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Black French Doors Opening into a Modern Living Room
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Exterior French Door Buying Guide

Exterior French doors provide a timeless look for your home. Learn about the options available.


If you’re looking to create a sophisticated entrance into your home, exterior French doors are an excellent choice. Available in wood or vinyl, French doors can provide a modern or traditional aesthetic, depending on the hardware, material and other decorative elements. As you read this article, you will learn about the history of French doors, common types, security considerations and design options.

What is a French door?

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What are French Doors?

French doors are a type of patio door that are hinged on the side and swings open and closed. Also known as a hinged patio door, French doors got their name after first appearing in France. French patio doors allow an abundance of natural light into your home and typically feature stylish grilles. They’re a beautiful addition to rooms with walls of windows.

Another type of French patio door is a four-panel sliding patio door. This type of French patio door has fixed panels on the left and right sides, and the two doors in the middle slide outwards towards the fixed panel. The feeling of a sliding patio door parting in the middle has a similar look and feel to what you might more commonly think of as a French patio door.

Types of French Doors

As you’re planning what style of French door to use in your home, you might be wondering which French doors are best. Depending on your home’s unique needs, there are several great options, from classic single-door panels to double-door panels.

Single-Hinged French Door

Single-hinged French doors are a great option for rooms with limited wall space. They are available in in-swing and out-swing designs. When you’re standing inside your home, an in-swing door will open into the room, whereas an out-swing door will open towards the exterior. Single-hinged French doors can be personalized with your choice of several beautiful color options, including custom colors. Single-hinged French patio doors are a perfect option for kitchen or bedrooms.

Double-Hinged French Door

Double-hinged French doors have two panels that part in the middle. In some designs, both panels are operable, while in other designs, one panel is fixed and the other is operable. While both in-swing and out-swing designs, they're a beautiful addition to help blur the lines between indoors and out. Double-hinged French patio doors can be personalized with several grille styles or between-the-glass blinds to complement your home’s style.

Sliding French Door

Sliding French doors are also known as four-panel and multi-slide patio doors that part in the middle. Four-panel sliding French doors are available in a more standard size range. There are three operable panels, which stack on top of the fourth, inoperable panel. With multi-slide French patio doors, each panel is operable. With a pocket installation, the multi-slide French door disappears into the wall completely, while with a standard installation, the doors stack together on the end panel. Because these doors slide neatly along a track, they take up less space than traditional hinged French doors. With a variety of hardware styles, you can create a modern or traditional aesthetic for your home.

Energy-Efficient French Door Materials

Wood French Door

French doors made of wood are incredibly energy efficient and available in a variety of styles for your home. Wood French doors are available in the Pella® ReserveTM, Pella Architect Series® and Pella Lifestyle Series product lines and can create a traditional or contemporary aesthetic. Our wood French doors are made from the most customizable material, so they can be designed for your exact specifications.

Fiberglass French Door

Made of the strongest material for patio doors, fiberglass sliding French patio doors are available in the Pella Impervia product line.61 The four-panel sliding patio door delivers proven performance and sleek, timeless style. They’re available in a variety of modern color choices, including black. Suitable for all climates, our fiberglass French patio doors help you create a comfortable home year-round.

Vinyl French Door

Vinyl French doors are a strong and durable option for your home. Hinged French patio doors are available in the Pella Hurricane Shield SeriesTM product line, and they provide unwavering protection from your home. Sliding French patio doors are available in the Pella 250 Series and Encompass by Pella product lines. They offer energy-efficient options made from our exclusive vinyl formula. Personalize your vinyl French doors with solid or dual-color frames and several grille patterns and profiles.

