The Pros and Cons of Exterior French Doors

White color beautiful exterior french door

It’s easy to see why French doors are so popular in American homes. They have a timeless grace that works with any decor, and they allow light to flood into otherwise dim living spaces.

Are they for everyone? No. Are they for you? Maybe. Here’s a look at the pros and cons of French doors so you can decide for yourself.

What is a French Door?

French doors made their debut in the 16th century in the wake of what historians call the Italian Wars. French troops invaded Italy in 1494, and 65 years later, one of the results of a widespread and lengthy war was the introduction of what would be called French doors, although it seems unlikely the French actually invented them.

There were pros and cons about French doors from the start, and more than five centuries later, that has not changed. But 500 years of design has changed the pros/cons conversation substantially, and your interest in French doors won’t be the same as it was for a 17th century home builder.

They were originally used to access small balconies. Over time, the French door has moved to ground level as the front door or back door, depending on the aesthetic design of the house and the likes of the homeowners.

Originally, French doors were defined by their number of panes, called lights. In modern practice, the options range from a single pane (called one light) to 10 lights (2 panes by 5 panes) set into doors. The panes usually are clear glass, but in cases where privacy is a concern, opaque glass is an option.

The doors themselves were originally wood, but now they can come in steel, aluminum and fiberglass. 

The Pros of Exterior French Doors

A white colored beautiful exterior french door
Photo Credit: Marje / Canva Pro / License

Allow Natural Light Indoors

The abundance of glass panes embedded in the door allows plenty of light to come in, creating a visual link between the indoors and the outdoors.

Letting the sunlight in without letting the warmth escape is no mean feat in the winter, and in the summer, the light comes in without cooler indoor temperatures escaping outside. Over time, that can save money on heating and cooling bills.

Glass used in external French doors is now double, or even triple, paned. That enables the temperatures to remain stable on each side of the door. 

Create Good Ventilation

When doors are opened in the summer, a natural cross-ventilation is created, much more so than a single door would allow.

Increase the Sense of Space

French doors are good at making any adjacent outside space feel like an extension of the interior of the house.

That’s true when the doors are closed, and even when they are open, it greatly expands the warm-weather living space for you and your family. It’s space that can be quickly closed when it’s time for bed or time to leave the house or should the weather change. 

Provide Easy Entry and Exit to the Home

Having the ability to open French doors from the kitchen or family room out to the back yard, deck, patio or garden will make your house guest-friendly and warm when throwing a party or just having a few friends over.

Be it pool parties, birthday celebrations or holiday get-togethers, guests and family will have more access to wander indoors and out through exterior French doors. Got something big being delivered like a new couch or bed? Well, front French doors make for plenty of entry space for whatever is coming. 

Enhance Security

Exterior French doors generally require a three-point system that locks the door to the head jamb and the sill, making the door tougher to budge.

They are far more secure than sliding glass doors because the glass on French doors is small and the door itself is large. 

Smaller Glass Panes

In another comparison to sliding exterior doors, the smaller glass panes are easier and cheaper to replace if an errant baseball comes flying through it.

And if privacy is a concern, the clear panes on the door can be subbed out with opaque or decorative glass that hides what’s inside.

Double-paned glass, which is coated with a heat-reflective material can be used, too, to increase insulation. 

Classic Style Increases Home Value

French doors have seldom gone out of vogue. They remain an eye-catching feature to those who might be interested in buying your house when you’re ready to sell.

Buyers like homes that feature open space and natural light, and French doors offer that, with elegance that’s irresistible to most people. 

The Cons of Exterior French Doors

An inside view of white colored exterior french door
Photo Credit: Sisoje / Canva Pro / License

Require More Wall Space

Many homes aren’t good candidates for exterior French doors simply because they require lots of space to open outward, generally onto a good-sized deck or large balcony.

True, there are some French doors that don’t have the classic width typical of the genre, but even those require about half again as much space to install. 

More Maintenance

Exterior French doors require more care and upkeep than your standard door.

They typically come with weatherstripping and hinges. The weatherstripping will need periodic replacement, and the hinges, which are being asked to hold in place a door that is heavier than your standard door, will need periodic tightening.

Wooden frames on exterior French doors may need to be repainted or resealed to prevent moisture damage.

You also may have to recaulk because caulk tends to dry out or break if the doors are subjected regularly to strong winds or extreme temperatures. 

Many More Windows to Clean

The view through French doors can be pleasing, but to get the most out of that view, all those small glass panes need regular cleaning to preserve the view. Yes, each pane. That’s a lot of Windexing. 

Expensive Compared to Standard Doors

While French doors add value and charm to the home, that value should be balanced against the cost. They are among the more expensive entry doors; there are cheaper options, as noted in this pricing guide.

They are typically made from strong materials like wood, the idea being that the wood will be able to handle the weight of the panes of glass. Less expensive materials like vinyl may buckle over time. 

Here is a guide to the cost of installing French doors.

Generally Less Energy Efficient

For the longest time, French doors weren’t very energy efficient simply because of their design, with exposed gaps that can be difficult to seal properly.

And when they are opened, they typically are opened more fully and often far longer than other doors.

Things have improved over time, however. French doors currently on the market generally include tighter sealing, weatherproofing and energy-conserving forms of glass.

Double-tempered or triple-tempered panes – some of which can inhibit light getting through – keeps the heat in and the cold out. Extra layers of glazing can be added on the panes to help keep heating and cooling costs down. A good door will be energy-efficient, but it will cost you. 

Not Meant for All Climates

Exterior French doors may be less appealing in snowy climates,  although there are workarounds.

And while French doors are popular in warmer climes – the hotel used as the backdrop for Humphrey Bogart and Laurel Bacall in “Key Largo” had them – hurricane-prone areas need extra consideration. In a hurricane zone, look for doors and glass with a design pressure rating that meets local building standards.

Privacy Concerns

All that glass not only allows you to see the outside world, it gives outsiders a good view into your home. That’s easily mitigated by blinds or drapes, however. 


How much does it cost to install French doors?

Installing a set of French doors costs an average of $2,845, but depending on the materials you choose and other factors, you can expect to spend anywhere between $1,735 and $3,950.

Do all French doors open outward?

No, some French doors swing inward, some slide, and some even retract into the wall as pocket doors.

The Final Word

No matter what you choose, the installation is such that you should look for a local professional to do the installation. It’s the best way to make sure to get the job done right, with structural stability and good, classic looks.

Main Image Credit: Phototropic / Canva Pro / License

John Hickey

John Hickey

John Hickey, contributing writer at LawnStarter, has been around sports as a writer and blogger since the earth was young. He's worked at the Oakland Tribune and Seattle Post-Intelligencer, for AOL/FanHouse and Sports Illustrated. As he writes this, he looks out his window and sees a lawn badly in need of mowing.