There’s no easy way way to say this: Making barn doors is not as easy as it look in DIY videos. Sure you can easily make one, but a well built barn door that maintains it’s shape over the years requires a bit of work.
When I first started making barn doors, I frequently went to the local Home Depot, purchased 1X6s and went to work. One of the first ones I made was for an interior designer who I hoped would refer me business should she be happy with the product. Well, she was…for a month. Unfortunately, after 2 months, it bowed over an inch from the outside edges to the middle and it was only 30″ wide!!! The moisture content of the wood was so high that when it dried out, it changed shape and that shape was not flat, square, planer, whatever you want to call it. This problem is not limited to wood bought at Home Depot or Lowes. It really can happen to any piece of wood bought anywhere. In fact, I go to a place here in Denver called Austin Hardwoods who kiln dry their wood to between 7% and 10% and it still happens if I don’t design and build the barn doors properly. The takeaway from this is, if the wood is gaining or loosing moisture relative to the ambient humidity it is going to change shape.
So WTF do you do if you want to build a door that maintains shape!? If you want the exterior to be made out of legitimate lumber instead of plywood, the only two ways to do this involve cutting the boards in half (making a 1X6 a 1/2X6). Then, you can glue the boards back together so that the twist, cup or bow oppose each other. For example, if it were a cupped board in the shape of a ‘C’, before glue up it would look like this: () or like this )( . Or, you can mount them to a piece of plywood, mdf or osb but you still need the boards to oppose each other on either side of the sheet good so that the distortion doesn’t transfer throughout the entire piece of wood.
While I understand that not everyone has the tools or capability to take advantage of these final woodworking words of wisdom, it’s worth noting. If you have the ability, you should square all of your lumber with a jointer, planer and table saw thereby significantly reducing the distortion in your lumber. Second, connect adjacent pieces of wood with pocket screws, a biscuit jointer or with a Festool Domino. Lastly, adjacent pieces of wood should alternate rings. When looking at the end of the board, unless you are paying ultra premium prices, every piece of wood has a ring pattern that are concentric crescents. Make sure when you are building your barn door that you alternate the crescents facing up and down. If the first board is in the shape of a U, then the next should be an upside down U.
If you follow these tips, you should greatly increase your chances of success building a barn door that stands the test of time. If you have any questions or I’m missing out on anything, please don’t hesitate to reach out!