Learn how to build an easy DIY barn door with affordable lumber and minimal tools. Scroll down to download the FREE plans and apply the process to build a barn door that fits your own space.
If you’ve roamed around this blog before, you know that my typical DIY projects are simple and light enough to pick up with my own hands. So, building this large door was definitely out of my comfort zone. This DIY barn door is 3-feet wide and 8′ tall! A beast, for sure.
Maybe DIY barn doors are a little outside of your comfort zone, too. Stick with me and you’ll see that it’s do-able, with beginner woodworking skills. Read ahead to learn the process, along with some tips and tricks to avoid making the same mistakes I made (Hint: Keep reading to find out the big mistake I made on this project. Don’t do what I did.)
How to Build a Cheap DIY Barn Door
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(1) sheet 3/4″ Plywood (a step up from the cheapest quality)
(3) 1″x 8″x 8′ straight select pine boards
(2) 1″ x 6″ x 8′ straight select pine boards
Table Saw (or have your plywood cut to size cut at the store)
Finish of choice (this is the stain I used)
The Tale of the 36-inch barn door that almost killed me (not literally…)
The reason I found a quick and cheap way to build a barn door is because I’d already done it the hard way.
My sister-in-law Rachelle and her husband recently built a new home. We went by for a visit and Rachelle mentioned she loved the new house but didn’t particularly like the noise from the washer and dryer which were right next to the kitchen She didn’t want a regular door in that opening, as it would swing into the narrow hallway.
“This would be a perfect place for a barn door!” -I said
“Wait, really? Have you ever built one of those?- Rachelle asked
“Yes, I built the little one in my son’s room and the one in our laundry room” – I replied
“Oh my gosh. You’ve solved my problem! “-said Rachelle excitedly.
“Will you build one for me? I will pay you!”
“Uhhhh, OK, I think that would be fun -I said
In all honesty, I really thought it would be fun. And it was….eventually. The next few days I got inside my own head and oh man! I realized right then that doing client work was not something I cared to do. Ever. Too stressful.
My goal was to help her out, but I was super nervous about it. I wanted to do a good job. I briefly thought about backing out, but then decided it’d be good to challenge myself and also help someone else. It was also the beginning of summer, so I was off work (there goes another excuse). I ultimately thought, how could I say no when I was the one who suggested it?! (Rachelle, if you’re reading this, I love you and don’t feel bad. In the end, I was so GLAD I did it, I mean LOOK at it!)
To see exactly what happened in the process (the good and the bad), check out the video below from my Instagram story highlights.
If you skipped the video (don’t worry I got you):
To give you the gist, there were a few problems along the way. First, the lumber I bought initially was not the best. I special- ordered it thinking it would be better than what was on the shelves, but it wasn’t. Then I had some problems with the finish. I used a Minwax polyurethane topcoat that was no bueno (sorry Minwax). The straw that broke the camel’s back came at the very end, after almost a week of working on this door, and it was totally my fault. When I measured the door one last time to mark the place for the rolling wheels at the top, I realized I’d built the door 6 inches too short.
No. I’m not kidding.
Do you see the first door resting against the wall? That’s Shortie. Wanna buy it?
The good news is that round 2 of building this 8-foot sliding barn door went much faster (and this time it was actually 8 feet!). I was able to build it in only 2 hours! Scroll down for a summary of what I did differently. Unfortunately, I was so annoyed about my mistake that I did not take any process photos. So, be sure and download the DIY Barn Door Plans with drawings on each step.
How to Build a Barn Door (the quick-n-dirty way)
I will summarize the steps below. These steps will allow you to create this DIY interior barn door quicker and with fewer tools. Again, make sure you download the plans for digital drawings of each step.
STEP 1: INSTALL MOUNTING HARDWARE
(yes, before you build the door)
This is one step that I 100% recommend before you even begin your DIY sliding barn door. I have built and installed 3 doors now (You can see the other two here and here). Installing the hardware first is the one thing I would do again. Once the metal bar is installed you’ll be able to get a really accurate height measurement. The cool thing is that DIY sliding barn doors have become so popular that it’s now easier to find cheap barn door hardware. If you need it, I wrote a tutorial on how to install the hardware. you can check it out here!
The height of the metal bar will be up to your preference. You can pretty much eyeball it because you haven’t built the door yet (see what I mean?!, so convenient!). Just make sure it’s level (this is critical). If your doorframe has molding, you will want to make sure you install the metal bar a few inches above it, like I did in my laundry room. Keep in mind the wheels will need to roll easily on the track, so you’ll want to leave enough space between the track and the ceiling for clearance.
Determine what size to build your door
Once the track is up, the height of your barn door will be the distance from the top of the metal bar to the floor, minus one 1 inch. The width of your door will be the width of the door opening, plus 4 inches. In my case, my door was exactly 8′ tall x 3′ wide.
