Introduction: Overlapping Tandem Barn Doors

My wife wanted something "simple" that we could use to close off our dining room from the babies' nursery next to it, so she decided it would be a good idea to build some barn doors to close it off. She got a few ideas from Pinterest, but I couldn't find any that showed how to build overlapping doors, so I had to use some ingenuity to figure out how to build them.

Step 1: Preparation: Sanding and Staining

I used 6" cedar fence slats for all the wood parts of the doors. (I used pine for the header boards, which we'll get to later).

I sanded all the slats down with 220 grit sand paper just to remove any splinter material. I wanted to keep the cedar look, so I did not sand smooth, but if you want that smooth look, start with 80 grit, then use a finer grit until you get it to your desired smoothness (be prepared to do A LOT of sanding!).

I was planning on putting a couple of coats of polyurethane on top of the stain, so I wasn't too worried about getting crazy with removing all the splinters, but my wife vetoed me on it, and we ended up using just stain.

Step 2: Stain the Slats

It's your choice of whether or not to stain all the pieces first, or the whole thing after it's built, but my wife has a hard time staining inside all the nooks and crannies, so she just stained all the pieces first. She did, however, have to stain the exposed ends that were cut with my saw later on.

I didn't want to wait on the second door to be stained, so I built it and then she stained it, so that's why the door is not stained in some pictures.

The stain is Ready Seal Dark Walnut from Home Depot. It's a great stain that wears really well, and looks great. Just brush on and let dry.

Step 3: Let the Stain Dry

I had to let the pieces dry outside overnight before I could assemble the door without getting stain all over myself. You can build it with the stain wet, but I wouldn't suggest it.

Step 4: Measure the Opening

It's critical that you measure your opening both up and down, and side to side.


You will cut your slats exactly the height of your opening minus whatever clearance you want the door to have above the floor (I wanted mine to have 1/2 inch between the floor and the door). If you want it to completely cover your overhead door trim, you'll have to measure from the top of that down instead of just inside the door.

My height was exactly 8', so I didn't have to cut my slats. (Don'tcha just love how things sometimes work out like that?)


This is the tricky part. My doors had to overlap, since I only have one wall the doors can rest on when they're fully open. Since there are two doors, the door width has to be at least half of the opening, and even more so if you want them to overlap.

You're better off just putting the slats together and seeing how wide they are when you add each full slat to the set, so you don't have to end up ripping one to size. I used 7 - 6" slats, which made my doors 42" wide, and since my opening is 38", I was able to get 4" of overlap on the doors.

The picture above is of me seeing how the door will fit on the wall, and how it will fit in the opening.

Remember: The wall that the door rests on when it is fully open has to be at least the same width as one door! (Not the same width as both doors, since one will sit behind the other.)

Step 5: Cut the Slats and Assemble the Door Frames

Since my dining room opening height is 8', I was able to use 8' slats and not have to cut them to size. I considered turning them horizontally, but I liked vertical look better.

I put all the slats for one door side by side and lined them up flush on the ends. I cut one slat in half for the bottom and top trim, and cut two slats to size for both of the sides and used an air nailer to attach them. You can use trim nails and a hammer here. It's just to hold it all together during assembly, and until you can drill the holes and install the nuts and bolts, which is what holds the whole thing together.

Step 6: Add the Trim Pieces

I cut a few slats down the middle to use as 3" trim for the window and "X" pattern.

I then cut the top and bottom trim pieces for the window, and the 3 pieces that make up the "X" pattern.

It takes some time, but if you lay out one trim piece diagonally , and mark it at the ends where it meets the other window and side door piece, and then draw a line from your mark on both sides to the center of end of the piece, you can match the pattern up pretty good to get a tight fit inside. Just make sure you center the diagonal piece on the inside corner of the "L" made by the window and side trim pieces.

Tack that into place, and then take another piece, and do the same as above for the ends, and carefully mark underneath, tracing the line that the first diagonal piece makes on the next piece, and then just cut out the middle of the piece at both lines so you have two short pieces that fit against the long diagonal piece.

Trim is tricky, especially at angles. You'll have some mis-cuts, but if you make sure to measure and remeasure, you can minimize them and get a good tight fit.

Step 7: Cut Out the Window (optional)

I had a couple of 2x2 sheets of glass I was going to use for the window (you can also get panes cut to size from Home Depot or Lowes), but my wife vetoed that idea (Again! She's does that a lot!), and wanted to use some black square iron rods we had from another project, instead, to make it look like a horse stall (Really? Horses in a dining room?). She really loves the look of Mr. Ed's jail cell, I guess.

