Doors – What Are French Doors?

We take doors for granted, do we not? Doors or not ordinarily given their just credit … they get misused, abused, disrespected and mistreated. I think most of us would agree, though, that they are important components of a modern home and there are many, many different type of doors.

Often, during a Home Inspection, I'll hear someone refer to a door as a French door. What is a French door? If you suspect that the door is not necessarily from France, you would likely be correct, oui ? So what is this type of door that is described as such?

When someone refers to a French door, they pretty mean an exterior door that is a two-part door that is hinged on either side … that is, both sides are able to be opened. Sometimes this type of door is referred to as a bi-hinge door but that is a very general description and often refer to interior doors.

So what makes a french door a French door? Well, the name is derived mostly from the history of the door rather than from any modern geographic reference. The term French door has its roots as a description of an early French design called a casement door … and casement doors are marked and sold under marked and sold under that type and name today.

As mentioned, a French door is usually a double door … and for which there is no center mullion , or vertical dividing frame, between the two doors. Both sides are provided with independent weather-stripping to keep out the elements. One or the other side is usually designated the active side … and that side is used for normal ingress and egress. The other side, the active side, is most often maintained in a closed and locked configuration. Sometimes, the employed locking mechanism is of a type called an Espagnolette bolt; with this type of lock the operation of a single lever activates the motion of a round metal rod that engages receivers at both the top header and the bottom sill of the door frame. Another partly distinguishing feature is that they often have a decorative and ornate molded panel at the bottom.

So, the next time someone asks you if you know what a French door is, you might reply … Oui! Oui! Merci!