DIY Sliding Door

DIY Sliding Door – easy to do, instructions & plan.

I wanted to add a sliding door to hide a hallway in my living room

As well as a decorative item adding character to the living room the sliding door will also act as a stair gate and add sound proofing properties. I wrote this guide to help you understand how your DIY sliding door project can be a success!

DIY Sliding Door
This is what my design of a sliding door looks like when it is completely finished.

Before I jumped into building the door, I drew up some plans so I could understand the cost and materials needed. Feel free to steel my plan with pride! I went for a barn style door and tried to figure out how to achieve the design, by considering the ease of construction, the cost and quality of materials and additional benefits such as sound and fire proofing properties.

The plan contains the board pattern (ABCDE) and the dimensions for the plywood panel.

You can build a sliding door easily, cheaply and safely.

I realise there are a ton of designs on the internet and probably tons of ways to build sliding doors but I used DIY techniques that I knew I was relatively good at. I purchased materials that were cost effective and researched the sound absorption properties of those materials.

My main aims for the project were:

  • Have a great looking design, clean simple and characteristic.
  • 10-20db Sound absorption
  • Easy to slide the door, especially for children
  • Handles easy to grab onto and reachable by adults and children
  • Door is safe to use and has limited possibility to demount
  • Low cost, sustainable and durable materials
  • Has basic fire protection capabilities

So, to summarise, I felt it would be a good idea to use wooden boards (planks) for the decorative effect and then one single piece of plywood to hold it all together. Looking around online for ideas I found a kit for hanging a barn style door.

I purchased the Kit through Wish but Amazon also offers some design variations of the kit, that you might like to consider.

What thickness should a sliding door be?

Cost was not the only thing, the brackets I chose to use to hang the door allow for no more than approx 45mm thickness. I figured this out by playing with the door kit and measuring it with a tape. Having a door too thick will mean the door bolts won’t fit the door and if you decide to use longer bolts, they might rub along the wall. So I suggest carefully choosing the thickness of the door in your plan and stick with it. The kit I purchased (link below), has bolts that could support 40-43mm quite comfortably. My door ended up being just shy of 40mm.

This kit can be found on: Amazon UK | Amazon US | Amazon DE | Amazon AU

Deciding the height and width of your sliding door

The height and width of the door was simply the height and width of the opening I wanted to cover + 40mm each side and 40mm on the height to block light and sound coming through the side of the door. Hence 1080mm by 2000mm for an opening of 1000mm x 1960mm.

Sliding door with soundproofing

You have a few options when it comes to choosing the right materials for soundproofing and my decision to use Spruce Plywood as the main component for soundproofing the sliding door was based on the thickness, cost and durability (door being long lasting with minimal maintenance).

MaterialCostProsCons
MDFCheap– Very dence
– Very thick
– Very heavy
– I was not confident that the nails and glue would hold
Birch PlywoodExpensive (100€ at 18mm)– Exceptional sound proofing– Expensive, double the cost of spruce plywood
– Still quite heavy but not too bad at 18mm.
Spruce PlywoodReasonable cost (approx 50€ at 18mm)– Excellent sound absorption (albeit not the best)– The local sawmill didn’t offer 21mm which I would have preferred.
– Not as good as birch
OSBCheap– Great sound absorption (albeit not the best)– The wooden pattern was not what I desired
Above: Options that I compared Spruce plywood to.
Sound reduction, dB suggested by the Finnish forestry union. https://www.metsateollisuus.fi/uploads/2017/03/30041750/887.pdf

So at 18mm, spruce plywood, I can expect to meet my goal of achieving 10-20db soundproofing. Grade 3 has knots in the wood, holes and dents are still minimal. If you intend to paint your door, grade 3 will suffice.