Since you've already attached the window trim pieces first (and made sure the window fits between them), you can use them as a guide for your jigsaw when you cut out the hole for the inside of the window.

After you build both doors, it's fairly easy to cut some trim pieces to hold the window pane in.

If you decide to do the rods, you just need to put spacers between them and cut trim to hold them in.

Step 8: Repeat for the Other Side and Fasten Screws

Now, flip the door over, and do everything you just did on the other side (with the exception of cutting out the window). Just butt the trim around the window flush with the window opening.

Now, you need to get some pan head bolts, nuts, lock washers, and flat washers, and a drill bit one size larger than the bolts. The bolts need to be just long enough to go through 3 cedar slats and still have enough length for the lock washer, flat washer, and nut on the other side. I used 2 1/4", but ended up having to cut them off with my dremel (pictured) because they hit against the wall and the other door.

I painted all my hardware with flat black spray paint beforehand, and then went back and touched up whatever got marred up during installation.

Drill a hole for each slat at the bottom and top, and 2 at the end of each side board and 2 in the middle of each side board. This is just to hold it together securely. Don't worry about the window trim and "X" pattern (unless you want the look of having the bolts on them).

Step 9: Do It ALL Again for the 2nd Door.

Did you forget that there are two doors?

Repeat the whole process up until this point again, for the other door.

I'll wait...

Step 10: Build the Header

I used two 2" x 6" pine boards for the top part of the header, and one 3/4" x 6" for the bottom part of the header. You can see from the pic that I had to clear the opening trim so the doors wouldn't hit on it, and the 3/4" board helps to do that while also providing support for the bolts, and the two boards on top of it. You could probably get away with not having these 3 boards, but you would have to have huge lag bolts to prevent them from bending under the weight, not to mention the stained header makes it look much more aesthetically appealing IMO.

The length of my header was the length of the opening plus the length of one door. Since the opening is 72", and one door is 36", the total length of the header should have been 108" (almost 10'), BUT on my wall, it would have put the boards just shy of a wall stud to screw into on the end. I didn't like not having a stud to screw to on the end, because it had the possibility of warping over time, and creating a gap between the stud and the wall, so I just bought 12' boards (since they don't come in 11'), and cut it down to size. (You can see that one board is shorter than the other on top, and that's what happens when you don't measure twice.)

Get an electric stud finder! They're quite cheap at Home Depot, and you'll ask yourself how you ever lived without one. Use it to mark all the studs above the opening, and also past the opening where the header will be fastened to the wall. Mark the studs on the wall all the way up past the height of the header, or you'll kick yourself because the header will cover the marks, and you won't' see them.

Once you cut the boards to length, use 2" drywall screws to attach the 3/4" board on the bottom (right on top of the molding, if you have it). Then use 3" drywall screws to attach one 2" board on top of the 3/4" board, and then do it again for the 2nd 2" board on top, making sure it is flush with the first 2" board. Make sure you are hitting studs with the first two boards with every screw. This is important to provide added support for the rails.

Step 11: Cut the Rails and Make Marks for Lag Bolt Holes

I used the same material for the rails that I did for the hangars that bolt to the doors. At first, I used 1/8" aluminum from Home Depot, which was 40 bucks for an 8' piece. When I realized how flimsy it was (see the pic of the hangar bending under the weight compared to the stronger steel hangar), I decided to go with a thicker piece, which was much more money. I then got the bright idea to visit my local welding supply outlet, and was able to buy a 20 foot 3/16" steel strip for only 10 bucks. It was twice as strong, and 10 times as cheap as the aluminum, so I went with that. I bought two, and I just had them cut them into four 10' strips so it would fit into my truck.

You can cut the steel strips with a hack saw, but I just used my miter saw, and replaced the blade with a metal cutting blade, which I don't recommend, due to the sparks, which can melt the plastic on the saw, but this was an old saw, so I didn't really care about that (the pic above is my miter saw cutting the steel rods I used for the window).

Cut two strips the same length as your header boards, and place one on top of your two 2x6" on the wall. I tacked it with drywall screw in the wall at both ends to keep it straight up and down, and from falling off.

Take all the stud marks you have on the wall and transfer them to the steel strip for the holes the lag bolts will go through into the wall studs.

