Thinking about making your own DIY sliding barn door? Check out this DIY project where I show you step by step how I built one of my sliding barn doors!

Wow! Now this was a project, not that I mind, but I will say I underestimated how big this project was. Figuring out the correct setup for the hardware was the most time consuming part. There are several factors that had to be determined and figured out and it seems that I was having to stop every other step to figure out something new.

I am about to write up the step by step process on the build, so hopefully that will help somebody out. If you are able to follow my (or another’s) steps, then this project won’t be too bad. BUT! if you (like me) have to vary from those steps and create your own, then notch out a couple days because it seems that every small thing in this project is connected and one small adjustment leads to something else not working anymore.

….man, I’m almost at a lost at where to even start! : ) AH…ok here we go…

Just like a lot of other folks, as soon as I first saw a sliding barn door I immediately wanted one. The bad news is they cost around $700…the good news is I’m a dedicated DIYer. : )

Before getting started I looked around online to get an idea of what design I liked best, and the below photo was my favorite. The look of the door is completely customizable, so look around and see what you like best.


The first thing I do before starting a project where the end product will be going on the wall is make sure I have studs. So I grabbed my Franklin ProSensor 710 stud finder and saw how many studs I had and got a rough idea of where they were. Being happy about finding 6, I started taking measurements. My door space is 37 3/16, and the wall space to the right of it is 37 5/16…so I have just enough room. Whew. My door is 83 1/2″ tall.

Note: When I measured my door on the left side it reads 83 1/8″ tall. Then I take a measurement on the right and it reads 83 1/2. !! I can’t believe that. I put a level on my floor and it’s level…so it’s my door frame thats off. So be sure to measure both sides before getting started. I went with the bigger number when making my door.

Below is a photo of the doorway that goes from my kitchen to my laundry room, and I love the idea of being able to shut off that room if I want to. I have two light switches and one outlet on this wall and they will be covered up when the door is open, but this wasn’t a big deal to me or my husband so I went forward.

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Making the Door:

Keep in mind you can read other DIY posts if you want other options for making the door. I didn’t want to mess with individual boards so I went this route:

1) I bought a 4×8 piece of 1/2″ exterior house siding from Home Depot for around $35.

2) These big sheets are assembled to each other by way of tongue and groove joints, and I don’t know if you can see the ‘tongue’ on the left hand edge, but I cut it off then laid out my marks and cut the rest of the board to size.
3) I sanded. Thankfully my friend just bought me a brand new sander as a thank you present and I got to break it in.


I was pretty pleased, in case you can’t tell…

4) The sander got the surface well enough, but I wanted to get down into the grooves too so I grabbed my carpenters pencil (they are a square shape instead of round) and wrapped it in sand paper then went through all the grooves until they were smooth as well.


5) I started adding the trim pieces with glue first then my nail gun. I had some 1/2″ oak plywood that’s been laying around for about two years, so I decided to use that up instead of buying something new. I made my pieces 3″ wide and did the right and left ones the length of the door first, then came back with the three horizontal ones. I glued then nailed them in place.

Note: If you are also going for a barn door style and don’t have extra wood laying around for the trim, maybe consider using old fence wood. If you sanded it down and painted it, it would add a nice rustic touch.


6) To make the diagonal members, I kinda just winged it. I have no idea how professionals figure out the angle that needs to be cut on something like this but I held a board in the corner then took my pencil and marked the right and left side, then used a straight edge to connect the two. Then I took my circular saw and cut it.

Once I fit it into place to make sure it was going to work, I took that board over to my table saw and held the cut I just made flush against the blade while I adjusted the T-square to see what the angle was. It turns out I used 51 degrees, and I was able to make the rest of my cuts quickly. I then glued and nailed those into place.


Hard way/easy way….at the end of the day, I got it done. ; )

7) Paintin’ time! I decided to use chalk paint and to use the same color that I used on my kitchen cabinets so I made up a batch and got after it. For instructions on how to make your own chalk paint, see my post about refinishing the kitchen cabinets.


