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 likely 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 refers 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 marketed and sold under 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 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 inactive 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 partially distinguishing feature is that they often have a decorative and ornate moulded 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!