How to Build a Barn Door: Getting Started:
The 1×6 No. 2 pine boards we used for this door are inexpensive, so be sure to buy several extras so you can experiment with the distressing and staining techniques before you start on the boards you’ll use. Preparing the boards is the most time-consuming part of this project. Expect to spend several hours cutting the rabbets on the edges of the 1x6s. We used a router with a rabbeting bit to cut the rabbets; a table saw with a dado blade set would be quicker.
The grinder and knot cup brush we used make quick work of the initial distressing. It took me about 10 minutes per board. If you don’t own a grinder, you can buy one for about $30 to $150. A cheap one will work fine for this project. You could also use a knot cup wire brush mounted in a corded drill, but it would take you longer to achieve the same results.
Staining goes quickly, but set aside a day or two to get the parts cut and finished. DIY barn door hardware ranges in price from about $250 to $500 depending on the size and style. Some companies have ready-to-ship options, but you should plan ahead if you need something else since it usually requires longer to get.
Fooled by a forgery
I’ve harvested loads of lumber from abandoned farmsteads. But Jeff’s fake barn wood fooled me. I really thought it was genuine until I took a close look. Even then, I was impressed with the quality of the counterfeit. And in some ways, fake barn wood is better than the real thing: There are no rotten, splintered boards, lead paint or musty odors filling the air. In fact, Jeff’s forgery made me wonder: Was collecting real barn wood—with all the sweat and splinters—a waste of my time?
To see how Jeff got a great look with standard home-center lumber, check out steps 1-3 in the project directions below.
— GARY WENTZ, EDITOR-IN-CHIEF
Measure the opening
Whether you’re building a door or ordering one, here’s what you need to know about door size. Sliding doors should extend at least an inch beyond the sides of the opening that don’t have trim, or an inch beyond the moldings of openings with trim. You can add more overlap for extra privacy. To determine the door width, add at least 2 in. to the width of the opening, or to the outside dimensions of the door trim (Photo with step 1).
Choose your DIY barn door hardware before determining the door height. Then check the measuring instructions or ask the manufacturer for help arriving at the door height. In most cases, measuring to the top of an opening with no trim, or to the top of the trim, and subtracting 1/2 in. from your measurement will give you the minimum door height required.
Finally, you have to make sure you allow enough clearance above the opening to lift the door onto the track. This distance varies depending on your hardware, so again, check with the manufacturer.
Three sliding options
Before you start shopping for DIY barn door hardware, take a careful look at the area where you would like to install the door and figure out what door setup works best. If you want to cover the opening with one door, you’ll need an area on one side of the opening that’s wide enough for the door. Make sure there aren’t any obstructions like light switches, sconce lights or heat registers that would be covered by or interfere with the door. If there’s not enough wall space on one side of the opening, you can install a pair of doors that slide to opposite sides, or buy special bypass hardware that allows the doors to stack.
This is the most popular choice, but you’ll need enough wall space. Order a track that’s at least twice as wide as the door.
If you don’t have enough wall space on one side of the opening for a single large door, you can use two doors instead. Centering the track on the opening will allow the doors to slide to the sides of the opening.
If you want to install barn doors on a closet opening, or on an opening that goes wall to wall, you can order bypass hardware that allows you to stack the doors on one side of the opening.
Three ways to support the tracks
To support a door, the track needs to be solidly mounted to wall framing. There are three options.
First, you could install continuous wood backing between the wall studs at the track height. This allows you the freedom to install track-mounting screws at any location. But this method isn’t practical in a room that’s finished because you would have to remove the drywall or plaster to install the blocking.
The second option is to mount a header board to the wall surface (as seen in the photo above), making sure it’s securely screwed to the studs, and screw the track to the header board. One manufacturer recommends a maximum door weight of 75 lbs. if you’re using this method because the support screws will only be engaged in 3/4-in.-thick wood.
The third option is to bolt the track directly to the studs. You have to do two things if you choose this method. First, make sure to order an undrilled track. You’ll need to drill holes yourself at the stud locations. And second, ask the supplier to recommend hardware to avoid crushing the drywall. Most suppliers have crush plates or something similar to solve the problem.
Get the right spacers and floor guides
Included in the track mounting DIY barn door hardware will be some sort of spacers or stand-offs that hold the track away from the wall to allow the door to slide freely.
Some companies supply spacers in different lengths, while others supply adjustable-length spacers. The length of the spacers is determined by your track mounting method, whether there is trim around the door or at the floor that you must clear, and the thickness of your door. Be sure to double-check with the supplier before placing your order to make sure you’re getting the correct length spacers for your situation.
You’ll also need a guide at the floor to prevent the bottom of the door from swinging. The simplest guide is an L-shaped metal bracket that mounts to the floor and fits into a groove cut in the bottom of the door. If your door doesn’t have a groove in it, there are roller guides and adjustable roller guides that will work. Choose the guide that works best for your door.
1. Make shiplap boards
We used inexpensive 1×6 No. 2 pine boards, cut rabbets on the edges to make shiplap boards, and distressed and stained them to resemble old barn wood. When you choose boards, don’t worry about knots, scratches or gouges. But try to pick boards that are straight and not cupped or warped.
We divided the width of the door by the board width to see how many boards we would need. And then we adjusted the board width until they were all equal. When you’re doing the math, remember to account for the shiplap edges.
