March 29, 2018: It’s a growing trend in home interior design to have your own barn door. Not because you’re needing to keep chickens out or horses in, but because there’s something chic and modern about turning a shabby relic of our agrarian past into a functional part of one’s home. Don’t believe us? Just Google “barn door” and you’ll be greeted with hundreds of examples of how people have incorporated this once rustic feature of our forefathers into their living rooms, bedrooms, pantries and other indoor spaces.
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Not that we are too much about keeping up with the Joneses where it comes to our home, but we had our own reasons for wanting one of these mega doors, and the least of those had anything to do with aesthetics. We have been immersed in home improvement projects since the beginning of the new year, starting with a vague notion about wanting to replace the kitchen floor. That got us started remodeling the guest bathroom off our hallway, all in the name of having an excuse to test the flooring product we might want to use in the kitchen. The process of redoing the bathroom got us thinking about replacing its door, which led to the idea of replacing all the doors, which in the twisted logic of how we do home projects brought us to the need for soundproofing.
Okay, we’d better back up here for a minute. This soundproofing thing is not new with us. It was nearly a couple decades ago that we decided to do away with the carpet in Ben’s bedroom because it was old and stained and smelly. He was at the time deep into his train phase and getting into Pokémon and loved having battles with his action figures. We thought a hard-surfaced floor would be better suited to the sort of abuse it was taking, so amid the process of repainting his room, we also replaced the carpet with linoleum tile squares, the sort where you peel off the backing and stick them to the subfloor. The tiles proved to be a major fail, with the adhesive giving up quickly and the linoleum chipping and cracking over the next several years. We went back to carpet in 2010.
But in the meantime, we also removed the carpet in the hallway and replaced it with Pergo planks that are made from a fiber material and designed to look like real wood. Those planks were easy to install and more durable than the linoleum. Like the linoleum, however, they did nothing to deaden sound. In fact, as the years have gone by we’ve noticed the sound issue becoming worse, as Ben’s Pokémon battles have since been replaced by late-night internet chats with friends and fellow gamers. Even with his bedroom door closed, every conversation is amplified by the acoustics of the hallway.
So when we started talking doors, the question came up about what we wanted to accomplish by replacing them. Sound deadening was high on the list. The bathroom door was merely about aesthetics, given that the existing one is 30 years old and showing signs of water damage around the edges. It is coated in multiple layers of paint, most sloppily applied. It just doesn’t look good. We could easily pick up a replacement on the cheap from Home Depot or Lowe’s. But getting it home in the back of a small sedan might not be easy, so we thought that if we needed to rent a truck then we might as well have all the doors done at once.
Okay, so all the doors. There are seven interior doors in our small house: one for each of the bathrooms, one for the kitchen/laundry room, an entryway closet, and three bedrooms. All of them are hollow-core doors, except for the one in the kitchen that needs to isolate sound from the washer and dryer. The door to Ben’s room we wanted to convert to a solid-core door, which would offer a bit more sound-deadening ability. But there were two problems with that plan: one, the only way to purchase a solid-core door (that we know of) is with it pre-hung on the jamb, which would require us to break open the wall and remove the old door jamb or something similarly drastic; second, it would entail that Ben always closes his door.
Another option we considered was to replace the drywall in the hallway with a product called QuietRock, which is supposed to be the equivalent of seven sheets of half-inch drywall. It has been used effectively in a number of residential applications to reduce the transmission of sound between rooms. It can be used in place of regular drywall and combined with various insulation materials, or applied directly over an existing wall — the idea we were considering. This would accomplish our goal of reducing sound, and it would give us a way to hide the textured walls and ceiling in our hallway, something we’d love to do throughout the house.
Apart from the added expense of using QuietRock, all of this seemed like a lot of effort to go through with no guarantee any of it would work to address our noise issue. Which brings us back to the barn door. Since we were talking doors anyway, what would happen if we closed off the hall entirely? Eliminate the issue of whether Ben keeps his door open or closed? We could (possibly) deaden sound and create something that would look good in the process.
