How Do French Door Handles Work?
French Door handles operate in a slightly different way to normal, single doors in where the handle on a regular single leaf door is moving a bolt from within, French doors operate on a slightly different mechanism.
As they are double doors, French doors won't bolt to the door frame, but rather to each other. So they need to fasten together, which is done via a strike-mounted plate.
Because of this, you will have an ‘active’ handle and a ‘dummy’ handle. They’re very self-explanatory, the active handle is the one that will actually open the set of doors. Whilst the dummy handle is pretty much just for show so there is a symmetry and of course, so you can open the dummy door as you would any other, once the active door has been released from it.
So, your ‘active’ handle will turn the latch, and it will also be where the locking mechanism is for your doors. So how do dummy door knobs work? Well, they’ll just be attached to the door superficially as they have no latch, no axle, no lock and the handle usually doesn’t turn. Because of this, they are relatively inexpensive to buy. Some dummy door handles will turn but purely superifically, it’s not actually opening anything.
How to Install French Door Handles
So, you’ve got your French door, your new handles and you’re ready to install them. So how do you fit French door handles? We’ll break it down into steps:
Decide which door is going to be the ‘active’ door (the one that opens first) and locate the door latch. This is a metal part which passes from one side of the door to the other. If your active handle is going on the right door leaf, rotate the lock cylinder pin anticlockwise and if on the left, then clockwise.
Using a drill, bore holes into the door where your handles are going to be driven in to. If you are replacing handles, then you may already have some holes you can use, if not, then you’ll need to make fresh ones. You should receive a hole-boring template with your handle to help you make sure they're nice and consistent.
Locate your actuator slot. This is a cylindrical insert that connects to the latch. It’ll have a slot through its center that is to receive the latch. Insert your actuator slot into the hole you just drilled in the active side for the latch mechanism. Please note that some door handles require the bolt to be positioned correctly before inserting the actuator, so make sure you know whether that applies.
Now it’s time to attach the assembled faceplate onto the door. When you’re doing this you need to slide the latch through the actuator slot so it is sticking out on the other side. Attach the face plates with a screwdriver and mounting screws. The exterior plate gets attached first and the interior after. Screw them in to position but not too tightly.
Attach the handles to the spindle halves - the long shafts that work the latch inside the door. Put on a washer to the spindle halves before putting on the handle. The handle should just slide on and then you can drive a set screw into the holes on each side of the handle.
Insert the door latch through the door’s edge in the holes you drilled earlier. This should then connect all the moving parts of the door.
The last thing to do is test the door. If you’re happy everything is working as it should on the active door, then tighten everything up and voila!
As for the dummy door, the handle on that side will follow pretty much the same method except you don’t have to do any of the fiddly, mechanical parts, you just need to make sure that faceplates and the handle line up with the other one.
Removing, Replacing & Fixing French Door Handles
But that’s not all you need to know about French Door handles. No, it helps to know other important aspects of them like how to replace them, remove them, repair them and so on.
How to Replace French Door Handles
This isn’t too much of a complicated process to wrap your head around seeing as we’ve just broken down how to install the handles. Replacing your French door handles is simply a case of doing that process in reverse to your current ones, and then enacting it again to install your new door handles. If you’re wondering how to remove your French door handle, the answer is with great care! If you have an arsenal of screwdrivers at your disposal you’ll be able to remove any door handle easy, it’s as easy as screwing them in in the first place.
Replacing your door handles every now and then is good way to breathe some new life into the doors, and can have them looking fresh again. You’ll especially want to replace your external French door handles when they start looking worse for wear as the security and integrity of the door sin paramount.
How to Fix Your French Door Handles
Your door handles aren't invincible and after years and years of usage, they are likely to eventually run into some common faults. We’ll go over them below so you know how to fix your French door handle.
One of the most common faults is a misaligned latch. If your latch isn't aligned, on double doors, this reduces that latch to useless. This largely boils down to your door changing shape over time. Wood warps in different temperatures for example, your doors are slightly bigger in the summer and over time this can push some vital components out of place.
You can remedy this a number of ways. If it’s only just starting to misalign then you’ve caught it early and you can expanding the opening by filing down the edges. If, however, this has been happening for a while, you’ll need to move the strike plate. Either put it higher up or lower down on the door as you see fit.
Another common problem is a loose door handle. This is another easily solved issue. You need to go round and tighten up all your screws. There’s no secret sauce when it comes to how you tighten your French door handles, just make sure everything is held in place, you take care and are thorough.
And finally, a stiff door handle is another problem that we see arise over time in doors, It’s a bit of a nuisance but can also be fixed. A good place to start is to test the door and check that there aren't any small objects or debris in the locking mechanism of the door, as this is a prime suspect. Check the hinges next, if they’re misaligned then that’s your culprit.
Most of the time however, you just need to employ the help of your good friend WD40. Spray some on the lock and bolt and why not on the hinges too, for good measure, and spread the lubricant by turning the handles and moving the door on the hinges. This should see to your door handle’s stiffness.
We also have helpful guides on how to install your interior French doors, and how to decide between French doors and bifold doors for your home.
French doors are a magnificent purchase, bringing European aristocracy aesthetics into your home. Their balance and symmetry really make a room’s design feel whole and a set of interior French doors can be so stunning, letting light drench the room. Why not extend the light from outside further by pairing wit a set of exterior patio doors?