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What Are Barn Door Hinges? Cleaning Up The Confusion!

Tuesday May 19th, 2020
The term "barn door hinges" is a bit of an oxymoron here at Rustica. We typically refer to "barn doors" as a door on a sliding system and "hinged doors" as traditional interior doors that open on a hinge.

However, not everybody shares our industry terminology. We often have people asking about "barn door hinges" when referring to a barn-style door on a hinge system (our Double X Interior Slab Door is a great example of this style). So, for the purposes of this article, we're going to go with the wrong "alternative" definition.

Once you have your barn-style slab, you'll want to install the hinges to hang it in your door frame. This project can be accomplished by everyone from the seasoned DIYer to new homeowners.

How to Install Barn Door Hinges

  • Gather Tools
  • Measure
  • Pre-Drill Holes
  • Align Hinge

It’s always helpful to have an extra set of hands to help, but as you become more comfortable with the process, you’ll find that you’re able to install hinges on your interior and exterior doors with ease and confidence. The first step, of course, is to determine which style of door you would like to install. Though you might be quick to decide based solely on design and size, you will also need to review exactly which type of door requires hinges and which does not.

What Kind of Barn Door Requires Hinges?

As we mentioned before, in the Rustica world, barn door hinges aren't "a thing." But, as home renovation shows have featured barn doors in their designs, more and more homeowners are looking to incorporate the look within their own homes.

In the home renovation world,  there are many different door types, such as French doors, Dutch doors, exterior doors, and interior doors. So it makes sense that there are also different types of barn doors.

Barn doors have gained momentous popularity in recent years. Traditionally, people love them for their rustic, farmhouse look. These days, however, many people want to incorporate a barn door in their home for a variety of reasons, including aesthetics, practicality and function.

The Rustica barn door (a barn door on a sliding system) preserves space in smaller homes and provides a new innovative way of dividing up a floor plan. Though you might be entranced by the sleek look and bold sliding hardware, these particular doors do not require hinges. Instead, a homeowner needs to install sliding barn door hardware like a barn door track system, including a set of rollers and hangers that allow the door to slide left and right.

A  barn-style hinged door is one that is crafted to look like a barn door, but  doesn't function like one. Instead, it requires swinging hinges like your more traditional interior door.

Types of Barn Door Hinges

Choosing a barn door hinge depends on three main things: load, material, and type of hinge.

Load: When considering the door’s load, you need to think about the weight of the door slab itself and if anything additional will be hanging from it. Heavier doors require hinges that are marked as heavy duty, which will be made clear on the website you are ordering from or on the packaging at the store.

Material: Common hinge material options include steel, stainless steel, brass, aluminum, and plastic. Many of these can be kept as is or painted and stained to your decor preference and color scheme. Choosing the appropriate material involves design choice as well as considering the need for longevity if your barn door is exterior. Stainless steel and brass are frequently chosen for exterior hinges since they’re structure is extremely durable and can outlast both weather and time. Of course, other options exist as well so make sure to do some research.

Hinge: The type of hinge could be considered one of the more complex categories to navigate. There are so many types of hinges used for everything from cabinets to entryways! When reviewing barn door hinges that will be placed on your garage door, front door, patio, or interior spaces, there are three main popular choices. The options below will get you started on deciding which swinging door hinge is best for your exterior or interior barn door.
  1. Butt hinges: A durable and permanent option used on both exterior and interior doors. A butt hinge is crafted from two identical metal plates that are connected by a pin and barrel system. One plate is attached to the interior side of the door and the other is drilled into the door jamb. When properly installed, usually only the pin and barrel is exposed when the door is closed, preserving the door’s face. Alternatively, a dummy strap can be installed across the face to provide a bit more character to the door and to mimic some of the more traditional aesthetics. This is common for homeowners who install gate hinges and want to create a bit of curb appeal in the front of their property.
  2. Strap Hinges: These hinges are named after their strap-like shape and are very common for barn doors, especially carriage house doors. Carriage doors traditionally graced the front of carriage houses, but they are now frequently used on garages, our modern version of a carriage house. These barn door strap hinges vary in load-bearing ability, length, and materialYou’ll need to determine which length, material, and load-bearing ability is best for your door. As far as material is concerned, the most common is iron. Iron strap hinges stand out beautifully against rustic or reclaimed wood barn doors.
  3. Tee hinges: Also known as T-Hinges. Like a strap hinge, these hinges are likewise named after their T shape. Best defined as a combination of a strap hinge paired with a butt hinge, these hinges take on a horizontal t-shape when a door is closed. Tee hinges are also used on gates and carriage garage doors but can also be used in interior spaces as well. The difference between a strap hinge and a tee hinge is purely aesthetic. Both are excellent, durable options.