8) After letting it dry I used deck sealer to seal the paint instead of the clear wax.

9) Let it dry, then flip it over and paint and seal the other side (if your other side is going to be seen).

Making the Hardware:

1) I bought a piece of 1/8″ (thick) x 1 1/2″ (wide) x 36″ (long) flat bar steel from Home Depot. Just a quick FYI, if you are going to buy steel, take a small rag with you to wipe it down because it is very dirty off the shelf.

2) Now originally I bought a 2″ pulley from Home Depot then took it home and used a grinder (to grind off the revet) to get the wheel out from the inside. This didn’t work. The inside wheel is a cast molded part and with all the effort it took to get it out of the casing, the thing ended up cracking slightly. This part ends up holding a lot of weight, so I scrapped that wheel and went to Northern Tool. At NT, I found a large selection of idler pulley wheels. Woo hoo! I was really happy for three reasons: 1) I wasn’t going to have to figure out how to disassemble something (without breaking the wheel inside), 2) this wheel was going to be a lot stronger, and 3) this wheel has a bearing at the center which allows the outside of the pulley to move independently from the inside. This will come in handy when we are combining all the hardware.


Note: These are sold in flat and V style. Since this is going on a piece of steel railing, buy the V belt kind so it will have more of a ‘valley’ to stay on track. The ones I bought are 3 3/4 inch with a 5/8″ bore hole. This inside hole determines how big of bolts I bought for the rest of the hardware….that’s a really big bolt. However, I like the look of the stocky hardware. (If you don’t have a 5/8″ drill bit then use 1/2″ bolts instead)

3) Now I went back to Home Depot and bought the rest of the hardware (actually it took around 6 trips throughout this project to get all the hardware settled, but I’m condensing for you guys). I grabbed:

  • 2 – 5/8″x 1 1/2″ hex head bolts
  • 4 – 1/2″ X 2″ hex head bolts
  • 4 – 1/2″ nuts
  • 2 – 5/8″ nuts
  • 16 – 16 mm washers
  • 2 – 5/8″ fender washers

Note: This is just the hardware needed for the pulley assembly mounted to the door. I will give a complete list of all hardware needed for the entire project at the end of the post.

Alright let me break down the direction we are headed then we’ll get back to step by steps. I have to attach the pulley to the flat bar I purchased, but the bearing in the center of it is recessed slightly. Meaning if you were to lay the pulley flat against the steel, only the outside circumference of the pulley touches the bar. This doesn’t work because we need the pulley free to roll, so we are gonna have to build it out in order to give the outside diameter clearance. We will accomplish this by using three 16mm washers stacked on top of one another.

In some of the other DIY sliding doors, you will see they bend their flat bar to go over the top of the pulley and attached it on both sides. I’m not a fan of the look or the effort of bending the steel, so this is the direction I went.

4) I wanted to get the pulley actually mounted on the flat bar before making a decision on how long I wanted them. In order to do that I was going to need to make a 5/8″ hole in the flat bar (this is for the bolt that will go through the center of the pulley), so I got my husband to show me how to use a drill press, and stuck the flat bar (still 36″ long at this point) in and clamped it down. I wanted my hole to be 1″ from the top and as centered as possible. I started off with a pilot hole, then moved up to 5/8″.

If you don’t have a drill press, you can drill the holes with a hand drill but either way, keep your bit lubricated or you will ruin it.

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5) At this point I was now able to assemble the top pulley system and the order went like this: a 5/8″ bolt with a washer, then the flat bar, then three 16mm washers, then the pulley, then another washer and a nut to hold it all together.

Note: the reason I specially call out 16mm washer is because they were the ones I found that fit inside the bearing hub at the center of the pulley. Most of the other washers I tested were too large and rested on the surface just outside of the hub and thus interfering when you tried to spin it. So if you change this part, just be sure to get something that stays within your center area. As long as you do, you can tighten down as much as you’d like and the wheel will still be able to turn.

