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Comparing Barn Doors to Interior Doors

Tuesday June 25th, 2019

How are Barn doors built differently than interior doors?

How time has twisted and reversed the roles of many things that we surround ourselves with. Take the barn door for example; it used to be that a barn door held its title to follow its purpose and use. Now, a barn door is rarely sold, bought or used for an actual barn. The charm and rustic design of a barn door has become an in-home favorite among all interior designers and DIY home improvement enthusiasts. However, what makes a barn door a barn door and how is it different than an interior door?

There are many details that separate barn doors from interior doors and it's important to know these when considering where to buy your doors.  

What makes it a barn door?

The barn door is traditionally known to be hung from the top of the door by 2 or more rollers that roll on top of a track that is mounted above the doorway. The track extends beyond the doorway at least the same distance as the width of the door. Hanging the weight of the door from the door top delivers almost zero stress to the structure of the door. Imagine hanging your nice button-up polo shirt from a hanger just from one side of the shirt. What would happen? Well unless you have a really good iron and some great starch, that shirt will probably not hang with shoulders broad and wrinkle-free. Like the polo shirt, if you hang a door from only one side, it will be tasked with the stress of gravity that pulls the un-hung side downward.

Are all doors created equal?

The key differing factor in how most barn doors are made vs. interior doors is how the door is built–not how it looks. The fact is, interior doors require a far superior build than a barn door that hangs evenly from the top as the interior door will have to cantilever all the weight of itself off of one side edge of the door and must retain a perfect reveal around the perimeter in order to close without interruption of the door frame/jamb. If you try to take your average barn door that is sold on the internet today and put hinges on one side of it, you'd quickly find that the door is not built to handle that kind of stress. An interior door requires several key components that most companies selling barn doors do not have the ability, equipment or skill to build.

How are doors made the right way?

First–engineered lumber. Engineered lumber is where you take raw (kiln dried) lumber and mill it down into 4 different components using a rip saw, re-saw and surface planer. Once these four components are cut and milled, then they all need to be glued and pressed back together. This is a very time consuming task to end up with the exact same looking piece of wood in the end. However, the engineered piece is capable of resisting the natural wood grain's urge to bow and warp. Once you've built the engineered wood for your stiles and rails, then you need to worry about how those stiles and rails will be joined together with a solid joint capable of holding the weight of the door off a single side of the door. Most all barn doors sold on the internet are not constructed using stile and rail construction.

A few steps further:

The next step to building this interior door is to run the engineered wood through a molder machine that puts a groove down the entire side edge of the door. Then, the rails are cut to the width of the door minus the thickness of the side stiles and then they are run through a shaper to put a tenon on the edge of the rail that will fit into the groove of the stile. This is a critical feature of any door to maintain a lasting and solid joint. Once the side stiles and rails all fit together to make a solid frame, then wood or glass panels can be placed in the middle depending on the desired style of the door. Before the door gets glued and pressed together at the stile and rail joints, an unseen but highly critical feature is put into our doors. We mortise a hole in the end of the rail and line it up with where it will go into the stile and mortise the same hole there. We then put two large hardwood dowels into each joint to further fortify the joint before applying wood glue and pressure in a press. Once this door has cured, the joints are solid and will not move.

Why does it matter?

Barn doors should be built the same way as an interior door so that they last lifetimes. That is how we build them here at Rustica. When looking into a barn door, although there are many pretty looking ones out there, there is no comparison to a door built the right way–the Rustica way.

To buy a barn door built to last lifetimes click here:

To buy an interior door built to last lifetimes click here:

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