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UR BARN DOOR idea started taking shape when we went to Home Depot to investigate our other idea of replacing all the interior doors. We quickly discovered that all of our doors weren’t created equally. They range in size from 28 to 32 inches, and are hung from both the left and right hand sides. That made it more problematic. We would have to buy the uncut slabs and manufacture our own slots for hinges or door knobs. They would have to be delivered to us by truck, which meant we’d be best off ordering all of them at once, which would run close to $400 for a bunch of doors. We contemplated this while the barn door display caught our eye.
Home Depot has several pre-built barn doors available for purchase along with the necessary hardware to hang them. They’ll even provide someone to install it for you if you aren’t so inclined. The doors are beautiful, but we balked at the $300-plus price for even the simplest of them. Not to mention that the stock 36-inch wide doors would not fit the 40-inch entry to our hallway. We could custom order one, which would get more expensive, or… we could build one ourselves.
It was the following day, after doing some more discussion of the idea overnight and while checking out the door displays at Lowe’s, that we decided to take the plunge and build our own barn door. Roni came up with an idea for a design she liked, Glenn added some ideas on soundproofing it, and we spent a couple of hours cruising the lumber aisles rounding up supplies. With the lumber, insulation material, construction adhesive, stain and some sundry supplies, our materials came to about $100. We later added a hardware kit we purchased from Amazon, and our DIY barn door came in right around $200. Now all we had to do was build it.
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HE PLAN FOR our barn door was ridiculously simple. We measured out our door at 42 inches wide by 86 inches tall, to allow a couple extra inches to overlap the opening. We built a frame using 2x2” pine for the top, bottom and center supports, with 1x2” boards doubled up for the sides. All the boards were fastened together with our pneumatic finishing nailer and a bead of Liquid Nails. Because the frame was so large, Glenn laid everything out on the living room floor and made his cuts on the front porch.
The next step involved attaching the rear face of the door. We chose to use quarter-inch tongue and groove planks for this, having liked the way they went together when we used them on the front porch ceiling. We liked their rustic appearance. And here was where our construction project took an unexpected turn — or rather, an unanticipated bend. The planks, while convenient to use, are not always free of defects; occasionally you get one that is warped or has an unsightly number of knots or chips. We bought exactly enough boards for the project and none extra, so we were forced to use even the couple of runty looking boards we’d purchased. It was only after most of them were glued and nailed down that Glenn realized they weren’t properly aligned. He tried to compensate by forcing the latter boards into place. The result was some nasty gaps between boards and that the door’s thin frame became bowed in the center and was no longer square. Not good, but we would fix this later. We forged ahead.
For step three we flipped the door over on its back to expose the double cavity of its interior. This we filled with a fiber board product called SoundStop. It is sold in 4x8-foot sheets that are a half-inch thick. We bought three of them, had the Lowe’s guys cut them down for us so they would fit in our car, and trimmed them up at home. Each half of the door received three layers of the sound board, which we hoped would be enough to deaden sound penetration from the hallway. It was unclear if this would be effective, judging from the reviews of the product online, but many seemed happy with the results.
With the insulation installed, we sheathed the front of the frame with another package of bead board, exactly the same unfinished pine planks we’d used on the front porch. These went together much more easily than the back planks had, and we were then able to shim out the warped frame to mostly disguise our mistake. This added a half inch to the door’s width and height. Not a biggie.
To give the door a rustic, barn-like appearance, we added a classic double-Z pattern to the front with some 1x4 and 1x6 pine boards. We did something similar on the back with some quarter-inch baseboards. At this point we were becoming concerned about the door’s thickness — now 3.25 inches — and didn’t want to use any more layers than necessary. Our other concern was weight. You’d think that a bunch of thin boards and a bit of insulation material wouldn’t add up to much, but you’d guess again after trying to lift the sucker. It was close to 70 pounds and we hadn’t yet attached the hardware.
After patching up the holes, cracks, gaps and other defects with some wood putty, we coated all sides with a can of English chestnut stain. It was such a thing of beauty that we almost didn’t want to ruin it by drilling holes for the hardware. Hanging the door where we wanted it would bring its own set of challenges.
