Together with front doors, garden and patio variants, French doors are some of the most common types of entrances into a home. In contrast with the interior variants, all of the above-mentioned must feature a number of important properties to qualify for exterior use. For instance, they need to provide reliable sound absorption as well as thermal insulation. Another point of particular importance is burglary protection, even when the architectural position of the balcony seems to provide a decent measure of security. Neuffer strives to provide all-round high-quality systems.
French doors are structurally very similar to variants meant for the patio. This is because both types have to meet similar demands while being held back by similar limitations:
Due to these requirements, French doors are usually equipped with large glass inserts, often featuring lift-and-slide or tilt-and-slide opening mechanisms. Though previously it has been very common to manufacture exterior doorframes using wood, modern French doors can also be made from aluminium or uPVC. Aside from individual pricing, all frame types and materials feature particular advantages and disadvantages.
Traditional leafs are only suitable for balconies when they are installed as inswing variants, as their usage would otherwise become too complicated. Especially in smaller homes, this variant should only be installed if the necessary space for opening the French door is actually available.
French door variants using sliding mechanisms are perfectly suited for the balcony area, as they do not require any space for swinging leafs. And since such doors typically consist of large glass surfaces, they naturally do not obstruct the view of the outside.
Thanks to their highly beneficial thermal insulation properties, uPVC multi-chamber profiles are a perfect fit for the excellent u-values of large-scale multi-glass elements. On the other hand, aluminium and wooden frames provide better burglary protection. Aluminium is mainly used either together with foamed-in chamber profile systems or simply as the outer shell of composite frames made primarily of uPVC or wood.
Today, the influence of profile materials for visual aesthetics is fairly minor. This is because the profiles can be lacquered or painted using any of the numerous RAL colours. Furthermore, decorative foils can be applied to any frame, enabling a perfect match of the French door to the home.
Composite frames effectively combine the most beneficial properties of multiple materials into a single system, balancing out their weaknesses at the same time. Such frames are typically made of a combination of timber or uPVC profiles with an outer aluminium shell. Thus, the superb thermal insulation of the main material is maintained while the exterior metal guarantees protection from burglary. Furthermore, the outer shell is easy to clean and weather-proof, improving the longevity of the entire system.
French doors typically feature large glass surfaces to provide a clear view of the outside; irrespective of the opening mechanisms and frame materials used. For this reason, the exact type of glazing installed in a French door is as important a point to consider as it is with similar models used for the patio.
Most modern glazing elements easily surpass multi-chamber profile systems in terms of thermal insulation properties. This is mainly due to modern construction methods, which allow for the creation of double or triple-glazing elements with gas infills between individual panes. This serves to effectively minimise thermal transmittance through the glass surface. And since the largest part of the surface area of most French doors consists of glazing elements, they typically have a greater influence on the overall u-value than the frame profile system used.
As krypton gas insulates better than argon, glazing elements with krypton infills can be fashioned to smaller installation depths without losing their insulating abilities. This, in turn, allows for the construction of doors with much smaller installation depths.
When living near busy roads or in the city, reliable soundproofing is a topic that any owner of a French door should consider at some point, as simply modifying the type of glazing used can provide a significant amount of protection against outside noise. For example, noise-absorbing resins can be filled into the spaces in-between individual panes of glass. Alternatively, using multiple panes of different thickness and hardness attributes in conjunction can help to significantly reduce outside noise levels as well.
Protection from professional burglars is particularly important for all types of doors featuring large glass surfaces. After all, these can be simply smashed in, bypassing any and all security mechanisms offered by profile security measures such as locks, locking bars and security pins. In particular, many burglars fully expect homeowners to neglect the security aspects of balcony doors, making this area a preferred target of intrusion attempts. Installing a layer of laminated safety glass can solve this problem easily, as the prospect of working their way through an elastic, tear-resistant foil with sharp shards of glass stuck to it can typically dissuade most would-be intruders.
Due to the various demands put on French doors, they are normally offered at prices comparable to those of patio doors. Of course, solid variants without glazing elements are typically more affordable - though they cannot offer the same view of the outside as models with glass inserts.
Because of this, many homeowners tend to neglect security aspects in favour of lower prices. Incurring the risks constituted by such measures is unnecessary, as simply switching to a less costly frame material such as uPVC can free up funds for the proper security accessories.
Anyone considering purchasing a less-costly French door made of a lower quality and lacking additional security or insulation features, should keep in mind that the additional costs of such measures is quickly outweighed by the long-term savings they create. After all, doors featuring laminated safety glass and triple glazing with krypton infills, for example, will lower heating costs significantly and prevent burglaries reliably.
Well-built French doors minimise energy loss during the winter without preventing the convenient access to the balcony during the summer months. In this way, high-quality French doors constitute not only a long-term financial advantage - they effectively improve the overall quality of life inside your home as well.