For our 4-ft.-wide door, we cut each board 5 in. wide. Yours may be different. Cut the boards to the right width and cut rabbets on two edges of all but two boards. Cut one rabbet on two boards that will be used on the outside edges. The photo above shows how we used a 3/8-in. rabbeting bit to cut the rabbets. A table saw with a dado blade will also work.
We also cut the boards to the right length before distressing them so we could make the ends look aged. At the same time, cut the two horizontal rails and the two 3-in.-wide blocks that go under the hangers. Make the horizontal rails 2 in. shorter than your door width.
2. Distress the boards with a grinder
When all the parts are cut, you’re ready for the fun part—distressing the boards. The photo above shows how to use a brush knot cup mounted in an angle grinder to abrade the soft wood and expose the grain. This gives the wood a weathered look. Pieces of wire from the cup can break off and cause serious injury if you’re not protected, and there’s a lot of dust. Make sure to wear safety goggles, hearing protection and a good-quality dust mask.
Start by nailing the board to the sawhorses with finish nails to hold it in place. The nail holes will add to the rustic appearance. Tip the grinder so the wheel is on edge and parallel to the grain to wear away the soft wood. Use the wire wheel on the edges and ends of the board to create an uneven, worn look. You can also hold the wheel flat on the surface and move it in arcs across the wood to resemble saw marks. Don’t worry; you can’t go wrong here. Wearing away any amount of wood will look great.
3. Make wormholes
If you want to take your distressing to the next level, use an awl to create “wormholes” (Photo above). You don’t have to put holes in every board. Some variety will add authenticity. Drag a screwdriver or other sharp object along the grain to create a fake crack. Use your hammer claw or any other tool or heavy object to create dents and gouges. When you’re done distressing the boards, it’s time to stain them.
4. Apply a base coat of stain
To achieve the look you see here, start by applying a base coat of light gold stain to the boards (Photo above). We applied the stain with a mini roller to speed up the process. Wipe off excess stain with a rag.
5. Add dark stain
Then use a rag to apply an uneven coat of dark stain in a random pattern (Photo 5). Next, spread out the dabs of stain to create dark areas and streaks. Wipe off the excess with a different rag to expose some of the base coat color.
6. Finish with gray stain
Finally, apply a thin, uneven layer of gray stain, dabbing and wiping to create an aged look (Photo above). It’ll look better if the stain is less consistent. Also, don’t worry if the finish is different from one board to another. The variation will add an authentic look when the door is assembled. Don’t forget to finish the ends and edges of the boards. Let the stain dry overnight before moving on to the door assembly.
Most stain brands have colors that will work well for aging wood. Here are the colors we used:
Base coat: Varathane Summer Oak
Second coat: Varathane Kona
Third coat: Varathane Weathered Gray
7. Square the vertical slats
Start by arranging the vertical boards on a pair of 2x4s placed flat on sawhorses or the floor. Arrange the 2x4s so they’re lined up under the locations of the horizontal rails. Space the boards top and bottom with pennies. Screw scraps of wood to the 2x4s on both sides of the door to hold the boards together while you add the horizontal rail. After checking to see that the ends of the boards are still lined up, measure diagonally from opposite corners to make sure the door is square (Photo above). If necessary, adjust the position of the boards until the diagonal measurements are equal.
8. Fasten the rails
Next mark the height of the rails on the door and attach them with construction adhesive and nails (Photo 8). Since the fasteners show, we decided to use 1-1/2-in. wrought-head nails that we bought at rockler.com. Since the nails protruded slightly from the opposite side, we shortened them a bit by holding them with locking pliers and grinding off the tips on a bench grinder. You could also mount a metal grinding wheel in your angle grinder. Drill pilot holes for the nails that are near the ends of the rails to avoid splitting the wood. If you don’t mind the appearance of screw heads on the opposite side of the door, you could flip the door over and drive 1-1/4-in. screws through the boards into the rails for a little more strength.
If you prefer, you could brush on a coat of flat polyurethane. Test the finish on a scrap to see if you like it before you apply it to your door. We didn’t put a finish on our door.
9. Mark for the hanger holes
Follow the instructions included with your door hardware to install the hangers. Our instructions recommended using a 2-1/2-in. spacer between the door and the wheel to hold the hanger in the correct position while marking the bolt locations (Photo 9). After marking the bolt locations, drill holes for the bolts and mount the hangers on the door.
10. Mount the track
The steps you take to mount the track will depend on your track support. If you’ve installed continuous backing between the studs or are mounting the track on a header board, then you may be using a predrilled track and can proceed to bolt the track to the wall.
If you’re mounting the track over the drywall and bolting it to studs, you’ll have to locate and mark the studs, and then transfer the stud locations to the track so you can drill holes for the mounting screws in the right place. The instructions should give you a formula for determining the track height. Double check your dimensions and math before mounting the track (Photo above). You don’t want to have to cut down the door or reposition the track if it’s in the wrong spot.
11. Hang the DIY sliding barn door
With the track mounted, finish the job by putting the door on the track (Photo above). Carefully roll it into each end to determine where to place the stops. Next, mount the end stops, bottom guides and any other hardware according to your instructions.
DIY Barn Door Hardware Sources
Barn Door Project PDFs
Click the links below to download the materials list for this barn door project.