6) Being a visual person, I was now able to lay the thing on my door and figure out how long I wanted each piece. I decided that 9″ looked great for the length bolted on the door but I needed to figure out how high off the door the pulley needed to be before making any cuts. Remember that the bottom of your pulley is what goes on your top rail, so you need to make sure you leave enough room for your rail to fit between the pulley and the top of your door. I personally went with 2″ flat bar steel for my top rail and instead of taking any chances, I put the bar with the pulley on it where I liked it, then made sure that my 2″ flat bar could comfortably fit through. After this dry fit, the total length of my bar comes to 14″. That’s 9″ on the door, and 5″ hanging off the top.

7) I used a sharpie to make my mark on the steel then went and clamped it in my vise and used a sawsall to cut it. There are several ways to cut steel including a cutoff wheel, or a bandsaw, or even a chop saw…but, if you don’t have any of these tools you can also make your cuts using a hacksaw. You know the old time hand saws? Yep, with a little bit of patience they work just as well but you’re the horsepower behind it. ; )


Note: Just in case you have never cut metal: It will be extremely hot afterwards, so don’t reach your hand out to grab it out of the vise. Let it cool down first.

8) To smooth out the end of the cut I grabbed my belt sander, turned it upside down to clamp it in my vise, then put the cruise on (or the lock if you want to be technical). Then I took the bar and made a couple of passes until I had a nice smooth end……and yes, my hair always looks that fabulous. : 0


Also note the safely glasses. Very important. I should also be wearing pants but it’s Texas and 100 degrees out.

9) I repeated the same steps and made a second one for the other side.

10) Now that I had all the hardware figured out, I took it all apart and painted it using my Rustoleum spray paint. I started off with nickel, but then changed my mind to bronze. When spray painting hardware, try not to get paint on the threads. For the bolts: stick them in a piece of cardboard so only the heads get painted. For the nuts: grab a stick and feed them on.
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11) Once it’s all painted, give them time to dry, then put them back together.

Now that those are finished, we can start mounting them to the door.

12) I wanted my holes at 1 1/2″ and 7 1/2″ measuring from the bottom, so I made my marks and used the drill press once again to drill the holes. Now I was having trouble finding all the hardware I needed for a 5/8″ hole, so I knocked the size down to 1/2″ for these four.

13) Once the holes were drilled in the flat bar, I then drilled the holes in the door.

14) I used 2 1/2″ bolts with a washer on both sides to hold it. So the order went: 1/2″ bolt with a washer, then the door, then another washer, then a nut.

Note: Take your time with this last step and make sure the pair are the same height off the door. If they aren’t then your door will be hanging crooked.

Now you should have a door with the hardware on it. Lets move on to the railing….

Making the Rail:

Making the railing turned into a whole day project because my wall space is 78 5/8″ (6.5, almost 6.6 feet) and all major retailers that carry flat bar steel only carry 6 foot joints on the shelf. So I had to hunt down a local steel supplier and call in an order. Cool thing about this was I wasn’t limited to the dimensions of what was on the shelf….so I requested 3/16″ x 2″ x 80″. It ended up costing me $14 and I thought that was a steal….he he he. Ok ok no more cheesy puns, promise.

1) With the door done, I went ahead and moved it inside so that I could get an idea of how high my rail needed to be. I wanted the door to be (roughly) 1/2″ off the ground when it was mounted, so I grabbed a couple small pieces of 1/2″ scrap wood and laid it on the floor then set the door on top of it. Then I grabbed a pencil and made a mark on the wall where the top of the “v” on the bottom of the pulley lands. …I hope that makes sense. ….what you’re trying to do is mark where the top of the rail needs to be placed if you want your door off the ground a certain height. What you don’t want to do is move the door in and then just immediately mark where the pulley lands or your door will drag on the floor when you mount it. 1/2″ works perfect for me, but if you want more then just use a bigger spacer.

