How to Build Barn Doors

Man pushing wheelbarrow while coming out of barn at farm
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  • 01 of 15

    Barn Door Plans

    Three Sets of Barn Doors
    Three Sets of Barn Doors. (c) 2009 Chris Baylor licensed to About.com, Inc.

    If you have a shed or a barn, a well-built set of Dutch-style barn doors can provide not only unique functionality but are quite attractive and very durable. Barn doors are traditionally sheathed with tongue-and-groove stock, but this set of plans takes a little bit of a different approach: using T-111 siding for the sheathing.

    These plans are relatively simple to build, provided you have access to a table saw, miter saw, circular saw, a couple of pneumatic nailers and a drill. One could get by...MORE without the pneumatic nailers, but they make the job go by much quicker, particularly if you have a few of these doors to build.

    One thing you'll definitely need to keep in mind is that these doors are relatively heavy. The plans are designed for a door opening that is 4070 (4-feet wide by 7-feet tall), and the lower half weighs well over 50 pounds, so make sure that the hinges you choose to employ will handle the weight. The bottom half of the door is 4-feet tall, while the upper half is 3-feet tall, so the upper half is definitely lighter, but that's not a lot of concession when you have to hoist it up and in place to position the hinges. While one person can easily build the doors, you'll want a couple of extra sets of hands for positioning them.

    The benefit of that weight is that these doors are stout enough to be used in a horse barn, where the horses like to lean against the door with their necks to try and get to whatever they see outside. When hinged properly, these barn doors will be durable enough to stand up to such abuse and last for years.

    Download the to build your own barn doors (PDF).​

    Difficulty Level

    • Woodworking: Moderate
    • Finishing: Paint

    Time to Complete

    • 6-8 Hours (woodworking) - 3-4 (finishing)

    Recommended Tools

    Materials Needed

    • 6 - 2x6 x 6'
    • 1 - 4x8 sheet of 3/4" T-111 siding
    • 4 - 2x4 x 8'
    • 6 - 1x4 x 8'
    • 4 - Heavy, barn-style strap hinges
    • 1-1/4" treated deck screws
    • 2" treated deck screws
    • Handles and Latches of choice
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  • 02 of 15

    Cut the Pieces for the Frame

    Cutting the Door Frame
    Cutting the Door Frame. (c) 2009 Chris Baylor licensed to About.com, Inc.

    To begin building these barn doors, the first thing to do is to measure the door opening and determine if you'll need to build a door jamb. If the raw framed opening is sufficient (since this is a barn or a shed), you likely won't need to build a door jamb.

    Also, for this set of doors, we're making an assumption that the building has a raised concrete floor (or at least raised piers along the perimeter) that extend a few inches above the ground. This is common in barns, and it will...MORE allow us to have the bottom portion of the door flush with the outside of the bottom concrete threshold of the door opening.

    The doors as noted in these free woodworking plans are for a 4070 door opening (4-foot wide by 7-foot tall). You should allow a quarter inch on each side of the opening for the door reveal, so adjust these plans accordingly. Also, be sure to cross-measure the opening diagonally to check for square. If your opening is not square, you may need to adjust your door to accommodate the opening.

    Once you know what adjustments you'll need to make to the free woodworking plans you downloaded in step 1, the first step is to rip a 45-degree bevel along one edge of an 8-foot long 2x6. This beveled board will be cut to width and will form the top rail of the bottom door and the bottom rail of the top door. Adding the bevel will keep the wind from coming through the gap between the dutch doors.

    After ripping the 2x6, cut it to length. If your opening is 48-inches, cut it to 47-1/2" in length. Set the remainder of the beveled board aside until later.

    Next, cut another 2x6 to 47-1/2" in length, plus two lengths of 37-inches for the styles.

    Note: In the upcoming steps, we'll focus on building the bottom half of the door first, as the top half will repeat the steps, only with minor adjustments in sizing.

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  • 03 of 15

    Position the Frame

    Positioning the Frame
    Positioning the Frame. (c) 2009 Chris Baylor licensed to About.com, Inc.

    On your woodworking table, align the rails and stiles into position and clamp the corners with woodworking clamps. Cross-measure the frame diagonally to make sure that the frame is square. Also, keep in mind that the high-edge of the beveled 2x6 you cut in the previous step will be on the inside portion of the door (so that the beveled bottom of the upper half of the door will match and allow the top door to open independently).

