Dear PoP – French Door Security?

Photo by PoPville flickr user Bogotron

“Dear PoP,

I’m in the process of renovating an old crackhouse that I bought out of foreclosure about 15 months ago in the Truxton Circle neighborhood.

I’m planning to install double French patio-style doors from my dining room to a porch in my backyard garden. There’s plenty of crime in my neighborhood, including an unsuccessful attempted break-in to my basement. So security of the French doors is a major concern. I’m contemplating two options: (1) standard iron bar security doors or (2) a roll-up security grille of the sort you see at the entrance to retail stores in malls, installed on the interior of my French doors. My concern with option (1) is that I’m not crazy about the look of bars on doors/windows and the only option I’ve found so far seemingly requires a permanent metal post in the middle of the doorway, which defeats my purpose of putting in French doors (e.g., I want to be able to move appliances and furniture into the house through the French doors, because my front door is only 32″ wide). My concern with option (2) is cost, though I haven’t yet gotten an estimate. Do any PoP readers have secured French doors in the city or ideas about how to do it?”

32 Comment

  • Hotel french doors have metal rods that slide up and down the inside of one of the doors and latch into the ground and the upper frame. Usually this door is configured to be “fixed” (doesn’t have to be) and generally inoperable. The other door just has a normal lockset and uses the door with the vertical rods for strength.

    It’s damn easy to kick in a set of french doors that don’t have the vertical bars in one of the two doors. However, it’s only slightly more difficult to pop through one of the window panes and reach in and turn the thumb bolt. So, at the very least you need a dead bolt with a keyed inside tumbler with the key not kept in the lock (which might violate emergency egress codes). That’s the best I can think of.

    You should probably set up a motion detected light outside these doors and get a good alarm system. I’ve found that a pitbull-ish looking dog sitting at the back door is the best deterrent. They’re great family pets and your average street hustler is afraid of them.

    Also, having a back yard not easily accessible from the alley (a fence) is a good deterrent.

  • houseintherear

    I recently bought/installed french doors and iron screen doors on my house. After extensive research, keeping my relatively reasonable budget in mind, I found that the iron doors could really only be done with a permanent post in the middle. There were a few options for one large custom made door (which was way too expensive and unrealistic… would have been a huge door, and very heavy and difficult to open and close).

    There was also the option of a 75/25 split door, which was pretty cool. The 25% is a permanently fixed iron piece with screen or glass inserts, and the 75% is a larger iron door that opens. I chose against this because of aesthetic reasons, mostly that a 75/25 split would have looked odd with the regular 50/50 wood french doors I had already fallen in love with.

    I had to weigh the importance of being able to bring a couch inside without worry or having doors that I was totally happy seeing every day. I ended up getting french doors with 4 foot windows in each, and iron french doors with screen inserts, and I couldn’t be happier. Like a friend of mine said at the time, how often was I *really* going to be buying a new bed or giant couch and would need a huge door? Most houses have regular doors and they do just fine.

    I went with Lowe’s, only because of a good sale at the time, but there are many retailers out there.

    That was a lot of info, sorry for the long post. Good luck-

    • houseintherear

      And yes, in reference to Anon2:40’s post, my iron doors have keyed access from inside and out for security reasons, and the fire code was the last thing on my mind when buying security doors.

  • I’m the person who sent this question in to PoP (thanks, PoP, for posting) and I’ve learned a bit more and gotten some estimates since first emailing PoP for advice.

    There are a few security door companies that make doors suitable for double French doors, without a permanent post in the middle (e.g., “First Impression Security Doors” and “Unique Home Designs”). The prices range from $2,000-$3,000.

    I think I’m going to go with an exterior-mounted roll-up shutter made by a company called QMI (, which makes both solid shutters and shutters that let light through. They can be mounted on the interior or the exterior of a home. And they cost about $1900 + another $600 for installation. One of the reasons I’m planning to go this route is because I can have the shutter installed above the transom window I plan to install above my French doors, so it’ll protect both the transom and the doors with the flip of a switch. Pretty slick!

    • Those actually look pretty effing cool

    • When I spent a semester in Greece, this is what they used. They were installed on the outside so in nice weather you could sleep with the doors “open” and still get some fresh air through the security shutters.

  • Get the post, and then buy a smaller couch. The doorway will still be big enough for a wheelchair, and will fit your appliances, and all but the biggest couches.

    That roll up shutter is going to require a lot more bracing and electrical work, and it’d just be cheaper to get new, smaller scale furniture.

  • how about just getting a bigger back door? get a 40″door.

    • I really want a wall of glass (i.e., double French doors with a transom window above) separating my dining room from my backyard garden. If I put in a 40″ door, I’d still want floor-to-ceiling windows on both sides, which would require bars to secure them. I don’t really want to permanently look out onto my garden through bars.

  • Call Northeast Iron Works and do a specialty order. You’ll still pay about $1600 but it will look nice and you’ll be safe.