STEP 2: CUT LUMBER TO SIZE
This is where I saved a ton of time. First of all, I got smart and used premium pine instead of the cheapest knotty pine. Right away I could tell that the wood was so much better quality!. The boards were straighter, the plywood was smooth. The guys at the store cut my plywood to the exact size I needed. Thank you, Lowes!
I opted for a solid piece of 3/4″ plywood to make the core door instead of gluing up boards. Using plywood saved time (no glue-up) but it also meant that the back of the door would be smooth, not planked. I was OK with that and so was Rachelle.
STEP 3: ADD VERTICAL TRIM PIECES
Because the door height was exactly 8 feet tall, I was able to use 1″x 8″x 8′ for the side trim pieces with no cuts! I didn’t even trim the ends (which I usually do) but didn’t need to because of the quality of the wood. I attached the 1″x 8″s flush with the edge of the plywood using wood glue and brad nails. If you’re considering investing in a brad nail gun, consider a battery-operated nail gun (all the power and no compressor!). I really love mine. Notice I did not use a drill at all to build this door. Only glue and nails.
STEP 4: ADD HORIZONTAL TRIM PIECES
Measure the distance between the two vertical pieces and cut the 1×8’s to that width. You will be attaching 3 horizontal pieces. Attach them in the same way, using wood glue and nails. Be sure to download the plans so you can get more details on the distance between the trim pieces!
STEP 5: ADD X PATTERN BOARDS
The cuts for the X pattern are best marked on the spot using a square. I used 1″x 6″‘s of the same premium pine for the X. Using a square, place your board across the door diagonally, mark, then line up the angle with the miter saw and cut.
Place the long diagonal piece first, then mark and cut the two shorter pieces in the same manner, using a square.
I would like to say that if you don’t feel comfortable with angles, you can totally skip the X and leave the door as is. It looks great with or without the X, or you can create a design without angles. Get creative!
STEP 6: SAND AND APPLY FINISH
Again, this wood was so nice and smooth that I barely had to sand it. I went over it with fine-grit sandpaper. Once I got all of the dust off I applied one coat of stain with a rag. This is the stain I used.
I started with the back and applied it with a clean rag and then immediately wiped it off with another clean rag. This made it so the original color of the wood showed through, giving a “greige” shade. I followed up with three coats of my favorite top coat.
I really love how the finish turned out. After this project, I became such a fan of grey barn doors! Whichever color you choose make sure it complements your decor and wall color. If you’d like more details on the finish, see this post where I go into more detail on how I apply the top coat on raw wood.
STEP 7: ATTACH HARDWARE TO THE DOOR
Now it’s just a matter of attaching the wheels, the door handle, and the door pull. Be sure to check out the tutorials below if you need help with these steps!
How to Install Barn Door Hardware
The finger pull is nice because it adds no extra thickness to the door. As you can see, this door had a design only on the front. If you’re interested in building a door with a design in front and in the back, check out the two-sided design of my laundry room barn door.
STEP 8: ATTACH THE FLOOR GUIDE
This is super important! The floor guide keeps the door from swinging out. It’s a necessary safety feature! This particular one is awesome. I’ve used it in all of my barn door projects. I love that it screws into the wall, not the floor, and you can also move the knobs to adjust to the width of the door.
And that’s it my friends! That concludes the story on how to build a sliding barn door the cheap, quick way!
What do you think? I hope the process of how to make barn doors seems less daunting. Remember, all you need to do is start! There are no mistakes, only lessons!
Do you have any tips for making the process even quicker? Let me know in the comments!
And if you like beginner-friendly woodworking, be sure to join the sawdust sister community and never miss a project! As a subscriber, you have access to free plans! Woot!
This Post Has 7 Comments
Hi Janice. Your barn door project reminded of mine a few weeks ago. I used a piece of 3/4″ plywood for the core and then lined each side with reclaimed cedar only to find out that it was 3″ too narrow for the opening. So I added a 1″x2″s along the sides and top for consistency to get the right width. I had not installed my door hardware yet, so adding the 1″x2″ on top did not make a difference.
As I do projects, it is amusing, after the maddening goes away, at how things get so screwed up. Sometimes even the sage advice of “measure twice and cut once” is not enough!
But I have not run into anything yet that can’t be fixed and ends up looking good.
Hi Ron! It is maddening isn’t it? And I could’ve sworn I measured multiple times. I just sat there for hours wondering how I could add 6 inches to the length without it looking like a 3 year old did it. I’m sure yours turned out great! Thanks for the comment!
Love this! Been looking for plans to do this for windows downstairs in our family room! Can’t wait to to it!
Loved your story! It brought back waaay too many memories and a few laughs as you made me remember a few of my own oh #@*# moments! I think it’s a rite of passage for anyone who picks up a tool and decides to tackle DIY and self learn. Great job, Love your door design! BTW- I hope shortie found a home.
Haha! Yeah I’ve had more of those moments than I care to admit. And shortie is still in my garage!!
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