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  • 04 of 15

    Connect the Frame

    Connecting the Frame
    Connecting the Frame. (c) 2009 Chris Baylor licensed to About.com, Inc.

    With the rails and stiles of the door frame clamped in place, it's time to connect the frame members. This is best accomplished by diagonally "toenailing" a few long screws through the frame members as shown in the image on this page. Some 3-inch screws that are pre-drilled and countersunk work best to hold the members tight and keep the frame members from splitting, but one could possibly get away with angling some long framing nailers with a framing nailer.

    Once all four corners...MORE have been toenailed, remove the clamps and double-check the unit for square.

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  • 05 of 15

    Attach a Diagonal Frame Member

    Attach the Cross-Member
    Attach the Cross-Member. (c) 2009 Chris Baylor licensed to About.com, Inc.

    With the four corners of the barn door frame toenailed, and you've diagonally cross-measured to check that the assembly is square, the next step of these free woodworking plans is to attach a diagonal frame member to add strength to the door frame and keep it from racking when in use. This diagonal must be custom measured and cut to fit the frame and should extend from high on the hinge side to low on the latch side of the door.

    To begin, measure diagonally from the inside corner of the frame...MORE on the top, the hinge-side edge of the door frame to the inside corner of the low, handle-side edge of the door frame. Cut a 2x6 to this length.

    Then, mark a center line on each end of the board, approximately 2-3/4" from each edge. Position the board on the frame, aligning each center line with the inside corners noted in the previous paragraph. After aligning the board, use a pencil to make a mark on each side of the board to denote the meter you must cut to make the diagonal member fit into the frame. You'll need to make four mitered cuts, one from each mark to the center line.

    After marking and making the four miter cuts, the diagonal board should fit snugly within the frame, but not so tightly that it causes the frame to deflect (see the image above). Attach the diagonal cross-member to the frame by toenailing as you did in the previous step.

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  • 06 of 15

    Cut the Siding

    Cutting the T-111 Siding
    Cutting the T-111 Siding. (c) 2009 Chris Baylor licensed to About.com, Inc.

    With the frame complete, the next step is to cut the siding. The siding should be cut so that it is two inches in from the left and right sides of the door, down two inches from the top of the door and flush with the bottom. For a 47-1/2" wide by 48" high door, that means that the T-111 siding should be cut 43-1/2" wide by 46" high. Be sure to note from which side you cut the siding for the bottom half of the door so that you'll cut it the same way in the top half, ensuring...MORE that the grooves in the T-111 lineup from top to bottom.

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  • 07 of 15

    Attach the T-111 Siding

    Attaching the Siding
    Attaching the Siding. (c) 2009 Chris Baylor licensed to About.com, Inc.

    With the T-111 siding cut to size, the next step is to attach it to the frame. First of all, check to verify that you're attaching the siding to the outside portion of the bottom door frame. This can be verified in that the outside side of the door frame is the side with the short edge of the beveled top rail (the longer edge goes on the inside of the bottom door, but the roles are reversed on the top door).

    To position the siding, the bottom edge of the siding will be flush with the bottom...MORE edge of the door frame, down two inches from the top, and in two inches from each side. Measure all along each side to make sure that you don't have any portion of the siding protruding any closer than two inches from the top or either side and that the bottom is flush.

    With the siding positioned properly, attach it to the frame using a pneumatic stapler with 1-1/2 inch long staples. Keep the staples within one inch of the edge all the way around the perimeter of the door. Then, using a chalk line, mark a line on the siding from the top, hinge-side corner of the door to the opposite, bottom, handle-side corner of the door. Apply staples along this line to attach the T-111 siding to the cross-member support brace of the door frame.

    Note: By positioning the staples within one inch of the four edges, and along the diagonal line, you ensure that all staples will be covered by trim and none will be visible on the finished door.

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  • 08 of 15

    Rip the 2x4 Trim

    Ripping 2x4 Trim
    Ripping 2x4 Trim. (c) 2009 Chris Baylor licensed to About.com, Inc.

    Because the edges of the T-111 is a bit unsightly, the best way to trim it out and disguise the siding is to use 2x4's that are ripped into an L-shape. In this manner, when looking at the siding, it will appear that the trim is 1x4, but on the edges, it will look like 2x4 trim. This L-shaped trim pieces will protect the edges of the siding and add structural integrity without looking unsightly.

