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How to Build a Barn Door

Wednesday October 14th, 2020
Barn doors are all the rage for new builds, house flips, renovations, and remodels. It doesn’t matter whether you live in the country or you want a farmhouse, rustic, or shabby chic home—you need a barn door. These eye-catching contributions to home design and décor can be purchased and installed or built yourself with a little elbow grease and know-how. If you think you’re up to building your very own, you’ll need to:

How to Build a Barn Door

  • Gather Tools and Materials
  • Take Measurements
  • Cut Wood Boards
  • Distress Boards
  • Stain or Paint Boards
  • Square and Fasten Together
  • Mark for Hanging Hardware
  • Mount Tracks
  • Install Floor Guides
  • Hang the Door
  • Stand Back and Admire Your Hard Work
Building a sliding barn door takes patience, a keen eye for details, and good old-fashioned time spent with a saw, but the payoff is worth it. In the end, you’ll have a functional piece of décor that not only increases your enjoyment, but your home’s resell value as well.

How to Build a Barn Door

1. Gather Tools and Materials

Knowing what tools and materials you need is probably the most tedious part of the process of building interior barn doors. To prevent you from multiple return trips to the hardware store, here is your one-stop-shop list for information on what materials you need.

First of all, you can’t build a barn door without wood. There are several places you can obtain wood, including purchasing new wood slabs that you will make look rustic or finding some old barn wood that you can repurpose for your door. Either way, you’ll end up with a beautiful barn door.

Next, you need your hardware. You’ll want to purchase a barn door hardware kit in order to ensure you have the right hanging gear that goes with your mounts and sliders.

You’ll also need nails, stain or paint for your wood, wood glue, paint brushes or rollers, and other DIY tools including a drill, hand saw, screwdriver, wrench, hammer, and leveler.

Other supplies you’ll want to have handy include an a-frame ladder, pencils for marking measurements, measuring tape, goggles, and a drop cloth if you’re painting over a surface that you want to keep free of spots and spills.

2. Take Measurements

Taking measurements is the most critical step in the barn door building process. You’ll need to determine how much space the door needs to cover, whether you want one sliding door or two, and if you need a bypass barn door or two doors that meet in the middle. If you’re planning on installing a single barn door, you need to ensure that you have enough room on the side of the door opening for the barn door to slide all the way past the doorway.

Look at the area around the opening to check for light switches, lights, or other things that would impede the door’s movement, such as heat registers or molding that sticks out from the wall. If you don’t have enough room for a single sliding door, consider installing two smaller doors that slide together but take up half the space when fully opened.

In order to determine the space you need, measure the width of the door opening and add two inches to your total. Add two inches to both sides if you want the barn door to extend beyond the opening for maximum privacy.

Most sliding barn door hardware kits call for a measurement from the floor to the top of the door frame. It’s essential that enough space is left above the track so the door can be lifted onto it. Check with the manufacturer of your hardware to ensure an accurate measurement.

3. Cut Wood Boards

If measuring is the most critical part of the barn door building process, then this is the most time-consuming one. Building the actual door takes time, energy, thought, and precise measurements and cutting. The measurements you took for your door frame will be used in this step.

Gather the wood boards you’ll use for this project. You can repurpose actual barn wood for your DIY barn door or purchase new wood from a home improvement store. Either way, you can’t go wrong, and you’ll end up with a finished product that looks stunning.  

Measure and mark each plank of wood where you’ll cut. Use a hand or power saw to cut the wood to the correct measurements. Once you have all your vertical planks cut, measure the total width of your boards together and cut two more planks to serve as the top and bottom trim.

If you want to create a decorative design, this is also where you’ll want to cut your ‘x’ or ‘z’ planks that will form extra support, framing, and aesthetics for your barn door.

4. Distress Boards

If you’re using reclaimed wood, you can skip this step. If, however, you’ve purchased regular 1x6 planks from a home improvement store, you’ll want to make them look as authentic as possible. There are several ways you can go about this process.

You can distress the wood with a grinder to give your boards a weathered look by using a wire wheel and flipping it parallel to the board. Take your time and wear lines into the board in the direction of the grain.

Another option is to use the grinder by holding it flat against the board and creating false saw marks. The objective is to wear away some wood and make your planks look authentic for your rustic barn door.

Pro tip: Use long nails to secure the planks when distressing instead of just a clamp.

5. Stain or Paint Boards

Depending on the barn door idea you want to run with, you should choose to stain or paint the boards. If you want a modern barn door look, a painted door will fit right in. For a rustic sliding barn door, staining after you distress the wood will give it the most authentic appearance possible.

