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How To Guide: Building Custom Barn Doors

Whether you’re doing a DIY project or getting the help of carpentry experts, it’s essential to know every step of the process before you get started. That way, you understand what materials are needed, what general price points to look for, and what questions to ask experts. At Raleigh Woodworks, when we take on a project with our clients, we explain the process in detail so our customers aren’t surprised. 

One of our more popular projects is custom sliding barn doors. These doors are functional art pieces that create a striking focal point in any room. With options for rustic, industrial, or modern designs, these doors can upgrade the aesthetic appeal of your home. However, if you’re just getting started thinking about the project, you might not know what goes into creating one of these doors and what is needed. 

That’s why we wanted to assemble this how-to guide to break down every step of the process— from design to final installation. With this guide, you can get an overview of the process and the benefits of doing this DIY or hiring a custom carpentry team like Raleigh Woodworks. 

Read on to learn all about building custom barn doors! 

Determining the Style and Design 

At Raleigh Woodworks, we always start by discussing the style and design of the carpentry project with our clients. We ask questions like:

  • Are there any particular color schemes or textures that you’re interested in? 

  • What is the size of the entrance, and how do you want it to look? 

  • How would you describe the style of your decor? Are you looking for something more rustic or contemporary? 

  • Should the door have a window? If so, should it be completely transparent or opaque?

  • Are you considering a single sliding door, or do you want it French door style?

  • Why do you want this barn door? How do you imagine it being used?

By asking these questions, we can start determining the design and style of the door with your space. That can help us assess material, colors, any design elements, and the project's overall scope. By asking yourself these questions, you can plan your project and determine the next steps. 

In addition, if you’re interested in collaborating with a custom carpentry team, Raleigh Woodworks offers Sketchup 3D design services priced at $150 per hour. This includes one round of edits, and any additional edits will be billed hourly. Once the drawing is completed, it's yours to keep, regardless of whether you choose us for the project. However, if you decide to proceed with the project as rendered, you'll receive a 50% refund on the rendering cost, which will be applied to your final invoice.

Whether you make your own DIY design or partner with a team like Raleigh Woodworks, finalizing that design is crucial to getting started creating your custom barn door. 

Getting the Desired Dimensions and Building

Once you have the design in place, it’s important to start crafting at the correct dimensions. Then, select the poplar or other wood that is presentable with the dimensions needed. Once you have the material, you can cut the length of the door. As a note, it’s always a good idea to leave a little bit extra on the styles and rails.

Once you have that length, you must cut the wood to the correct width. You’ll want to slowly work the edge to a straight edge while working out any bowing in the wood. In addition, plane the pieces down to 1 5/8ths inches in thickness for consistency.

Once you have the length and the width, set up the router with the mortise and tenon bits and cut out the center of all the rails and styles, but only the ends of the rails. Then, use the hand router and chisel to cut out a half-inch section of the style to accept the rails.

At Raleigh Woodworks, sometimes we do doors that include windows. If so, you need to cut and measure the correct dimensions for the window. If there is no glass, make panels out of ply to enter the door using the single reveal bit on the router table for all four sides of the panel.

After you follow these steps, you’ll have a door that is cut and fit to the correct dimensions. Now, you need to think about getting it sanded and fit correctly. 

Sanding and Fitting the Door 

Now, it’s important to fill and sand everything separately. Everything must be smooth, not only so it doesn’t hurt anyone but so that it can be painted to complement your room. Depending on the design of the door, you may want to sand it to the level that there’s still a little texture, especially if it’s a more rustic design. If you seal the wood after that, you may also want to sand again to make sure it’s completely smooth. After you finish sanding and filling and making sure any hardware is attached, you can start fitting. 

Start by dry fitting, but if everything fits properly, you can pocket hole and glut the rails to each style at the top and bottom of the door. Depending on the style of the door, we may also add a board that attaches the door to the rail, however it can depend on the style of the project. The installation also depends on whether you have two sliding french doors or a singular door. 

Then, the next thing you know, you have a door that is fit and ready to get the finishing touches. 

Painting and Finishing 

Now that the door is built, sanded, and fit to the doorway, it’s time to paint and finish. Depending on the design, this can involve staining, painting, and making sure all elements fit your design and mesh with the room's design. For staining and finishing the wood, this is sometimes done before installation, but it does depend on the process. 

Now, after following these steps, you have a handcrafted custom barn door that can make a striking statement in any room. Depending on the size or scope of your project, when you partner with a company like Raleigh Woodworks, you can have this new door in your home in just a couple of weeks. 

Ready to Add Custom Barn Doors to Your Home?

Whether you choose to partner with a carpentry company or the DIY approach, we hope this guide helped give an overview of the project and what you need to consider. Of course, this was just a brief overview of the steps of the project. If you need help with your custom barn door or any other home improvement project, we’re prepared to help. Serving both Wake and Johnston County in North Carolina, we transform ordinary houses into extraordinary homes with stylish and functional carpentry. From custom barn doors to whole home renovations to storage and cabinetry— our multi-talented team is dedicated to adding style and functionality to any space.

With over two decades of experience in the commercial industry, our team handles project management, cabinetry, custom furniture installation, and more. No matter the type or size of the project, we are your one-stop connection for all your carpentry and woodworking needs. Contact us today to get started!

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