A sliding door can be a great space-saving design choice, especially when covering a larger opening. Utilizing time-honored woodworking techniques, the door can be built at home from a variety of materials.


Determine Size

If adding a door opening, be sure to consult a licensed contractor or structural engineer to confirm requirements for load-bearing walls and structural headers. The rolling track can be installed on the wall to the opening header or to the ceiling. For ceiling installations, also ask what blocking may be needed overhead to support the weight of the door. Start by measuring the width of the opening from outside of trim to outside of trim. For the height using a ceiling-mounted track, measure from the floor to the ceiling. For wall-mounted track, measure from the floor to the top of trim.

The final door size for a wall-mounted track should be the width of the opening to the outside of trim by the height of the door opening to the top of the trim minus 1/2 inch. The door size for a ceiling-mounted track should be the width of the opening to the outside of trim by the height of the wall minus the track and wheel depth, blocking and a half inch.


Build the Frame

Cut two pieces of 2″ x 6″ wood to the height of the door. Make sure these are fairly straight, otherwise plane them down. Next cut two more pieces for the top and bottom rails to 1 inch longer than the total width of the door. On the end grain of the rails, use a framing square to mark the outline of a 1″ x 4″ tenon. Then transfer the outline to the face of the rail and mark a perpendicular line where the tenon stops 6 1/2″ back. Remove the bulk of the material around the tenon using crosscuts from a circular saw set to the proper depth for each cut. Once the rough tenon has been formed for all four corners, mock up the rails on the stiles and transfer the tenon outline to the ends of the stiles.


Create Mortise and Tenon

With the outline of the tenon transferred to the side of the stile for the mortise, drill a series of 1″ holes to remove the bulk of the material. Then using a set of sharp chisels, square the mortise out. Using chisels and an orbital sander with 60-grit pads, slowly fit the mortise and tenon together. Stop when the two fully fit together with light strikes from a rubber mallet.


Establish Upper and Lower Panel Heights

Since glass will be installed in the top, a 1/3:2/3 proportion will be used for the upper and lower panels respectively. Cut the vertical center stile to the height of the door minus the height of the upper and lower rails. Using a dowel jig, create a three-dowel join between the center stile and upper/lower rails. Temporarily remove the outer stiles to assemble the center stile. Apply wood glue to the dowel holes and join these three pieces.


Finish Frame

Cut the horizontal center rails to the split panel widths and repeat the dowel join at established panel height. Finally, double-check the entire assembled frame for square and then install a 1/2” wood dowel pin in each corner. Drill a hole through the center of the mortise to tenon joints and insert the pin with wood glue. Leave the pin slightly long on both sides while the glue sets and sand it flush later.


Gather and Cut Materials

Measure the total panel height and widths. Subtract 1/4″ from each measurement and cut the reclaimed 1″ material to these sizes. If an exact layout cannot be worked out with the widths of material, trim each down on a table saw as needed. If glass is used in the upper panel, ask a local glass fabricator to undersize two pieces by 1/4″ in each direction. Next, cut a 1/2″ x 1″ panel and glass stop out of reclaimed material. If enough material remains, cut the stops so each has an original edge to match the frames and panels.


Assemble Panels

Attach the stop to one side of each panel opening with wood glue and 15 ga. finish nails. Install the panels and then install the stop on the other side. Leave the glass-panel opening with stop only on one side. If needed, use an orbital sander and 220-grit paper to soften any rough edges. Now is also the time to cut back and sand any exposed tenons and pins.


Install Track

Install the track according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Be sure each fastener is driven into an existing stud, joist or solid blocking. Drywall inserts are not appropriate for the weight of this door. If the track runs the entire length of the wall, be sure to leave it short on one side so the hanger wheels can be slid in. Also, offset the track enough so the door will not rub on any existing trim around the opening or at the floor.


Install Door and Finish Up

Take one final measurement to double-check the total door height versus the bottom of the hangers. Err on the high side for the track as the hangers will allow about a 1″ downward adjustment on the door. Transfer the hanger location to the top of the door and create an adjustment pocket with a 1″ bit 1 3/4″ from the top of the door. Make sure to leave enough material to fully support the weight of the door. Square off the top of the pocket with a vibratory tool or chisel. With plenty of help, install the door with the hangers already in the track. Install the adjustment nuts and tighten up until there is an even 1/2″ gap at the floor. Once the door is installed, slowly roll it back and forth the length of the track to check operation. If the track does not run wall to wall, be sure to install end stops in each side. Once the door and track are complete, install the glass panels with silicone before installing the second stop.