French doors are a fantastic way to let extra space and light into your home. They’re often deployed so that they open out onto the rear garden, where they can allow extra daylight to enter the interior during the winter, and open out during the summer, breaking down the barrier between indoor and outdoor living space.
French doors emerged as a way for French aristocrats to look out onto their estates. They were traditionally employed leading out onto upper-storey balconies – where they provide a sweeping visual impact.
For all their virtues, however, French doors do come with a few safety concerns – especially if they’re installed on upper floors, opening out onto balconies. In households containing inquisitive children and pets, keeping your French doors open might pose one sort of risk, and closing them the wrong way might pose another.
If you have a young child (or children) you’ll want to ensure they can’t wander outside unattended.
One way to prevent this is to invest in a French door safety gate. These are designed to fit within the frame of the door, extending across to form a barrier that children can’t get through. These vary in build quality and design. The cheaper ones are unattractive and made from thin, fragile plastic that’ll snap within a few months. Pay a little more and you’ll get something sturdier. Another thing to consider is whether the French door safety gate you’re considering requires a threshold at the bottom – they can present a trip hazard when the gate is retracted.
A French door baby gate will need to extend over the span of two doors, meaning they will cost more than single-door gates. Since gates of this sort are needed for just a few years, you might consider tracking down a second-hand one.
Pets are a little more difficult to contain than children. While you might decide to install a pet gate to your French doors, you might need to spend some time training your pet to respect the barrier. An adult cat will be able to easily hop over a waist-height gate – and a sufficiently large and unruly dog will be able to clamber over.
If you have a situation where you’d like to keep your dog indoors but allow your cat easy access to the outside world, then a French door dog gate with a cat-flap built in might be the solution. It’ll save your cat the trouble of jumping the gate, which might be welcome if your cat is elderly or arthritic.
Installing a cat-flap into your French door will save you the trouble of opening the door every time the cat wants to come in. That said, modifying French door glass with a cat flap in this way can often mean major surgery; the glass panels themselves will often need to be entirely replaced, as slicing into a panel of double-glazing will break the seal and allow the gas within to escape.
So far we’ve considered how to prevent the children and pets from escaping your home via the French Doors – but what about the danger posed by slamming? Trapped fingers and tails can be especially painful, while doors which are being constantly slammed are unlikely to enjoy long, happy lives.
French Doors that open outward will create room in the interior of a property, but they’re also at far greater risk from stray gusts of wind. What’s required is a means of holding both doors into position. This can be achieved in one of several ways.
Among the most straightforward is to drag a pair of suitably heavy objects in front of both doors. If you rarely find yourself opening and closing the doors, then this solution might prove effective – a sufficiently weighty rock or plant-pot might do just the trick, even if both pose something of a tripping hazard.
The same, of course, can be said of doorstops. These stubby little devices are built into the decking just outside the doors. They’ll prevent them from smashing into the wall, but they won’t protect children and pets from being hit. You might avoid the trip-hazard with a doorstop that’s mounted onto the tops of the hinges, but this solution still isn’t ideal.
A more elegant solution comes in the form of retaining hooks. These attach to the walls on either side of your door, hooking neatly into the loops attached to the bottom. This solution is unobtrusive and won’t take up much space. They require just a little bit of modification with a drill and a few screws.
Another option comes from the world of commercial construction. French doors in public buildings tend to open outward so that people can easily exit in the event of a fire. These doors use hydraulic closers, which will prevent the panel swinging quite so violently. Door closers come in the form of boxes which sit to either side of the door’s exterior. Even the smallest of these are fairly easy to spot, and so while they might prevent the door from being slammed, the aesthetic cost might be too much for some homeowners to bear.
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