Thursday, February 23, 2012

DIY: How to Make Sliding Loft Doors

How to DIY Sliding Loft Doors
Overview:  This door is made with a sheet of 4’ x 8’ paneling with a frame attached to the front and back sides for support.  The front and back frames are initially attached with wood glue then wood dowels are inserted through the back frame to the front to reinforce.  Wood dowels are used rather than wood screws for a clean look. 

I made two 4’x10’ doors. For simplicity’s sake, I’m going to describe the process to make one 4’x8’ door. You can easily size this down to make a smaller door. It’s also fairly easy to size this up, but you’ll need an additional sheet of paneling and will have to hide the seam where the paneling meets with a cross brace. The size of the door will obviously depend on the size of the opening you need to cover. If you have an eight foot opening, then you’ll need to make the door slightly smaller than eight feet (depending on the hardware that you use). If you use the Johnson Hardware that I used, you’ll need to subtract 2 3/8” from the opening height to determine the height of the door you need to make.

I used the same method to make door in my bathroom to create a closet area in the back of the bathroom.  The bathroom door is smaller and is only has a frame on the front side.  This door is much lighter and is suspended from the ceiling.   

Bathroom Door - Slides open to the left so that door is hidden behind shower wall when open. 
Add caption

1)      Sliding Door Track – Double the size of door
2)      4’ x 8’ Sheet of Paneling -
3)      9 –  3 ½ ”x 8’  MDF Casing/Board   
4)      Wood Glue
5)      3/8” Dowels
6)      Wood Putty and/or caulk (sandable paintable)
7)      Sandpaper
8)      Paint

9)      Drill and bit that matches size of dowel
10)  Hammer/Plastic mallet
11)  Hand Saw*
12)  Miter Box

About materials and tools: 

1)      Sliding Door Track -  I got my sliding door track from Johnson HardwareIt’s very sturdy and was easy to install.  They have a variety of tracks. I used the 138F series but you should pick your sliding door track based on the weight and thickness of your doors.  If you use the materials I used, then your doors should be approximately 1 3/8” thick so the 138F series should work. 
2)      Paneling - I used paneling that had grooves cut into it a  to give the appearance of separate boards.  The panel I chose was only 3/8" thick.  You can use any paneling that you like, but just try to stay away from anything that is too heavy or too thick. 
3)      Casing - I used  casing, which has a flat back surface, rather than molding, which generally does not have a flat back surface.  I used composite rather than real wood because I find it easier to sand and paint and from what I’ve read, it has less tendency to warp.  That’s very important for this job since you’re gluing the frame to the panel, if the frame is warped in any way, it will be difficult to glue.  The width and thickness of the casing or boards does not have to be exact but keep in mind that if it’s too thick, the door will be too heavy and if it’s too thin, it will not provide enough support for the panel.
4)      Wood Glue - Did you know that wood glue is generally stronger than the wood?  It says so right there on the bottle!  Here’s the glue wood glue I used. Its available at any hardware store. 
5)     Dowels - I used three 36” dowels that I cut into smaller pieces but you could also just buy dowels that are precut  You can use a different diameter dowel, just be sure you have a drill bit that is the same diameter as your dowel.  The dowels are used to attach the frame.  The frame is also glued but you need the dowels for additional support (even though according to the bottle, wood glue is stronger than wood).
6)      Wood Putty/Caulk - You'll use wood putty and/or caulk to cover the dowel holes and any other imperfections.  Be sure the caulk is sandable and paintable.
7)      Sandpaper - You'll use the sandpaper to smooth out the caulk/putty that is used to cover the dowel holes
8)      Paint - The paint is up to you, but keep in mind that doors usually get dirty so you should get something that will withstand some scrubbing
9)      Drill - The drill is used to create holes for the dowels. You’ll need a drill bit that is the same size as your dowels.  I have a Black & Decker drill that I bought new on E-Bay.  Its a great little drill for someone like me. 
10)  Hammer or Mallet - The hammer or rubber mallet is used to hammer in the dowels.  A plastic mallet is preferable because you’re less likely to dent the frame. 
11)  Saw - Here's the saw I used.   The hand saw is used to miter corners and made straight cuts for the cross braces. Of course if you have an electric miter saw, you can use that. I didn't have one so I had to make all my cuts by hand. 
12)  Miter Box - I used this  miter box to make the mitered corners and straight cuts.  I find it virtually impossible to make a straight cut without something to guide the blade.  The miter box does this.  This miter box is inexpensive but effective.  I know this may wear out fairly quickly but it was perfect for this job. 
How to Build the Door:  
1.      Miter the ends of the two of the 8’ MDF Boards using the miter box and had saw. 
(See illustration below to show frame pieces)

3.      Place the pieces you’ve just cut on top of the panel to make the frame.  (See First Illustration)  Check your joints for a good fit.  The outside edges of the frame should be flush with the outside edges of the panel.  Don’t worry if there’s a bit of a gap between pieces, you can fill that with wood putty can caulk later. 

4.      Glue the frame pieces to the front of the panel.  Use lots of wood glue.

5.      Use clamps, if you have them, to hold the frame in place.  I just used cans and vases to hold the frame in place since I didn’t have any clamps and my panel was resting on the floor. 

