Last month I was informed by the boss of impending project to improve the aesthetics of our living room. When we remodeled the room last year (Paint, recessed overhead lighting, new trim and crown, and some rods and drapes, etc.), I may have casually mentioned a sliding barn door... I frequently open mouth and insert foot in the throws of a home improvement project... And the only thing that remembers longer than an elephant is the boss.
As I started looking at materials, I realized quickly that this would be an incredibly expensive project if I built or even purchased new doors. Solid wood 6 panel doors were running around $350 each during that phase of the pandemic and $800 to $1000 including the hardware wasn't in the budget for a mostly cosmetic upgrade. After some thinking I decided to put out a call on Facebook and see who might be looking to free up some storage space and sell some old doors.
I put up a post on a few of the local yard sale groups offering top dollar for a couple banged up vintage doors. Our good friend Jean actually ended up having a hoard of doors tucked away in her shed that were exactly what I was looking for. Shameless plug for Jean's side hustle (Bearly Hyde N' Cabin). If you are ever in Theresa, NY check out her shop. And she wouldn't even let us pay her for them.
The doors were pulled from a historic hotel on Inna Island in the 1000 Island region of NY by her son's construction company and had been sitting in her shed collecting dust for nearly a decade. Out of the 20ish doors that she had, these two were the closest match. The taller door was a much newer reproduction but matched the panel heights closer than any of the other original doors. Luckily there was enough height in them to cut them down and still cover the opening.
Matching and cutting complete, the next step was stripping the old finish and patching the hinge and hardware mortises. I spent a couple evenings with the 6 inch orbital sander and my Worktunes headphones on while I sanded and scraped my way to a decent surface. Since I was doing away with the old hardware, I glued in some scrap hardwood into the latchmortises and mixed up some 2 part wood filler to fill in any remaining voids and holes.
My goal with these doors was not to make them look new. I wanted to leave some of the dings and dents and scratches to show that these doors had history. Once the easy stuff was out of the way, the supervisor came and made a selection of which side we were going to display. I didn't use wood filler around the patches on that side of the door so they would still show through the eventual paint job these would receive. The other side would be facing our dining room and we wanted that side to blend in with the more formal look in that room so I took a little more care to hide the imperfections. That side was finished off with a few healthy coats of cabinet and trim enamel paint to hold up against the abuse of the 2 pre-teen boys wrestling through our house daily.
The business end of the doors got the deluxe treatment. Farmhouse Red chalk paint and a heavy dose of dark wax to give them some age and character. One of my favorite parts of the whole project was the knob hardware (which I conveniently forgot to take pictures of, dummy). Using the spindle from a broken mortise lock and some flat stock I had on hand, I fabricated some heavy duty brackets to remount the original knobs without through holes. I donated the remaining lock sets and parts to a friend that owns a historic home and will put them to good use repairing and replacing some of his broken door hardware.
It was perfect timing to wrap up the finish. We had a short trip planned to go visit friends that gave the wax a couple days to cure before mounting the doors. We were also still waiting for FedEx to deliver the track hardware. Thankfully we live in a great neighborhood and the hardware was waiting patiently on the porch upon our return.
I want to go off track here for a moment express how pleasantly surprised I was by the hardware we ordered. I took a chance and ordered a Zeny 12' Door Track from Walmart. I figured that worst case I could return it if it was poor quality but it was like half the cost of the other kits I found. Solid choice. Well made with quality materials, 5 stars, would recommend! All directions are in metric which can be troublesome for some but just remember that 406mm is close enough to call it 16 inches and you'll be good to go.
It took about an hour to mount the doors and get everything adjusted to the boss's specifications. The final product has some flaws but the only person that has noticed them so far is me and apparently my opinion does not matter when it comes to interior design. I'm pretty happy with how these turned out. It took maybe 15 hours spread out over 2 weeks to do this project. And the boss was right, it did really improve the look of the living room... Don't tell her I said that!