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French Doors

Always Beautiful, and Now More Versatile Thanks to Modern Materials

French doors have been used for centuries as the main entrance to some of the world's most magnificent buildings. Install them singly or as a pair to your contemporary home for added light and elegance.

What Characterizes a French Door?

An exterior french door

You may know a French door as two identical doors that are hinged on opposite sides of the same frame and open as a pair. This description, however, is only partially correct, as a French door can actually be a single door instead of a pair. Historically, what denotes this type of door is the use of glass over the majority of the door's surface area.

In a typical French door, wood stiles and rails (vertical and horizontal framing components) hold a number of glass panes (called "lites") in place. Decorative wood mullions (also known as muntins), separate the glass panes from each other.

A door that accords with the true French style has many individual panes of glass separated from each other by muntins, a design known as "true divided light". True divided light French doors are very costly, however, so most manufacturers employ an alternative construction method. Contemporary styles use a single pane of glass with premade grids of wood applied to simulate individual "lites" of glass. This faux fabrication technique, known as "simulated divided light", allows French doors to be affordable for the average homeowner.

French Door Considerations

Wood Type

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Because French doors are renowned for their elegance and beauty, most manufacturers avoid cutting corners by offering solid wood construction. Common wood species used for French door building include mahogany, fir, walnut, and oak.

Other, less-expensive materials are available, though, such as metal, fiberglass and vinyl-laminated wood. Most are made to simulate real wood, and they tend to have a longer lifespan and require less upkeep than their wood counterparts.

Exterior French Doors

Many people assume that a door made primarily of glass is limited to interior applications only, but this isn't the case with French doors. The invention of laminates and safety glass has increased their popularity as entry doors in recent years. Exterior French doors also come with espagnolettes (vertical deadbolts) for added security. Made from tempered steel, these bolts penetrate the floor and head jamb - often by several inches - to strengthen the door.

Interior French Doors

French doors, while they're becoming more popular for exterior uses, are still primarily used on the inside of homes. Double French doors are often found as entryways to formal dining rooms, studies, libraries, and game rooms, where a wide doorway adds a stately dimension. Of course, they can be used anywhere in the home, and several door designs, as well as different-colored glass, are available to provide the appropriate aesthetic.

French doors are also sold in a variety of sizes. Expect local stores to have widths of 30", 32", and 36". For double door installations these widths double to 60", 64", and 72" (6 feet). French door heights are typically 6' 8", (80") and 6' 11" (83"). Most door manufacturers additionally offer custom sizes to accommodate specific project needs.

French Door Costs

Please note that the prices below are for a typical 6' 8" tall by 5 foot wide double French door.

  • A typical fiberglass French door costs $1,100 to $1,500 installed.
  • Interior wood French doors cost $700 to $1,000 installed.
  • An exterior wood French door might cost anywhere from $1,200 to $3,000 installed. On the higher end of the price spectrum are woods such as mahogany, cedar and oak.
  • Vinyl-capped wood French doors cost $1,000 to $1,400 installed
  • Expect a typical single French door to cost $300 to $700, although you could pay up to $1,500 for a high quality solid wood door.

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