For a truly distressed, old barn door look, first apply a base stain then, once dry, apply a darker stain with a rag to form an uneven appearance. Finish the process with a final layer of grey stain to give the door an aged, weathered look.

To make this step a success, don’t worry about getting the paint or stain perfectly even or spread out. Authentic barn door wood or reclaimed wood will look uneven, so imperfections work well when it comes to creating the final product. Don’t worry if you get an uneven stain on a particular board or if paint went on thicker in some areas than others. Uneven staining or coloring only adds to the rustic look of your sliding barn door.

6. Square and Fasten Together

Once all the boards are pre-drilled, stained, and dried, it’s time to square them up. This is when your DIY barn door will start taking shape. Place all the boards side by side and make sure each board lines up. Measure diagonally from one corner to the opposite in a cross pattern to make sure you have the same measurement on each diagonal. The same measurements mean that your door is square.

Once your wood is square, use the top and bottom trim piece to secure the vertical boards. Place a generous amount of wood glue over the boards where the trim will go, lay the trim over the vertical boards and, finally, use a nail gun to secure the trim onto the boards. Repeat this process for the top and bottom trim, as well as any decorative trim desired on your sliding barn door. An ‘x’ or ‘z’ that goes from top to bottom or even covers half of a sliding barn door adds to a rustic appearance.

At this point, you have the makings of a door, but you’re not quite there yet. It’s a good idea to get a solid grasp on how to install a barn door to familiarize yourself with the next steps.

7. Mark for Hanging Hardware

Mark the areas on the wood where you’ll be drilling pilot holes for your hanging hardware. Every barn door hardware kit comes with specific instructions for this part, so it’s essential to read through the manual carefully before committing your door to nail holes.

Once you’ve got your holes marked, drill pilot holes for the bolts and, finally, mount the hangers onto the door.

8. Mount Tracks

Mounting can be a tricky part of completing your DIY barn door. Unless you’re building your door as part of a complete renovation, you will either mount it on a header board or install and bolt directly onto the wall studs.

If you’re using a header board, you can proceed to mark holes and bolt the track onto the board. Again, consult any instructions that came with your hardware kit. There will likely be specific instructions provided to help you hang it at the right height. You don’t want to undo the bolts and rehang the track because of a half-inch oversight.

If you’re planning to mount directly into the studs, then you’ll need a stud finder to locate and mark them. Mark the stud locations on your track to drill holes for mounting screws in the right places. Check and double-check when completing this step. The track must be mounted into the center of the studs for maximum support.

For those with little space above the door, you might consider installing a ceiling mount. Similar to a mount that uses wall studs, a ceiling mount will use the support beams in your ceiling to fasten the mount. It’s always best to talk to a general contractor to ensure that your desired mount will work in the space you have.

9. Install Floor Guides

Once you’ve reached this step, you’re nearly ready to hang your brand-new barn door. If you hung it right now, however, your door would flap around and could even come off the track. This is where floor guides come in handy. After installing floor guides, your door will open and close without swinging.

Floor guides are as simple as an L-shaped bracket that mounts to the floor. The bracket has an adjustable wheel that acts as a roller guide that can be adjusted to the exact width of your door. Once installed, the guide can be adjusted if you ever need to remove the door, rehang the door, or want to replace the door with one that is a different thickness.

10. Hang the Door

This is the moment when all of your hard work finally pays off. Grab a helper and carefully place the door onto the track. Make sure that the wheels are centered. Next, test how well the door rolls. It should be smooth, whether you roll it front or back. A door that jerks or stops when moving is a door that has something wrong with the mounting hardware. Finally, if the sliding mechanism works as it should, roll the door to each end and decide where to place the stops. Mount the end stops so that the door panel won’t slide off the rail. Line the door up with the floor guide and adjust the roller to hold the door securely in place.

11. Stand Back and Admire Your Hard Work

Congratulations! You have successfully built your very own sliding barn door. These make perfect additions to cover a laundry room opening, a closet door, or anywhere in your home where a sliding barn door is desired. Though slightly time-consuming to DIY, the reward and payoff are well worth the work and time spent to gather your supplies, measure, cut, glue, nail, and mount the door.

You now have a beautiful sliding barn door hanging in your home, complete with floor guides and door stops. When finished, your door will be safe for everyone to use, provide privacy for any room it covers, and add a show-stopping piece of functional décor for your home.
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