    To prepare the trim pieces, begin by measuring and cutting four pieces of 2x4 to match the four...MORE sides of the bottom door. The top and bottom pieces should be the width of the door, which, in our prototype is 47-1/2". However, the two side pieces of trim should be two inches longer than the height of the door. If the door measures 47-1/4" from the lower portion of the beveled top rail to the bottom of the door, cut the two side pieces of 2x4 trim to 49-1/4".

    Why are the sides longer than the door? Because this will give the bottom of the door a 2" wide lip, that will overhang the bottom of the door opening on the outside of the door, which will keep wind, rain and small critters from getting in under the barn door.

    Next, set up your table saw so that the blade is 1-3/4" high, and the side of the blade opposite the fence is 3/4" from the fence. Rip each of the four pieces on one edge, being certain to hold the board tight against the fence.

    Then, reset your table saw for a 3/4" deep cut, 1-3/4" away from the fence. Lay each board flat against the saw and rip to complete the L-shape. This should leave you with an L-shaped board where the cut-out notch is 3/4" into the narrow side of the 2x4 (leaving 3/4" of stock remaining), and 1-3/4" in from the end (halfway into the 2x4).

    If you test on the door with each of these pieces, you should find that the boards will lay comfortably flush with the edges of the sides and top of the door, and look like 1x4 trim over the T-111 siding. The bottom edge should overlap the bottom of the door by 2 inches. We'll be mitering the corners and attaching the trim in the next step of these free woodworking plans.

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  • 09 of 15

    Cut the Edge Trim

    Miter the 2x4 Trim
    Miter the 2x4 Trim. (c) 2009 Chris Baylor licensed to About.com, Inc.

    With each of the four side pieces ripped into the appropriate L-shape, the next step of these free barn door plans is to miter the corners and attach the trim to the door.

    Set up your compound miter saw to a 45-degree miter, and cut one end of one of the four trim pieces (with the long point being along the 2x side of the board, and the short point along the 1x side). Then, cut a corresponding opposite miter on the adjoining next trim piece, and dry fit it onto the door. The two boards should...MORE align perfectly along the edges of the door frame, and the meter should match perfectly in the corner. If it doesn't adjust your angle on the miter saw and clean up the cuts. Continue around all four edges of the trim, dry-fitting all four boards.

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  • 10 of 15

    Attach the 2x4 Trim

    With the 2x4 trim ripped into the appropriate L-shape on the table saw and the corners tightly mitered using your compound miter saw, attach the four pieces of trim using a pneumatic framing nailer. Be certain that the nails are slightly countersunk, so the holes can be filled before finishing.

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  • 11 of 15

    Begin the Decorative X-Trim

    Attach the 1x2 Trim
    Attaching part of the 1x2 Trim. (c) 2009 Chris Baylor licensed to About.com, Inc.

    Traditional barn doors have an X for trim, as shown in the image on the first page of these free woodworking plans. To create the X, begin by measuring the distance between two inside corners of the mitered trim you installed in the previous step. Cut a piece of 1x2 to this length on your compound miter saw.

    Next, mark a center line on each end of the 1x2. This center line should be about 1-3/4" from each edge of the board.

    Then, position the board so that the center line mark lines up with...MORE the two corners of the trim already in place, and, using your pencil, mark the points where the edges of the 1x2 meet the existing trim. Draw a line between each of these points and the center line to give you the angles that need to be mitered on your compound miter saw.

    After cutting off the four corners, the trim piece should fit snugly inside the outer door trim. Tack it in place using 1-1/2" screws, a finish nailer or by hand with finishing nails.

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  • 12 of 15

    Complete the Trim

    Aligning the Remaining Trim Pieces
    Aligning the Remaining Trim Pieces. (c) 2009 Chris Baylor licensed to About.com, Inc.

    To complete the X trim on the outside of the bottom half of the barn door, begin by marking a line at the mid-way point in the first half of the X trim you already installed. Be certain that this line is square, and precisely positioned at the midway point on the board.

    Next, cut a piece of 1x2 trim a couple of inches longer than the distance between this center line and one of the remaining corners. Add a center line to each end of the board, as in the previous step.

    Now, place the board so that...MORE one end's center line matches up with the corner of the trim, and the center line on the other end matches up with the center line on the existing X trim board. With the board in place, you can now mark the corners for the miter cuts on the corner of the trim, and also make marks on the other end so that you can cut a single meter to match and align the board evenly with the existing piece of X trim.

