The Double Barn Door Saga

Our barn door project was a bit of a doozy. That’s an understatement. It went something like this… Step 1: find a cool project on Pinterest. Step 2: Get supplies and build doors from scratch. Steps 3-700: have issue after issue. So let’s get started.

Extending Door Length

I found this design on Pinterest, but the plans called for a single, normal height barn door. The doors in our new house are extra tall. With a regular barn door, you do need a longer door to accommodate the space from the top of the door frame to the barn door railing. So our doors had to be even longer. Plus, we were looking at a double door design, so we had to modify the plans ourselves. We chose to use MDF as our door base. The MDF sheet was 3/4″ thick. We had Home Depot cut the board for us. Per our measurements, we wanted the two doors to be 22.5″ wide. The sheet itself was 97 inches long. For our door height, we needed 101 inches. With the excess wood that was cut off at Home Depot, we added the extension piece at the bottom using our kreg jig after cutting it down to the correct width at home with our miter saw. We used wood glue in addition to the kreg screws to keep all the added pieces of wood firmly in place.

Beginning of the design

Once the doors were the correct size, we began to measure and cut the design slats. For this part, we used our miter saw to cut at 45 degree angles. The wood slats used were primed MDF from Lowe’s. We slowly measured each piece, drew a line, and then cut the wood. I labeled each slat and its place so that we could easily remember where they belonged. We did not attach any wood until we had all of the slats cut and in place. I had drawn the design out on paper before we began so that we had some sort of guide for where each piece would sit.

I didn’t want to sit and measure out each space in between the slats. For this part, I found a sanding block in our garage that I used to fit in-between each slat. It worked perfectly and allowed for accurate spacing each time. Not all of the slats followed that same spacing guideline, but most of them do.

With all of the slats cut, we began to glue and nail the slats into place. We used Titebond wood glue with just a thin squiggle of glue for each slat. If you use too much, the glue will seep out from under the boards which will cause more clean up work. We then used our pancake compressor and brad nailer to nail each slat to the doors. We used 1 inch brad nails every few inches along the slats. The holes will all have to be filled with spackling and then sanded before painting.

Once the spackling and sanding is finished, we cleaned the doors of all dust and dirt. The final step before painting is to caulk all of the joints and seams. We used a paintable caulk for this step. The caulk will not be sanded. Using this brand of caulk, you can paint within 30 minutes.

Priming the doors was the next step. We used a small roller and a paint brush because I still don’t own a paint sprayer. Once dried, we started on the green “Lemon Leaves” Magnolia paint, which is the same color as our geometric accent wall in our bedroom.

The doors have two coats of the green paint. I then needed to prepare the header board with stain. For the header, we used a 1x4x8 pine board. I stained it with Minwax Wood Finish in Dark Walnut so that it would coordinate with our wood flooring and furniture. At this point, our entire project stalled because the barn door hardware we ordered from Amazon got lost in shipping. While the post office tried to find the shipment for about a week, we started and completed another project (post coming soon). Finally, after the original hardware was deemed lost forever, we bought another set and waited impatiently for it to show up. Meanwhile, the giant doors were laying in our dining room on blankets and taking up a lot of walking space.

Installing the wheels

Finally, the second set of hardware arrived. It was now show time for these doors. And this is the exact point in time where the issues began. My husband is great with measuring. Me, not so much. I tend to just eye it and hope for the best (which usually works for me). However, with this project, you can’t just eye it. It has to be perfect. With the wheel hardware, you must first figure out where to drill your holes and pray your measurements are accurate on both sides of the door, and then again on the second door. We got all four wheels attached. The next step was to attach the header.

Attaching the header board

Here is where the next headache began. My husband had two stud finders at the beginning of this project. By the end of this project, he had four. The first two simply would not find the same studs. Major problem. This resulted in a late evening run to Target (because Home Depot and Lowe’s were both already closed) which was closing soon due to the new Covid schedules. He came home with a very simple stud finder that really didn’t work either. We were really wanting to hang the doors that night, but it wasn’t in the cards. The next morning, he ran to Home Depot and got a better model that actually found the studs we were looking for. We attached the header with large lag screws directly into the header. Remember, your header and railing need to be at the correct height for your doors to hang just over the floor. We left about an inch of space between the bottoms of the doors and the floor. This was not the final problem of the project.

After the header was in place, we attached the railing, which ended up being not as terrible as we both expected. Important to note for those that have not installed these doors before: if your railing is not exactly level, the doors will roll on their own, creating another large headache. Our railing is perfectly level. Thank goodness. Now, it was go time for the doors. We slowly and awkwardly brought each mammoth door into the room. I stood on the ladder and my husband hoisted the door up while I guided the door onto the track. First door (right side) was perfect. Awesome. We were thrilled. Time for door number two (left side). This is the misfit door, if you can’t tell from my foreshadowing tone. We hoisted up door number two and right away we could tell the measurements of the wheels were slightly off. Crap. The door rolled on its own to the open position. Plus, door two sat about a quarter of an inch higher than door number one sat on the rail. Ugh.

Before we re-drilled

We both decided we needed to try to right our wrongs here. We took door number two down and plugged up the existing holes with some very questionable techniques and repainted the areas. Then, we measured again. We drilled the new holes, got the hardware into place, and tried it again. We got the door hung and realized three things: the sliding was still there, the height discrepancy was fixed, and now the doors don’t meet flush. So we fixed one problem, created another, and didn’t solve the third issue. We took the door down again and noticed that one of the wheel brackets was a bit crooked. We tightened the screws and straightened it up. We hung the door yet again and thankfully the doors were now flush. So, to summarize, we now have one perfect door and one that still slides open. At that point, I got on YouTube to see if I could find a quick fix. Guess what? I found a video that provided us with a $2 fix. This dude discovered that if he put tiny felt pads on top of the railing, he would be able to stop the sliding and keep the door in the desired location. Fantastic. I bought a set of felt pads from Ace hardware, and it worked like a dream.

Finished product

So now the door construction and hanging is complete, and we are so relieved. We do still need to add the floor guide pieces and possible handles. That hardware is coming in the mail soon (hopefully not getting lost somewhere). One other note of importance is to read and follow all of the safety instructions that come with your directions. There are pieces at the top of each door called “jump stops.” Make sure you install these correctly. There are also door stops on each end of the railing. Both of these features allow for the doors to operate safely. The jump stops will prevent the doors from jumping/falling off the track in the event too much force is used to open them. The floor guides will prevent the doors from swinging forwards and backwards.

Overall, this is a finished job that we are more than pleased to see completed. On to the next one!

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