This article was originally posted in Instructables and is reposted with permission from Dewey Lindstrom.
While building a couple of sheds (OK, glorified yard barns), I wanted to equip one of them with sliding barn doors. I like the look of sliding doors and they are very practical for a shed, allowing a much wider access opening than a normal door. But I developed a bad case of sticker shock after visiting my local building outlets to check out the cost of hardware I would need for such a project. The cheapest place I could find sold just the barn door hardware (not the doors themselves) for from $246 to $326, depending on how fancy I wanted it to look.
So I began to snoop around for some sort of alternative I could fabricate myself. And the biggest obstacle for any DIY sliding doors turned out to be the wheels/rollers. I needed something sturdy enough to take abuse, made for exterior use, that would roll smoothly, and that wouldn’t cost an arm and a leg. While prowling around in my shop for something like that, I happened to stumble on my son’s old skateboard. And its wheels looked like a perfect candidate for the job.
After a few minutes price shopping online, I ordered a set of 4 skateboard wheels and bearings from Newclue Inc. via Amazon. The total price of the wheels shipped to my door was $17.35.
Next, I needed a rail for the wheels to glide on. I found the solution in the electrical department at Home Depot. It’s called Superstrut and a 10-foot length sells for $15. It’s a 3-sided channel of heavy gauge galvanized steel. Unfortunately, it didn’t come in 12-foot lengths, which is what would have been best for my project, so I had to purchase two 10-foot lengths for $30. To provide a little additional strength, I decided to top off the Superstrut with two 6-foot lengths of 1-by-1 angle iron at a cost of $26. (I doubt this extra precaution was necessary, and I believe the rail could be built without it.)
The hangers themselves are fairly simple: 1 1/2-by-1/8-inch flat stock steel was bent into a U shape and then drilled to accommodate the axles for the wheels/rollers. I bought two 4-foot lengths of the flat stock from Orchard Supply for a total of $18. The other miscellaneous nuts and bolts I used came to $3.
My finished sliding barn door hardware cost a grand total of $95. Yes, it is quite a bit more than simple hinges and a hasp lock, but it is also well under the cheapest commercial price of $246 for barn door sliders.
Here's how I fabricated the barn door rollers using skateboard wheels.
Step 1: The Roller/Wheels
The photo shows the skateboard wheels and bearings as they arrived from Newclue. The wheels are 1 9/64 inches wide and 2 inches tall.
Step 2: Shaping the Hangers
Cut two 4-foot lengths of 1 1/2-foot flat stock in half, yielding a total of 4 sections at 24 inches each. Each section is then bent in half around a piece of 1-inch metal pipe. To do this, lay the flat stock on a solid bench or table and then lay the pipe over the flat stock at right angles. Clamp the pipe to the work bench.
Grasp each end of the flat stock and pull upwards. It will bend relatively easy. Use a hammer to coax the bend down near the pipe. You want to end up with a fairly tight bend and space of about 1 1/4 inches between the 2 sides of your hanger.
Place a wheel in position to insure the width of your bend will allow free movement of the wheel and make a mark at the center of the flat stock where the axle with be.
Step 3: Mounting the Wheels in the Hangers
Cut a piece of 2-by-6 lumber 1 1/4-inches long and place it between the two sides of the hanger for support. Drill a pilot hole through the top and then the bottom of the flat stock where you made your mark. I used a drill press to do this but if you are very careful to keep things vertical you can use a hand drill. With the hanger still clamped in place, switch to a 5/16-inch bit and drill the final mounting holes for the axle. Most skateboard axles are universal, but measure the diameter of your bearings to insure a 5/16-inch bolt will fit snugly. The exact position of the axle hole from the top of the hanger does not need to be precise as long as your wheel is down far enough so that it will turn freely.
Washers will need to be placed on each side of the wheel bearing so that the axle bolt can be tightened but the sides of the hanger will not come in contact with the rubber wheel. You will also need to keep in mind the thickness of your door. You may need to experiment with different numbers of washers to get it just right.
Drill two door mounting holes near the other end of the hanger. The exact placement of these holes will vary a bit depending on the door you are building/using. Just make sure the holes will be placed in a solid area of the door.
The roller/hangers are then painted and reassembled.
Step 4: The Parts for Hanging the Rail
You will need a Suerstrut. For a 6-foot door opening like mine, the Superstrut is cut into two 6-foot lengths for a total rail length of 12 inches.
The rail is mounted to the building using four 3-inch lag bolts, 12 steel washers (some nylon washers are shown in the photo but use all steel washers) and four 11/16-inch nuts. These nuts slip over the lag bolts and are used only as spacers.
Not shown are the two 6-foot lengths of 1-by-1 angle iron which are laid on top of the Superstrut.
Step 5: Hanging the Rail
To hang the railing, first place a temporary spacer about a 1/2-inch thick under your door opening. Set your door on top of this spacer and mark the height of the top edge of your door. (I have not covered the door or door construction in this post.) Make a second mark 1/2-inch above this first mark. With a carpenter’s level, use this upper marker to draw a line extending 6 feet to either side of the center of the door opening. The line should be 12 feet long total. If you are making your door wider or narrower than the 6-foot door opening width used for this building, adjust your rail accordingly.
Set the angle iron on top of the Superstrut and mark the angle iron in the center of the hole in the Superstrut. Drill a 3/8-inch hole through the angle iron. Then, with an assistant holding the Superstrut in place just above the line you drew earlier, mark and drill holes in the building for the lag screws. If there is no stud directly behind this hole, you will need to cut and nail a 2-by-4 support between the existing studs directly behind the hole. The lag screw needs a very solid base for mounting. Then assemble the Superstrut and angle iron and screw them to the wall as shown in the photo.
Set the right hand door in the door opening and temporarily clamp it or have someone hold it in place so that it is centered in the door opening. Slip two roller/hangers over the Superstrut railing and position them near the left and right sides of the door making sure they are positioned at a very solid portion of the door. Mark and drill 1/4-inch holes through the door to match the two bottom holes of each hanger. Then attach the door to the hangers using quarter-inch bolts and nuts.
Slide the door to the end of the Superstrut to insure it does not bind at any point. Then repeat the mounting procedure for the left side door. You will note that the outer-most lag bolt will act as a stop, preventing the wheels from ever running off the end of the rail.
Step 6: Installing a Bottom Deflector
To keep the door vertical while it is being opened and to prevent the wind from ever blowing it outward, install a section of galvanized or aluminum angle iron at the bottom of the door using concrete screws to fasten it to the surface.
And now you've got sliding barn doors! You can see more photographs of this project on my original Instructables post.