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Replacement Doors

French Doors Vs. French Rail Doors: What’s the Difference?

3 min read

Some elements of interior design are classics for a reason. Wingback chairs, picket fences and built-in bookshelves are all long-treasured parts of a traditionally elegant home. French doors are another element that have provided plenty of style to homes for decades. Their more modernized counterpart, the French rail door, provides a slightly sleeker aesthetic that may appeal to more modern tastes. There are other differences between these two styles of doors that may help determine which will best suit your home, and the Window World team here in Muscle Shoals has you covered. Let’s dig into them! 

What are French Doors?

French Rail Door in a home's entryway

Also known as French windows, French doors are exterior doors with expansive glass panes down the length of the door. Though French doors as we know them have been gracing homes for decades, the first recognized use of the term can be dated back to the 19th century. They’re noted for their simplicity and elegance as well as their ability to flood your home’s interior with plenty of natural light even when closed. Additionally, you’ll rarely see just one French door. Most of the time, these doors are installed as a set of double doors opening inward into the home. 

What are French Rail Doors?

French Rail Door in a bedroom that opens up to a backyard patio

French rail doors are a hybrid between sliding patio doors and traditional French doors. They blend together the convenience of a sliding door with the refined shape and feel of a French door. This makes these doors a great space-saver if you’re limited on space inside your home but still want to pack a lot of style in a small amount of space. Just like a French door, these doors will bring plenty of natural light in whether they’re open or closed. 

How Do French Doors and French Rail Doors Compare?

There are some obvious similarities between these doors beyond the names. A lot of the visual aspects of the doors are similar. French doors, however, make use of multiple lites (or full-length pieces of glass), while French rail doors use one full unit of glass per door. 

Another major difference is how they open. French rail doors slide to open since they’re on a track. This makes them a great choice for smaller spaces. French doors require a good amount of space inside the home for both doors to open, but it’s a dramatic look that can bring nature right to your doorstep. 

Should You Use French Doors or French Rail Doors in Your Home?

Chances are high that if you’re reading this you’re interested in incorporating a little elegance into your home. Depending on what you’d like out of your door, this could be a pretty easy call to make! 

It ultimately comes down to what you’re looking for out of your door. Your home’s design, the size of the space and your own personal style all factor into this decision. 

Factors to Consider if You’re Ready to Replace Your French-Style Doors

Deciding which style best suits your home is one question, but whether a French-style door works for your home is another entirely. Here are some factors to consider before you make the call. 

The Physical Space Around the Door

For homes where space is a concern, French rail doors may be the answer purely due to their space-saving efficiency. French doors can make moving heavy furniture in or out easier, since both sides swing open, but this requires a good amount of space for them to fully operate.  

The Status of Your Current French-Style Doors

The amount of weathering your current doors have experienced certainly plays a role in replacement. If your doors are more than 15-20 years old, it’s likely time to replace them. The weatherstripping is likely not as effective as it could be, meaning air from outdoors can more easily come in, affecting your monthly energy bills. Not only that, but newer innovations in modern door construction will likely benefit your home overall, not only in terms of appearance but for insulation and durability. 

The Look and Feel of Your Home

While you may love the idea of a romantic French door, making sure it fits in well with the rest of your home’s style is crucial. Blending the exterior of your home into one cohesive unit for maximum curb appeal involves a seamless mixing of different styles of doors, windows and materials. 

Bring Elegance into Your Home with Us

There’s nothing quite like the classic lines of a French-style door—and we’re more than happy to help bring that to your home! Reach out for a free estimate on a new French or French rail door. With our high-quality products and hassle-free installation process, obtaining your new door is easy, allowing you to enjoy your stylish new addition in no time.