Sliding door material cost breakdown:

Prices are retail from a local DIY store

  • Grade 3 Plywood (Spruce, not birch) including sawmill fee for cutting: 47€
  • Water-based white paint (half gloss/Satin): 20€
  • 4 x stainless steel bolts for door handles: 2€
  • Packet of black bolt caps M8 size: 4€
  • 22 x 150mm Wooden boarding (approx 2€ /m), about 20€
  • Door handles: 29€
  • Sliding Door Hanging kit: 60€
  • Wood filer (optional) and sanding paper: 2-10€

Tools used in this project:

  • Air powered nail gun + compressor (Can be hired if you don’t have one).
  • 30mm length nails for nail gun (ensure the length is 2mm less than your door thickness).
  • Socket set, screw drivers.
  • Door hanging kits comes with wall plugs, bolts, washers.
  • Strong PVA / Wood Glue
  • Clamps

Some practicalities and safety advice

  • Wear safety goggles to protect your eyes
  • Wear ear defenders when using loud machines
  • Gloves to protect your hands
  • Help from somebody for lifting the materials

Consult a professional if you are unsure about anything, or feel free to drop me a line (I’m not a professional myself but I am happy to provide clarifications and offer assistance). Ensure that your installation location is free of electrical cables, plumbing gas pipes and or other obstacles that could put you or your loved ones at risk.

With this in mind, here’s how it’s done..

Cut a piece of plywood to size

Spruce Plywood cut to size, rested on supports.

To save time, I visited a local home improvement shop that was equipped with a sawmill and had the plywood cut to 1080 x 2000. In addition to this, I loaded up some 22x150mm boards onto the trailer.

Pick up as many boards needed to cover the pieces needed to cut. I rough cut them at the shop and then cut them to size back at home with the mitre saw.

Measure and cut the boards to size

Measure the length with a tape measure. Mark and then rule across with a set square. Line up the mitre saw blade with the line, ensuring the the blade is cutting on the scrap piece edge. This way you’ll get a more accurate cut.

Place the planks

When you’ve cut all four lengths, place them on the plywood and line them up. If you find that something is too long or short. Trim down or sand the plank/board until it fits. What you are looking for here is a perfect fit on all four sides.

It’ll save you time and get you a better finish if all the planks match up and fit snug. Small imperfections can be sanded away at a later stage in this project.
Walk around and check all sides!

Time to glue and nail the planks

For a longer lasting finish, you’ll need the help of some glue to bond the planks and some nails to hold everything in place.

I would highly recommend renting, buying or borrowing a air powered nail gun (brad nailer). Brad nailer fires really small nails (typically 15mm – 50mm in length). It’s the perfect tool for precision projects like this, where using a hammer to hit nails would make it really difficult for you to keep everything in place. Additionally you’ll need an air compressor capable of 6-8 bar.

Tiny nails become hidden

If you’re worried about seeing nails, they are so small you can paint over them quite easily – no filler needed. Set the nail gun to indent the nail by 1-1.5mm.

Alternative to nailing?

If you don’t have a brad nailer or air compressor, then you could probably get away with just using a really strong adhesive such as a polymer based adhesive.

My weapon of choice has been the Senco S200BN. Highly accurate, safe and easy to use.
Senco Nails 30mm are what I used in this project. My tape measure always makes me feel thirsty during work!

Note: Make sure that the length of your nails does not exceed the thickness of your door! The thickness of my door was 38mm approx. 30mm in this case, meant absolutely no risk of nailing through to the other side of the door.

Tidy up the loose ends

Give the ends of planks a quick sand, to remove splinters that might prevent your planks sitting flush with the plywood.

Give a quick rub down with 40 / 100 grit paper to remove splinters. You want a flush fit plank to plywood. The edges of the door can be sanded later on.

Here’s the process for installing the planks using nails

  • Pick side of blank that has the better appearance and place face down.
  • Glue the back of plank with a wave pattern of glue or polymer adhesive if you are not using nails.
  • Carefully place the plank down onto the plywood and clamp.
If you have clamps available, clamp with two pieces of wood so that the clamp arms do not dent your workpiece.
  • With the plank clamped, Nail with the square gun. Nail away from the edges of the plank in a formation like this:

With all the planks in place, nailed and glued, you can begin work on the diagonal plank. Place a length of wood across the door so that it extends past both corners.

Now we are going to cut to fit a diagonally positioned plank.

Line up each end of the plank, so that it meets the corner of the other planks. Like this:

The right side of the plank laying down is lined up with the corner of planks fitted to the plywood.

