How to Build a Barn Door

If you’ve ever wanted to add a rustic flair to your home, you’ve probably wondered how to build a barn door as an interior door in your home. You may have shopped for one, but this can easily bring on sticker shock because it’s not usual for them to run in the high hundred or low thousand range for a single door. Despite how complicated this project looks, it’s actually fairly straightforward and simple if you have the correct tools and two days to spare. You can take it on as a weekend project and knock everything out in one go from actually building the door to hanging it across your doorway. 

These doors offer a unique opening and closing mechanism where the door slides to the side, so it does require some extra planning to ensure you have enough room to accomplish this. After all, the last thing you want to do when you build a barn door is get it mounted on the track and find that it’s too wide to open properly. The cost ranges between $250 to $500 to DIY this project, but it’s well worth it as a nice conversation piece for your home. 

Additionally, the price can go down if you already have some of the tools and wood on hand to build a barn door. If you’re curious and considering undertaking this project, this is for you. This guide will outline step-by-step instructions to help you build a barn door and get it hung within two days. We’ll also write down the tools and materials required to build a barn door so you can gather everything together before you start to help avoid interruptions. 

1 Building a Sliding Barn Door
A barn door is a nice alternative to a more traditional door as long as you have the space for it to open. To build a barn door, you’ll decide how complex or simple you want the finished door to be, and this will set the tone for the rest of the project.
Building the barn door by Ken Mayer / CC BY 2.0

Tool List

First up, which tools do you need on-hand to build a barn door? Surprisingly enough, it isn’t a huge list. However, some tools are more expensive if you don’t already have them stored in your workshop or shed, so you may need to go out and buy or borrow them. To build a barn door using this tutorial, you’ll need: 

  • Angle grinder 
  • Awl
  • Bench grinder
  • Brush knot cup
  • Locking pliers
  • Measuring tape
  • Router
  • Sawhorses
  • Standard DIY tools
  • ⅜-inch rabbeting bit

Materials Required to Build a Barn Door

Now, the materials can be the more expensive part of this project. However, this is a relatively simple and straightforward barn door, so you won’t need to worry about cutting and fitting dozens of different boards together to get the classic barn door look. Instead, you’ll need: 

  • 12 1x6x8-foot number 2 pine boards 
  • 1-quart dark stain
  • 1-quart gray stain 
  • 1-quart polyurethane 
  • 2 2x4s
  • 2-quarts light gold stain
  • 40 1½-inch wrought-head nails
  • Barn door hardware kit
  • Brush or paint roller 
  • Construction adhesive (optional)
  • Knot cup brush for the grinder
  • Pennies for spacers
  • Rag

How to Build a Barn Door in 16 Steps

In this tutorial, there are 16 steps to build a barn door, and we’re going to walk you through each one. We’ll add in a few pro tips along the way to help you get professional-level results while lowering your frustration levels with this project. 

Step One – Learn Your Barn Door Hardware Options

One of the first things you do when you build a barn door is look at your hardware options. Take a good look on where you want to install your new door and figure out which door setup will work best for the finished project. For example, if you want to cover the opening with a single door, you’ll need to have an area to one side of your doorway that is large enough to store the door when it’s open. 

  • Tip – Double-check and make sure that you don’t have any items like sconce lights, light switches, or heat registers that would act like obstructions for your door. If you measure and find out that you don’t have enough space beside the door to store it when it’s open, you may want to install a pair of doors that slide to the opposite sides. You can also purchase bypass hardware that lets you stack your doors. 

Step Two – Measure the Doorway

In order for you to determine how wide to make the door, you have to get out your tape measure and measure the space. You want to add at least two inches to the opening’s width. You could also add these extra two inches to the outside dimensions of the door trim instead. Any sliding door you install should go at least an inch past the opening’s sides if they don’t have moldings or trim. Adding more overlap than an inch or two will increase your privacy levels. 

You also want to pick out your barn door hardware before you decide on the door height when you build a barn door. Ask the manufacturer for help or check your hardware’s measuring instructions to help find the correct height. Usually, measuring the top of the opening without the trim or to the trim’s top before subtracting a ½-inch will give you the minimum height you need for your door. You also need to have enough clearance from the ceiling to lift the door onto the track. The distance will vary depending on which hardware you pick out when you build a barn door, so double-check with the company. 

Step Three – Pick a Track Support System 

There are three main track support systems you can choose from when you build a barn door. The track needs to mount solidly to your drywall to the wall framing. If it doesn’t, the sheer weight of this door can cause the track to pull away and the door to fail. You have three main systems, including: 

  • You can install a continuous wood backing between the track height and your wall studs. This gives you the flexibility to install your track-mounting screws anywhere along the track. Unless you’re doing a remodel or building a new extension, this isn’t practical because you have to strip out the drywall to install your blocking. 
  • You can mount the header board to your wall’s surface before screwing the track onto the header board. The header board absolutely must screw into the studs. Your door should be 75-pounds or below for this method because the screws only go into ¾-inch thick wood. 
  • Finally, you can bolt your track support system right to your studs. To do this, you’ll have to make sure you order an undrilled track because you’ll drill holes where your studs are. You’ll also want to ask the supplier which hardware they suggest to avoid crushing your drywall. Most will offer crush plates that you can install. 

