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Practical applications of sliding barn doors, privacy & functionality

We have been in the business of making and selling barn doors and sliding door track kits for a long time.  Common questions that come up are along the lines of how to install and size the door appropriately,  will the wheels roll quiet, does it gain any privacy or block noise?  Our standard answer to manage expectations and not have dissatisfied clients used to be that the door had no security, did not block sound, and was meant more for decoration that practical function.  After new product development with our track kits and personally testing our reclaimed wood doors on our quiet low profile barn door tracks, our opinion has pleasantly changed.

You can also see in the video below some of our own applications.  We had a basement with a bedroom that had no door to it.  This was a big problem for privacy or trying to sleep when the rest of the household was active.  Since we had an extra 5' door sitting around we threw it up on a 10' mini track.  It slides effortlessly with a quiet swoosh.  The low profile track wasn't essential in this application because there was plenty of room over the top of the opening, but it is so strong, easy to mount, and quiet that we decided to try it out. When it is closed one can still sleep downstairs while the rest of the house is up and about.  Sometimes this extra hour of sleep in the morning feels like it changed our lives; it is amazing what a minor home improvement like this has done to make a difference in how one lives in a house without having to drastically remodel or change the floor plan.  It doesn't block 100% of the sound but it makes a difficult situation completely tolerable.  Also in the basement there is a wood burning fireplace.   If the door is shut, the heat stays trapped with a minimum rise of three degrees in temperature.  Another surprise that came from this test was how the drastically oversized door worked well.  Normally we suggest making the door slab about 3" wider than the opening.  In this case it is about 2' wider, and it isn't perfectly centered over the opening.  We broke our own rules.  It turned out fine, and the excessive size probably contributes to greater privacy and blocks sound that much better.   Maybe you should buy the biggest door that you can afford, but make sure you have the space to mount it.  If you want the door slab to fully open and close all the way on our track kits, then size the length of the track to be twice the width of the door slab.  Our V track kits are better than the flat track for these remodel applications because they can span greater distances between the point that the lags mount the track to the wall.  In a installation like this with no structural header it was reassuring to know that the channel design of the track could support the weight of this oversized barn door even when the backing in the wall for mounting it was sketchy.  These specially shaped nylon wheels have ball bearings in them to make them support more weight and slide very quiet.  There is no resistance or strain trying to push the big, heavy door down the track.

Also pictured below is was another surprising project that the results exceeded our expectations.   The door was no longer functioning after a bathroom remodel.  They had no privacy. The closet swing door took up too much space when opened because either one could not fit in the small hallway or the closet couldn't have anything stored in it if the door swung into the closet.  Fortunately it felt like the wall that the closet door opening and bathroom opening shared was planned ahead and designed for barn doors.  It almost worked out perfectly where when one took the overall length of the space and divided by three it sized the door slabs just right.  Either both doors could be closed or one could be open at a time to the space in the middle.  These two 32" doors shared the single 96" track.  They could fully open and close.  After the improved function by saving space,  think about the value that barn door adds to a home with the cost savings in square footage.  A typical swing door takes about 6-9 square feet of space to open and close.  One cannot obstruct the arc that the swing door most use.  On the other hand, a sliding door takes up almost not space.  With the cost of construction this savings in space can go a long ways towards paying for a barn door.  Also the barn door track from us is typically easier to mount than a jamb and cost less than a prehung jamb.  The aesthetic and artistic value from a sliding door is priceless.  The barn door is a great place to make a statement by upgrading the door.  It seems like there are no rules when it comes to design.  You can either use the same doors that you used in the rest of the house, find a salvage door to repurpose, or let us design a custom reclaimed wood door.  If you like, our doors are an opportunity to make a statement; go big and beautiful!

Click images to enlarge or view slideshow

In the other half of the video we put a 42" door on our shop bathroom.  This has a couple inches of overlap on each side.  One can be sitting in the bathroom "doing business" with other people active and working just on the other side of the door with no concern about privacy.  To further give one another level of comfort we added our privacy lock which keeps parties on both sides of the bathroom barn door from having an unpleasant surprise.

Because of the inherent design and function of a barn door one can never get the same kind of performance as a swing door on a jamb.  It is too difficult to try to add a gasket on a sliding door, so one can never get the same kind of blocking of sound and air that a well built, tight jamb with kerf weather stripping provides.  A sliding door needs to maintain a gap around the edges because the clearance allows it to move freely.  To overcome this gap between the back face of the door and wall, increasing the width and height of the door slab increases the overlap which improves the performance.  Also trying to add a high security keyed lock is more trouble than one would like with sliding doors.  It is easy to add a privacy lock which detours the casual sliding of door, but anybody with minimal force and determination can break through or around a sliding door with a lot less effort than a swing door with a deadbolt and hinges.

Think about all the new possibilities you have; where can you put a barn door?