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How To Build Sliding Barn Doors On A Budget

I mentioned a few times how we recently made the decision to transform our never used formal dining room into a 5th bedroom for our teenage son. The way our house is set up has the formal living room and formal dining rooms open to each other so we had a fairly large opening that needed to be closed off for privacy. You can see part of the dining room opening below- it’s a 122″ opening.

Matt and I toyed with the idea of having a wall built, or French Doors installed, and briefly considered a privacy curtain. But the first 2 options were going to be too expensive and the third option was just too tacky for my liking. We finally settled on sliding barn doors to close the opening. Unfortunately when we researched pre-made options we found that for the sizes we needed it would cost upwards of $1500 for both doors. We could almost build a wall for that price. Fortunately I grew up in a DIY family- seriously, we would go off to school and come home to find a wall knocked down by my mom. I learned early on how to wield power tools like a pro. Matt and I sketched out a rough plan of what we wanted to do with measurements and set out to Lowe’s for supplies.

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We chose to buy the sliding door hardware from Home Depot because we didn’t have some of the tools necessary to make our own, and we really liked the appearance of the rustic hardware sold in the kit. The kit was $169 and we needed 2 so that was by far the most expensive part of our project. There are online retailers that sell it cheaper but I was in a hurry to get this done before school started so I didn’t have time to really shop around. I’ll talk more about the hardware further down in this post. First we had to build our doors. We wanted the doors to be as a light weight as possible and easy to stain so we chose to use V-Groove Wood Plank Paneling for the substance of our doors. They came in packs of 6 for $15.98 at Lowes. Each sliding door has 17 panels so we needed 6 packs for a total cost of $96. 

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We also needed to build a frame to attach the plank panels to so we purchased 12  1×2 boards and had them cut into the lengths we needed- 10 were cut to 5-foot each and 2 were cut into 3-feet sections (to make 4 boards that were 3 foot long each). The total cost for the boards to make the frame was 15.60 and they cut them for free. 

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We came home and started to lay out our doors so we could see if anything needed to be tweaked or changed before we started to assemble them. This is definitely one of those projects where you need to measure 3 times, cut once. It has to be precise and you need to take your time- take from the chick who had to rip apart a door because the measurements were off. 

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Once we were sure of our design and placement, we began to build our doors. We built the frame first. Each door was planned to be 5 feet wide and a little over 8 feet tall. The frame consisted of 3 5-foot boards on the top, quarter way down, and bottom. The sides consisted of a 3-foot board on the top, and then a 5 foot board on the bottom portion. We screwed the boards together to make the frame sturdy.

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Once the frames were built it was time to add our plank panels. You have to be careful with this part and it’s much easier with 2 people because you have to be sure each panel is completely in the groove and flush with the panel next to it or the whole thing will be crooked. We used liquid nails to attach each panel then used short wood screws for further stability. 

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It wasn’t a hard process but it was a little tedious to make sure all the planks were perfectly lined up and straight. The last thing we had to do was add short boards to the back at the top of both sides of each door to hold the sliding door hardware. Because we used plank paneling due to wanting our doors to be lightweight we had to build out the area where the hardware would attach. We used boards we already had on hand and just screwed them in. You can’t see them from the front but they were necessary because the door hardware required the door to be a certain depth in order to work properly. I forgot to take a picture of this step but you can see it at the top of the door in the picture below.

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It took us about 5 hours to completely build both doors from start to finish. The total cost to build both doors was less than $130. Originally we thought about adding some more detail trim work but in the end we liked the doors without it. Each door weighed 46 pounds, which definitely was a lot lighter than some of the pre-made doors of that size.

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The hardest part was picking the stain color. I went with Rustoleum stain because it dries fast and only requires one coat. Have I mentioned that I’m impatient when I’m doing home improvement projects? Because I am. The staining was quick to apply- about an hour total- but because it was so hot (near 100 degrees) it took about 4 hours to completely dry.

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I waited a full 24 hours before applying the top coat and then another full 24 hours before we attached the hardware. While we were waiting for the stain and top coat to fully dry, we hung the rails in the living room. As I mentioned, we bought 2 sets because of how large our opening is and we also spent the $10 to buy the small part that connects both of the rails together into one long rail. The rails were fairly simple to figure out- the hardest part was the measuring and making sure every hole was level and even. The directions were easy to follow and very detailed. It took 3 of us to hold the rail up so Matt could attach it to the wall. We were lucky that there is a header beam along the whole wall right where we needed to hand the rails, otherwise we would have had to attach a board to studs and then attach the rails to the board. 

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After the rails were hung on the wall, it was time to attach the hardware to the doors. Again, making sure the measurements are exact and precise is imperative or you will run into issues. The door hardware was easy to attach and probably only took Matt 10 minutes total.

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We were finally ready to hang our doors. It took Matt and Ty both to get the doors on the track. They weren’t heavy, just awkward to handle. 

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I love the color of the doors. It’s exactly what I wanted. You might notice that we have a small gap on the left side near the wall. That was intentional to give more space when the doors are opened and also to accommodate the chair rails and baseboard on the edge of the wall. It’s not ideal but short of tearing down all the chair rail it couldn’t be helped. 

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I’m really pleased with how it turned out. I had some concerns about it possibly making the living room look smaller to close off the dining room but the really tall ceilings help with that. Right now we are using the barn doors as a wall but they are fully functional and slide open with about a 3 foot gap to walk through. Once Ty has left for college I can see us using this as our office and the doors will be open more. We’re trying to discourage the little kids (and the puppies) from entering Ty’s space so for now, the doors make a pretty wall. 

Not a bad project for a weekend. We spent less than $500 including all materials and the hardware. The cheapest quote we got for building a wall or installing French Doors was well over $2000 so we saved a ton of money by doing this ourselves. We are not highly experienced DIYers so I’d say the skill level on this project is moderate- more than beginner but less than advanced. We’ll be building another smaller door to cover the opening from Ty’s new room into the kitchen and I really want one to close off our master bathroom too. 

Sharing with Thrifty Decor Chick’s Before & After

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  • amer jarrah

    I’m building a similar project, but I’m curious how you guys attached the frame boards together? Did you use pocket screw joinery?

  • Patience Brown

    Your master bathroom doesn’t have a door?

    • No. And I hate it. That’s one of the main things I want to change about the master. The toilet is in it’s own little room (the water closet, how fancy). But the rest of the master bath is open to the master bedroom.

      • Patience Brown

        Well at least the toilet has a door. We saw a house once where the Master bathroom had a wall that only went 3/4 of the way up the wall. I mean I love my dh a lot but that’s a little too close and personal! LOL!