​Barn Doors vs. French Doors - Which One's Right for You

Jun 22nd 2024

If you’re looking to install doors in your new home, or renovate your existing home, non traditional doors are an amazing option! They look great, and are trendy and versatile additions to any space.

However, there are so many different types these days, and it can be difficult to know which one is right for you and your circumstances. In this article, we’ll compare two of the most popular types of doors: barn doors and french doors. We’ll cover everything you need to know, including:

  • All about Barn Doors
  • All about French Doors
  • Comparison between the two
  • Choosing the right door for you
  • Final thoughts

Let’s get straight into it!

Barn Doors

Barn doors are flat sliding doors with external hardware. Their sliding door is mounted at the top of the door frame, and they glide along a track to open and close. You can get single barn doors or double barn doors, as well as many different more specialized types.

Barn doors are beloved for their classic, rustic style, inspired by the practical agricultural doors that they are named for. However, these days barn doors are a great choice even if you’re not going for a homey aesthetic: there are sleek modern barn doors, heavy, industrial barn doors, and everything in between!

Advantages of Barn Doors

Barn doors are a trendy, versatile addition to almost any home. They are great space savers, as they slide along the wall rather than swinging outwards. This makes them well suited for smaller spaces, such as closets or half bathrooms. They are also convenient; being easy to open and shut as well as easy to open partially. This makes them a great option for frequently used spaces that you might wish to be concealed the majority of the time, like pantries, laundry rooms, and storage spaces.

Barn doors are much easier to install than some other types of sliding doors, such as pocket doors, due to their external hardware. This makes them a great option for DIY renovations. For example, if you’re looking to convert an open plan living - kitchen space into a semi divided area, a barn door would perfectly suit your needs. Having external hardware also makes barn doors easier to clean and maintain than most other door types.

Disadvantages of Barn Doors

The disadvantages of having barn doors comes from their design. As they necessarily need to be slightly off of the wall, they may be less sound and smell proof than other doors. This means they might not be best suited for bathrooms that attach to frequently occupied living spaces, or bedroom doors. However, with additional insulation and sound dampening, you can certainly minimize the sound transmission through a barn door.

Their sliding design also means that though they can be latched shut, they are not the most secure. For this reason, and the possibility of draftiness, barn doors are not commonly used as exterior doors. However, with specialized hardware, barn doors can be used as a safe front or external door. Many people also enjoy using barn doors as the first door to a porch or entryway, followed by a more traditional door into the main house.

Types of Barn Doors

There are so many different types of barn doors, it would be close to impossible to list them all. However, here are some of the main types you are likely to come across.

Classic Barn Doors

Classic barn doors are usually made from a medium toned, warm wood with a visible grain. They often have wrought iron hardware, giving a familiar, rustic feel to their appearance. Some classic barn doors feature an “X” brace, which adds support and weight to the door, as well as being aesthetically appealing.

Glass Barn Doors

There are also many barn doors made from glass, either a large sheet, or several different panes, in wooden or metal framing. Glass barn doors are ideal when you’d like to have some division of space while still maximizing light and flow. These doors come in clear, frosted, or distortion glass, so you can serve your privacy needs.

Modern or Minimalist Barn Doors

Many people today choose to have barn doors in their home, even if they don’t want a rustic aesthetic. These barn doors may be of painted or stained wood, either as an eye-catching statement piece, or matching the wall color to blend in for a minimalist effect. In more industrial homes, you can even find metal barn doors.

Quirky Barn Doors

When it comes to barn doors, the design possibilities are endless. Some of the more funky and fresh barn door types that are still popular include multi toned wood, chevron pattern, or even chalkboard.

It’s important to note that all of these barn door types can be found either as a single or double barn door (or even more than two!) Single barn doors work well for replacing a traditional swinging door, while double barn doors are usually used for covering entryways and other larger spaces.

Cost of Barn Doors

The most basic, straight from the hardware store barn doors can cost as little as two hundred dollars, while more specialized, high end barn doors can cost up to or over a grand. It’s important to note that if you’re getting double barn doors, the price will increase.

Barn doors are easy to install yourself if you have some tools and a little know-how, but if you need to get them installed, you’re looking at around $500 to $1000 dollars.

French Doors

French doors are double swinging doors, made from wood panels and frames of glass. They are beautiful, and allow rooms to be divided from each other without completely separating the spaces.

