Learn how to build a 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 door is 3-feet wide and 8′ tall! A beast, for sure.
Maybe building a barn door is outside of your comfort zone, too, or else you wouldn’t be here :). 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 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 Sliding Barn Door that almost killed me (not literally…)
The reason I found a quick-n-dirty way to build a barn door is because I’d done it more than once, 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 their 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 went much faster. 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 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 project quicker and with fewer tools. 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 if you’re building a custom door. I have built and installed 3 doors now. Perhaps that’s not enough to make me an expert, but that’s the one thing I would do again. Once the metal bar is installed you’ll be able to get a really accurate height measurement. I wrote a tutorial on how to install the hardware. you can check it out here!
How high you place 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 😀 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 above the track (below the ceiling) for clearance.
Determine what size to build your door
Once the track is up, the height of your 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 from Lowes. 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 ut 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 on 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 sand paper. 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 it how the finish turned out. 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!
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 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 builds. 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! What do you think? 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!
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Novice woodworker and serial Popcorn eater, Janice Thomas writes detailed tutorials that motivate others to “dare to try”. Originally from Puerto Rico, Janice is fluent in Spanish and dreams of owning a beach house on the island someday! Janice currently lives in Utah with her husband and children, where she works as a university professor.