4 Factors to Consider Before Installing a Barn Door in Your Home

Plus, barn door alternatives that you can still DIY.

Rett Peek Photography Inc.
Rett Peek Photography Inc.

Barn doors have been having a moment (or a decade) but are they still relevant enough to consider installing? If you have a narrow space, or want an easy door solution that can be installed by your average DIYer, a barn door might be a good choice for you. “A sliding barn-style door adds character to your home's interior. If you want a stylish door replacement, a barn door is a unique and eye-catching choice,” says Sarah Fishburne, director of trend and design, The Home Depot. She also points to the barn door as a viable option for tighter or narrower spaces where you might not have enough clearance for a more traditional door type. While there are certainly benefits of fan-favorite barn doors, there are also plenty of installation, design, and privacy considerations to keep in mind as you determine the best door for your space. Should you decide that a barn door isn’t right for you, Fishburne also provides four alternatives to consider.

What to Know About Barn Doors

“Choosing the right sliding barn door for your home is dependent on your personal style and your home’s architectural design,” says Fishburne. “Whatever the material or style, adding or replacing your door can truly define the space.” While barn doors seem synonymous with the farmhouse style homes we’ve been seeing soaring in popularity over the past decade, Fisburne assures there are plenty of other barn door styles to work with that deliver a more classic, modern, or traditional feel. “Don’t forget that the track color will make a door feel one way or the other,” she advises. “Now there is even matte gold hardware that can be modern or a nod to [the] Art Deco trend.”

Related: Interior Door Designs

Barn Door Installation Considerations

While learning how to install a barn door is a relatively easy project, Fishburne advises that an attention to detail is paramount in order to ensure the door works safely and effectively. Here she provides a few more helpful tips for installing barn doors:

  • Space: Depending on whether you opt for a single sliding door or a double, you’ll have to make sure there is suitable clearance next to the door opening for the door or doors to slide completely open. Of course, a double door will need clearance on both sides of the opening.

  • Location: While placement of outlets, heating and cooling registers, and light switches are important factors to be aware of, they don’t necessarily need to be deal breakers if they’re potentially in the path of your future barn door. Simply hiring an electrician to relocate them can resolve the issue.

  • Measurements: “A sliding barn door should be tall enough so that there is about a 1/2-inch of space between the bottom of the door and the floor when it’s hung on the metal track,” says Fishburne. “It should also be wide enough to completely cover the entryway with an inch or two of overhang on both sides and about one inch at the top.”

Disadvantages of Barn Doors

One of the primary drawbacks of barn doors is that they’re a trend that will likely not be in favor forever. That being said, they have the benefit of being relatively easy to install and remove should you decide the look is no longer what you’re after.

Another barn door disadvantage is the lack of sound dampening. This is one of the reasons they’re not ideal for bedrooms, unless used for a bath within the primary suite.

One last drawback to consider is the barn door’s lack of privacy, since they typically don’t have locking functionality.

Barn Door Alternatives

If a barn door isn’t right for you or your space, there are other style alternatives that can create a sleeker look, provide an interesting storage solution, seamlessly slide into the wall, or fold accordion style.

  • Bifold Doors: “Bifold doors are made of two small panels that fold into each other as they open,” explains Fishburne. “These doors are installed on a track inside the closet frame.” She suggests using them in places where space is very limited. You can customize them to suite your decor and even opt for brighter paint to make them pop.

  • Bookcase Doors: “Bookcase doors, also known as hidden doors, are a sophisticated option for medium-size to large rooms,” says Fishburne. “The built-in shelving offers extra storage and display space, and many are designed to sit flush with the frame for a seamless design.” If you’re looking for a door that can actually enhance your space instead of just acting as a necessary element, a hidden door might be the ticket.

  • Pocket Doors: These doors can be completely hidden to keep the space feeling open and airy. When they slide out and into action, they can instantly define a room or space. For example, an office that’s built into a tucked-away nook in the bedroom can be completely closed off when the work day has ended. Similarly, a messy mudroom can be hidden from view when guests drop by after a particularly messy post-soccer-practice equipment drop and opened back up to the main living quarters when the space is put back together—or moved to the laundry room.

  • Sliding Doors: If you’re looking for a door option that will provide a modern look with a sleek finish and is easy to install, sliding doors might be what you’re after. “Like bifold doors, these are installed on a track in the closet frame,” explains Fishburne. “However, the door shifts to the side inside the closet instead of folding open.” She recommends opting for sliding doors in smaller rooms that aren’t able to accommodate doors that open out and away from a closet.

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