening
  4. Remove the door, screw the frame firmly into place, and remove the shims.
  5. Test the door regularly as you work, to ensure you have a perfect fit.
  6. Once you have a smooth-working door, fit the handle or doorknob, taking care to ensure that the strike plate and latch plate are properly fitted and flush against the frame and the door.

If you need to install a door in a concrete wall, then this is definitely something you should consult a professional about. You should not make openings that are bigger than 3 feet wide without using supports, and you must take care to determine whether a wall is load-bearing or not before you start work. You will usually need to install a header to support the upper part of the wall. This is a much more involved job than simply sliding a frame into place, so enlist the help of a structural engineer if you’re not confident in your ability to make such a large modification to your home.

How to Repair Interior French Doors

For the most part, French doors are easy to take care of, but there are a few things that do go wrong. Here are a few tips for fixing some of the most common problems.

How to Align Interior French Doors

getting door plumb

One of the biggest problems with French doors is the doors sticking or jamming because they are improperly aligned.

  1. To align French doors, the first thing that you need to do is make sure the door frame is plumb and that the door fits correctly.
  2. Use a plumb line and set square to check that the frame is square, and measure the door in the frame before tightening the hinges.
  3. You can sand the door down (carefully - veneered doors have only a 10-20mm lipping for sanding) to make it fit, or adjust the hinges to alter the angle the door hangs at.

How to Adjust Interior French Doors

If the door is not aligned properly, you can adjust it by tightening or loosening the hinges or adjusting the hinge pins. Tightening them will help if the door is dragging against the floor. Loosening them will help if the door is sticking at the top.

How to Prevent French Doors from Warping

Doors tend to warp if they are not stored properly. If you buy a door and aren’t ready to install it, store it in a room that is dry and that has a stable temperature. Do not lean it against the wall in your garage, because temperature fluctuations will damage the wood. Ideally, lay it flat on the floor in a non-humid room in your house.

Finishing Interior French Doors

To make your interior French doors look as good as possible, you should make sure that they are properly painted or stained, and repaint them as necessary. Some interior doors are supplied pre-finished, which means that you can just paint them with the colour that you want, for a nice clean looking finish.  Others are supplied rough and will need to be sanded and primed before painting.

What Paint to Use for Internal French Doors?

You can use any type of paint or stain on a door. The important thing is to make sure that the door is prepared properly.

  • You can paint over the top of an existing coat of paint as long as the type of paint is the same (but putting a water based paint on top of an oil based paint won’t work well).
  • If you are going to varnish a door, make sure it is sanded and wiped clean first.
  • Test a small, inconspicuous area before doing the whole door, because the colour that appears on the door isn’t always the colour you would expect – it may come out much lighter (needing multiple coats to get the dark look), or much darker than you expect.

How to Paint a French Door

Painting an interior French door is similar to painting any interior doors. Work with the grain, not across, painting smoothly and trying not to allow one area to dry before painting ‘into it’. If you need to do more than one coat, give it plenty of time to dry before starting the next coat.

If your French door has large glass sections, cover the area where the glass meets the wood with masking tape to protect the glass. When the coats have dried, use a razor blade to cut into the paint and peel the tape back to reveal the clean, unpainted glass.

Do one side of the door at a time, flip the door when one side is done and paint the other side. Don’t forget to paint the edges, too.

View our full range of internal French doors here.