How to Build an Exterior Barn Door

1. Measure the Opening

If you don’t know, we recently bought a farm, and on the farm there is a barn (sounds like a kid’s song). The barn has one large sliding door for the main building, but there is a side room that is supposed to have doors as well. The previous owner took the doors out and replaced them with a cheap wall. Well, that wall is rotted and gross and I want to be able to open up that space. Time to make some barn doors!

I cut the nails holding in the patch wall and smashed the rotting structure out. This exposed the previous door jams and the area i needed to measure for the new doors. Armed with these measurements, it was time to cut some steel for the new frames!

Closet Sliding Barn Doors With Windows

Houseful of Handmade 

Adding barn doors to a bedroom closet is an instant way to add more character to the room. This sliding option is a great alternative to a tight space that uses bifold or mirrored closet doors. It’s a simple clean design with added windows on top, which really make it stand apart.

Closet Sliding Barn Doors with Windows from Houseful of Handmade


Wide Rustic Barn Door

Kleinworth & Co. 

This huge barn door is six feet wide, so it will cover an extra-large opening you have in your house. It’s a great solution if you’d like to be able to close off a certain area at times for privacy or any other reason. Although this is a large project, it’s a straightforward build that the confident beginner can handle.

Wide Rustic Barn Door fro Kleinworth & Co.

Barn Door Building Preparation

Once I got the boards home I started to measure to see how much I needed to rip from the 1×12 boards to get to a final width of 32”. The door opening is 30” but you want to cover a little bit on both sides. 

I don’t think I got each board the exact measurement. My method was taking out any bad areas and then making sure all three boards were within an inch of one another. The finished length was 82” so I used my miter saw to cut them down to size from the original 96” or 8 foot length.

I positioned the boards on the sawhorse with the least amount of gappage between them. Once that was done, I cut my side 1×4’s to 82” length. I then cut my top, middle and bottom 1×6 to 25” width. 

I had to clamp the back battens due to how much they were warped to align them properly with the front 1x4s. I clamped the outside front frame to get the proper side by side measurements. I then laid out my screw pattern. 

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I used 1 ¼ screw lengths to make sure I would not go through the backside of my door. The total depth of my door is 1 ½ inches thick. Since the screws are visible, it’s nicer to take measurements before just screwing them in randomly. 

I used my combination square to mark one inch from each side of the bottom 1×6 and then put 2 sets of screws into each backboard. I measured ¾ inch between the side to side of the 1×4 legs to install two sets of screws.

 I repeated this step for the top 1×4 as well as the middle 1×4. I then used a smaller drill bit, I believe it was 3/32 bit for the #8 size screws, to pre-drill my holes to make sure I didn’t split the very soft pine. I then installed my screws on my perimeter 1×4 boards so I could take off the clamps before the next step.

Next was figuring out the angles to cut on each diagonal brace 1×4. I do more templating than measuring which works for me. I cut the 1x4x8 in half then placed the 1×4 over top of my door. 

I marked the middle of my 1×4 on both sides to gauge the middle of my board as well as placing it in the middle of the diagonal. Again, I was eyeballing it and wasn’t worried about being dead on since this is for an outside laundry door. 

I simply then traced the horizontal and vertical lines from the door frame under my board. It took a couple of trials and errors to get the angle correct and I intentionally cut them fat of my mark so I could tweak the angle as needed on both sides to get a tight fit. I repeated this process with the other diagonal brace 1×4. 

Next was measuring out my screw placement on both diagonals. I stayed with the ¾ inch from each side of the 1×4 with two sets of screws per each backboard. Be careful when you’re lining up your diagonal screws that you keep at least ¾ inch from each backboard. Getting closer than that has more chances of splitting.

Next is sanding any rough spots on the front and back. I power sanded the back boards and sides but hand sanded the front to make sure I didn’t sand over the screws so I didn’t take off any finish from the screws. 

4. Hang the Barn Doors

Now that the doors were done, I welded on some large hinges and took them out to the farm. To ensure a consistent spacing on the bottom, I set down a piece of scrap 1/8″ wood. Josh helped me move the doors in place while I screwed the door hinges to the door frame. The second door went in the exact same way. We added a 4×4 to the inside of the barn, above the doors to act as a header and to cover the gap above the doors.

I bought some aluminum gutter material to act as e

I bought some aluminum gutter material to act as exterior door trim. We cut it the the bandsaw and trimmed out specialty cuts with my Maker Knife. All the barn doors needed was a door latch. I placed the sturdy door latch on the inside of the door to keep a clean look on the outside. I don’t plan on using that space as a primary entryway, so it was ok that the lock was on the inside.

How To Hang The Door

To hang the door, we first hung the piece of oak on the wall to attach the track to for added support. Find where the studs are and mark with a pencil above and below each stud the length of the oak support,  Find your center point and level for the oak support piece. Drill holes for the hardware to attach to the oak piece to the wall. We painted our oak the same color as the walls so it would blend in. Attach lag bolts to oak piece and secure with a cordless ratchet driver.

Once the piece is secured to the wall, you can lay out the support rail onto the oak piece. Mark the rail support holes to the oak piece. Drill a pilot hole for attaching the rail hardware to the oak. Attach top rail hardware and make sure it’s level and secure. Hang barn door onto top rail guide and check that it’s sliding properly.

How to Build an Exterior Sliding Barn Door

  1. Using a tape measure, mark the location of the sliding door brackets on the door. Be sure to space them evenly to distribute the load for smooth operation. Generally speaking, roughly 8 inches from each side will do, but adjust as necessary.
  2. Drill through the door and attach the brackets using the hardware and an adjustable wrench. Thread the rollers into the tops of the brackets.
  3. Attach the rail and brackets to the barn using the impact driver, sockets, and included lag bolts. Wherever possible, locate the brackets, so the lag bolts thread into the studs inside the wall. Use the level to ensure that rails are perfectly level.
  4. With help, lift the doors and slide the rollers into the ends of the frame rail. Ensure that the door is plumb and closes correctly. Once satisfied, attach the end cap to the rail to prevent the door from rolling out of the rail.

Making Fake Barn Doors

Even though barn doors are easy to make, there might be some people who want to make “fake” barn doors. This may be in order to save money on materials, use materials they already have or because they have a lack of confidence in their ability to make a good door.

One way to make a fake barn door is to use plywood as the door panel, rather than using boards. The problem with this method (and the next) is that the natural lines, made by the edges of the boards, aren’t going to exist. They can be faked, making a shallow narrow slit either with a circular saw, a router or a utility knife. Or they can be painted. But it will never look perfect.

As an option, T-111 siding can be used, instead of plywood. This will provide the vertical strips that simulate boards, making the project even easier. T-111 is normally rough grained, so the end result would be a rough looking door; but it would work.

The other way to make a fake barn door is to use an existing panel door, attaching wood strips to the door, as a fake door structure. This can be done with strips of ¼” plywood, ripped to the same dimensions as the 1”x 4” and 1”x 8” which would normally be used. Another option is to resaw1”x 4” lumber on a band saw, making it thinner.


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