Step Four – Pick the Correct Floor Guides and Spacers

You’ll need stand-offs or spacers to hold the track out and away from the wall. This will allow your door to slide freely when you build a barn door and hang it. Most track mounting kits include these pieces. Some companies offer adjustable-length spacers while others have them in different but un-adjustable lengths. The spacer length depends on the mounting system you choose, the door’s thickness, and whether or not you have trim around your door or at the floor level. 

  • Tip – Make sure you check with your chosen supplier before you put in an order for your spacers and floor guides. Doing so will ensure you get the correct length for your unique setup. 

Step Five – Install a Roller Guide

There will have to be a guide at the floor to prevent the bottom of your door from swinging around each time it moves because this can be dangerous for kids and pets. One of the most simple options is an L-shaped guide that is a metal bracket that mounts directly to your floor. It fits into a groove that you cut into the bottom of your door when you build a barn door. If you don’t want to cut this groove, you can get a roller guide or adjustable roller guide that sits on either side of the door. 

Step Six – Put Together Shiplap Boards

To create shiplap boards, we picked out cost-effective 1×6 number 2 pine boards to build a barn door and keep the price low. We cut rabbets on the edges to create the shiplap boards before we distressed and stained them to mimic the look of an older barn door. When you pick out your pine boards, don’t worry if they have gouges, scratches, or knots in them. However, the boards should be straight with no warping or cupping. 

Divide your door’s width by the board width to find out how many boards you’ll need to build a barn door. Adjust the board width until everything equals out. Remember to account for the shiplap edges when you’re doing all of your math. To make it simple, we have a four-foot wide door. So, we cut every board five-inches wide. Once you figure out the correct width, cut your boards and cut rabbets on two edges of every board but two. 

You’ll cut one rabbet on two boards that you’ll use for the outside edges when you build a barn door. For this project, we used a ⅜-inch rabbeting bit to cut in the rabbets. You could also use a dado blade with a table saw if you don’t have a rabbeting bit. 

Additionally, we cut the boards to the correct length before we distressed them. This allowed us to make the ends look aged too. We cut two horizontal rails and two three-inch wide blocks to go under the hangers. The horizontal rails should be two inches shorter than the width of your door. 

2 Put Shiplap Boards Together
Shiplap boards will add a layer of sturdiness to the door when you build a barn door, and this can help your door survive normal wear and tear much better. This is especially true if you have kids or pets who will be running in and out.
Barn door slider in game room by ARG Contracting Inc / CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Step Seven – Use a Grinder to Distress the Boards

Get your brush knot cap and mount it on an angle grinder. You’ll use it to abrade the wood to expose the grain to give the door a weathered look. You can nail the board to the sawhorses with finish nails to hold it firmly. The nail holes will give the door a very rustic appearance. You want to tip the grinder so that the wheel is on the edge and parallel to the wood grain to wear away at the pine. 

Use the wire wheel on the ends and edges of the board to give the door a worn, uneven look. You can hold the wheel completely flat on the board’s surface and move it in big arcs across the wood to give it saw marks. 

  • Tip – It’s common for wire pieces to break from the cup and cause injuries if you don’t have adequate protection, and it throws up a lot of dust. Make sure you wear hearing protection, safety goggles, and a high-quality dust mask for this portion of building a barn door. 

Step Eight – Make Wormholes in the Wood

If you want to end up with a really distressed looking door at the end of your project, get an awl and use it to create small wormholes. You can drag a sharp object like a screwdriver along the wood grain to create fake cracks. A hammer claw is great for creating gouges and dents in the wood. Try not to add holes in every board because variety makes it look more authentic. 

Step Nine – Add a Base Coat of Stain

Get a base coat of light gold stain and apply it to your boards. Get a rag and wipe off all of the excess stain to avoid drips or streaks as it dries. You can apply the stain with a mini roller to speed up this process, but a brush works well too. 

Step Ten – Add a Layer of Dark Stain

Once you have the coat of light gold stain on and it has had time to dry, it’s time to get a rag and apply an uneven coat of dark stain. Put it on your boards in a random pattern. You can spread it out and dab at it to create streaks and dark areas. Get a different rag and wipe off the excess to expose some of the light gold base stain coloring. 

Step Eleven – Add a Grey Stain Finish

To finish the look, apply a very uneven and thin layer of gray stain. Wiping and dabbing at it with a rag will give it a very nice aged look. Don’t forget to apply stain on the edges and ends of each board. Let the stain dry overnight before you assemble it. Also, most stain brands will have colors that work specifically to give you that aged wood look. 

  • Tip – Your door will look better if you have less consistent stain coats on it. If the finish is different from one board to the next, don’t worry about it. This will give you an authentic look when the stain dries and you put the door together. 

Step Twelve – Square Your Vertical Slats

Get a pair of 2x4s and place them flat on the sawhorses or directly on the floor. Arrange your vertical boards on them and arrange the 2x4s so that they line up under the horizontal rail locations. Use pennies to space the top and bottom of the boards. 