Then, take the strip down, lay it on the ground, lay the other strip next to it, making sure the ends are flush, and transfer the stud marks to that strip, as well. Make sure to mark one end so you won't get the strip flipped around the wrong way when you go to put it on the header.

Step 12: Drill the Lag Bolt Holes

I purchased a good quality drill bit to drill the lag bolt holes because it takes forever with a low quality bit trying to drill through 3/16" of material.

The lag bolts for the bottom rail were 1/2" x 4", and the bolts for the top rail were 1/2" x 6". That seemed to be the best lengths for my doors to push the rail out enough to get clearance between the doors and the wall. I wanted to go with a beefy lag bolt due to the weight of the doors, as well. The drill bit needs to be 1/16" bigger than the bolt so it will go through the hole easily.

The length from the header to the rail is what determines the spacing from the doors to each other, and the first door to the wall. The spacing from the roller to the hangar has some effect on spacing, but you can't really adjust that without having the door hanging crooked. The roller guide has to be over the center of gravity of the door to keep that from happening.

You can adjust the distance between the door and the wall slightly by tightening or loosening the lag bolt.

I used a drill press with some machine oil to keep the bit from heating up, but you can use a hand drill, just as well. In fact, I had to use a hand drill after I already built everything install the door stop rubber (which you'll see later). Just make sure the holes are centered on the stud mark, and in the center of the steel strip.

Step 13: Install the Rails

Now, take the bottom rail, flush the bottom of it up with the underside of the bottom header board, and take 3 or 4 2" drywall screws and tack it in place using the lag bolt holes you drilled. You probably want to have someone helping hold it up during this step.

Using a drill bit half the size of the lag bolts, drill pilot holes through the rail holes into the header for the lag bolts so they don't split the wood.

Start ratcheting a lag bolt on each end of the rail about halfway in, just to hold the header up. Now, you can remove the drywall screws used to initially tack the rail in place.

You're just wanting to get the rail up with enough lag bolts so it will hold the weight of the door so you can check your spacing. I put 4 adjacent lag bolts into the header to hold the rail in place so I could hang the door on just that section and check my spacing against the wall.

Now, take the top rail and do the same exact procedure, but make sure the top of the rail is flush with the top of the upper header board. Putting the top rail flush with the top of the header, and the bottom rail flush with the bottom of the header provides enough spacing between the two rails so that the bottom roller guide will not hit the top rail.

Step 14: Cut the Hangars, Drill Holes, and Install the Roller Guides

I used two 4' steel strips for the bottom door hangar, and two 5' strips for the top hangar. They don't have to be this long, and in fact, you only need about 1' of hangar attached to the door itself, just to be able to fasten two bolts to it. It's up to you. Just make sure that you have enough hangar left over the top of the door to reach the rail that door will hang on.

I bought four 4" roller guides from a local Simms lumber store, and a bolt long enough to go through the roller, a spacer, a nut, the hangar, and be able to tighten another nut on the back of the hangar.

The two nuts on either side of the hangar allow you to get it really tight, but still allow the roller to turn against the white spacer without being too tight.

Place the roller against the steel hangar strip to determine where you need to drill your hole for it, and mark it where the hole is. It doesn't have to be exact (but it does have to be centered on the width of the hangar). I wanted my rollers flush with the top of my hangar, as seen in the picture.

Drill the holes on the 4 hangars for the rollers, and attach the rollers, spacers, and nuts to the hangars.

Step 15: Measure the Hangar for Door Height

This part is critical to getting the spacing between your door and the ground correct. Remember measure, and re-measure, because once your drill your holes, you can't un-drill them.

I'm sure there are multiple ways of doing this, but this is the way I did it:

Take a hangar, and hang the roller on to the bottom rail. It should hang freely without falling.

Now, you can either measure the height of the door, or use the actual door itself (I used the door to get it more accurate), and mark the hangar where the top of the door hits it.

Now, measure up 1/2" from the first mark (or however wide you want the spacing to be between the door and the floor), and make a new mark on the hangar. Remember: you're lifting the door up, not lowering it, so the new mark goes toward the top of the hangar. Scribble out, or erase the first mark you made so you don't accidentally use that one instead. Transfer this mark to the other hangar, making sure both hangars are flush at the center of the rollers.

Repeat the whole procedure for the other two longer hangars, hanging the roller on the top rail and measuring/marking it according to the door height, and transferring the mark to the other hangar.

Step 16: Attach the Hangars to the Doors

Decide where you want the hangars placed on the door from side to side. I centered mine on the two side pieces.

You'll want to paint the hangars before attaching them to the doors.

