A sliding barn door saga: Staining…and other stuff

This doorway between our master bedroom and our walk-thru closet has been the bain of my existence for…well, at least a year. When we first moved in, there was a door here, but it mostly just got in the way, we never used it, and it made an already very narrow doorway feel even narrower.

We got rid of the door pretty quickly (and even made $10 selling it on Craigslist), reframed the doorway, and then left it. No paint, no trim…nada.

We figured with how little we would really use a door here and the large expanse of wall to the right of the doorway, this would be the perfect place for a sliding barn door. Even though we already had the door and the hardware, the whole process kind of intimated me. (Andrew probably wasn’t intimated, but he certainly didn’t push the process along either).

We thought we were on track again a few months ago when we finally got around to sanding the door, but then it sat for a few more months in the garage. Now I’m happy to report that while we still have a few more finishing touches, the door is actually hanging on the track and functioning! Woot! Now to see how we got there…

First, the doorway. It was awful!

We knew trim would cover up most of this, but the inside was a problem, too. So Andrew mudded the gaps and sanded before installing a thin piece of trim that would fit in this corner. We also thought we would like the look of a thinner piece of trim around the bedroom side of the doorway better than our normal trim so it doesn’t call any attention away from the door.

Somewhere during this process, we realized that if we mounted the track directly to the wall, the door and the metal hardware attached to the door would not hang far enough away from the wall. We looked over as many pictures as we could find of interior barn doors mounted with the same kind of hardware, and realized this was not just our problem.

Also, with a track and a door this heavy, mounting a piece of wood into the studs and then attaching the track to that would make for a much sturdier door. We used a 1″ x 12″ piece of wood because it was wide enough to accommodate the metal pieces that hold the track. We cut the board so that it was about 6″ longer than twice the width of the door, and cut the track so that it was about half an inch shorter than the board on both sides.

I rolled the paint on before hanging the board, so that we’d only have to touch up after it was installed. We decided to install it directly above the trim so that it would look more like one piece. We then filled the holes, touched up the board and painted the rest of the trim, and caulked.

Even before the track and door were up, this was a huge relief! Walking into the bedroom and seeing a framed and painted doorway was so awesome after looking at a bare and unfinished frame for so many months! Unfortunately, prepping the door didn’t go quite so smoothly.

First, we realized the door itself wasn’t quite tall enough to hang over the top edge of the doorway and leave only a minimal gap at the bottom. We decided to add a piece of wood to each end of the door to add a little height, but still maintain a balanced look. We found this piece of cedar in our garage that has a similar grain, cut it down to size, and screwed it into the door. You won’t ever see the screws since they’re on the very top and bottom edges of the door.

This is an old door, though, so the corners of the door are worn, broken in some spots, and not even close to square.

So after Andrew screwed the pieces onto each end, he used the orbital sander to shape the ends to match each corner. Not too shabby, eh?

Then we stained. And we screwed up majorly. We really didn’t want to break any of the little trim pieces that were holding the glass in place by trying to remove them to get the glass out, so we just taped instead.

We used an oil-based stain by Rustoleum in Dark Walnut, and surprisingly only needed to do one coat. The end pieces ended up taking the stain very similarly to the rest of the door, so no special treatment was needed for them!

It turned out perfectly! The color was exactly what we hoped for! It looked old and warn, wasn’t a yellow color or too warm (didn’t want that since our floors are yellow and very warm), and brought out the beautiful grain of the wood.

The stain took a little more around some of the details like screw holes, cracks, or other imperfections, giving it a really distressed and aged feel. We couldn’t have asked for a better result from the staining.

Except when it came to the glass. After the stain was dry, we peeled off the tape and screamed! On the side of the door with frosted glass, the stain had leaked under the edge of the tape and was all over!! It did confirm that we had real etched glass, not just the sprayed on kind, but the texture of the etching had created tiny openings under the tape and kept it from being a tight seal.

If it had been the sprayed on kind, the stain probably would have ruined the finish, and what we did next certainly would have ruined the sprayed on “frost.” We grabbed the chemicals, starting with the mildest first. We tried nail polish remover, rubbing alcohol, straight acetone, denatured alcohol, and mineral spirits, none of which had any effect. At this point we figured we better pull out all the stops and grabbed a stain stripper. (And yes, we have all that on hand. We love harsh chemicals, apparently…what can I say?) It seemed to work, but obviously any contact it had with the stained surface would ruin it. It’s whole purpose is to remove stain from wood.  So after all that, we had to take the trim off anyway! Go figure!

We didn’t break any trim in the process, and we got all the stain off the glass. Then Andrew went to pick up the glass to put it back in the door and….

That happened. Glass can become more brittle with age, so it’s no surprise that it wasn’t terribly resilient. It was, however, incredibly disappointing after all that work. We briefly considered new glass, but it would have run at least $100, and I have no idea how much more actual frosted glass is. Plus the whole appeal of the door to us is that it’s old.

So instead we turned to super glue. Yup. Man’s best friend. Andrew just so happens to work for the company Henkel, who owns Loctite, so he came home from work with some free Loctite super glue formulated especially for glass. We glued it together on a flat surface and made sure we coated the entire edge with glue. Cracks in glass are made more visible to our eye if any light is able to pass through and reflect off broken edges, so filling the entire crack minimizes it’s appearance.

(Don’t worry, it’s not quite straight in this picture, but we aligned it perfectly before it dried.)

We allowed it to dry overnight, put it back in the door, reattached the trim, and now it’s good as new! Well, as good as old? Anyway, it held together and honestly it’s probably stronger than the rest of the glass. Even in person it’s barely noticeable, especially since most of the time it hangs against a wall with no light behind it.

Crisis averted. And as you can tell from the picture above, we had also installed the hanging hardware on the door. This was possibly the scariest moment for me, because it required that we drill 6 quite large holes in the top of the door. But more to come on that when I explain the hanging process. 🙂 Hopefully I’ll be able to escape the madness of preparing for Christmas to share a few pictures of the finished product in the next couple days!


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