Make Sliding Barn Doors Using Skateboard Wheels

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I built a couple of wooden sheds (okay, glorified yard barns) and wanted to equip one of them with sliding type 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 after visiting my local building outlets to check out the cost of the track and installation kit hardware I would need for such a project I developed a bad case of sticker shock. The cheapest place I could find was Tractor Supply, and even there the price for just the barn door hardware (not the doors themselves) ran 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 to any DIY sliding doors turned out to be the wheels/rollers. I needed something that was made for exterior use, would roll smoothly, and that was heavy duty enough to take abuse while not costing an arm and a leg. While prowling around in my shop for something that fit the bill I happened to stumble on my son’s old skateboard. And the wheels looked like a perfect candidate for the job.

After a few minutes of price shopping online I ordered a set of four skateboard wheels and bearings from Newclue Inc. via Amazon. The total price of the wheels with shipping 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' length sells for $15. Superstrut is a three-sided channel of heavy gauge galvanized steel. Unfortunately it didn’t come in 12' lengths, which is what I would have preferred to use, so I had to purchase two ten-footers for $30. To provide a little additional strength I topped off the Superstrut with two 6-foot lengths of 1x1 angle iron at a cost of $26. I doubt this extra precaution was necessary and think the rail could be built without it.

The hangers themselves are fairly simple. 1½" x 1/8" flat stock steel was bent into a U shape and then drilled to accommodate the axles for the wheels/rollers. I bought two 4' 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, this is quite a bit more than simple hinges and a hasp lock, but it is also well under the cost of the very cheapest commercial price for barn door sliders of $246.

Here is how I fabricated the barn door skateboard rollers.

Step 1: The Rollers/wheels

These photos show the skateboard wheels and bearings as they arrived from Newclue. The wheels are 1 9/64" wide and 2" tall.

Step 2: Shaping the Hangers

Cut two 4' lengths of 1 ½" flat stock in half yielding a total of 4 sections at 24" each. Each section is then bent in half around a piece of 1" 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 easily. 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" between the two 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 will be.

Step 3: Mounting the Wheels in the Hangers

Cut a piece of 2x6 lumber 1 1/4" 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" 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" 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 the door you are building/using. Just make sure the holes will be placed in a solid area of the door.

The rollers/hangers are then painted and reassembled.

Step 4: The Parts for Hanging the Rail

The first photo shows what the Superstrut rail looks like. For a six foot door opening like mine, the Superstrut is cut into two six foot lengths for a total rail length of 12'.

The rail is mounted to the building using four 3" lag bolts, 12 steel washers (some nylon washers are shown in the photo but use all steel washers) and four 11/16th" nuts. These nuts slip over the lag bolts and are used only as spacers.

Not shown are the two 6 foot lengths of 1x1 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 ½" 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 Instructable). Make a second mark ½" above this first mark. With a carpenter’s level, use this upper marker to draw a line extending 6' 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 more narrow than the 6' door opening width used for this building, adjust you 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" 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 2x4 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" holes through the door to match the two bottom holes of each hanger. Then attach the door to the hangers using 1/4" bolts and nuts.

Slide the door to the end of the Superstrut to ensure it does not bind at any point. 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 (see arrow) using concrete screws to fasten it to the surface.

Step 7: The Completed Sliders

The finished skateboard barn door sliders.

2 People Made This Project!

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142 Discussions

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Old Coot Papa

2 years ago

Excellent Instructable! We are thinking of selling our house and building a smaller one. We want to use a sliding door for our new bedroom. This will be perfect, and I'll only need 1 section of the Super Strut. I was kicking myself because I tore down an old shed and didn't save the sliding door hardware, this will be perfect! Thanks for this instructable!

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BeemoneyOld Coot Papa

Reply 2 years ago

Dewey302 Old Coot PAPA knows his stuff? I saw it too. And, right away. This is a perfect low-cost option for an indoor pocket... The hangers you made are brilliant in so many ways. They could be 'primped-up'or down to match any era's decorative scheme,or just painted over for a clean looking wall and not a door. So, MANY PEOPLE IN TITE, Tiny apartments or highrises benefit with FOUND SPACE THAT THE DOORS 'circumference allotment, or 'dead-space'. AND, I did a little tweaking to this idea because the hangers and wheels,for a similar PRO MFG. Set are $25O+ for cheaper hardware? and that's for the smallest door SO, I GOT CREATIVE AND BLEW THE DAY. Because of your hinges. I now have a secret passageway from my dining room to my office. Flanked, on both sides of the dining room wall common to the office. Were to matching book case/sideboardish units. I mounted a slider using your idea behind one of the book case units that had a closet handy on the otherside of the wall(in the office. Once I had my opening and slider hung I bolted the bookcase to the slider. This made a retention plate, (spaced from the wall)mandatory to allow the door to stay from pushing into the wall making it hard to move. painted the stud groove to match an extended pce of crown moulding from unit to unit so you cannot tell its a track ? unless your pretty good.
I took my time and cut the entire perimeter of the adjacent wall inside the clost. I 'glued&screwed' the entire piece to some cheap plywood and with three old hinges mounted it back in the closet. I used a piece of thick styrofoam, protruding slightly more than what's called for and this keeps the opening(secret doorway)snug and unnoticeable to the eye. I've told nobody and BOY THEY'RE SCRATCHIN'THEIR HEADS. BUT, NOBODY'S caught on yet. thx for the AWESOME ideas keep'em comin'Dewey.Peace. Godbless

bmoneyNOTburden

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fzbw9brBeemoney

Reply 12 months ago

got any pictures? I can't follow your post of your door.

