French Door Installation: The Ins and Outs

By: Sarah Siddons  | 
Three sets of French doors in newly remodeled home.
French doors match the practicality of sliding glass doors while providing added elegance and beauty to your home. Miric

­Looking to add some light between two drab, dark rooms? Or maybe you like the openness of your patio doors but are looking for something with a little more design than your average sliding glass door? For both interior or exterior projects, French door installation may be the perfect option for your renovation.

­Installing French doors can be a bit more complicated than exchanging one pre-hung single door in your bathroom for another. You will be hanging not one but two doors from scratch, so be sure you're comfortable and have some help before attempting the installation — whether interior or exterior.


While hardly a job reserved for professionals, it takes a bit of skill to install French doors. Feel up to the challenge? Read on to find out how to install interior French doors, and then continue to discover how to install exterior doors.

Why Homeowners Love French Doors

French doors are paired doors that have glass panes for most of their length. They usually open outward, and close toward each other. Because they don't have a center door jamb, French doors were once thought to be a safety concern. Now, however, with sturdier and safer lock advancements over the years, French doors can be a great complement to any home.

Since French doors are made mostly of glass, they let in a lot of natural light — one of their main appeals. Some doors feature decorative glass, while others boast triple plane glass. Though they are often used to open out to a patio, French doors can also be used in the ­interior of a house. This usage is popular, especially for home offices or libraries, because they can let more light from another room into a darker room, but still provide the room separation a door gives.


Tools and Materials You'll Need

Installing interior French doors isn't a cakewalk, but it doesn't have to be imposs­ible. Care and a little work can lead to some beautiful doors that let in a lot more light.

There are several items you'll need on hand for the installation, including: a power drill, saws, screwdrivers, hammers and mallets, screws and nails, shims, a pry bar, a chisel, a tape measure, a carpenter's square and a level. Don't forget safety glasses, and last but not least, the French door kit with a door frame, knobs and locks.


How to Install Interior French Doors

­To install interior French doors:

  1. First, remove the old frame. Be careful when using the hammer and pry bar so that you don't damage the trim. It's a good idea to label the trim pieces so you can put them back up more quickly.
  2. Check your opening to be sure it's a perfect square. Use the levels and carpenter's square — and don't skip this step! Paying attention to details like these is what makes this difficult installation easier.
  3. Install the new frame, using the shims to hold it firmly in place. Then, test the new doors to make sure they fit in the frame and open smoothly. If everything works nicely, use the screws to put the frame in its place permanently.
  4. Finally, hang the doors and mount any hardware accompanying the kit (doorknobs, latches, etc) [source: HGTV].

Want to bring the beauty of your patio into your house? Installing exterior French doors is a perfect way to do that. Read on to discover how.


Installing Exterior French Doors

Installing ­exterior French doors isn't much more difficult than installing interior French doors — if you already have the opening.

To install exterior French doors, you can follow the same instructions for installing interior French doors, though you have to remember to seal your opening carefully to protect the interior of your home from the elements. You should begin by framing the opening, and then sealing it. Same as with interior French doors, you should see if the doors fit properly, adjusting shims as necessary. Once you have hung the doors, seal the doors to protect against nature.


­If you have to cut the opening for your doors, be sure to contact a professional. Cutting out an exterior wall of your house is a major job — something not to be undertaken lightly. You don't want part of the house to collapse because you've cut away support, or lose a valuable utility because you accidentally cut some wires running through the walls. If your house has siding, you'll also have to cut the siding so that it fits with your new door's molding [source: Vandervort].

Customize Your French Door Installation

Though installing French doors isn't a job for a do-it-yourself beginner, it can certainly be done with a lot of careful measuring and patience. You can custom order French doors in a number of styles, from standard size to single sliding doors. There are more options than we can discuss here, but every element is negotiable, from door size to the type of glass panels used.

The key to this job is persistence — you may have to adjust those shims repeatedly. If you've worked hard enough to install these doors, you want to make sure you've done it right so you can enjoy your French doors for years to come.


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