Note: Also, just because it could be a factor I would put a level on your floor and make sure your floors are level. If they are slightly uneven, then you can take that into account when you figure out how high off the floor you want to mount your rail.

2) While the door is in place, I also needed to figure out how far off the wall I needed to build out for the door to slide past the trim once it was mounted. You can’t have your rail even with your door trim or your door will be colliding with it. Also now there are four bolts/nuts on the backside of the door (from the hardware assembly) that need to be taken into consideration. So I positioned the door where the bolt tails were resting on the trim, then just moved the door out until I liked the clearance. Then I measured the distance from  the wall to the center of the pulley. This turned out to be 1 3/4″. That means I need my rail to be mounted 1 3/4″ away from the wall in order to give the door and it’s hardware enough room to slide back and forth freely.

3) I moved the door aside and grabbed a giant level then found the mark I made in step 1 and drew a level line across the entire wall. I chose to do it this way because my door frame is unlevel so I could not use it as a measuring reference point.

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4) Now I wanted to locate and mark exactly where my studs were.

I was able to locate 6 studs along my wall, but they are not evenly spaced. This doesn’t bother me, but if it bothers you, then you can put in extra bolts that just go into the sheetrock. These bolts won’t be supporting any load, but it will fix the uneven problem.

So my thought process at this point was to mount the rail directly onto the wall, and use a 2″ dowel rod or a big washer to keep the hardware from being sucked into the sheetrock. However, after talking it over with my husband he thought using a running board like some of the other DIY doors out there would provide a better solution, look nicer and also double as a spacer. So that’s the direction I went.

4) I found a scrap 1×4 in my shop, and cut it down to 1 x 3 x 78 1/2″. Even though it’s a 1×3, it isn’t really an inch thick. It’s actually only about 3/4″ thick, but that’s ok because that means I only had to make 1″ spacers to make up for the rest of the clearance I needed.

5) While I was cutting, I grabbed the flat bar and also cut it down to 78 1/2″, using a sawsall again.

6) Wanting to make the spacers, I went to Home Depot and grabbed a 1 1/4 dowel rod for $7 and cut 6 1″ pieces. Then took each one and stuck them in my vise and drilled a  3/8″ hole through the center. I went with wooden spacers because cutting 6 pieces of tubing exactly the same length would have been pretty difficult with the tools I had to choose from.


7) Since the stud locations determine where I need to drill my holes, I brought my 1×3 inside and held it in place then transfered the stud markings from my wall to the board.

8) I moved it back to the shop, found center, and drilled pilot holes then moved up to 3/8″ holes. Then laid the flat bar on top and transfered the holes and drill 3/8″ holes in it as well.

WilkerDon’t: Reading other tutorials they specifically said “do not drill your holes in the center or they will interfere with your pulley when it rolls”. Well I was using a wider material for my rail and I actually tested it out before drilling my holes and my bolt head did not interfere so I made my holes center. …. what I didn’t take into consideration was my spacers, which my bolts go through and hold onto the backside of the rail, and which are larger than my bolt heads. So guess what?! Yep, they interfered with my pulley. Solution? Drill your holes slightly below center. My solution was to notch out my spacers slightly on the top side so the pulley had clearance. It was a simple fix but I was pretty mad at myself.

I used the following hardware to put together the rail:

  • 6 – 3/8″ x 4 1/2″ lag bolts
  • 6 – washers
  • 6 – 1″ spacers

9) With the holes drilled, I threw some paint on the board and rail and all the hardware then let it all dry.

10) Ready to hang everything in place, I went through with a pilot hole and drilled into my studs.