How to Secure French Doors

With the help of locks, handles and hardware, French patio doors are a safe and secure option for your home. French doors are locked with the hardware on the handle. Certain French patio doors come with optional security upgrades, including multi-point locks. Monitor your wood French patio doors with Pella’s smart home technology, Pella Insynctive®.40 With an optional, integrated footbolt, Pella 250 Series sliding patio doors.39

French Doors with Blind & Shades

Wood French patio doors are available with optional integrated and between-the-glass blinds and shades, helping to give your home additional privacy and security. These blinds and shades help add design interest to your home, but are tucked away and protected from dust, dirt and damage. When you pair our blinds and shades with Pella Insynctive technology, you can control your motorized blinds and shades from virtually anywhere.40

French Door Screen Options

French patio doors are available with optional screens to help keep bugs and debris out of your home while allowing in fresh air. On in-swing French doors, the aluminum screen door opens outward and is made with high-transparency InViewTM screen cloth. Sliding French patio doors are available with an optional Rolscreen retractable screen, which eliminates the seasonal maintenance of removing and storing screens. Featuring soft-close retraction, Rolscreen sliding patio door retractable screens are stored inside the frame, out of sight, when not in use. They maximize the airflow and allow more light to flow into your home.

Classic and Modern French Door Styles

French patio doors can be used in both traditional and modern style homes, depending on the features and options such as hardware and grille profiles. For a traditional aesthetic, choose brass or bronze hardware finishes and traditional or prairie grille patterns. Modern aesthetics are complemented by a sleek chrome or matte black hardware finish and cross or custom grille patterns. Read our complete guide on how to choose exterior door hardware.

Traditional French Patio Doors

To create a traditional aesthetic with a French patio door, consider choosing a door made of wood. With the most features and options, wood French patio doors can be personalized with a variety of hardware choices, grille profiles and traditional colors. Available on Pella Reserve and Pella Architect Series, Baldwin® premium hardware provides a classic and timeless aesthetic in brass, nickel and bronze color options. Traditionally-styled grilles are the perfect complement for a traditionally-styled wood French patio doors. Pair these features with an Early American or Provincial interior stain and dark exterior finish.

Modern French Patio Doors

Creating a modern aesthetic is easy with a fiberglass or vinyl French patio door. These patio doors are available with a variety of features and options to help complement your modern design. On fiberglass sliding French doors, choose matte black sliding patio door handle and custom grilles to complement your black interior and exterior frames. And on vinyl sliding French patio doors, consider a white door handle with a white interior and exterior finish.

Are French Doors Energy Efficient?

French patio doors are incredibly energy efficient. Wood is a natural insulator and French patio doors made of wood come with a thermally-broken frame, which creates an insulated barrier within the frame for a more efficient door. Vinyl French patio doors are made with multiple insulating air chambers and optional insulating foam. French doors come with a variety of energy-efficient glass options, which are optimized for your home’s region and weather. Out-swing French doors are typically more energy-efficient, as rain and wind push the door closed and creates a tighter seal.

French Doors with Sidelights and Transoms

To allow even more light into your home and create design interest, consider adding a sidelight or transom to your French patio door. Sidelights are picture windows that are tall and skinny and are placed next to your patio door. Transoms are picture windows that are long and short and are situated above the patio door.

Pros & Cons of French Doors

To determine which French patio door is best for your home, it’s important to decide what features matter most to you. French patio doors allow in plenty of natural light, create architectural interest and blur the lines between indoor and outdoor living. However, when comparing hinged and sliding patio doors, a hinged French patio doors tend to require more room than a sliding patio door.

If you're interested in learning more about how a French patio door can complement your home, the team at Pella is always here to help. Contact us for a free in-home consultation today.

Why do they call them French Doors?

French doors got their name because they originated in France as a very popular door style, dating back hundreds of years. Hinged doors were created to allow more light into a room before electricity was invented.

Are French doors the same as patio doors?

Yes, French doors are a type of patio door. Hinged patio doors are commonly referred to as French patio doors, but four-panel sliding patio doors are also a type of French patio door.

How do French doors open?

French doors are hinged at the side and swing open and closed. Sliding French patio doors are another option, and they open and close by sliding along a track.

Are French doors safe?

Yes, French doors are safe and include locking hardware. With smart home technology, you can feel safer by monitoring when your doors are opened or unlocked.40

Can French doors be locked?

Yes, French doors can be locked with the included hardware. Optional multi-point locks can further increase the security in your home.

Are French doors energy efficient?

Yes, French doors are energy efficient. They feature an efficient door system and are made of materials that will help keep your home comfortable year-round.

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