How to Make Sliding Closet Doors on the Cheap

Hi there! So happy to have you here and I hope you find this post helpful. If you have a question, please leave it in the comments and I’ll do my best to provide an answer.  Hopefully, as time goes on, I’ll get better about taking more before and during pics, take better quality photos and be more detailed in my how-to’s.  I am learning that I am a closet perfectionist {don’t really think I strive for perfection, but just think I can do it better} and working on getting it done instead of getting it perfect. So, here you go…

In our condo, we had two 4-foot wide reach-in closets in the foyer. I was thrilled to have so much closet space AND it was open from floor to ceiling.  No pesky walls to limit my storage.  The downside? One set of mirrored closet doors was broken and the other was missing.  Since we had just purchased a foreclosure and had plenty of other priority projects to tackle like the broken toilet, leaky kitchen faucet, toys stuck in the ice dispenser, puke yellow and pepto-pink walls in the office to list just a few, I decided to purchase some curtains from Ikea, install some shower curtain rods and call it a day. {Yes, I was constantly fixing and rearranging the curtains to hide our stuff but it was cheap and provided easy access to the closet contents.}

I didn’t take an official “before” photo and happened to stumble across this real life example.

Throughout the three years that we lived in the condo, we contemplated proper closet doors and researched numerous times but alas, since the opening was 94″+ tall, it was a custom order and out of our budget. There was always something more important to invest in.  Some suggested framing out the opening so it would fit standard doors but I couldn’t fathom eliminating useful storage space.

Fast-forward to December, 2011. Hubs received a job offer in North Carolina and we had to get the condo sale-ready in 2 1/2 weeks. A tall feat for anyone but we had a three-month old at the time which meant organizing & regular chores that could wait, did; I was not in great shape from my delivery and did I mention it was December? Right-smack-dab in the middle of the holidays when we had planned to travel home for ten days.  The photographer was scheduled for January 3rd and open house that weekend. Oh, AND we had to fit in a house-hunting trip so we actually had somewhere to live when we arrived in North Carolina.

I knew that the curtains-as-closet doors were not going to cut it for showing, especially in the foyer.  Once again I was on a quest for a feasible solution…Finally, after convincing the hubby to buy me a pocket-hole jig to facilitate the project, I decided to build them myself.  They are officially referred to as bypass doors, btw.

I used this tutorial for inspiration.  I wanted it to BE cheap but not LOOK too cheap.  It wasn’t worth tackling if it was going to detract from the appeal of our home.  If we were going to continue living there and had more time, I would have invested in better materials and a more complex design- but we weren’t so I didn’t.

Keep in mind, I was working with a finished opening (of course, they each measured slightly different) and an existing track on top and bottom.  I also had three other sets of similar doors in my home.  Since my ceiling and sub-floor was concrete and I had an existing track, I did not even consider purchasing a complete bypass door hardware set. I would highly recommend it so you won’t have to hunt down parts that work together.

In order to simplify the planning process because I was slightly overwhelmed at this point, I used the method I use for organizing planning with clients- the Clear & SIMPLE™ System.

See It- I began by sketching a rough drawing of what I wanted. I love the look of the shoji-type doors in the tutorial but since I had four matching panels to build in a limited time frame as my first project of this kind, I decided a two-panel door would work for me!  You’ll need to consider if you want dividers, how many, spacing, how much overlap of panels {I chose the width of one 1X3, which is actually 2 1/2″}, thickness of panel material and dividers, etc.

M.A.P. It (Make a plan)


  • Clamps
  • Drill/driver
  • Circular saw
  • Kreg pocket-hole jig
  • Router with rabbet bit
  • Staple gun & brads
  • Hand saw
  • Sander


First, I measured the height of an existing set of doors {not including the hardware} to work from for the height of my new panels.  The width, however, was a different story.  So  as not to add to the confusion I’ll provide calculations here for one set of doors.

Width of Opening/2 + Desired overlap/2 =
46 3/4″ divided by 2 + 2 1/2″ divided by 2 =
23 3/8″ + 1 1/4″  =
24 5/8″ wide

Now I had my finished panel dimensions of 93 1/2″ X 19 5/8″. I used a standard paneled door to determine where I wanted to add my divider and calculated my supplies/cuts for the 1X3’s:

1X3’s @ 93 1/2″ QTY. 4 (Two uprights for each panel)

1X3’s @ 14 5/8″ QTY. 6 (One divider, top and bottom board for each panel; measurement less the width of two 1X3’s since I wanted to mount the divider and top/bottom pieces inside the uprights)

Do It- In order to test out if I could even do this and cut my losses if it didn’t work, at this point I purchased my 1X3’s and the Kreg Pocket-hole Jig. I figured $12 wasted wasn’t bad…and I could return the pocket-hole jig {or at least that’s what I told the hubster}.  After I spent some time figuring out how to use the pocket-hole jig, I cut my 1X3’s using the circular saw and drilled pocket-holes in both ends of each of the short divider pieces to create the frame.  I immediately fell in *love*. Yes, I love my Kreg Pocket-Hole Jig. It makes quick work out of building any type of frame or joining boards.

After I actually built the frame, I proceeded to attach the hanging hardware to see if this would actually work. Then, I built the second frame and added the dividers.  And confirmed that both panels would actually function as closet doors. Baby steps *wink*.

I was so excited- this was going to work!  Maybe. Not done yet. All I had were hanging frames. I finished building the last two panels and used my router and rabbet bit to cut a lip on the inside back edge of the frame.  This would allow the lauan panel to sit flush with the back of the frame.  I didn’t want to mess around with cutting the lauan myself so next up was to build the additional two panels, router and take measurements for each panel.  Then, I mapped out my cuts and had Home Depot cut 2 4X8 sheets of lauan into the 8 panels I needed.  It was much quicker and a lot more accurate than if I would have made the cuts myself {plus, my table saw was in “storage” aka. my BIL’s}

Almost there. I realized when I was routering {not a real word} that I was going to run into a small obstacle here.  The lauan panels were rectangular with 90 degree corners and because I routed the edges once the frame was assembled the corners were rounded as you can see here.

Routing with frame assembled results in rounded corners.

So, I carefully marked the corners on all of the panels and used a handsaw to angle the corners. Finally ready to assemble! I used my staple gun with brads to secure the lauan panels to the frame.

Attaching lauan panels to the frame

It’s a good thing all of the hard labor was done- phew. I kid. I still had to sand, fill cracks and crevices, prime and paint {yes, you need to prime lauan!}.

The finished product!

I think they turned out pretty decent for my first door building project. What do you think? They certainly paid off because we closed on the sale of our condo earlier this week. {Happy Dance!}

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