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Our old washroom door used to swing out into the middle of the hallway and was often an innocence, always in the way. To solve this obstacle, we had the idea of a barn style sliding door that would incorporate reclaimed hardware that was once used on the historic farm. 

old hallway, hallway reno, how to renovate a room
barn door, barn style sliding door, farm house restoration, diy barn door

This was one of my largest wood working projects I have done and I definitely ran into many challenges, but overall I'm very happy with how it turned out. 

During our hallway reno, we removed the door with the idea of building a sliding door. We hung up a curtain in the mean time, then with some privacy, a door didn't become that much of a priority ( I got used to it... Hannah didn't appreciate it very much).


To start the project, I took very accurate measurements of the space and drew up a 3D model in Google Sketchup. This helped me understand how everything would come together and work. 

One day when rummaging through the barn I discovered old barn door hardware that was once used on the barn.  I really wanted to be able to restore them and give them a new life and function in our home.

I went to a local sawmill and bought 1" x 6" rough sawn hemlock lumber, which came up to around $20 for 6 - 8' long boards. After cutting the first board to length, I clamped it to the door frame and put a level on top, then tapped it into a level position. A problem I encountered was that the doorway was not even close to level. So to fix this without making an obvious gap, I split the difference with the board and the rail I will put up. Once the board was in the position I wanted,  I got another clamp and secured it in place. I then marked all the studs with a stud finder. 

I predrilled the holes and then with a forstner bit, the same size of a doweling bit I have, I made a hole so that the screw would be inset; then I drove in 3" decking screws through the board into the studs for a secure hold,

I put in 10 screws and filled the holes with dowels. Also, in this photo you can notice (in the right corner) where the dip is in the wall. I screwed the board as tight as I could so now the board is following the contours of the wall; If I didn't do this, there would be a large gap. In a later step I compensate the wonkiness of the wall and board with the rail spacers to help make everything straight.

And then I cut and sanded the dowels flush.

I bought 1.5"x3/8" flat bar steel at a local steel shop - which cost around $9 and is going to be the rail for the door to slide along.  The shop cut it to length and I oiled and drilled holes into it for the screws.

I also bought hollow aluminum rod to use as spacers between the rail and wall. The tricky part here is that they all need to be different lengths; this is to compensate for the wonky wall. These spacers will bridge the gap and provide a straight rail. I used an old saw blade for the mitre saw and cut them to length and then sanded them smooth on the belt sander. 

We're now ready to install the rail. I first found true level and marked the straight line. This is because again, the board is not exactly level since I split the difference with the uneven doorway.

I clamped the rail in place to see if it would work and found its level position. This is extremely important to get right, so take your time and double/ triple check everything. I then marked the spots to drill into the board.

I pre-drilled and then secured the rail with 3" lag bolts and washers.

The rail connection detail. Its attached at 5 points.

Its been over a month since I bought the wood and its been stored in the basement with spacers to continue drying and to acclimate. 

However, when I began cutting them outside in the sun (shop is too small for long pieces) the boards started to warp pretty bad which made cutting everything more difficult and less accurate.

I used the table saw to cut ship lap joints into the boards. This is very important in a door because over time wood shrinks and moves, if there isnt a lap over there will be gaps in your door and you can see through. This would be less than ideal for a bathroom door.

I screwed boards perpendicular to the panels at the top and bottom and a diagonal piece to attach them all securely together.

We used Minwax Provincial Stain as we wanted a dark, rich colour to contrast the light walls.

I used a palm router to cut a channel in the wood to be used as a door handle .

I drilled a hole using a forstner bit and attached the hook hardware for the lock. I had to inset the handle and lock because you cant put anything on the back of a sliding door or it wont open fully. 

I cleaned up the old door hardware with a steel wire wheel on an angle grinder. This was a little aggressive as I most probably could have done a good enough job with a hand wire brush. 

I then oiled the wheels and taped off the logo before I spray painted them.

I wrenched in 2 1/2" bolts and secured the hardware with acorn nuts.

For the door stop, I bought 1" wide, 3/8" angle iron and drilled holes for mounting.

I moved the door into its stop location, pushed the angle iron against it and marked the spot with a pencil.

I screwed the door stop securely into the wall and started making trim to finish it off.

The trim always finishes everything off nicely. I cut rabbits into the trim so it could sit on top of the angle iron but also still be flush to the wall.

To make the door guide and back stop, I bent pieces of scrap metal that I found in the barn, with a vice and a hammer. I cut them to length with a cutting wheel on an angle grinder and then cleaned up the cuts and rounded the edges with a belt sander. 

With the door guides and stops installed and a couple coats of poly to seal it off, the door was finished. In hindsight, I should have routed out a channel on the underside of the door for the guide to run along instead. This would provide a more fluid door slide and less wobble.


The sliding barn door project had a lot of challenges and it was my first time to ever make something this big and work with metal. The wonky walls, nothing being straight, the warped wood and the old barn door hardware were a challenge to figure out in their own right, but overall the door works great. I'm really happy I was able to restore the old hardware into a functional piece of heritage that we can appreciate every day.  

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