One of the best trends to come along in the past decade is the sliding barn door. Finally breaking out of the common outside barn door, these new sliding barn doors slide across the wall rather than open inward or outward like a traditional door. These spectacular doors are showing up all over to replace the only door that we’ve had in our houses; giving your home a fresh, updated look to the standard way of living.
How to Install Barn Doors
- Things to Consider
Learning how to install a barn door is not difficult, but it does require attention to detail to ensure the door operates properly and safely.
Sliding barn doors work best when there is enough empty wall space next to the opening that the door can slide completely open. Double barn doors require open wall space on both sides of the doorway. Keep in mind that light switches, electrical outlets and heating and cooling registers on the walls next to the opening could be in the way. Fortunately, you may be able to relocate these fixtures.
The barn door should be wide enough to completely cover the doorway with an inch or two of overhang on both sides and about one inch at the top. It should be tall enough so that when it’s hung on the track, there is about 1/2-inch of space between the bottom of the door and the floor.
Safety Tip: Barn doors can be heavy and difficult to maneuver alone. Work with a helper when lifting heavy pieces or standing on a step ladder during this DIY project.
Install the Backer Board and Metal Track
The first step in how to install a barn door is to install the metal track. You may also need to install a backer board for the metal track, since a barn door requires one inch of space between it and the wall. A backer board beneath the track will create the gap you need. If you have concrete walls, no backer board is needed.
First, prepare the backer board if you need one:
- If you need a backer board, use a piece of pressure-treated lumber that is 1-inch thick. Cut it to the length and width needed to accommodate your barn door’s track.
- Paint the backer board to match either your wall or trim color. It’s easiest to paint the board when it’s lying on a flat work surface or on a sawhorse.
Find and mark the wall studs, then use a drill to pre-drill the screw holes in the backer board:
- Locate the wall studs using a stud finder. Mark the studs above the doorway. For single doors, start about 3 or 4 inches up on the hinge side of the door opening and continue for the length of the backer board. For double doors, locate the studs on both sides of the door opening.
- Hold the backer board level and transfer the stud locations to the board. The position of the board is usually indicated in the hardware directions. It should account for the height of the door, with extra space to allow for small gaps between the door and backer board, and the bottom of the door and the floor.
- Pre-drill holes at the marked stud locations on the backer board. Use a countersink bit to drill two holes at each stud location.
- Clamp the metal track to the backer board, per the manufacturer’s instructions. Drill starter holes at each hole in the track. Set the track aside for now.
Attach the backer board to the wall:
- Working with a partner, screw one end of the board to the studs using a wood screw. The screw heads should be just below the surface of the wood.
- Making sure the board stays level, screw in the remaining wood screws.
- Cover screw heads with wood filler and touch up with paint, if necessary.
Attach the metal track to the backer board or the concrete wall:
- Align the metal track with the holes you drilled in the backer board. Attach the track to the backer board using the provided spaces, lag bolts and washers. Use a wrench to tighten the lag bolts.
- If you’re installing the metal track directly onto a concrete wall and didn’t use a backer board, level the track in the desired location. Mark the mounting holes on the concrete surface. Use a masonry bit to pre-drill the fastener holes. A barn door hardware kit should contain masonry anchors and lag bolts to install the track.
- Whether you used a backer board or not, install stoppers on the metal track. Slide the door stoppers onto each end of the track. Tighten the set screw or tighten using the hex key provided with your kit.
Prepare the Barn Door
If you purchased a barn door kit, it may contain templates for locating the hardware on the door. Others may have doors with predrilled holes. Whether you’re using a complete kit or purchasing the hardware and door separately, attach all the hardware before you try to hang the door.
Start with the rollers, which will allow your door to glide over the metal track:
- Attach the rollers according to their manufacturer’s instructions. Some rollers are screwed to the top edge of the door. Others use strap hangers that are held in place with decorative nuts and bolts.
- Use a speed square to ensure the strap hangers are straight.
Install the door handle:
- The center of the handle should be about 36 inches from the bottom of the door.
- Place the outside handle near the edge of the door.
- For the inside handle, keep in mind that the door is wider than the opening. Place it with enough space so that it doesn’t hit the door jamb when the door is closed. Some barn door kits contain recessed pulls for the inside of the door.
- If your door doesn’t already have holes, place your handle where you want it and use a pencil to mark the screw locations. Pre-drill the holes.
- Attach the handles using their accompanying screws.
Hang the Barn Door
Once you’ve prepared it, you’re now ready to hang the barn door and install the last pieces of hardware.
- Lift the door and place the wheels on the metal track. Heavy doors will require two people for lifting.
- Test the door to see that it slides correctly.
- Attach the anti-jump disks. These are small rubber blocks that are screwed to the top edge of the door. They keep the door in place if the roller wheels ever jump off the track.
- Install the door guides. These guides are attached to the floor and keep the door from wobbling when it is open or closed. Some guides fit into a groove that is milled in the bottom of the door. Others are installed so that they guide the door from the sides.
- With the door hanging plumb, place the guides in position and mark the locations for the screws. Use the provided screws to keep the guides in place.
- The final step in how to install a barn door is to test the door again to make sure it opens and closes smoothly. Double-check that the anti-jump disks are in place and that the door stoppers are tight. The barn door should glide, and all the hardware should feel sturdy and secure.
Barn Door Maintenance
After hanging barn doors, keep them clean and in working order. Because they’re not exposed to the elements, interior sliding barn doors require very little maintenance beyond normal cleaning. Always follow the manufacturer's instructions for cleaning and maintaining the doors and door hardware. Here are some general cleaning tips:
- Routinely wipe down the hardware and track with a soft cloth and mild cleaner.
- Use oil soap formulated for wood to clean the door.
- Clean glass inserts with glass cleaner.
- Don't use harsh cleaners that contain bleach.
- Don't use coarse rags or steel wool on the door or the door hardware.
- Tighten screws if they loosen and replace any hardware if it becomes damaged.