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dewey302fzbw9br

Reply 11 months ago

If you are referring to the door I made in the O.P., I purposely did not include any photos of its construction since I would not recommend building a door the way I did...too much warping due to moisture and sun. The rollers work great...the wooden door construction - not so great. Win some...lose some.

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Pa1963

2 years ago

Using the narrower wheels might allow you to turn the channel so that the open part faces up, then you could use the groove for the wheels to ride in.

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jaymakerPa1963

Reply 2 years ago

I was thinking a groove for them to ride in would be great too! To me, it seems if you bumped maybe one of the doors from inside--especially the one without bottom metal piece--it could pop off top track and fall.

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dewey302jaymaker

Reply 2 years ago

Please note the photos in step three showing the "U" shaped bracket which hold the wheel and the door in place. This bracket straddles the the rail (wheel on top, door on bottom, rail between so that it is impossible for the wheel to be pushed, shoved, whacked or in any other why accidentally moved off the rail. In the photos of the finished door you are only seeing that part of the bracket which is on the outside, but the bracket is exactly the same on the inside. If the wheel moves outward the back side of the bracket contacts the rail, if the wheel moves inward the front side of the bracket contacts the rail. The wheel can not come off the rail EXCEPT by gliding off the left or right end of the rail, and that is prevented by bolt which stops the wheel if it gets too close to the end of the rail.

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rokkripprappdewey302

Reply 2 years ago

Why do you need the rail at all? Wouldn't this work with just the angle iron?

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dewey302rokkripprapp

Reply 2 years ago

I found that angle iron alone flexed too much...wasn't quite strong enough.

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sgbotsforddewey302

Reply 1 year ago

If you don't have access to the rail, you can lengthen the hangers, and bolt what you do have to a timber to stiffen it.

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jaymakerdewey302

Reply 2 years ago

Ahh, I see now what I missed. Thank you for the explanation! I do like the design very much.

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sgbotsfordPa1963

Reply 1 year ago

You don't want a groove. It fills up with crud. You never dust something like that.

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mid_life_crisis

1 year ago

I have one question. Are those actually roller blade wheels? Skateboard wheels don't generally have rounded edges.

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dewey302mid_life_crisis

Reply 1 year ago

You might be right mid-life-crisis. I looked back at my original (2012) order from New Clue and they listed the wheels as "50mm Black Skateboard Wheels and Bearings Set - item #280722030363". So that is why I referred to them as skateboard wheels. I guess the bottom line is, if you are looking for a set of wheels, include skateboard wheels in your search.

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ByronB2

2 years ago

I'd have made pocket doors personally (eliminate the 'toe-stub' angle iron outside the doors)

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ChamcaByronB2

Reply 2 years ago

Im sure those will look great on whatever you build. Personally, I was looking for a barn door tutorial, and this is a great one!

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dewey302

2 years ago

Sorry for not responding to these recent comments more quickly but I was out of town the last two days and did not know the barn doors had been featured again. First, thank you all for the many kind comments and suggestions for improvements etc. That's the whole idea of instructables...do it yourself and then watch somebody do it even better. Let me also respond here to the major question which was posed regarding the wisdom of using skateboard wheels, particularly in regards to their durability. As a couple of writers have noted, this Instructable was originally posted in July of 2013. The doors were actually completed and have been in operation since August of 2012. So the skateboard wheels and bearings have about 3 1/2 years of wear and tear and they look and slide like day one. I would guess my doors weigh about 50 lbs each, are rolled 2-3 times a week, and the doors face directly south in the middle of the central valley of California so they get some very intense UV rays. The wheels and bearings are unphased and show no signs of "flats", chips or degradation. The only problem I've had with the doors is a bit of warpage of the wood, so I don't intend to recommend the actual door construction techniques that I used until I have eliminated those issues. But the wheels and sliding hardware have operated flawlessly.

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kinneildewey302

Reply 2 years ago

my experience with large Timber doors is best to do a steel frame and then clad with Timber , I've made a arch stable door with 100 year old iron bark Timber (from train bridge) and it still moved

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greenwoodcreations

2 years ago

I love it! excellent work on making what you need as you can afford it. Project is concise and well written, the only change I made when I did a project like this is I used the skate board wheels to guide the door bottoms too. The angle iron in my area fills up with dirt and ice and wont let the doors move. An upright wheel on its side just allows the door to easily move.

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ledshed

5 years ago on Introduction

Nice. I've done something similar using the 'C' hooking onto a the same bar attached to the door. No wheels so needs to be kept clean and greased.