Check each side twice, make sure you are happy with the alignment on each side. When you are happy, use a straight ruler or a set square to draw a line across the plank. This will be the line that you cut.

Before you make the cut, have a few practices with the scrap end of the plank and change the angle of your mitre saw accordingly. Try to get it as close are you can, better if it’s slightly larger, because we can sand down 1-2mm as a next step.

Practice cuts before the real cut.

Sand back until you get a good fit.

Keep sanding until you get a great fit.

Do the same for both ends of the plank.

Glue, and nail into place. If you can’t clamp, hold down with weight as you nail the board into place.

The next step will be to give the door a sand down with 240 then 400 grit sandpaper.

I’m using an orbital sander but a regular sanding block also works well.

If you have an air blower attachment for your compressor or a brush, give the door a once over to clean away dirt, dust and wood particles.

Now its a good time for a coffee and snack. The wood work is mostly complete!

Preparing the sliding door for painting.

Prop up the door and take a good look at it. Identify any parts of the door you wish to sand or use a filler to close gaps or imperfections. On my door, I closed a few gaps with wood filler and acrylic. If you use a water based floor paint, half gloss, it will seal gaps 1mm by itself easily, so you’re really looking for larger gaps.

Any decent wood filler will do. Apply with finger or spatula.
Basic builders acrylic / caulk is good for gaps also, a bit more fluid like.
Planks join with wood filler
Now your door is ready for painting!

Painting a sliding door

If you’ve used any filler, let it dry out for some time before adding paint.

For the painting of the door, you will need paint, a stiff brush, a roller brush and tray. Pour some paint in and make a start!

The stiff brush makes it easy to get into corners.

Nails should be paintable with very little effort. If the paint is thick enough, no filler is needed.

Before>

After:

Nails are so small, that they are quite easy to miss.
After first coat, the wood marks are still visible. Apply a second coat if desired.

Paint the back of the door next.

With grade 3 wood, you will have knots but they should not affect the surface or finish of the paint.

Hanging / installing a sliding door

I ordered a sliding door kit which contained everything I needed to hang the door onto the wall. The basic components of the kit are two hanging arms with wheels, a rail and wall bolts.

The kit has everything you need for a basic installation.

This kit can be found on: Amazon UK | Amazon US | Amazon DE | Amazon AU

This manual was included in the kit but unfortunately I do not know the original supplier so that I can reference the image.

Installation of the sliding door arms

My suggestion is to place the arms where they look the best whilst ensuring the holes for the bolts are not too close to the edge of the door, otherwise you will risk the bolt eventually splitting the wood and your door will fall off! We want the door installation to be as strong and safe as possible.

Ask your partner or friend to give you a visual reference if you are unsure where to put the arms.

I played with the idea of mounting them away from the joints of wood but decided in the end to mount them where the angles joined.

Arrow points to the angles in the wood

When you have decided on the location, mark the centre of one hole with a pencil (or use a set square to if you want to quantise the measurement). You’ll need to use a set square to find where the hole is positioned horizontally in any case. In my case it was 150mm. I drew one mark at 150mm.

Marking and finding out the measurement so that the second hold can be drawn in the same position hozitonally.

Then a second mark higher up.

Marking another hole in the same horizontal position.

Now, I am able to draw a line vertically over the holes.

Drawing a line vertically.

You can now place the arm over the line and ensure the bracket is in the position you want it to be. We are only going to start with drilling one hole, so you only need to ensure that the bottom hole (of the two) has the line centred within. We can come back to the second hole later on. Draw a circle or + shape when you are ready.

In this picture I am only concerned about the position of the bottom hole. The top hole will be drilled later on.

Drilling holes for sliding door arms

Now we are ready to drill our first hole. Clamp up two pieces of wood both sides of the door. The first piece that you see in the picture below, is only needed to act as a barrier between the clamp itself and the door. The second piece of wood needs to be positioned over where the hole is to be drilled. Using this technique will prevent the wood splitting as the drill bit exits out the other side of the door. And it’s really important that we have an excellent finish, so take your time with this.

