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‘Barn doors’ offer versatility, fresh look

Kathryn Weber
Tribune Content Agency

One of the hottest design trends to come along in a long time is the “barn door.” Rather than what goes on, well, a barn, barn doors mostly refer to doors that slide across a wall rather than open inward or outward. Also called sliding doors, barn doors are showing up in lots of places where traditional doors won't go - or just to add a fresh update to a standard door.


Incorporating a barn door into your room's design is simple, but there's one big difference. Rather than a door frame with hinges that standard doors use, barn doors use a hanging track that's mounted above the door opening. The door then slides on tracks that are mounted to the header framing that's typically above the doorway.

Some important considerations: Hanging a sliding or barn door above a standard doorway will require determining that there is sufficient structure, such as headers, that will be able to hold the weight of the doors you want to install. This is especially important for heavier doors. An experienced carpenter will be able to tell you if your framing can support your door. Be sure to check, too, whether you need a permit before installing a sliding door.

Novel applications

Part of the barn door's greatest appeal is its space-saving abilities. In tight bathrooms where a standard door would slice into the room, a sliding door makes great use of limited space. A terrific spot for barn doors are over a closet that has a pair of standard sliding doors. When the doors are slid from one side to another, only one side of the closet is accessible. But when sliding doors are installed and can be pulled apart in the middle, it makes the whole closet reachable. Barn doors, while not cutting into room space, do take up wall space, but can often be made to open easily behind other furnishings such as bookshelves or a chest.

Another option for using a barn door is over an exterior window in place of shutters. Replacing shutters with barn doors is an easy way to update the outside of your house, and if you live in a storm-prone area, barn doors can be closed to provide extra protection during harsh weather. Barn doors also don't have to look like they go on a barn. Door styles can range from chalkboard to glass, from rustic or stainless-steel covered panels, to finished traditional doors. Barn doors are flexible enough to go with almost any kind of style, make them highly adaptable in many design settings.

More considerations

When thinking about barn doors, consider the material of the door, the style of the sliding hardware, door pulls and any locks you want to install. If you're replacing a standard door, the trim around your current door will need to be removed and the wall refinished. Likewise, if you remove the barn doors, the walls will need to be refurbished. Privacy and sealing are another concern when installing barn doors. Barn doors won't seal off for privacy the way a standard door does, so if that's a concern, such as in the bathroom or on an exterior wall, do take that into consideration.