DIY a closet barn door- How to build and install

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Today we are tackling how to DIY a closet barn door. When I moved into my new house all of the closet doors just had cheap plastic accordion doors installed on them. I decided a good option instead of these was to build a barn door rather than installing a typical door. The rooms in my house are pretty small so installing a door that just slid to the side rather than opened into the room was much better for the small space.

How to DIY A closet barn door

In full transparency, I found a blog post on Pinterest that I basically copied on how to diy a closet barn door. You can read that post here. I learned a LOT along the way though and that is what I am going to talk about here! I did only make one door, whereas this post made two and built shelves. Just as I had to adjust some of my wood lengths to fit my needs you probably will need to too. Make sure you measure before you go to buy your wood. Having a list is super helpful, I didn’t have the best list when I went and boy did I get flustered. Nothing quite like having a mild panic attack in the middle of Home Depot!

Materials

  • 1- 4×8 ft, 23/32 in sanded pine plywood
  • 1- 6ft 1 x 2 board (for header to mount barn door mount to)
  • 2- 6 ft 1 x 8 boards
  • 2- 8 ft 1 x 4 boards
  • 3- 8 ft 1 x 2 boards
  • Wood Glue
  • Clamps – (And/Or some dumbbells because you only own two clamps and clamps are expensive)
  • Miter saw
  • Nail gun
  • Sand paper
  • Paint
  • Primer
  • Barn door hardware kit
  • Level- (I used the level app on my iPhone because I’m a millennial)
  • Wood filler
  • 1.5 inch 18 gauge brads
  • Paint brush
  • Door handle

Cutting down the boards

First step in building this barn door is to cut all of your wood to size. As I said above, your cuts may vary from mine, but here is what I did. At the hardware store I had them cut down the 4 X 8 sanded plywood panel to 3x 7. I decided to make the door wider than the frame of the closet. I didn’t want to see the see the moulding of the door on either side, so I took that into account. Big cuts like this are best to get done at the hardware store for two reasons. First, they can do a cut like this faster and straighter than I can at home.

The the more practical reason is getting the piece into my hatchback. Side note, I have to say having a hatchback has been the best car for hauling things. It hasn’t not been able to fit anything I’ve needed so far. I’m sure the day will come, but it has been a perfect compromise between a regular sedan and a truck.

Okay now that I’ve given some dubious car advice back to the barn door. At home you can cut all of your lumber down to size. The 1×4’s are are vertical and then the 1×8 are horizontal.

unfinished barn door on a table not glued together yet

Assembling the barn door

Assembling the barn door is pretty straight forward. I recommend using a good amount of wood glue then clamping the pieces down until they dry. Check for any glue squeeze out and clean that up immediately so you don’t have to chisel it off later. If you don’t own a ton of clamps like me, find other heavy objects…sure this isn’t the most professional way ,but we are diy-ers here on this blog not home improvement professionals. I used some work out weights I had lying around begging to be used, so I put them to work holding down some wood.

unfinished barn door with weights and clamps on it

For added security I went around and put some brad nails into all of the boards once the glue was dry. I didn’t go crazy just added a few for some extra holding power. Make sure you are using the correct length of brads for your door. Don’t be like me and use ones that are too long and shoot through the back of the door…because it is a HUGE pain to remove them when you realize what you’ve done. UGH

Adding in the details

close up detail of unfinished wood door detail

Adding the angled pieces is the most difficult. I first made the cuts for one half of the door. When I was happy with how it looked I made the same cuts and mirrored them for the other half. I used a speed square to make sure everything was at a right angle and evenly spaced. This part was a little tricky to get to my liking, and I wish I could explain it better. My best advice though is to not be too crazy about how evenly space everything is because it will drive you crazy. As long as it looks good to your eyes go with it!

Prepping to paint

First I filled all of the places I put a brad in with wood filler. I also used the wood filler in the gaps where each piece of wood met. Once the wood filler was dry I gave the entire door a good sand. This is a little time consuming with all of the cracks and crevices on the door. Wipe off all of the excess dust with a rag and then I used my shop vac to vacuum any stubborn dust that wouldn’t come out of the cracks and crevices of the door and before I knew it it was time to prime.

For the primer I used left over Kilz all purpose primer I used on my shed renovation. Using an all purpose paint brush, I did one quick coat on the front, let it dry and flipped it over and did the back too.

Painting your barn door

I learned something really cool while working on this project about paint. The post I was following to build my barn door used the color “moth grey” by Behr. Well Behr is only at Home Depot and I was at Lowes. I wanted my barn door to be moth grey, but I did not want to travel the extra six WHOLE minutes to Home Depot when I was already at Lowe’s…. After talking to a super nice lady at the paint counter I found out as long as you have the name they can look up the formula for the color you want and make it for you! This was news to me. I’m no paint expert but I see no difference between Beher, which Home Depot sells and Valspar which is sold at Lowes.