Clamping a piece of wood in the path of the drill, will prevent the wood splitting as it exits the other side. You can see three pencil marks in this picture, the first two were used to create the line and the third to mark where the hole needs to go.
Clamping technique. One piece is vertically orientated whilst the other horizontally.

Drill the hole, completely through the door. Ensure that the drill bit is slightly bigger than the bolt thread thickness. It doesn’t need to be tight but should not be much larger than the thickness of the bolt. For example 8mm bolt, 10mm drill bit is fine.

Drill only the first hole.
If you notice minor splits or if the paint has left the edges of the hole, don’t worry, the arm’s bolts and washers will hide these.

Install the arm with the bolts. Not too tight, tight enough that it stays upright and is movable.

Straighten up the arm take a step back and see if it’s straight. In the picture below, you’ll see that my vertical line is well aligned. When you are happy with the position, mark a + in the hole.

Arm has one bolt installed, we’ll rotate it out of the way to drill the second hole.

Do the same for the other side.

Checking the brackets, both sides.
Take a step back and chek the door.

When you have checked the arms and you’re happy with them, mark the holes with + centred and you are ready to drill.

Rotate the arms to give you the space you need. Do not drill through the arm’s hole.

Once you have drilled both holes, add the bolts and now tighten.You don’t need to tighten too much, the bolt itself is taking the weight of the door, not the nuts. If you over-tighten, you will compress the door and it will be visible to the eye.

Both arms installed, looking good!
If your holes are bigger than the diameter of your bolts, this will give you some opportunity for minor adjustments.
Checking the rear of the door. As mentioned, if you over-tighten, you’ll end up compressing the wood around the bolts. You’ll ideally want a flush finish like in the picture.

If you’ve made it this far, congratulations. Give yourself a pat on the back,. Now we are ready to start with the door installation.

Installing the sliding door.

Now that the sliding door has it’s arms ready, it’s time to install the rail. Before we do that, there’s some practical things to consider.

  • The door must be easy to open both sides, so ensure the door opens and closes with no obstructions. If you have obstructions, move them (plug sockets, beading, skirting, etc) so that the door can travel freely.
  • Door handles should be installed on both sides, so that the door can be operated easily.
  • Mount the door handles so that they are reachable by little ones, or guests. I chose to mount at 100cm.
  • I considered adding a lock to the door but I was too concerned about fire safety and chose not to make the door lockable.
  • Bolts that hold the rail, need to be screwed into pre-drilled holes and into a material that is strong (such as concrete, stone, brick or wood). In my case, I had a wooden struts behind the walls. Gypsum / plasterboard would be OK if you’re using a strong wall anchor.

    Wall Plugs Amazon UK | Wall Plugs Amazon USA | Wall Plugs Amazon DE | Wall Plugs Amazon AU
  • The installation instructions that come with the door install kit are not bad but I found it was confusing in some areas and it didn’t bring me confidence. You’ll see that in the following steps, I have worked around the instructions.
This is the space where I am installing the door.

Test out your door. If you got your measurements correct, the door should cover the space as you expected it!

My door fits perfectly, although in this pic I have slightly to the left, hence the gap.

The installation kit suggests a space of 10mm under the door. I found a scrap piece of wood which measured about 14mm.

A piece of wood underneath the door to prop it up by about 14mm is recommended.

By placing the door into it’s place, you’ll be able to place the bar above it under the wheels. A couple things you need to think about here, is the left position of the rail. Where it will start and where it will end. In the kit instructions is says 120mm from the left border of the opening. My door is 2000mm wide, so if the rail is offset by 120mm, the door is most likely just able to full clear the space when I open it. I’m actually OK with this as I think it is safer to make the door always visible in the space (see below).

Door never fully opens 100%, I think this is safer way to install the door. It means the door handle is in a reachable position at all times.

So with this in mind, carefully think of the sliding door rail position. My door was 1080mm wide. The sliding door rail is 2000m wide. Starting the rail at -120mm meant I lost some of the rail length (in terms of how far I could move the door along to the end of the rail). By having the arms 150mm inset from the door sides, this gave me some extra run distance. Another factor that effects the final door position.

