French doors and patio doors look stunning, but they have a tarnished reputation. A few decades ago, there was a lot of negative press regarding these kinds of doors, because the early designs were flawed and insecure. Technology and engineering have improved a lot since then, though, and modern French doors have better frames and locking mechanisms and are far more secure overall.
In general, as long as your external French doors are installed properly and are well maintained, you have nothing to worry about in terms of safety and security. If you have older French doors, it’s well worth taking a look at them to make sure that they are well-designed. If you are fitting new French doors, then it will still pay to take some extra precautions to secure your home. Here’s a quick overview of external French door security, and how to take proper care of your home.
Are Exterior French Doors Secure?
The original patio door designs and folding door designs were flawed. They had a weak single locking mechanism or glass that was easy to break. It was relatively simple for a determined thief to find a way to pop an external French door open. That is no longer the case. There is no reason to think that a quality, modern French door is not secure.
In fact, a well installed French door is likely to be far more secure than a sliding door, and on a par with that of a single door. Poorly installed patio doors are easy to break open because of the way that the locking mechanism works, but the same can be said for any kind of door. For best results, make sure that your doors fit the frame perfectly, with minimal space between the bottom end of the door and the threshold. In addition, make sure that the locking mechanism you use is designed specifically for French doors. Use a three-point locking system, not a simple single lock.
Common weak areas are the glass, the frame, and the hinges. Make sure that your doors feature reinforced glass or double/triple glazing that will withstand attempts to break the glass. The good news is that thanks to modern energy efficiency and building regulations, any new French door will be made that way as standard. In addition, make sure that the doors are fitted to hinges with screws that are at least three inches long – this will reduce the risk of the door being popped off the hinges or the hinges coming unscrewed.
French doors are often made of wood. For maximum security make sure that the wood is thick and heavy. It’s well worth paying extra for better quality in this respect, to reduce the risk of break-ins. Thick, heavy hardwood will serve you well.
How to Secure Exterior French Doors
Secure doors and locked windows are a good deterrent for opportunistic thieves, but there are a few extra things that you can, and should, consider adding to your home security set up. These are all things that are worth looking at for any home, not just for ones with French doors.
Additional Security Measures for External French Doors
If your French door does not already have double glazing, then you should definitely consider getting this. Toughened glass / safety glass is good, but double glazing is much harder to break, and will stop opportunistic burglars from simply smashing the pane of glass in the door to enter your property.
Hinge bolts are far more secure than standard hinges, and will reduce the risk of a would-be intruder finding a way to force a door up and lift it off the hinges. The risk of this security flaw being exploited can be minimised further if you ensure that your door fits its frame properly.
True forced entries are rare, but upgrading your door to use a mortise lock (embedded into the door) with a one-inch or greater long deadbolt will do a lot for your security. Consider getting a double-cylinder vertical deadbolt to lock both the top and bottom of the door simultaneously. Those additional locking points will make it harder to force the door open.
General Security for French Doors
In addition to improving the door itself (or confirming that the exterior French doors you buy have those features as standard), there are a few extra things you can do to make your French doors more secure. One good basic for homes that have doors with large glass panels is to hang curtains in front of the doors. If a would-be intruder can’t see anything appealing in your property, they’re unlikely to want to go to the effort of breaking and entering in the first place.
Another good option is to fit security lights. While most break-ins are opportunistic, with someone entering through an open window or an unlocked door, there are some determined criminals that will try to force their way into properties. It is much easier for them to do this if they are able to work undisturbed. Security lights, especially ones that trigger when they detect motion, could well be enough to put off a potential intruder.
CCTV is another good deterrent. Modern, wireless CCTV systems are quite affordable and easy to install, and you can set them up to transmit data to a remote server. This will allow you to monitor the cameras while you are away from home. It’s a good idea to get a CCTV system with several cameras, so that you can monitor not just the front and back doors, but any side windows or other potential hidden entry points.
It’s going to be a long time before French doors shake off their reputation as being an easy entry point for intruders, but the truth is that if you buy ones that are made with security in mind, and install them properly, they’re no more vulnerable than any other domestic external door. So, enjoy the elegant designs and the great views and get a French door for your home.