11) Then with the help of my husband, held the board and rail in place and started installing it from one side to the other. The order went: 3/8″ lag bolt, washer, flat bar, spacer, running board, wall. : )


I’ll go back through and do some touch up paint

Now hang your door on and make sure everything works!
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I rejoiced because everything was just perfect on mine….then the A/C kicked on. The door was closed and I was admiring it then Cody moves to open the door and there is some resistance! It turns out that the A/C intake in the laundry room creates such a big pull that it sucks the door slightly and makes the bolt tails from the top hardware rest into the trim. ….?! You’re kidding me right?? At this point I couldn’t help but laugh, because out of all the things to create a problem, I found it almost comical. And I have found that part of building stuff is running into problems. Just prepare yourself to handle it instead of giving up because it’s worth it in the end.

My solution to this problem was to just cut off the tails. Oh PS: if you’re talking to a pro, don’t use the term bolt tails or they might think you are crazy. The real term is bolt ends.

Minor Adjustments:

1) I moved the door back into the shop and used a cut off wheel to chop off the bolt until it was flush with the nut.

Yes, I’m wearing safety glasses under a face shield. My mother worked for an eye doctor for 18 years, so I grew up always being very careful to protect my eyes.

Note: If you have to lay your door over on it’s side, put something underneath it on the end with the pulleys so that the weight of the door isn’t resting on it. I just grabbed this yellow plastic thing out of a box.

2) While the door was back in the shop, I also put a neat handle on it. I didn’t like any of the cabinet hardware at the store, but found this in the garage door handle section. It’s 7 1/2″ long, but since the door is so massive, I think it really fits.


3) And while I was at it….I flipped the door over and used a router to router out a handle so somebody can move the door if they are coming in from the garage.


Note: If you use a router for an inset handle just make sure you pay attention to the depth of your bit because you don’t want to go all the way through the door! Remember, this piece is only 1/2″ deep, so you want to put it in shallower than that.

4) Once the door was back in it’s place, I grabbed a 1/2″ right angle bracket, and a piece of rubber I had in the shop to make a door stop. The last thing I want is for the door to roll off the end of the track. I moved the door to the position that I wanted it to stop, then held my bracket in place while I marked the hole. Then I grabbed the drill and lube and made a hole in the steel.

WilkerDon’t: If you can believe it…I forgot about those stupid spacers again. I was able to put my hole through just fine, but there wasn’t enough room for the nut go on. So I moved the bracket over slightly and drilled another hole. Thankfully, the old hole was covered up by the bracket, but learn from my mistake(s) and keep those spacers in mind.

5) Once the bracket was on, I super glued the rubber into place and now have a functioning door stop.


…wait….is that it? ….I think so folks! My goodness, I hope I didn’t leave anything out and even more importantly I hope all of that makes sense. It’s rather difficult putting into words a process like this project, so if you don’t understand one of my steps or terms, just give me a shout and I’ll help you out.
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Below is a complete list of all the hardware and material I used. Most of it I already had so I was able to get out of this project relatively cheap considering the $400 price tag of hiring the job out.

  • 1 – 4×8 sheet of 1/2″ tongue and groove exterior house siding
  • 1/2″ oak plywood (had in shop)
  • 1 – garage door handle
  • 1 – 1/8″x11/2″x 36″ flat bar steel
  • 2 – 3 3/4″ V belt idler pulley wheel
  • 4 – 1/2″ X 2″ hex head bolts
  • 4 – 1/2″ nuts
  • 16 – 16 mm washers
  • 2 – 5/8″x 1 1/2″ hex head bolt
  • 2 – 5/8″ nuts
  • 2 – 5/8″ fender washers
  • 1 – 1×4 (had)
  • 1 – 3/16″x 2″ x 80″ flat bar steel
  • 1 – 1 1/4″ wooden dowel rod
  • 6 – 3/8″x 4 1/2″ lag bolts
  • 6 – 3/8″ washers
  • 1 – 1/2″ right angle bracket (comes with hardware)
  • 1 – small piece of rubber
  • Super glue

Total Time: 4 days
Total Cost: $111

Over the weekend I built and installed two sliding barn doors, for a girlfriend, that were identical to mine. Below is a photo of them hanging as well as a video showing the build process.
diy sliding barn doors 01

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