How Do You Install French Doors?

French DoorsYou can install French doors in your home relatively easily. French doors are popular features for a number of reasons. Their benefits include the fact that they can add light to a dark room and that they provide a connection between rooms while still maintaining separation. By letting in natural light, they may help to reduce your dependence on electric lights. By providing separation, they can keep warmth from escaping thus further reducing your energy consumption.

Tools and Supplies

You do not necessarily need the services of a professional to install French doors, but it is a two-person job. Here is what you will need:

  • Hammer
  • Pry bars
  • Tape measure
  • Nail punch
  • Torpedo level
  • Shims
  • French door unit
  • Door hardware
  • Drywall screws
  • Carpenter’s square
  • Power drill with regular and paddle bits
  • Phillips and flathead screwdrivers
  • Safety knife
  • Caulking gun
  • Silicone sealant
  • Minimal expansion spray foam

While the instructions for installing pre-hung French doors may differ from brand to brand, the following instructions will be useful when installing most systems on the market:

Determine the Size of the Rough Opening and Doorframe

You can do this by measuring from the inside of the stud frame to the inside of the opposite stud. The height is measured from the bottom of the header to the subfloor. Note that you can reduce the rough opening size with shims, if necessary; however, it is much more difficult to enlarge it, according to the San Francisco Gate.

Prepare the Rough Opening

It is important that the sub-floor be level and solid. If this is not the case, correct this before proceeding with the installation.

Prepare the Door Unit

You next step will be to unpack your new door. While this may seem obvious, note that your door will likely be packed with some form of framing to protect it during shipment. You should remove these materials but leave the clips that keep the door aligned and closed.

Apply Caulk

Beads of caulking should be applied to the sub-floor and to the sill where the threshold will rest. The installation procedures for some doors require that the caulk be applied to the bottom of the door unit to provide a weather seal.

Position the Unit in the Opening

This is the most physically challenging task you will perform when you install French doors. You should not attempt it without assistance. Get the door unit centered in the rough opening, sill first. Try to avoid disturbing the caulk on the sill or the sub-floor. Raise the door up until it is in place. Make sure that the face of the unit is plumb.

Make Adjustments

To enable the door to open and close properly, you will need to make small adjustments. You can use two drywall screws to hold the unit in place while handling this part of the installation. Once you have the frame in place, start installing the shims. The goal is to get an even space on all sides of the unit. This space is called the reveal. After inserting a shim, check to make sure that the door is still plumb. Also, be careful not to drive shims so far in that you cause the jamb to bow. Note that there is the potential for twisting, so you should make sure that your French doors are flush with your inside wall. Carefully check the doors. They should be level, plumb and square. If you fail to do this, you may find yourself having to make adjustments later on.

Nail the fins to the wall once you get the door working properly. Nails should be inserted every eight inches at least. You should open and close the door as you do this to make sure that the frame is hanging correctly.

Check Your Work

While standing on the inside, inspect your work again to make sure that the face of your French door unit is plumb. Make sure that the gap between the door and the jamb along the top and the latch side is even. Drive three-inch drywall screws through the latch side jamb into the wall at the point of the shims. Open the door and check the bottom to make sure that its contact with the threshold is even at all points of the sweep.

Related Resource: How To Install Siding

Insulation and Hardware Installation

Use a safety knife to score the shims and snap them to make them flush with the face. If there are any gaps between the frame and the rough opening, you should fill them with insulation. Make sure that the insulation is snug within the gaps but not too tight. Exterior trim may then be added around the frame.

The only thing left to do at this point will be to attach the hardware in accordance with the door manufacturer’s instructions. Once you install French doors, your home will have a feature that makes it more comfortable and improves its value.