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ECAUSE OUR DOOR was so thick we couldn’t use the bolts supplied with the hardware kit we’d purchased, which were 2.375 inches at the longest. We had to buy 4-inch bolts. For the same reason, we also couldn’t mount the steel track directly to the wall above the hallway entrance. We had to add a header board to create an extra 1.5-inch gap. This turned out to be a good thing for another reason; the studs of our closet wall are unevenly spaced and didn’t align with the holes provided in the track bar. Instead, we affixed the 2x8” header board directly to the studs with wood screws, then attached the track bar to the header with 6-inch lag screws. We were a little concerned about how well this would work until we strength tested the bolts and they remained rock solid.
The door slides on an 8-foot rail via a pair of roller bearings that are attached to the front of the door. It took the two of us grunting and panting to lift the beast an inch off the floor and up onto the track. But once it was in place, we were excited to see that everything fit as planned and was level. It sits about half an inch away from the wall when closed, which is precisely where we wanted it, and it is whisper quiet when it glides along its track.
We finished off the installation by adding a plastic guide supplied with the hardware kit that is designed to keep the door from swinging back and forth on its track. To do this, Glenn had to painstakingly cut a narrow slot in the bottom of the door using his Dremel tool and a small router bit. It was an imprecise task, but it worked reasonably well with a bit of trial and error and grinding down the height of the plastic guide. The guide is supposed to be screwed to the subfloor, but we didn’t want to drill holes in our entry tiles or the concrete foundation, so we used silicone caulk to glue the guide in place. It worked like a charm.
The one remaining obstacle was the closet door in the entryway. The barn door has to slide in front of it, but the door knob for the closet is too large. That meant either remounting the closet door to open from the left instead of the right, or simply replacing its door handle. We decided changing the handle was easier and purchased a recessed latch for about $15 from Lowe’s. At the same time we decided the plain white closet door clashed with the beauty of our barn door, so we picked up some more bead board and matching stain that we nailed to the face of the existing closet door. We stained the bead board to match the color of the barn door, then added some of the thin baseboard trim for a decorative Z effect. Now the entryway looks very barn-like, but in a good way.
But what about the soundproofing? The moment of truth came when we closed the barn door for the first time while Ben was chatting with his online friends in his room and with the bedroom door open. There was a noticeable drop in sound reaching into the living room. But, unfortunately, not the total silence we were hoping for. We then had Ben close his door and tried that combined with the barn door. This proved much more effective, and at times we weren’t even sure he was talking. The SoundStop board in the barn door’s core was definitely doing its job, but there was still room for improvement.
To truly make something soundproof requires the complete elimination of gaps through which air can penetrate. Although the barn door fit snugly, within half an inch of the wall, that was still amble space for sound to penetrate. We attempted to solve this by adding weather stripping along the wall edges. This helped some more, but it still was not an ideal solution. Now we are back to the idea of door replacement in the hallway. Or maybe we’ll be happy with what we’ve got for now and think on it some more. Regardless, we are very pleased with the look and functionality of our new barn door.
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LENN THOUGHT HE was done with the project when the barn door and the closet door were both fininished, but Roni still had another task lined up for him. She wanted a coat rack for the entryway, mainly as an alternative to us always leaving our coats and bags piled on the living room chair. So it was back to Lowe’s for more parts, and another couple of weeks spent designing and building the thing.
The goal was to match the look of the barn door in both color and style. That was achieved by using the bead board and stain we had left over from the closet door project. Glenn cut the four remaining bead board strips in half and mounted them to a 2x4-foot sheet of plywood we already had. (Always nice to be able to use materials you have on hand rather than race out to the home improvement stores.) The only new materials we needed were a 1x8” board, some coat hooks and a couple of $10 wood crates we picked up at Michael’s.
We stained the crates and glued them together. These we nailed to the bottom of the plywood and added some legs made from pine planks. At the top we added a section of the 1x8 board and screwed the hooks into it. For decoration we added a metal barn star we already had and created a rustic picket fence on the top from the actual picket fence that once separated our front yard from our neighbors to the north. We hated the fence then, but it is being put to better use now.