Doors drying
6.      Allow to dry.
7.      Cut the cross braces.  If you using the products that I described, your cross braces should be approximately 41.” I recommend you measure to ensure a tight fit. 
8.      Glue the cross braces and allow to dry. 
9.      Flip over panel and repeat process so that you have framed both sides of the panel. 
10.  Allow to dry.
11.  Drill holes for the dowels.  Drill from the back side of the frame.  Drill only approximately halfway through the front side of the frame.  If you drill all the way through, then your dowel will be visible on both sides.  It helps to wrap a piece of tape around the drill bit to mark the depth that you want to drill too.  If you bought precut dowels, you should drill a hole that matches the length of those dowels.  Be sure the dowel hole is deep enough to go completely through the back side of the frame and panel and atleast halfway through the front part of the frame. 

Close-up of dowel holes.  Gap between corners before I filled it with putty. 
12.  Cut your dowels to the length of the holes you have drilled. 
13.  Put wood glue into each hole then insert the dowel.  Wipe off any excess glue.
14.  Use the hammer or mallet to hammer the dowels flush with the frame. 
Close-up of inserted dowels before sanding

15.  Sand where the dowels are inserted for a smooth finish.
16.  Use caulk or putty to fill any holes or gaps and sand smooth.
17.  Now you’re ready to paint! 
18.  Attach the door hanging hardware.  If you are using the Johnson Hardware sliding track, you will attach two brackets to the top of the door.
19.  Install the sliding track to the ceiling following the manufacturer’s instructions.  This is relatively easy if you have a joist or stud in the right place to screw into.  Just use the screws provided to attach the track to the stud.  I did not have a stud in the right place so I had to attach my track to the drywall and use casters to support the weight of the door so that the sliding track is basically just a door guide.  THIS IS NOT A JOHNSON HARDWARE APPROVED APPLICATION.  I marked the holes in the track on the ceiling and inserted drywall anchors at the marks.  Then I attached the track

20.  Hang the Doors. 


2.      Cut one MDF Board into two 48” mitered pieces
       (See illustration below to show frame pieces)


  1. Since the hanging brackets attach through the center of the door, which in this case is the thin paneling, did you have any trouble getting the screws to anchor and support the door securely?

    I just feel like if the screws are say 1/4" and the panel is 3/8", the remaining 1/8" may crumble away as the screws go in and leave not much to anchor too.

  2. I attached the brackets to the MDF frame board rather than the panel in the middle. So the bracket is slightly offset rather than being in the middle of the top of the door. Since the bracket is offset I was worried that the door would not hang straight but that hasn't been a problem. Somehow the door does hang straight.

  3. Wow, this is a pretty detailed tutorial. Thank you for sharing! I have been using wood screws for awhile, but next time, I’ll follow your advice and use wood dowels. It’s really amazing how these helpful tips can come from homeowners like us who just enjoys doing DIY projects.

    Willene Fagen

  4. This is awesome! I'm going to try it. I'm going to be hanging two from a wide door frame (60"w x 84"h), in separate tracks like you did in your hallway. I might even do three doors if I feel like there is room for three tracks (5.5"). The frame is solid wood, but I might still use casters. Do you have any issue with them scuffing up your floor? I'll probably sell this place next year and don't want to have to try to repair these very old fir floors. Thank you!

    1. Thanks! I rarely close the doors so the casters have not been a problem. I would have preferred not to use casters, but I didn't have a wood framed area so I was basically hanging the track from the drywall. If you use casters on the bottom and a track on the top, you have to have really plumb, square and level floors and ceilings. If your floor slopes just slightly, you'll end up with the casters off the floor on one end and a too tight fit on the other end of the track. Luckily, my building is fairly new and fairly square so that wasn't too much of a problem but the doors definitely open much more easily without the casters. So if your ceiling would support the doors, I highly recommend doing that. Please let me know how it goes!

  5. This blog post is absolutely helpful and informative! However, sliding doors are mostly used for indoors only because they provide less protection against burglars. But one of the benefits of sliding doors is their space-saving nature. A good construction and right choice of materials for this type of door will make it last long. Thanks for sharing this amazing post.

  6. This is a very comprehensive DIY door project. Very informative and helpful especially to those who are interested at making sliding loft doors. Thank you so much for sharing this. Appreciate it a lot. :)

  7. Thanks for the tutorial. It's very helpful for me.

  8. Good read, It really is incredibly fantastic and informative website. Good to discover your site Very well article! keep sharing.

  9. Thanks for sharing such a great blog... I am impressed with you taking time to post a nice info.
    Windows And Doors Phoenix
    Sliding Glass Doors Replacement

  10. This comment has been removed by the author.

  11. Very informative and detailed article is this. Love to read it
    Home Mart NZ

  12. Good read, It really is incredibly fantastic and informative website. Good to discover your site Very well article! keep sharing.
    Bedroom Furniture nz

  13. Nice Wood and Glass Doors blog and I will share to my friends. Also I suggest Interior Doors.

  14. Thanks for sharing such a great blog... I am impressed with you taking time to post a nice info.revistaneon

  15. This blog post is absolutely helpful and informative! However, sliding doors are mostly used for indoors only because they provide less protection against burglars. But one of the benefits of sliding doors is their space-saving nature. A good construction and right choice of materials for this type of door will make it last long. Thanks for sharing this amazing post.Dog Play Pens

  16. Thanks for sharing such a great blog Pet Shaver

  17. Interesting blog. It would be great if you can provide more details about it. Thanks you

  18. I adored your blog and a debt of gratitude is in order for distributing this about advanced advertising stages to learn! I'm truly glad to go over this particularly elegantly composed substance.Home Renovation Much obliged for sharing and search for additional in future!! Continue to accomplish this moving work and offer with us.

  19. Informative blog! And thanks for sharing the Loft Wardrobe links to resources as well. It really helped.