Home doors are becoming unhinged. Many homeowners are installing interior sliding doors — otherwise known as barn doors — to make a style statement on a sliding scale. But you don’t need a barn abode to enjoy the honest design of sliding doors.
Many homeowners are drawn to barn doors as a way to make a style statement in a home with an open floor plan. Also, barn doors can be a space saver in a tight place, where the swing of nearly three feet from a hinged door is an obstruction.
“The term ‘barn door’ comes from the resemblance to the real deal, which was only reinforced when doors were made in a reclaimed-wood style,” says Jeff Lowinski, technical services vice president with the Window & Door Manufacturers Association in Chicago. “Today’s barn doors can look less rustic and have modern styles made from metal or with windows, but what we are really talking about is the hanging hardware, more than the look of the door itself.”
A steel track — ranging from a standard of 4 to 20 feet — is installed in studs above an opening. A hanger set — with wheels that roll on top of the track and straps that affix to the door — is needed to keep your doors sliding smoothly.
“Barn doors are very popular, but you can’t just take a door off its hinges and outfit it for a sliding door system,” says Jon Whaley, owner of The Barn Door Hardware Store, an Erie, Pennsylvania, web-based business with about 20 national distributors. “The first thing you need to do is assess if a barn door system will actually fit the space.”
When installing a sliding-door system, a home needs to have enough wall space adjacent to a doorway over which the door can slide. A standard 32-inch-by-80-inch hinged door requires a 36-inch-by-84-inch sliding door to achieve a finished look that’s on a roll. Hardware for a standard opening can average about $200, while a standard manufactured plank door can cost around $500.
“Barn doors can quickly go off the rails when homeowners think they can take down a hinged door and then mount it as a sliding door,” Whaley says. “A barn door needs to be large enough to cover the trim of a door opening and hang about 1/2 inch above the floor.”
Not all barn door hardware is built the same, so make sure you buy quality components so your sliding doors stay on track. A heavy-duty steel track mounted above the opening should have a deep groove along the top, so wheels run smoothly. Metal wheels typically last longer than those made of plastic or wood, however, they can also be noisier, if that is a consideration for the space in which the barn doors are placed.
Barn doors are at home ...
■In the kitchen. Barn doors are living large in the home’s larder as they cover the pantry or are used as a set of doors into the dining room or entertainment area, creating smaller, more intimate spaces away from a kitchen’s mess.
■In bedrooms. Barn doors can serve as closet doors or be used between a sleeping space and a bathroom. Be warned, however, that barn doors do not provide as much privacy as a hinged door.
■In laundry rooms. There’s no need to air dirty laundry, as barn doors look squeaky-clean concealing a washer and dryer setup.
■In outdoor kitchens. You can get cooking with doors that slide to expose appliances in a pool house or cabana.
■In home offices. Barn doors can help your space look smart and work smart.
■In a child’s playroom or craft room. Barn doors keep the fun contained, while keeping toys, games and crafts in one spot rather than having items scattered throughout the entire house.
■ In shelving units. Barn doors add warmth and texture to an entertainment center, which can conceal the television, electronics or books as a modern-day armoire.
Whaley warns that while the function of barns doors is straightforward, installing them correctly isn’t always as easy. “A lot of people think they can install barn doors as a simple do-it-yourself project, but there’s a lot that goes into ensuring these doors don’t come away from the wall,” he says. “Making sure the track is installed properly onto a secured header into studs, that it runs level and supports the weight of the doors, is imperative. Otherwise, you can have 100 pounds or more of door and hardware that can come crashing down.”
Barn doors don’t require farmhouse charm; they can also be super sleek, with windows at the top to naturally illuminate the design element. Whaley says details — such as the size of the wheels, the strap design and the architectural pull particulars — can create a showstopper.
“Barn doors have a function that has worked extremely efficiently for centuries,” he says. “Now that they’ve become popular in the home, the stylistic form follows the function for these sliders.”