The coat rack was easy to make and looks great in the entryway alongside our closet and barn doors. We finished everything just in time for our wedding anniversary, so it was sort of like an anniversary present to ourselves. Best of all, as far as Roni is concerned, is that it meant Glenn could put all his tools away after they had spent the past couple of months cluttering up the entryway.
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ND SPEAKING OF that wedding anniversary, yes, we celebrated 30 years of marriage this month. Such a milestone, and it still seems somewhat surprising that it flew by so quickly. For those who care about such things, your 30th anniversary is supposed to be represented by pearls. We aren’t well heeled enough to afford a bunch of pearl jewelry, and we aren’t too fond of oysters, so we celebrated in our own way.
For our honeymoon we spent a couple of days at Lake Tahoe, so we decided to be nostalgic and head back there for our 30th anniversary. Roni had wanted to check out the snow anyway, so it seemed like an ideal destination. Originally Ben was going to come with us, as he had a three-day weekend from work, but he changed his mind after we didn’t go on Sunday morning because of poor weather and road conditions. We went without him on Monday morning, March 26, our proper anniversary day.
The weather was perfect. The weekend storm had blown through, leaving warmer temperatures and clear skies, but still plenty of fresh snow for us to enjoy. We left home at 10:20 a.m. and got up to South Lake Tahoe about three hours later, stopping briefly along the way to photograph the American River. It had been years since our last visit to the area, and we were a bit surprised at how much it has changed.
Gambling has long since lost its allure to us. We parked at Harveys on the Stateline, Nevada, side of the border and ventured inside. Not because we were eager to play the machines, but because we hoped to partake in a buffet lunch that the casinos are famous for. Well, they are famous on weekends and evenings only, apparently. We managed to find the 18th-floor buffet at Harrah’s, just across the street, but one of the hotel workers told us it wasn’t open yet. There were several other dining options, so we ended up having hamburgers at the Hard Rock Cafe, over on the Harveys side.
After lunch we did manage to pop a few dollars into the slot machines, but found it just isn’t the same as years ago when you had physical coins and handles to pull. Everything is digital now and credits — if you have any left — are applied to your account throughout a gaming session, cashed out to you in the form of a ticket that must be redeemed at an ATM-like cashier machine. After successfully converting five dollars into 10 cents, we got bored with the mostly deserted casino and went in search of new excitement.
There was more action on the streets outside. It’s still ski season around Tahoe, and with fresh powder having fallen the previous day there were lots of folks lined up for the gondolas at Heavenly. Roni was interested in riding up in one after reading about the breathtaking views of the mountains and Lake Tahoe that they afford. But at $58 per person, we decided that was a bit much for a few minutes in the air. We’d already had some breathtaking views coming over Echo Summit on Highway 50 on our way into town.
Instead we checked out the visitor center, a few of the souvenir shops, and posed for goofy pictures with a statue of Elvis Presley and a cardboard cutout of John Wayne. It was nice to get inside here or there because, although the temperature was in the low 40s and bearable in a sweatshirt, prolonged contact with the cold reminded us that it was better to have a jacket.
It was approaching 5 p.m. by the time we made our way out to Lakeside Beach along the sandy shore of Lake Tahoe — the real reason we had decided to visit. Roni wanted pictures of the snow and of the lake’s crystal clear waters. We wound up not spending nearly enough time doing that. The beach itself was still covered in patches of snow, which did little to deter folks from using it. There were children playing on the swings, and other couples sitting on benches or strolling along the shoreline. We found an unoccupied table and had fun taking photos of ourselves holding a makeshift sign commemorating our 30 years of marriage. Glenn even attempted to build a snowman, although it was a pretty feeble effort. We started for home after that. Roni wanted to be sure we were out of the mountains by the time the sun went down.
But we weren’t finished with our anniversary fun. Roni had purchased a banner reading “30 YEARS LOVED” that we hung up in the entryway near our new barn doors and coat rack. The following day she baked us a carrot and raisin cake that she decorated with gold and white candy pearls. They were much cheaper than jewelry, and much tastier too.