If you can’t figure it out, don’t worry… you really can’t go wrong by positioning the start of the rail adjacent to the opening.

Slide the bar underneath the wheels, to mimic as if the door was hanging.

Have a play around with the positioning, ask somebody to help out but when you have something you are happy with, mark the holes with a pencil.

Pop a pencil in the hole and mark the wall. Drill one hole to begin with, and install a bolt. Test the strength of the wall and it’s ability to hold the bolt. The wall I am drilling into (below) is made up chipboard, wooden panelling, struts and beams. Luckily, there was a beam behind the chipboard that was strong enough to take the bolts. Use a drill bit slightly smaller than the bolt size.

If you’re drilling into concrete, brick, rock or plasterboard, use a masonry drill bit and good quality wall-plugs suited for the wall material type. Plasterboard doesn’t necessary need a masonry bit and/or hammer drill but I recommend a high strength wall plug or anchor.

Links below to get you started:

Wall Plugs Amazon UK | Wall Plugs Amazon USA | Wall Plugs Amazon DE | Wall Plugs Amazon AU

Drilling the marked hole
Adding a test bolt
Tightening with a ratchet and socket
Pull, wiggle and test the strength of the bolt.

If the bolts feel solid, you’re in a good place. If the bolts fall out or feel loose, you might need to think of other options. Longer bolts, larger wall plugs, expanding wall bolts, etc.

If your first bolt was strong enough, carry on drilling the other holes. There are three holes needed for the first half of the rail kit and a further two holes needed for installing the second half.

Add the bar and bolts, tighten.

Since my wall had a soft layer, I found as I was tightening the bolts, the bar was getting closer to the wall. This is a problem as it would mean the wheel assemblies would scrap along the wall. To solve this problem, I needed to use spacers and washers to compensate the 2-3mm. I don’t see this problem happening with harder surfaces.

Installing a sliding door rail bar -finally!

Lift up the door onto the rails and give it a test. Be prepared to lift the door back off if you find the rail cannot support the weight of your door!

Hang the door as a test!

You won’t be able to slide the door just yet, but you can check that you have the clearance at the bottom of the door and that the wheel assemblies do not rub along the wall. Good job! Now for the second part of the rail ..

Installing the second part of the rail is a little easier, follow the same process as before. Lift off the door, add your scrap wood underneath the door to give you the 10-14mm clearance and place the bar underneath the wheels. You should find that the bar lines up quite nicely. Move the door out of your way, Mark the holes, drill and install the bar with bolts and you should find yourself with something like the below:

Installing the second part of the rail, it has a connection that links it with the first rail.

The door kit comes with stoppers, they slide onto the rail and you can tighten two small bolts on top of them. I placed them on the rail where I wanted the door to stop.

Adding the door stopper to the rail. This means the door stops as you open and close it but it’s also a crucial safety feature to prevent the door from leaving the rail.

To install the left hand stopper, you might need to remove the wall bolt, slide on the stopper and then add the wall bolt back. Ensure the door is hanging from the second part of the rail whilst you do this, or better still lift off the door.

Removing the left door bolt to allow sliding of the left door stopper.

Open and close the door, test the door stoppers work and adjust as necessary! As I mentioned earlier, this is the amount of space I wanted to have when the door was opened.

Having space on the door here means I can have a door handle visible at all times.

Installing door handles on a sliding door.

I picked up a couple of metal handles that I thought would suit the style of the door. One important feature that these handles have is that they are secured with screws. Not bolts that go through the whole door. This is important because I wanted to mount the handles at different heights on each side of the door.

Door handles for sliding doors

I grabbed some M8 6 x 30mm stainless steel screws and a packet of black bolt caps. The width of my door was at least 38mm. Stainless steel at 6mm is very strong and durable. The door handles will stay in place for years to come. I chose not to use washers, I don’t think it necessary and felt the handles look better without washers.

I planned to install the handles onto the door 100cm from the floor. So I measured and marked with a small pencil mark.

Mark 100cm with a pencil. This will be the centre point of where the handle will be positioned.

