New French Doors, A Brief Overview

If you’re tired or bored with your existing sliding glass door, then the next option for patio doors would be French doors. The range and options available for French doors are almost daunting so we will discuss them in broad terms here in this article. Look for more articles from me discussing specifics. There are three main parts of a French door that I want to discuss. Frame material, hardware and glass.

The first section is the frame material. French doors are available in many different frame types. Starting from least expensive to most expensive they are steel, fiberglass, vinyl, aluminum, wood and aluminum clad wood. There are some small variations but for the most part these are your options.

I would recommend that you stay away from steel unless you are simply flipping the house and don’t plan on being there too long. It doesn’t last very long and has poor energy efficiency. Vinyl is a new product and hasn’t been tested in the market and has had issues standing up to wear and tear so I would stay away from that as well.

Your best bet is to go with fiberglass. It’s the best material to make a door out of; it doesn’t warp, twist peel or crack. Ever. Usually the frame is still wood, so the door panel itself (called a slab) will usually last much longer than the frame. In some cases you can get a fiberglass frame as well, if this option is available always select a fiberglass frame, it will last much longer than a wood frame.

If you really want the look and feel of a real wood French door then by all means they are there for the taking. Expect to pay quite a bit more, but the options available with these type of doors as well as the quality, craftsmanship and energy efficiency, they are definitely worth it. This is what I put in my house.

So as always, you need to decide what is most important to you when choosing a French door, then make you decision based on those criteria. If price is your only concern, but you are living there awhile, your only real choice is fiberglass

The next section is hardware. Whatever you do, make sure you buy a door that has a multi-point lock system and both the active and inactive door panels. Multi-point locks on both the active and passive panels are sometimes only available on higher end products so you may have to look around a little bit.

There are also hinges, hardware and thresholds to remember. There are several colors and finishes available but these have more to do with preference and design, rather than making sure you get a great product at a fair price and these things can be discussed with your product supplier at the time of purchase.

Just make sure you get ball bearing hinges and an adjustable sill. Also when go to put hardware on your door, you may want to consult a locksmith. Much of the hardware available at home centers and standard hardware supplied with French doors isn’t always the most secure. Just look up the term “bump key” on You Tube and you will see what I mean.

The last section I want to discuss is the glass. Just about every French door offered now comes standard with Low-E glass. However, this just isn’t enough. If you live in a warm climate, such as Arizona, Southern California or Nevada, you need to make sure you get “Soft Coat” Low-E. You need “Hard Coat” Low-E if you live in the opposite.

If you are concerned about security, you may want to consider that French Doors are the easiest way to get into a home. The glass takes a split second to break and now a burglar can walk in and out of your home easily. You may want to consider placing laminated glass on one of the panes of your dual pane glass in your French door. Laminated glass takes awhile to bust through even with a baseball bat. This additional 4 or 5 minutes of swinging a bat at your door will usually deter most burglars.

Another option is security film. This film is applied to the glass and makes it extremely difficult to break through as well. They cost about the same, so if that is something you want to consider, you will have to get a few quotes and make that decision for yourself.

Paint Your Front Door Like a Pro

So you’ve just bought a new front door, and now you’re going to paint it. Wait a minute! This door has probably cost you several hundred pounds, so isn’t it worth spending a bit of time finding out how to protect your investment? Putting some effort into preparation will pay off handsomely later on. But if you cut corners, don’t be surprised if you have to repeat the whole process within a year or two, when the paint starts to flake off.

Follow these simple steps to achieve a fabulous front door that will be the envy of your neighbours:

Choose the right time and place

Some experts recommend laying the door flat on a pair of trestles for decorating. This has some advantages: it’s easier to avoid drips when working on a horizontal surface; with no frame, you can reach every part of the top and bottom edges; and painting the hardware cut-outs is simpler because you won’t have to fit the hinges and handles until afterwards.

On the other hand, doors are heavy, difficult to manoeuvre and take up a lot of space. The trestles might leave contact marks behind; and you will have to wait several hours for the first side to dry before you can paint the second one.

In practice, most home owners prefer to decorate the door in the frame. Wait for a warm day (at least 10°C) with no wind, to avoid dust being blown on to the wet paint. Don’t work in strong sunlight as the paint may blister. Wedge the door open before you start, and place some cardboard underneath to catch drips.

Prepare properly

If your door is supplied unfinished, begin by lightly sanding it all over with a fine grit sandpaper, before wiping down with a damp cloth to remove dust. Stick masking tape around the edges of any glass panels to stop them getting splashed. Some doors come with a protective plastic film over the glass which can be peeled away after installation, but you may want to use masking tape as an extra precaution.

Buy good brushes

Use good quality brushes with natural bristles. A cheap brush is a waste of time – the paint won’t flow from it properly and it is likely to keep shedding hairs while you work. A 100mm (4″) brush is a good size for large surfaces, as it offers good coverage but won’t get too heavy when filled with paint. You will find a 25mm (1″) brush handy for cutting in (painting into the corners) and tackling intricate areas such as beading and cut-outs.

Before you start, gently flick and pull the bristles to dislodge any loose ones, then rinse the brush in clean water. This will not only get rid of dust, but also help prevent paint from drying on the bristles. Avoid using a new brush for the first time on the top coat – always ‘break it in’ on an undercoat.

If you would rather not have brush marks on your door, try a high density foam mini roller. This lets you cover panels quite quickly, and will produce a smoother finish than a brush. You can turn the roller on its end to get into corners and tight spaces.

Prime thoroughly

Unless you have ordered a pre-primed door, you will have to apply a stain-blocking primer – ideally two coats – to provide a base for the rest of your paint work. Pay special attention to the top and bottom of the door, which are particularly vulnerable to water penetration.

Apply primer equally all over on both sides, not forgetting the cut-out holes for hardware. This will seal the timber and keep incoming moisture to a minimum, preventing swelling (which can make the door stick on the frame). Conversely, it will also help stop the door from drying out and shrinking in hot weather.

Take care with top coats

Once the base coat has dried you can get to work on the first top coat. Start with the edges of the door, so you can get rid of any paint ridges when you tackle the main face. If the two sides of the door are going to be decorated in different colours, paint the outer edge (by the handle) to match the inside of the door, and the hinged edge to match the outside.

Unless it’s a flush door, you will now need to paint the edges of each panel, followed by the face. On large flat expanses, brush or roll up and down, then from side to side, and finally up and down again to spread the paint out evenly and prevent runs. Smooth out drips straight away before they set hard.

Use at least two coats of good quality exterior grade paint. If your door is engineered and veneered, check first that the paint is suitable for this type of construction. Acrylic latex paint is highly recommended, as it will flex with the timber and help prevent cracking. Choose from matt, satin, semi-gloss or gloss finishes. Allow to dry according to the manufacturer’s instructions – normally between four and six hours.

After each coat has dried, lightly sand the entire door with fine grit sandpaper and wipe with a damp cloth to remove dust. This will provide the smoothest possible base for the next coat, and help you achieve a professional-looking finish.

Leave ample time for the door to dry before use. It would be a great shame, after all your hard work, if paint stuck to the frame because it hadn’t fully dried.

To sum up…

A decent decorating job can’t be rushed, so don’t skimp. After all, the door is going to be there for years. Take your time, plan properly, and with a bit of effort you can make your neighbours really jealous.