    • I appreciate the suggestion, MK. I checked out Northeast Iron Works awhile back. At the end of the day, I’m probably going to go with the shutter because I haven’t found any iron-barred doors that I think look nice. I think the pattern-punched aluminum slats of the roll-up shutters look much nicer when rolled down and, more importantly, are completely out-of-sight when rolled up while I’m using the space.

      • I think you’re going to have a real hard time selling the roll up shutters as a feature to your house, but it’s your money.

        • Why? Sounds like a valid option to the prison bars. I hate bars too but we have a giant brick wall, and iron gate, two doors with double windows and key locks on both sides, and a dog.

          Every challenge you give the criminals is one less chance they will suceed.

        • i disagree. i think it’s a great idea. my inlaws have them and it’s really a great solution..
          what do you base your thought on?

          • Eh, I think they say “I’m scared to live here, you should be too” and I find them unattractive –as a buyer. I find the use of them in Europe kind of reinforces the ghetto-ization of neighborhoods and makes good neighborhoods look slummy.

            If the standard is “I’m going to pull them down anyway before I sell it” I’d go with the prison bars. I don’t spend 3x for something to look good, that I’m eventually going to remove anyway. I spend 3x on something that’s going to convey well when I sell the house. I spend the minimum possible on something I’m going to rip out or repair 5 years down the line. There’s just not an infinite bucket of money.

            But like I said, other people spend their money on things they like. Style is individual.

        • For what it’s worth, I’m not too concerned about selling the roll-up shutters as a feature. I’m planning to be in the house for a couple of decades. I realize plans change . . . and I’m renovating my house with an eye toward broad appeal, but I have to draw the line somewhere given that I’m the one who will be living in it. The interior of the house will be very “urban loft” in style . . . exposed brick, exposed joists, exposed HVAC ducts. I think the roll-up shutters will fit the aesthetic well.

  • We have exactly what you want – we bought it a few years ago, had to have it custom made, and it was expensive. About 6K IIRC. I don’t recall the name of the company off the top of my head, but I’ll try and find out tonight and send it to PoP to forward on to you. Both our doors swing open, but the one has bolts that keep it in place unless you want to open both (for large furniture, etc). The door itself is pretty much normal sized, albeit a bit big (nothing in our house is standard size, apparently). And it is pretty secure. But we have a security door on the outside of the french door.

    I’ll send our address to PoP right now, so you can check it out if you want. Our neighbor has one too (but hers is much older).

    • Just to clarify, we do NOT have a solid permanent post in the middle of the door.

      • We have this setup also and cost $4-$6k (I don’t remember exactly, it was three years ago). We were able to custom design the security doors so they aren’t AS ugly as a lot of the ones you see, but they’re still doors with bars on them. We worked with Beltway Exteriors – their web site actually shows security French doors. We keep a key in the room (but not in the door itself) for fire safety/egress.

  • Get Hurricane glass doors like they have in Florida, Charleston, etc. They are pretty damn indestructible without making quite a scene/racket.

  • have you considered an alarm? we have french doors, upstairs and down, and have installed glass-break detectors and motion sensors. someone could still break down our french doors but the alarm would go off and the police are notified automatically. I recommend N&D Security.

    • We were told you can’t get the glass-break feature if you own a big dog, just an fyi.

      • huh? i don’t understand this.

        Motion detectors may or may not work well with a 90lb pooch strolling around the house, but glass break is sound activated. A pet shouldn’t have any affect on it.

  • I like what the first poster wrote. You can get someone to treat your glass windows (and doors) with a clear substance that makes them almost unbreakable. I’m not sure what it’s called, but it’s very affordable (couple hundred bucks per treatment, I think). Word is that it’ll take someone who’s not concerned about causing a scene about 15 minutes to get through a window that way (think wild swings with a baseball bat). I think it’s also important to let as much light in as possible.

    I like the sliding door idea is great. Swing em open and enjoy the weather. Of course, another option I’ve seen is a designer garage door with partial glass panels. It’s a door and security in one.

  • Go with and ask for the security glass! German windows rock!

    • Thanks for the Henselstone recommendation. I just filled out their Web-based contact form. I like th idea. But I have to admit that simply installing strong glass doesn’t give me the peace of mind that a more conventional security system (e.g., barred doors, roll-up shutter) would. I realize this is probably irrational . . . but I’m sometimes irrational. At any rate, I’ll get a price quote from them and go from there. Thanks, again!

      • Henselstone gave me an estimate of $6,000+, which is way out of my price range. Their products look sweet, but I can’t afford them.

        • Just received the full detailed estimate from Henselstone, including installation (they require you to pay them to install their products . . . they don’t sell doors without installation) . . . it’s $8423 + an additional $85/man/hour for trimming the door and painting the trim, which I’m guessing would ad at lease another couple hundred dollars. Yep, way out of my price range.

  • You should check out 3M, they have window films that you can apply to your existing windows that can not only be used for security reasons, but reduce the amount of heat gain. They have videos on their website showing how it works–and an actual video of a break-in at a store where thieves couldn’t get in b/c of the film…

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