Take a set square and bring it to the 100cm mark. I wanted to install the door handle so that it would be centred on the plank horizontally. In my case the plank width was 150mm, so the position of the pencil mark would be 75mm. On the back side of the door, I wanted the door handle to be lower than that of the front because I have some stairs on the other side of the door. Hence I didn’t use bolts that went through the whole door. This of course is an option for you and up for to you to decide.

This would form the centre point of my door handle. The screw holes would be both approx. 7cm north and south of this pencil mark.

Finding the exact position for the door handle

Hold up the door handle to the door, centre it and mark the holes of your desired location. When you drill the holes, use a wooden drill slightly smaller than your bolt size. In my case I was using 6×30 M8 screws. This meant I drilled in approx 24mm. I used a marker pen to draw on the drill bit. So as I was drilling I knew when to stop. Note, if you go straight into the wood with these screws, you’ll risk splitting the wood. Always worth a pilot hole, it also guides the position of the screw.

Line up the screw with the drillbit and mark it’s length. Do not include the length of the screw head.
First hole done.

Screw in the first screw, not too tightly. Just enough so that it supports the position of the door handle.

Adding a bolt means we can get the position of the second bolt hole very accurate. There’s nothing more annoying that a door handle that looks slightly dispositioned.

Grab the set square again, and rotate the door handle until you find the correct position. Mark the hole with a +. Drill the hole.

The progressive method of drilling two holes means you’ll get it 100% accurate, well at least 99% ! Hah!

With two bolts in place, you can add the caps.

Adding plastic caps over the screw heads.
Rub away pencil marks softly with a sponge and soap.

Now that you have the door handle in place, the second one can be secured exactly the same way. When you position the second door handle, ensure that you do not install it into the same position otherwise your screws will clash.

Door handles installed.
You’re pretty much done! Congrats!

Sliding door safety guide

The door slides over this metal piece. It prevents the door leaving the wall and I’d say it is a critical safety feature.

You’re very close to finishing the project, but there’s one more task that needs your attention. In the sliding door kit there is a small piece of metal that is designed to prevent the door from lifting away from the wall. You have two options with this, either make a groove in the bottom of the door or purchase a roller guide. Most likely the determining factor will be whether you have access to a router.

I will show you how to route a groove in the bottom of the door, but if you prefer to purchase a roller guide, here’s the links.

Barn Sliding Door Roller Guide on Amazon:

Installing a sliding door safety guide

You’ll need a 6 mm wide straight router bit. The

With a 6mm wide router bit, you should have plenty of space for the glider bar. You can choose to use a smaller one if you have one. The guide is approx 3mm thick. With the router you’ll need to use the guide so that you route a straight groove.

The guide you install on the floor can also be used to keep the door at a certain distance from the wall. You might want to have a think about this as it will determine where you route the groove into the bottom of the door.

Guide should position the door well away from the wall and skirting.

Mark on the door where the groove should be made. Lift off the door and get it in a good position where you can use the router.

Line up the router using the guide.

Set the guide of the router to the measurement required so that you have the router bit lined up to the place that you need to cut the channel into the wood. You won’t be able to create the channel in one pass, it will overheat the router bit and you’ll risk becoming a victim of ricochet, no joke! So you’ll need at least 3-4 passes. Remember safety glasses, gloves and ear defenders. Face mask is also recommended.

First pass
When the metal guide fits into the groove, you can stop.

Now that the channel is finished, you can take a look to see if it is straight enough. I’ll be honest, my routing doesn’t win awards and yours doesn’t need to either. If you want to optimise the channel, you can install a plastic U shaped track into the channel. Plastic with metal runs quite smooth, no need to grease or lubricate.

U shaped plastic channel
Channel is straight enough in this case but I think I will use some plastic at a later stage, to make the rolling more smooth.

Plastic channeling can be secured with a construction glue. Cut the channel to length with a mitre saw or a sharp knife.

When you are finished, reinstall the door and test it out.

Guide and channel completed.

That’s it. All well and good, you should have yourself a sliding door!

DIY Sliding Door

I wish you the best with your project and feel free to reach out!

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