French patio doors are the classic choice for good reason. Here’s everything you need to know to decide if they’re the perfect fit for your home.
What are French doors?
French doors are traditionally two doors hinged on opposing sides that open outwards (or sometimes inwards). You can open one of the two doors for daily use, or open both to make the most of a beautiful day.
French doors are one type of patio door. Other types include sliding and folding-sliding varieties. Unlike French doors, these other designs fold, slide, or fold and slide on tracks. In the past, the term ‘patio doors’ was sometimes reserved just for the type that slide, but these days it’s a general term that refers to all styles. ‘French patio doors’ therefore simply means patio doors that open on hinges.
What makes French patio doors special?
Although they originated in Italy, external hinged double doors gained popularity in France in the 16th and 17th centuries, which is why they’re called ‘French’ today.
By the 19th century, gothic architecture was all the rage in the UK, and French doors and windows were increasingly common. Homeowners loved their symmetry, elegance and - given the lack of electricity at the time - the natural light that flooded through them.
We love French doors for the same reasons today. They have a sense of tradition and nobility. And thanks to their hinged operation, they allow the full aperture of the doorway to open up, creating a natural extension between your home and outdoor space.
Advantages of French doors
The maximum width of French patio doors is usually narrower than sliding patio doors. Excluding side lights, French doors are typically available for doorways up to 1.8 metres across (with both doors open). For larger openings, folding sliding patio doors can be a great alternative. These are available in standard sizes up to 4.8 metres across. French doors can therefore be ideal for situations where space is limited but you still want the option to fully open up your home to the outside.
The fact that both doors open outwards is one of the main selling points of the French door design. In contrast, sliding doors typically open up only one side of the doorway because they slide instead of swing open.
If you have the space for the doors to swing outwards, you gain maximum airflow and access between your home and garden. Just be sure that the door is secured via a hook or other method so it isn’t damaged by the wind.
If there isn’t enough room for the doors to open outwards, some French doors, such as our Farndale range, can be designed to open inwards.
French doors have been around for so long that they have a built-in feeling of grandeur and luxury. They evoke images of English manor houses and Juliet walking through French doors onto her balcony. As such, choosing French doors for your home could add to its value.
When French doors are made from timber, their inherent value soars even higher, as wood matches their traditional style far better than uPVC.
Well-made French doors are great at keeping the heat in your home. This means you get the benefit of lots of natural light and fresh air (when they’re open) without bumping up your energy bills. French doors aren’t necessarily more or less energy efficient than sliding or folding patio door alternatives. It all depends on their materials, construction and glazing.
Our Darwin French doors have a U-value as low as 1.3 W/m2K thanks to their 28mm toughened double or triple glazing.
French door styles
French doors’ double leaves (use of two single doors that both open) are a given. But they’re also highly customisable, depending on which design and style best match your home.
Without side lights
Side lights are additional non-opening panes of glass on one or both sides of the opening doors. They can also sometimes appear above the door leaves.
French doors without side lights make the most sense for smaller door apertures, as shown above.
With full side lights
You can opt for full side lights for larger openings and when you want to maximise the amount of light that floods into your home. The French doors with full side lights shown above are from our Canberra range. This premium doorset is made using high quality engineered oak for maximum durability and a striking premium appearance.
With a half side light
A half side light is an additional pane of glass that is smaller than the door leaves. Half side lights strike an effective balance between gaining maximum light and space and retaining a feeling of warmth and security.
A variety of bar designs
The same French doors can look dramatically different depending on whether you choose a side light and bar design. Generally speaking, the more bars they have, the more traditional French doors look.
The ideal choice for your home might depend on the appearance of existing nearby windows, as well as how unobscured you’d prefer the view through the French doors to be.
Our Farndale French doors are the most configurable in our range and are available with or without bar designs.
Choosing perfect French patio doors for your home
The first consideration with French patio doors is whether you have enough space for them to open outwards. If not, folding or sliding patio doors might prove a better choice. Or, if your heart is set on the French style, you could opt for customised doors that open inwards.
If space isn’t an issue, then you’re free to choose your dream French doors. That includes choosing one or more side lights, a variety of bar designs, and – across most of JELD-WEN’s French doors – any RAL colour.