Do French Doors Open In Or Out? [Here are your options]

If you're looking to install French doors, you might be wondering if they can fit into your current design. Your existing door frames are set to swing one direction, so will new French doors work? Do French doors open in or out? We've found that door installers all agree on the answer.

French doors can open in or out but not both; you'll need to decide which direction before purchasing doors. Inswing (opening in) and outswing (opening out) doors both have pros and cons. As an exterior door, it's preferable to use an outswing door if possible. 

Keep reading to learn about the pros and cons of each option. We'll discuss when you may not be able to use an outswing door, why inswing and outswing doors are not the same, and more!

Opened white French doors, Do French Doors Open In Or Out? [Here are your options]

Should French Doors Open In Or Out?

First, you will want to examine the current door. If you do not plan to replace the door frame, you will probably have to select a door that matches your current door's swing direction. If changing the door swing is not a problem for you, you will also need to consult local building codes. There may be a written code that explicitly states which way your doors can open.

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White opened French door leading to the view of the lake outside

If the choice is up to you, outswing doors have an advantage as the most weatherproof option.  Below, you can find some additional factors that may affect your final decision as to an inswing versus outswing door.


This is one concern that may immediately settle the debate. No matter whether the doors open in or out, you'll need a wide area free of obstructions for the door to open (and also leave enough space for you to stand while you move the doors). In a lot of homes, this kind of space is only available in one direction. For example, if the door opens onto a small exterior patio or balcony, the doors might have to open into the house. Alternatively, you may have furniture that is placed close to the door, requiring doors that open out and away.

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French doors open onto a white balcony, set in a pink plaster wall


The gaskets on outswing doors make them a better choice for inclement weather. They are less likely to let water leak in. However, they can be impossible to open if there is a significant amount of snow outside. If these doors need to remain accessible year-round and you live in a heavy snow area, inswing doors may be the only choice for you. Doors that are impassable in heavy snow are the main reason why some building codes require exterior French doors to open inward.

Are Outswing French Doors Safe?

Some people will still insist that they would never use outswing doors, as they believe they are susceptible to a burglar. In theory, since the hinges are on the outside, a thief could remove the hinge pins, take the door down, and enter your home.

Black metal framed French door leading to the small patio

In practice, however, this holds little water (if any). Modern door construction uses special hinges that can't simply be removed, as critics like to claim. If you are still concerned, there are security pins such as these ones that can replace regular hinge pins.

Click here to see these security pins on Amazon.

On the other hand, inswing doors are equally (perhaps more so!) prone to threat. Since they open in, it is relatively easy to open the doors with force. In fact, high winds can even provide enough vigor to open an inward swinging door forcibly. If you live in a hurricane-prone area, this is an important point to consider. 

You can find solutions for this problem here: "How to Stop French Doors From Blowing in the Wind." One common fix is a patio lock, such as the one featured below.

Click here to see this patio lock on Amazon.

Can You Reverse French Doors?

You might think that inward swinging and outward swinging doors are two sides of the same coin. So do you really need a special door - couldn't you just use any French door and face it to swing in or out (whichever you prefer)? Well, no. The doors are sold as inward swinging or outward swinging, and for a good reason. They are not the same door, reversed, and you can't just reverse a door to make it swing the other direction.

  • Outswing doors use a bumper sill that limits exposure to the weather. On an inswing door, this piece is missing.
  • Different gaskets belong to each kind of door. They work to keep the door weather-tight, but the needs of each door are different. If you try to flip it and put a door meant to stay inside outside, you will most likely just end up with leaky doors.
  • Doorstop molding does not line up correctly if you just reverse the door. You have to remove and reinstall it.
  • Outward swinging doors use special hinges to prevent a thief from removing the (externally accessed) hinge pins and opening the door. If you use an inward swinging door, you will be missing these secure hinge pins.

Patio area at the back of a newly refurbished terraced house

In summary, the number of issues you would have to correct to reverse French doors and still have them function properly (without leaking) isn't worth it. Technically, anything is possible, but at some point, you're practically building a new door.

Then you still have to go and fill the holes left behind by the original installation of all the door hardware. Just buy the right door. Use a door made to do the job you're asking, and save yourself the headache (and water damaged floors).

Gorgeous white French door leading to the backyard garden

Do Both Doors Open On French Doors?

For a set of French doors, both doors open but don't get used regularly. One door has the moving hardware and handle, and that door is the one that is used daily. The other door typically remains shut for pass-through traffic. However, there is a latch that keeps the second door shut. This latch is at the bottom of the door. When you need both doors open (for example, to create a wider opening for moving furniture), just flip the latch to release the "stationary" door.

French door opens onto a balcony of an high floor building

Can You Use A Screen With French Doors?

French doors can be a bit tricky to screen, especially if they swing outward. However, this doesn't mean you can't use outswing doors and screens together. Door manufacturers have come up with lots of outside of the box solutions to ensure that you can find a screen to work with your door.

Luxurious hotel getaway near a beach

Retractable screens are one of the most common kinds of screens available for French doors. The screen installs on either side of the door, where it rolls up into a concealed space. When you wish to use the screen, you pull the screen out. It opens up as you pull it across a track, almost like a sliding glass door. Both sides of the screen come to meet in the center. 

Click here to see this retractable screen on Amazon.

Magnetic screens that simply hang in front of the door (or behind, depending on door swing) offer a less permanent option. Simply reach through the screen to open and close the door as needed. This style tends to be a favorite of pet owners, as animals can push the screen aside to come and go as they please.

Click here to see this magnetic screen on Amazon.

To Summarize

Opened white French doors

French doors are available in both inswing and outswing options. Outswing doors are best for exterior installations, as they are more secure and weather-resistant. However, you may have to select an inswing door if space leaves no other option. You may also need to use inswing if the current installation is for an inswing door and cannot be changed. The final reason you may have to use inswing doors is if you live in a heavy snow area, and the doors need to remain accessible through winter - you can't open outswing doors that are blocked by snow.

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