Get scraps of wood and screw them on both sides of the 2x4s to hold the boards together. This is essential to do when you add them to your horizontal rail. Double-check that the ends of the boards line up still, and measure diagonally from the opposite corners to ensure the door is square. Your diagonal measurements should be equal. 

Step Thirteen – Fasten Your Rails

The next step to build a barn door is to fasten the rails. Make the height of the rails right on your door. Use nails and construction adhesive to attach them at this point. The fasteners will show, and this is why we used 1½-inch wrought-iron nail heads. The nails did protrude slightly on the opposite side of the door, so we held them with locking pliers and grinded off the tips using a bench grinder. 

The next step to build a barn door was to drill pilot holes for your nails that are by the ends of the rails so the wood doesn’t split. If you don’t care that you can see screw heads on the opposite side of your barn door, you can flip it over and put 1¼-inch screws through the boards to lend everything a little more strength. Additionally, you could brush the whole thing with a coat of flat polyurethane. 

3 Barn Door Track Choices
Ideally, the track you pick out when you build a barn door will go with your design aesthetic. Stainless steel tends to by much more modern and sleek while darker metals give you a more rustic look and feel. Installing the barn door by Ken Mayer / CC BY 2.0

Step Fourteen – Measure and Mark Hanger Holes

To install the hardware hangers, you’ll have to follow the instructions included in the kit. Each kit can vary, so make sure you double-check everything. Measure and mark your bolt locations before drilling holes for the bolts. Finally, mount the hangers directly to the door. Always double-check before you drill anything so you don’t end up redoing it. 

Step Fifteen – Mount the Door Track

The next step to build a barn door is mounting the door track. The steps you have to take will depend on the track support system you picked out earlier. If you took the time to install continuous backing between the studs or if you plan to mount the track directly onto a header board, you are most likely using a pre-drilled track. If so, you can bolt the track to the wall now. 

If you plan on mounting the track over drywall and you need to bolt it to the wall studs, you’ll have to locate the studs using a stud finder and mark them off. Transfer your marked stud locations onto the track before drilling holes for the mounting screws to ensure they’re in the correct place. To determine the correct track height, look at the instructions. They’ll typically include a formula to help build your barn door and hang it correctly. 

  • Tip – Always double-check every piece of math and dimension before you mount the track onto the door. The last thing you want to do is cut down the door or take it down and reposition the track if it’s not in the correct location. 

Step Sixteen – Hang Your Door

The final step to build a barn door is to hang it. Once you mount your track, the only thing left to do is hang the door. Once it’s up, carefully roll the door into each end to help determine where you should place the door stops. Mount your end stops now with the bottom guides. If you have any other hardware to install according to your specific setup, now is the time to finish it. 

Barn Door Maintenance

Once you build your barn door, you want to maintain it to keep it looking nice. You’ll need to take special care of your doors, just like you would hardwood flooring. To clean your barn doors, you’ll:

  • Routinely wipe the top of the door frame to remove any stuck dust. Use a soft rag to do this. 
  • Get a rag or feather duster and use it to get the dust from around the door frame once a week. 
  • Get a soft rag and oil soap and wipe the surface of your entire door every few months. Wipe in the direction of the grain when you do so. 
  • Use an all-purpose cleaner to wipe the barn door pulls. You want to remove all dirt and grime before allowing it to air dry. 
  • If you put a glass insert into your door when you decide to build a barn door, you can use a glass cleaner to remove dirt, dust, and grime while adding shine. 

Cleaning Barn Door Hardware

Many people forget to clean the hinges on their barn doors because people usually don’t directly touch then with their hands. However, dust can fill in the cracks of your door’s hardware over time, and it can transfer over to your hardware’s top. You’ll have to keep them clean to stop it from happening. You don’t want to use old or coarse rags because they can cause rust to appear. Also, don’t use mineral acids of bleaches to clean the flat track part of the hardware. This can damage the material because it’s so harsh. Get an all-purpose cleaner instead. 

You can use olive oil on the hardware to help avoid it streaking when you finish cleaning it. It can also get rid of any squeaking sounds you have while making the door easier to close or open. You can clean and polish the flat track barn door hardware using a cloth that you dampen with cider or white vinegar. For stainless steel hardware, get a glass cleaning solution. Any cleaner that comes designed to use on glass will work for stainless steel, as a general rule of thumb. 

4 Cleaning the Barn Doors
Keeping your barn door and all of the hardware clean will help it look nice longer, and it can also improve how well it works. You should wipe it down every week or every other week and clean the hardware at least once a month.
Sliding Barn Door by Amanda B / CC BY 2.0

Bottom Line 

Now you know how to build a barn door. We’ve outlined the process for a simple door is 16 easy steps, and you can complete this project over the course of a weekend. Just make sure you double-check all of your measurements when you build a barn door to ensure you don’t have to go back and redo parts because it doesn’t fit correctly. Now you’re ready go to out and build your own barn door and use it to enhance your home’s look and design aesthetic! 

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