External French doors are not a new invention, but they are enjoying a resurgence in popularity as homeowners come to appreciate the value of natural light and the larger openings that the doors offer. Traditionally, French doors have been used as patio or conservatory entryways, but now they are increasingly being used as front doors, and to join rooms inside the home.
There is a common misconception that all French doors are glazed with clear glass panels. That is not true. French doors are offered in a range of different sizes, from half-sized to suit standard openings to allow for the more classical ‘double sized’ entryway. They can be solid, or they can feature clear, frosted or obscure glass that will allow light through while still offering privacy. Whatever style you are looking for, it should be possible to find something that will look stunning and do the job well. Our buying guide talks you through your options.
External French Door Sizes
Over the years, home design has evolved a lot, and this means that there are several different “standard sized” doors. Internal French doors are offered in several different sizes, but the most common sizes are:
These are the sizes of a single panel. Note that a French door set features two panels.
If your opening is slightly smaller than 2x one of these sizes, don’t panic! Wooden doors have a hardwood lipping that can be sanded or planed down, to allow a slightly larger door to fit in the opening. You can expect to be able to take approximately 1cm (10mm) off each side, on average. Be sure to read the product description for the door that you are interested in, though, to make sure that this is an option! Remember, also, that while you can make a door very slightly smaller, you cannot make it bigger, so make sure you buy the correct size.
If you have a very large door opening – either taller than the standard 2010mm, or much wider than 3200mm, then you can still use French doors by adding a transom at the top of the opening, or sidelights on one or both sides. This can create a bright and inviting space, and can make the adjoining rooms feel much larger.
Finished or Primed?
Wooden doors are sold in a few varieties – pre-finished, unfinished, and primed. The up-front cost of an unfinished door is lower, but you will need to sand, prime and paint it. Pre-finished doors are sold in a few popular colours and are ready to hang with no additional work required. This means that they’re the ideal option if you are happy with the standard colours.
Primed doors come with a layer of primer on them already, which makes them a good compromise. If you would like your doors to be painted in an unusual colour, then all you need to do is paint over the primer. This means you save time, and money, because you don’t need to buy the materials required to prepare and prime the door.
French doors are typically made of UPVC or wood, with glazed panels. Oak is a popular choice because it is robust and has an appealing grain to it. If you want a more luxurious look, however, you can purchase doors made from other hardwoods.
Hardwood is rugged and durable, and has a satisfying weight and feel to it, so it can be ideal for internal French doors. Some hardwoods can swell or warp when exposed to damp conditions, so external doors made from hardwoods are often ‘engineered’ with wood cut into sections that link together to minimise warping. Hardwoods such as walnut, however, are expensive, so those on a tight budget may look for other options.
Veneered doors are made from softwoods or fibreboards, with a thin hardwood veneer which is often only a few mm thick (with a thicker lipping around the outer edge). The idea here is that the doors are lighter, and since the wood that makes up the inside is more affordable the total cost is lower, but you still get the satisfying feel of hardwood, as well as the luxurious appearance. In addition, the veneer can be sanded and painted just like a standard hardwood door.
French doors typically feature large glass panels. The most common design is clear glass, which is part of the appeal of this type of door. The large panels let light flow into the room, which makes it feel more spacious.
Large, clear glass panels can present issues with privacy and security, however. Some people prefer a different type of glass that will filter the light and make it harder for passers-by to see into the room. Frosted glass is ideal for this, because it lets light through, but filters it so that you don’t have to worry about glare on a TV screen or computer monitor.
Another option is obscure glass. This is a popular choice for bathrooms and bedrooms, where privacy is a must. Obscure glass has raised bubbles that make it very hard to see through, and that distort anything that can be seen, to the extent that you cannot tell what you are looking at. The light that passes through is a little ‘harder’ than the soft, filtered light from frosted glass, however.
French doors use safety glass, to make sure that the glass will not break if it is knocked or banged into. External French doors have double glazing at a minimum, often with UV coatings for even better thermal performance.
If you have any further questions, please feel free to get in touch and one of our team will be happy to help.