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Doors – What are French doors?

We take doors for granted, don’t we? Doors or doors that are not normally given their fair credit … are misused, abused, disrespected and abused. However, I think most of us would agree that they are important components of a modern home and there are many, many different types of doors.

Often during a home inspection, I hear someone refer to a door as French door. What is a French door? If you suspect that the door is not necessarily from France, you are probably right. Yes? So what is this type of door that is described as such?

When someone refers to a French door, they are probably referring to an exterior door that is a two-part door that has hinges on each side … that is, both sides can be opened. This type of door is sometimes called bi-hinge door, but that’s a very general description and often refers to interior doors.

So what makes a French door a French door? Well, the name is derived primarily from the history of the door rather than 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 marketed 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 separate weatherstripping to keep the elements out. One or the other side is generally designated as the active side … and that side is used for normal input and output. The other side, the idle side, is most often kept in a closed and locked configuration. Sometimes the locking mechanism used is of a type called Spanish screw; With this type of lock, the operation of a single lever activates the movement of a round metal rod that engages the receivers on both the upper lintel and the lower threshold of the door frame. Another partially distinguishing feature is that they often have an ornate, decorative molded panel at the bottom.

So the next time someone asks you if you know what a French door is, you could answer …Yes! Yes! Thanks!

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