June 22, 2012

Building the Bathroom Sliding Door

Hey!  Whatever happened to the Main Bath remodel?  I admit it folks, I fell off the wagon and after 2 bathroom remodels in 3 months, I was spent.  In fact, the last time I showed you the Main Bath was over 2 months ago when our toilet went back in

Really, I have a good excuse.  Once the toilet was in we were fully functional, and the only thing that was left to complete the room was the door, and I wanted to get the door in before I shared with you all the big reveal.    The problem was that door took a little longer than expected.  Partially because I took a break, partially because the glass I ordered online took a long time, was wrong and had to be sent back for new stuff... there's a lot of excuses.  So let's stop with the labor pains and just take a look at the baby. 

To start, I went to one of my favorite lumber yards in the world, Young Blood Lumber in North East Minneapolis, which has been around since 1887.  I love everything about this place from the huge selection of all types of wood, the smell, the really helpful staff that have been working there for decades... I seriously feel as though I'm amongst my people.  I worked up a sketch to the exact height and width I needed in advance so I knew exactly what I would need, and I found some fantastic, true 1 inch (5/4) hard maple boards.

Sketch to proportion of the door

Once I got home, I ripped and cut my wood to the correct size, and started to lay it out.

How pretty is that wood, right?

 Before I put anything together, I lowered the blade of my table saw and routed through a channel across the bottom of the door.  More on that later.

 To put together the door, I didn't want to use the same pocket screw plan as I used when I built the big, bad, closet doors for our Master Bathroom, since both sides of this door would be visible.  Instead I used wooden dowels, a dowling jig, wood glue and clamps.

The Jig on the far left is my Dad's, but I ended up not using it.  The other little kit was so much easier. 
 I found this sweet kit at Home Depot that made lining up the dowels in all the right places a breeze.  It came with this drill bit with a stop ring so that I couldn't drill into the wood too far.

 I drilled into my boards:

 And then put the handy little markers into my drilled holes:

Then I lined up my two boards exactly where I wanted them to join together, and gave my pre-drilled board a tap, which left these small marks in the other board:

 Which was a perfect guide for where to drill the other set of holes.  Then I used a little glue (both in my dowel holes and on the edge of the wood, placed in my two dowels, and inserted one board into the other.

 Then I clamped the boards overnight to get a nice, strong bond.  I made sure to wipe up all the excess glue completely with a wet rag, which is key if you want your stain and finished piece to look good.

 Once the door frame was all put together it was time to put in the glass.  First I used the scraps from trimming my wood boards to rip a bunch of 3/8" x 3/8" window stop.  Basically that's really thin strips of wood that will hold the glass in place.

 Once I had all the strips ripped, I cut them down to perfectly fit my glass openings.

When they were all cut, I used wood glue and 1/2" finishing nails with my nail gun to tack them in flush with the front of the door.  After some sanding and a little wood putty where necessary, you could barely tell where the stops were added.

Then I flipped over the door.  See the perfect little glass holding ledge that was made?

Like a glove:

After looking all over the Minneapolis area and not finding glass I was happy with, I found a great site- www.eplastics.com.  Since this is a bathroom for the kiddos, I knew that real glass, even if it was tempered, wasn't a good idea.  (Years of fighting over the shower and slamming this door play over through my head.)   Instead I went with a thick, 1/4" acrylic plexiglass with a frosted finish.  Unfortunately the first ones they sent did not look like the frosted glass I had in mind at all, it was a semi-transparent white piece of plastic. Thankfully the folks at ePlastics are incredibly helpful over there, and when I called they pointed out a product that they had that was more what I was looking for, and made the return.  In fact, since my white pieces were already pre-cut, they didn't even ask me to return them, they just refunded me the cash and charged me for the new ones.   ePlastics also cut my 4 pieces exactly to my size, so I couldn't have been more happy with their service.  (PS- I wasn't compensated at all from ePlastics, I just had a great experience ordering from them and thought you should know.)

But we digress... on to the back side of the door I again cut all the window stops to the correct lengths, but instead of installing these I labeled each one so I would remember exactly where it goes and set them to the side.  

Then I removed the glass, flipped her back over and stained the front.  I figured staining the first side without the glass in it would avoid any issues with the finish getting on my glass.  Before I started the staining though,  I must have spent at least an hour sanding my new baby, first with 60 grit and then a fine 300.  Then I tested a bunch of different finish types on a scrap of the maple to see what I liked the best.  (With/without prestain, with natural colored stain, oil based poly, water based poly.)  The choice was just oil based poly, as it brought out the natural color of the maple, and made almost a perfect match to the vanity.

After the first side got 3 coats of poly and dried for 24 hours, I flipped the door, added in the glass and installed the window stops.  Again I sanded for-ev-er, then vacuumed up all the dust and put 3 coats of poly on this side.  Here's a sneak peak:

Try not to judge me for the messy garage.  There's always a new project in here taking over the space.
My Hubs keeps asking what we saved building it ourselves, and the real answer is that since this door needed to be exactly 33 1/2" wide and 87 1/4 " tall, it would have been impossible to buy one exactly like we needed.  A few calls to local custom build shops quoted me anywhere from $1-2K for this door though, so I'm pretty happy with the $200 total price tag.  

With the door built, it was all over but the hanging. Get ready because on Monday I'm FINALLY going to show you the Main Bath before and afters.  What was formerly the most disgusting room in the house hands down, is now one of my favorites. What do you guys think of the door though?  It took a lot of time and patience to get this just right, but I'm pretty excited about the results. 

As a reminder, here's what we've done so far:


  1. Bravo! Someday I will be as confident with power tools as you are! Until then, I'm letting my handy husband handle it...

    Erin @ The Great Indoors

  2. So impressive. Your bathroom is lovely.

  3. This door looks great. I had a design exactly like this in mind for my bathroom. What sort of joinery did you use for the door frame? Did you use a lap joint for the main frame with dowels for the horizontal slats? Or dowels for the whole thing? Couldn't tell from the photos. Congrats on a great bathroom reno!

    1. I used the big, 3/8" dowels in all the joints, and it feels very sturdy and strong. Good luck on your reno!

  4. That’s almost 90% off the quoted price! I would surely follow all your tips if I could save that much. Haha! I was looking for a neat divider for my bedroom and study room, and I knew that a sliding door is the answer to my problem. With those dowels, glue and wood, I’ll be able to customize my door. Thanks for the post!

    Willene Fagen

  5. It’s a great door! A frosted glass door, at that. :) Did you keep the varnished look? I think it looks more new-ish that way. A white frame or any chalk paint color would also look good with the frosts. I’m sure you’d be wanting some new look for a new atmosphere in the future. But in the mean time, keep this one as it is! :D

  6. Whew, that looked like a lot of work! The end product is undoubtedly looking good and sturdy, Erin. If you don't mind me asking, why did you opt to have sliding doors instead of the regular ones? Sliding doors are actually for the interiors, and ideally, inside a bathroom where space is important. Good luck in your future projects!

    Ron Bauguss @ CarolinasHomePros