What Nobody Tells You About Trendy Sliding Barn Doors

What Nobody Tells You About Trendy Sliding Barn Doors

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Dana McMahan
Oct 19, 2018
(Image credit: Esteban Cortez)

I'll leave it to anthropologists of the future to figure out why we all became so enamored of sliding barn doors in this decade. Though most of us do not, in fact, own barns, there's not a place in our houses safe from the onslaught of this trend.

Granted, they can serve a function, especially when a conventional door won't fit in a space. But if we're being honest, let's admit we installed them just because. Because they were fun, because they were cool, because we saw that picture on Pinterest and knew life would not be complete without a sliding barn door.

(Image credit: Emma Fiala)

I too, own a sliding door, one I was quite pleased with upon installation. We took a vintage office door, sprayed the glass with privacy frost, added sticker letters "WC" (for the European water closet, because I may as well go all in on this made-for-Pinterest door), and hung it as a bathroom door, using a sliding track from Menards—all for less than buying a pre-hung new door, and with way more character.

A year and a half later, I still do like the way it looks, but only from outside the bathroom. The story changes when you step into the bathroom to tend to, you know, bathroom business.

Let's also talk about the difference in a door that closes and, you know, completely fills an opening, and a door that just sort of hangs there. I'm talking about auditory issues. Now, it's not nearly as bad as having just a curtain for a door, but a door that merely covers the outline of the doorway doesn't provide the kind of sound-dampening that a traditional close-and-latch door offers. If nobody else is around, it's not the biggest deal, but when someone else is hanging out nearby, well, let's just say it can get up close and personal.

(Image credit: Marisa Vitale)

And that's even if it stays closed. My bathroom is on the third floor of a nearly 130-year-old house, so you can guess just how level the floors are. Yeah, they're not. This means if the door is not slid shut just so, it's not going to stay put. Maybe it just slides an inch, maybe it opens all the way. Either way you're left—possibly in an awkward position or state of undress—with the door hanging wide open. In the past, I've had to shout a warning when I heard someone coming up the stairs.

Logistically it's a little harder to latch a sliding door, because you can't have anything protruding from the door that would bump into or scratch the wall where it slides. My cleverer-than-I-am brother (who also happens to make sliding barn doors for people) took one look at my door and suggested I put a sliding latch on it—on the inside, top of the door with the piece you slide your latch into on the top part of the door frame. A flat bolt style won't bump or scratch anything, but would ensure the door stays closed.

And finally, this is a tiny beef, but some sliding doors are pretty loud when they open and shut. Depending on your hardware, the sound of the door sliding on the track can resemble rumbling thunder. Great if you want to catch your kids sneaking out of the house, but otherwise not so much.

None of this is to say you shouldn't get a sliding door. By all means, if you have barn-door fever, go for it. Just know what you're getting into first.

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