I made sure the mark on the hangar was against the top of the door, and that it was where I wanted it centered from side to side, and then clamped it down tight to the door with some woodworking clamps.

I spaced out 4 marks from the top of the door to the bottom of the hangar, marked the hangar, and used a hand drill to drill the holes all the way through the hangar and the door. You can use as many bolts as you want here, just make sure you have one at the top of the hangar, and one at the bottom.

I used a bolt long enough to go through the hangar and the door, and a flat washer, lock washer, and nut on the back side. It can't be too long, otherwise it will hit the wall or the other door and you'll have to cut the bolts off.

Repeat for the other three doors, and tighten all the bolts down.

Step 17: Adjust the Spacing Between the Doors and the Wall

Take the bottom door and hang the rollers on the bottom rail. Get someone to help lift it up onto the rail if it's too heavy for you. I built my header one door at a time, that's why in this picture you can only see the bottom part of the header. Make sure the rail is pushed out against the head of all the lag bolts.

Check to see how the door rolls side to side, and see if it hits the trim on top, and if it hits the wall when it rolls in front of it.

The door will tilt slightly toward the wall. You have to pull back on it a bit to get it to not hit at the bottom. I'll get to how to fix that at the end, but for now, just check the spacing at the top.

If there is too much spacing, tighten your lag bolts until it pulls the door in enough. If there is not enough, loosen the lag bolts until it pushes the door out enough. Make sure to tighten/loosen all your lag bolts at the same time so they will all have the same spacing.

When you get the door exactly where you want it, measure the distance between the back of the rail and the header. This is the length you will cut your PVC spacers. Take the door back down and set it aside.

You can use a hack saw, or a band saw (I used a band saw) to cut the 1/2" PVC spacers (or whatever diameter will fit over your lag bolts) for the rails. Using the measurement you got in the step above, cut as many spacers as there are holes in the bottom rail.

Remove one lag bolt at a time, (there should only be about 4 or so), put the spacer behind the rail, and ratchet the lag bolt back through the hole till it's tight. Be careful to not tighten too much, as you will either crack the PVC, or mash it into the wood. You can also use a washer behind the spacer, but make sure to cut the spacer shorter to accommodate it.

Put the door back on to the rail, and check spacing again. It should be perfect. If not, you'll have to recut your spacers more or less to fix it.

Now, re-hang the bottom door, and do the same process with the top door, checking the spacing between it and the other door, and cutting all the spacers accordingly.

Take both doors back down, and lay them to the side for now.

Step 18: Finish Installing the Rails and Hang the Doors

You'll need to remove both rails, all lag bolts, and all spacers and paint them before this step.

Take all the spacers, and lag bolts, and ratchet them into all the bottom and top rail holes until they're tight.. Make sure to drill any pilot holes you haven't drilled yet to keep the wood from splitting before ratcheting the lag bolts.

When everything is good and tight, hang both doors back on the rails. Both doors should slide freely side to side.

Since you haven't attached a door stopper yet, be careful not to slide the door off the rails (...of the crazy train..)

Sorry. The musician in me had to throw that in there...

Moving right along.

Step 19: Attach a Door Stop

I purchased a rubber door stopper and used some of the left over aluminum I had to make a bracket to attach it to. I just drilled a hole through the rubber and attached it to the aluminum. You could easily get an "L" bracket from the hardware store that will work just as well.

Find exactly where you want the door to stop, and drill the hole for the door stop into the rail. I only needed one because the other side has a wall that the door runs into, so I just put a regular door rubber stop on that wall.

My wife wanted to cover up the right side of the doors, because people coming in through the front door could see them, so I cut a slat in half and screwed on the end of the front door, and it served as a door stop, as well. The kept me from having to put another rubber stop on the top rail.

Step 20: All Done!

That's it. You're done!

As you can see, the doors are doing a great job of keeping our little explorers out of the dining room!

After putting them up, I realized the only modification I needed was to make a guide plate at the bottom of the wall, and between the doors, so it keeps the door bolts from hitting the wall and the other door. I'll get around to that after the holidays. Turkey is my main priority at the moment.

Since this is my first Instructable, hopefully it wasn't too vague, or difficult to understand.

If you have any questions, feel free to shoot me a message, and I'll get back to you.

Happy building!

Step 21:

I marked where the top of the door would meet the hangar, and then marked where I wanted the bolt holes (in my case - 4 bolts), spaced evenly from the top of the door to the bottom of the hangar.

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