Sunday, September 20, 2015

DIY - a rustic barn door

One of things we've done to this old house of ours is move a bunch of doors. The configuration of the main living areas (particularly the kitchen) weren't at all conducive to the family life we want (and perhaps also the desired lives of all the other people who viewed the property in the nine months or so that it was on the market!).

My amateur plans showing the original door locations and the proposed changes.

The kitchen was at the back of the house, in a small room which doesn't get much natural light. Because it was the kitchen it had doors to everywhere off it - the entrance passage, a bedroom, the dining room and the bathroom/laundry passage.

We've turned the old kitchen into a guest bedroom, so it now only has one door - which meant we had to create some new doorways as well.

The tiny doorway into the passage.
The trickiest of these was into the bathroom/laundry passage. The doorway is from the dining room, but the passage itself is quite narrow so there's not a lot of room for a door, and putting a pre-hung door (as we used elsewhere) into that hole would have made it narrower still. The discovery of some weirdly-configured studs in the corner, losing us another 50mm or so, put the nail in the coffin of Plan A.

We couldn't put a cavity slider in without wrecking a wall that otherwise didn't need to be touched - so instead of doing something unobtrusive and subtle we decided to make it a glaring feature, by sourcing an oversized feature door and installing it with an industrial looking barn slider track. Obviously.

We wanted a door that was quite tall - our walls are 2.7m tall, and to make a good feature we figured the door needed to be in scale with that - and wide. We figured the best place to start looking was at building recycling places, since the size we wanted would likely cost a bomb new, and with the rustic hardware we can accommodate some pre-wear.

Wellington's building recycling places didn't turn up anything big enough, but my Dad went through some Christchurch yards (which are enjoying some good times right now - if you're doing any work in Canterbury it's definitely worth looking at secondhand for your building materials!). He found a couple of good options, and after checking out photos and getting measurements we chose a 2180mm x 1100mm tongue and groove beauty.

It cost $295 so still not cheap - but cheaper than new.

The track is from Sopers Macindoe, and was $317 (though the price on their website currently is a lot higher - maybe look out for specials?). It came with all the bits and pieces and not only looks pretty flash but runs like a dream so I think worthwhile.

We had to wait for the door to make its pilgrimage north, well-wrapped and perched atop a motorhome, before we could install it. It arrived this week, and the installation only took around an hour.

It's a two person job - I don't think it would be possible to hold the rail up and bolt it in at the same time - but pretty straightforward.

Some slightly scruffy looking but strongly fixed pieces of timber provide the anchoring we need

The trickiest part is making sure your wall is strong enough. Ideally all five fixings along the track would go into studs. We knew we could make sure the two above the door had strong fixings because the back of that wall is still unlined, so we added a couple of extra bits of timber in behind. Unfortunately only one of the the remaining three bolts went into a stud - but our walls have sarking behind the gib, so we tried our luck and found that it felt very secure - luckily, as I wasn't keen to take the wall linings off!

You do need to put the stops on before you attach the track (and in the right place... Ask me how I know!) but otherwise it's just a matter of measuring, drilling and bolting the thing up. 

Prepping the door involved making a groove along the bottom - a couple of runs of the circular saw sorted that out - and attaching the runners to the top. And then the bit that runs along the groove in the bottom of the door needs to be screwed to the floor.

Once everything is fixed in place the door is lifted onto the tracks, and a couple of wee bracing knobs (see above, just below the runner) get turned to sit under the track and screwed in to prevent it jumping.

A before photo from a couple of months ago - slightly different vantage point but you get the idea

And voila! We have a pretty cool-looking door.

We were planning to paint it white, but now that we've seen the door in the flesh (and in our house) we're leaning towards refinishing the wood. There are a couple of holes from its previous life that will need plugging, but I think that'll add to the rustic charm. What do you think? Do you like the wood or would you go for a fresh white?


  1. Hi Rosa, I came across your blog as I am desperately looking for a recycled barn door to use as my pantry door. I haven't had any luck so far so may have to cast my net wider than just Wellington it appears! Cheers

    1. Hi Lisa! It's all the luck of the draw, have you checked the place opposite the airport retail park on Tirangi Road? They usually have heaps of doors, if you haven't already looked there it's worth a visit. But yeah, we're quite lucky to have the Christchurch connection right now, their demo yards are bulging at the seams. Good luck!


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