These doors were designed in France in the 16th or 17th century, during the Renaissance era of French architecture. Wealth aristocrats wanted their homes to feel more open, light, and airy, without actually having the door open, which would allow in weather, insects and other pests, and debris. The doors have spread from France since then, and are now popular all around the world.

French doors are popular as front or back doors, doors to semi-outside areas such as porches on sunrooms, and doors to large internal spaces such as living rooms or dining areas.

Advantages of French Doors

The primary advantages of French doors comes from their beautiful paned glass aesthetic. They make a home seem light and airy, as the (traditionally) light wood and paned glass brightens the home and lets in light. They’re suitable to use for exterior doors, though they are not as secure as a door with no glass panes. However, their strong middle means they are harder to break entirely, and can lock well.

Their double door design also means that you can open one at a time if you wish, giving you options about how much air you want to let in. It’s also a useful feature for when you want a large opening, to let in a beautiful day, or move large objects such as furniture.

Disadvantages of French Doors

However, the design of French doors gives them disadvantages as well. While they’re reasonably secure, they are not as safe as traditional doors. The gaps in their structure means that they may have some draft, meaning they are less energy efficient than awesome other doors as you may have to use more energy heating or cooling your home.

French doors are necessarily paned, meaning you will be losing some privacy, though you can get frosted glass French doors. They also have very large space requirements, not only because they are a double set of doors, but because they swing, restricting your furniture placement and overall room design. French doors can also be much more expensive than other types of doors, including barn doors.

French doors can be rather difficult to install, as they need to be perfectly level, require slightly different hardware to a traditional door (which aren't the easiest to install anyway), and can be heavy. Many people also opt to pay to get them installed even if they have the know-how, as accidentally breaking a French door is an expensive mistake.

Types of French Doors

There are a few different types of French doors, but it generally comes down to the primary material that is being used. Here are the main contenders.

Wooden French Doors

The most classic French doors are made from wood, generally either a light, natural wood, or a white painted wood, and glass window panes. Wooden French doors can vary door to door based on the glass configuration - from a traditional grid of panes, to having a solid wood bottom half and a glass top half, and anything in between.

“Glass” French Doors

Glass French doors still have frames of course, but are made up primarily of glass. They may be composed of a single, reinforced sheet of glass with a wooden or metal frame, or may still be composed of several different panes, with a more subtle division in between them. These doors are often expensive, and difficult to install (much less replace if they get broken, but they are very beautiful. They let in maximum light, and can even have a stained glass effect.

Metal French Doors

Metal French doors stray away from the traditional light and airy feel of French doors, but in exchange you get more security and better temperature insulation. These doors also work well for a modern or industrial aesthetic.

Cost of French Doors

French doors are definitely more on the expensive side, with the cheapest doors costing over five hundred dollars, the average sitting around two to five grand, and the more expensive doors being up to ten thousand dollars. The average cost to install a French door varies widely, but is generally at least a couple of grand, and can be more depending on the size of the door, where it is being installed, and the area you live in.

Comparison between Barn Doors and French Doors

Barn Doors French Doors
Average Price $500 - $1000 $2000 - $5000
Space Saving Great Poor
Variety Great Some
External DoorsOnly sometimes Yes
Installation Easy to DIY Can DIY with building experience
Installation Price $500 - $1000Around $2000
Maintenance Easy More frequent due to glass
Privacy High unless glass Low to okay with frosted glass

Choosing the Right Door for You

Now that you know a bit about these two types of doors, how do you pick the right one for you? At the end of the day, only you know what the perfect door for your home is. However, here are a few things you should be sure to consider before making a purchase.

  • The Style of Your Home: What do you want your new home to look like, or do you have an existing home with an aesthetic to match?
  • Privacy Level: How close are the neighbors? What room are these doors going into?
  • Light vs Heat: Having sunlight in is great, but glass panes can leech heat in the winter months. How will that affect you based on where you live?
  • Available Space: How close to the door would you like to put furniture? Do you have (and are you okay losing) the space that is needed for a double swinging door?
  • Budget: How much can you afford to pay, or would you like to pay, for your new doors? Will you have to pay for installation, or can you DIY?
  • Material and Style Options: Is there a door out there that is in the material and design you’re looking for? How versatile is the door design?