    Cut the three miter cuts using your compound miter saw (two on one end and one on the other, as denoted by your marks) and attach to the door as in the previous step of these free woodworking plans, using screws, a finishing nailer or finishing nails.

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  • 13 of 15

    Attach the Hinges to the Door

    Attach the Hinges to the Door
    Attach the Hinges to the Door. (c) 2009 Chris Baylor licensed to About.com, Inc.

    The basic woodworking on the bottom half of the barn door is complete. The next step is to attach the hinges to the door.

    The hinges you choose should be strong, strap-style hinges that are capable of holding at least 75 pounds each, preferably stronger.

    Position the hinges so that they will be flush against outer trim, but so that the screws will be able to go all the way through the trim, the T-111 siding and into the 2x6 door frame. You might even choose to use hinges that require bolts and...MORE nuts with washers for added strength.

    Align and attach a hinge at both the top and bottom of the door, preferably about six to eight inches from the top and bottom.

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  • 14 of 15

    Install the Barn Door

    Installing the Barn Door
    Installing the Barn Door. (c) 2009 Chris Baylor licensed to About.com, Inc.

    With the hinges attached to the bottom half of the barn door, it's time to install the door. Before installing the door, though, we need to trim out the door jamb on the outside of the building.

    To do so, measure from the top of the door opening down to the bottom of the door opening, and add any additional length below the opening to suit your taste. Keep in mind that the barn door will extend two inches below the opening, so although you can trim to suit your needs, it would probably look...MORE best to match the height of the door by adding two inches to the door opening height for the length of your side trim boards.

    Cut two pieces of 1x4 to the determined length, and attach them to the door jamb on the outside of the building using screws or nails. The trim should be even with the door jamb, but you may need to compensate slightly if your opening is a bit out of plumb or square.

    Once the two side pieces of trim are attached, complete the trim by adding a piece to cover the top of the door. The length of this piece should extend from the outside of each of the two side pieces, to cover the top ends of the side trim boards.

    Once the trim is installed, you can move onto installing the bottom door. Use some shims to keep the inside frame of the door about 3/8" to 1/4" above the floor, and, once the door is plumb, level and the reveals on each side are consistent, attach the hinges to the building using long screws or lag bolts as needed by your hinges.

    Note: It would be best to attach only one screw or bolt per hinge to the building, and then check to see that the door opens and closes properly, and maintains plumb throughout the swing of the door. This is critical to having the door open and close smoothly, but also to allowing the top and bottom doors to open together.

    Once any adjustments are made, complete the installation of the bottom door by adding the remaining screws or lag bolts. Do not attach the handles or latches at this point.

    Instead, now is the time to go back and repeat steps 2-14 of these free woodworking plans for the top half of the door. Keep in mind that the top half of the door will be shorter than the bottom half, but you can easily measure from the existing bottom door to the top of the door opening and compensate accordingly when building the top half.

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  • 15 of 15

    Finish the Barn Doors

    Completed Barn Door
    Completed Barn Door. (c) 2009 Chris Baylor licensed to About.com, Inc.

    With the top half now installed, you have a completed set of barn doors. The doors should both close with an even reveal and be opened cleanly together or separately.

    The next step is to install some door stop. Close both the bottom and top doors so that they are flush with the outside trim. Go inside and measure from the top of the door opening to the floor on one side of the door, and cut a piece of 1x2 to that length for a door stop. Install the 1x2 to the door jamb tight against the door...MORE using finish nails. This door stop will keep the door from over-extending the hinges if blown shut and will cover the reveal around the door, keeping a majority of wind out.

    Repeat the door stop on the opposite side of the door, followed by a piece of door stop across the top of the jamb between the two side pieces to complete the door stop.

    Next, you can install the handles and latches of your choice, followed by your choice of finishing. In most cases, one would likely choose to paint the barn doors, but you might choose to stain them. If painted, be sure to apply caulking to all joints and wood filler to all nail and screw holes, and do any sanding that you feel necessary. Because barn doors are typically rustic in nature, you may choose to bypass sanding altogether, but that is a matter of taste.

    Note: If you are using your barn doors to keep animals, such as horses penned inside, you may want to keep in mind that some of these animals will try chewing on the top of the bottom door when the top is open and the bottom closed. You may want to choose a low-VOC paint for the finish if that is the case.