I’ve really found that the paint counter at all of the home improvement stores I’ve been to have been super knowledgeable and are a great resource when it comes to any painting question that I have.

When I painted my barn door I did three coats and it came out looking pretty great. I used the same all purpose paint brush I used for the primer (literally, I just gave it a really good wash). The only tip I have here is to watch out for drips, they are really easy to miss when your surface isn’t flat. If you do have some drips, no big deal just sand them down.

Installing the handle

I got an 18 inch handle for the door. I thought the big handle would look really sleek. To install it I found the center of the hand and the center of the 1×8 that was at the middle of the door and lined the centers up. The handle came with two screws. I made two pilot holes before screwing in the handle to make sure the door didn’t crack. Of course you should always measure twice and drill once. I ended up drilling my hole a little south of where it needed to be. To fix this I just drilled a new hole, and filled the old hole with some wood filler, gave it a quick sand and some touch up paint and it was like it never happened.

Installing barn door hardware

In theory I thought a DIY closet barn door should be pretty straight forward , but it wasn’t quite as easy as I was hoping. One “problem” I ran into was not knowing how the walls of my home were built. Something that you really need to consider when hanging something as heavy as a barn door is what your walls are made of. My house was built in the fifties so I have what is called plaster and lath walls. Unfortunately this made things a bit more difficult for me especially since I didn’t know what plaster and lath was before I started this project. I’m going to talk about my experience hanging the barn door on the plaster and lath wall since there a ton of blog posts out there that talk about hanging barn doors on drywall.

A regular stud finder isn’t going to work as well in a plaster and lath wall. Home improvement stores sell stud finders for plaster and lath walls, which as far as I can tell is just a really strong magnet that helps you find the nails that secures the lath to the studs. Once I figure this out it was a total game changer. Why? Well read on and I’ll tell you!

Installing a header board

To make sure that your barn door hardware is securely fastened to the wall you need to install a header board. A header board is just a 1×2 (in this case just a little longer that 6 feet) attached to studs in the wall that the hardware is then attached to so that the weight of the barn door is properly supported.

When I was using a “regular” stud finder I kept getting false positive of finding a stud. When you drill into a stud you should feel a little resistance with your drill. So if your stud finder keeps beeping randomly and you have and older home you might also have plaster and lath walls and need to go the magnet stud finding route.

unhung door, next to open closet. shows header that is hung about open closet door

Please READ (your barn door hardware instruction manual)

The title of this blog is probably a bit misleading. I’m not going to give exact instructions on how to hang the barn door hardware. The reality is that the hardware from different companies is all probably just a little bit different. So I am just going to offer some advice of things I wish I had done / thought about. I’m here to tell you that this was simultaneously easier than I thought it would be, and also really frustrating because of some of the wall anchors breaking. Take your time to problem solve, you’ll figure it out!

  1. Read the instructions, several times, until you totally understand them. Sometimes I half read instructions and get going before I really have things figured out
  2. Have figured out exactly at what height your header board is going to be. Then how tall the barn door needs to be. Take it from me, you do not want to have to cut the door down. I cut off two inches from my door, and yes it was easy, but boy was I annoyed I had to go through that extra step.
  3. Have a plan before you go to the hardware store. This is pretty specific to me ,but chances are this could happen to you too. Two of my drywall anchors broke and just fell through the wall. As it turns out as far as I could find, none of the hardware stores that I went to sold the same drywall anchors that came with the barn door hardware. What a pain that was! After multiple (maybe 6) trips to the hardware store I finally came back with the right things to get the door hung. Learn from my mistakes, always bring parts and pieces with you to the hardware store that are going to help you figure out what you need. Don’t just guess!
  4. You can leave off the floor door guide. The barn door hardware came with a floor guide that is supposed to be drilled into the floor. I didn’t really want to drill into my wood floors. Not that I’m not confident in my DIY abilities ,but I don’t know that a barn door will always be there and I just didn’t want to commit to holes in my real wood floors. And guess what? The door still works great!

And that my friends is how you DIY a closet barn door. This project took me a while. Hanging it was a pain in the butt. I had to stop and come back to it several times. My main piece of advice is to do just that, because some of this project does take a little bit of math, patients, and brain power. Just know that if I can eventually get it done so can you!

Completed barn door hung in room

2 comments

  1. This really adds character to the room. Sure was a lot of steps but well worth the effort! Bravo to you🥰

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