From their earliest uses on farms and barns to the modern day, barn doors have been the epitome of functional art. Barn doors were originally designed to function for farmers who had large barns that needed a door that would allow for the cattle and livestock to enter and exit (or egress) without the need to swing the barn door open but rather slide it away from the path of the livestock. Without large budgets to build these barn doors the designs of the barn doors were born out of necessity. The “X” barn door, the “Z” barn door and the “True” barn door were the earliest design styles. This happened because typically the farm had extra vertical or horizontal lumber laying around that could be used for building a barn door. The horizontal door slats were placed in a row lined up together and next to one another. Then two slats were placed on top of them in either an “X” shape or a “ Z” shape to add stability to the slats.
These early barn doors were not typically made with traditional door stiles and rails as it was very time consuming and expensive. The real need for barn doors and barn door hardware was born out of necessity but has grown to be a need and a want as many custom barn door styles have taken the market by storm.
A barn door is different from a swinging door because it doesn’t require hinges on the side and a door jamb to function. Instead of hinges a barn door lays flat against the wall and has two rollers attached to the top of the door which roll along a track. This track is not directly connected to the barn door, rather it is typically installed onto the wall for which the door functions. The basic parts to a barn door are the top and bottom rails, the side stiles and the middle slats or the barn door panel.
In order for a barn door to remain true and not warp or bow, it must be built with engineered lumber for the stiles and rails. Engineered lumber is also called manufactured lumber. Although the term engineered lumber is used to describe a variety of materials, most are defined as structural components that have been fabricated. Engineered wood is manufactured by bonding together wood strands, veneers, lumber or other forms of wood fiber to produce a larger and integral composite unit that is stronger and stiffer than the sum of its parts. The benefits to using engineered lumber on the “frame” of the barn door is that you create a barn door that is resistant to warping and bowing. Other benefits are related to ease of installation, dimensional stability, and structural integrity. Engineered wood products actually improve upon many of the inherent structural advantages of wood.
The middle panel of a barn door is typically not made of engineered lumber but is solid dimensional lumber, a solid knotty alder tongue and groove slat with a vertical or a horizontal pattern. These solid wood slats begin as dimensional raw lumber and are trued up by cutting each side exactly perfect to ensure that each side is straight. They are then put through a molder machine where they are given a “tongue” on one side of the board and a “groove” on another. These new T&G (tongue & groove) solid wood boards are now cut to exact sizes using a saw. With the door stiles and rails and tongue and groove slats all built it is then time to assemble the barn door.
Barn doors that are not made from engineered or manufactured lumber have a 90% chance of bowing or warping. Once your barn door is bowed or warped it will not be able to slide along the barn door hardware track and will not function properly. The layers of wood that are carefully stacked to build the engineered lumber are an essential part of every well built barn door. Rustica’s barn doors are carefully crafted by hand using engineered lumber and premium solid knotty alder. This ensures your barn door will last a lifetime. Although the photo below shows a beautiful, authentic barn door, it wasn't created using engineered wood and became very warped over time. Rest assured, this won't happen when you order your barn doors from Rustica.
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