How to Install Barn Door Hinges

Once you’ve determined the type of hinge that you want to include in your barn door hardware kit, it’s time to begin gathering materials to install your barn door hinge. No matter your final hinge choice, installation is similar across categories. Below is a general guide and you can also find more information available in tutorial videos.

Gather Tools

Different professionals give tips and tricks on installing barn doors but in general, you’ll need a pen or pencil, a drill, screws, screwdriver, a tape measure, chisel, hammer, and, of course, your hinges. The hinges and screws will be included in your barn door kit but the remainder you’ll have to find around the house or head out to the store to purchase.


You’ll most likely need to install three hinges on your door, fewer if installing smaller gates. Your top hinge should be about 5 inches from the top of your door and your bottom hinge should be at about 10 inches from the bottom. The middle hinge should be equidistant from the top and bottom hinge. Start at the top and place your hinge plate on the door. Trace around the plate. For a butt hinge, you’ll want to use a chisel and hammer to cut a mortise out of the wood in preparation for the plate. This should be done on the door as well as the door jamb so that there are two recessed sections ready to receive the plates.

Pre-Drill Holes

Place your plate on the mortised area and mark your drill holes. Using a drill bit, pre-drill the holes. If you’re installing a T-hinge or a strap hinge that will be placed over the face of your door, you’ll also eventually want to mark your drills holes and pre-drill this area, as well. This step, however, should be completed after you’ve aligned and drilled the hinge into the door jamb.

Align Hinge

Place the hinge over the mortise and insert your screws either using a screwdriver or a drill. It’s helpful to leave each screw a little loose until all are in place. Then, return and tighten each screw one by one to assure that the hinge is aligned well. For hinges that are installed on the face of the door, many professionals use painter’s tape to keep the hinge in place as they drill in the screws. Once the door is hung, you can go ahead and install your other hardware like latches and door knobs. This additional hardware will follow a similar process of gathering tools, measuring, pre-drilling, and aligning hardware.

How to Clean Barn Door Hinges

Over the years, hinges can rust, collect dust, or may fall victim to a few drops of paint during a room makeover. Cleaning barn door hinges is a quick and simple process.

Step 1: Remove Pin and Hinges

Using a screwdriver or chisel along with a hammer, tap on the bottom of the pin to slowly push it up out of the barrel. With the screwdriver, remove the screw from the hinges, dismounting the swinging barn door.

Step 2: Clean Old Hinges

There are several commercial cleaners that you can buy to restore polish and shine to the hinges. If you’re looking to use something you already have at home, dishwashing soap will work wonders. Fill a sink or a small basin with water and enough soap to create a foam. Using a coarse-textured sponge or a piece of steel wool, scrub each part of the hinge, including the pin and barrel. Do not let the hinges sit in the water for an extended period of time or out on the counter while still wet. Dry the hinges immediately once all dirt and rust is removed. If you find that some rust remains or there is paint on the hinges (maybe from the last time you freshened up your door or door trim) use a chisel to carefully scrape off the debris. You might need to use a paint thinner if the paint is thick or has sat for a while on the hardware.

Step 3: Polish Hinges

Depending on the hinge material, you’ll need to purchase the appropriate type of polish, either for silver, brass, or a different metal. A small amount of polish will go a long way, so just place a few droplets onto a towel and rub all over the hardware. After 15-20 minutes, the polish should appear more opaque meaning it is ready to remove with a clean towel.

Step 4: Reattach Hinges

You’re ready to reattach the hinges and hang the door. This time around will be quicker since you don’t need to measure or chisel anything. Just use a screwdriver or drill to carefully replace the hinges into their appropriate places and then you are set to rehang the door!

How to Install and Care for Barn Door Hinges

Following these few simple steps on choosing, installing, and cleaning barn door hinges will allow you to be a more adventurous and confident DIYer. Not to mention, you’ll also save a lot of money that you would otherwise spend on hiring a professional. Like always, if you should have any questions or problems along the way, there are a lot of resources available for you on Rustica’s website, including customer service who will happily help you select and install barn door hinges to finish your project.
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