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How High Should a Barn Door Handle Be?

Posted by Eric Splitt on

Sliding barn doors are still a very popular way to close off or divide up two rooms. They move very close to the wall which can make choosing and installing a proper handle a challenge.

Once you settle on a good handle to fit your decor the next question is always, "How high should a barn door handle be?"

We are going to cover that today in this article and make sure you know what things to think about as you select and install your handles.

For those of you wanting to skip all the important details, here's the quick answer. Barn door handles should be 34-inches off the ground at their lowest point, and 48-inches at their highest.

Choosing the Right Handle for a Sliding Barn Door

When it comes to choosing the right handle for a barn door, buyers have several options. Those options can be limited by the color and decor they need to match. But there are really 2 main types of handles that you can use. Pull handles and Pocket handles.

Pull Handles are pretty straightforward and easy to install. They can be surface mounted like this one:

Pull Handle

Perfect for things like closet doors where you don't need to place a handle on the inside.

Or they can be a bolt-through type paired with a pocket like this one. Requires drilling 2 holes all the way through to the other side. The holes must be drilled straight and perpendicular to the surface to avoid misalignment.

pull handle product

Pull handles are a great choice for the outside of the door where you don't have to worry about them dragging on the wall. They add depth and texture to an otherwise flat surface. They come in all shapes and sizes.

Extra Long Handle

Extra Long Handle on a sliding barn door.

Typically the taller the door the bigger the handle should be. We will talk about height position next but if you use a small handle on a tall door, those handles are typically mounted below the mid-point of the door leaving the top half naked. It really throws off the balance of aesthetics.

Next, we have Pocket Handles. As the name implies it's simply a finger pocket used as a handle. These come in 2 varieties. There are surface mount pocket handles and recessed pocket handles.

These are the best choice for the inside facing the wall. The side that slides up against the wall. There's typically only an inch or so of space and a regular pull handle would get in the way.

Surface mount flush pocket handles can be installed with ease. They are usually made of 1/4" thick material with a 1/8" recess. It doesn't give you a lot to grab onto but surprisingly they do work.

Mount Flush Pocket Handle

Recessed pocket handles are actually cut into the surface of the door allowing you more depth in the pocket to really grab onto. They are more difficult to install and require either a router and a jig, or a chisel and hammer.

recessed pocket handle

Where to Put the Handle on Your Barn Door

The standard height for knobs and handles according to the ADA should be between 34-inches and 48-inches from the floor. This gives us plenty of room to work with.

A typical handle is between 6-12 inches long. Most interior swinging doors have knobs mounted at 36-inches. For visual purposes, I like to use that as my bottom measurement and go up from there.

So If I have a 12-inch barn door pull handle, I would mount the bottom of the handle at about 36-inches off the floor. Then the top of the handle would be about 48-inches off the floor.

Visually, most sliding barn door height are between seven and eight feet tall depending on your wall space. So having a handle right about in the middle is perfect.

What I try to avoid is having a 9-foot door and a 6-inch handle mounted at 34-inches. The problem with this is that it leaves the top two-thirds of the door with nothing there.

It dwarfs the already small handle making it seem even smaller. You know what they say about big doors?... Big handles.

Which Side Do You Mount a Handle on Your Barn Door?

At first, I thought this was obvious but after receiving this question over and over I realized that I should explain this a bit more. Handles should be placed closest to the opening.

So if your barn door slides open and move to the left and it closes and moves to the right. Then you should place the handle on the right side of the door. 

Another way to think about it is that you should be able to grab the outside door handle when standing inside the room and you should be able to pull it closed.

If the handle were on the opposite side you would have no handles available to open or close the door from the inside.

Important things to consider when installing handles on a barn door

Often times contractors will make pre-drilled holes for the handles before even placing the door against the wall. Sometimes this is okay especially if you are routing in a recessed pocket handle. But there is something to consider as you measure out the position of your handles.

Will I be able to reach the handle from the inside when it's up against the wall? This is certainly something to consider, especially from the closed position. When a door is made to cover the outside casing of the door, there is a lot of overlap.

If you install your pocket handle an inch or two from the outer edge, it will be hidden when the door is closed. Alternately, if you align it so that it is accessible in the closed position, then it will be hidden when the door is in the open position.

You might consider placing a stop on the door so that the handle does not get buried. Another idea is to make it accessible in the closed position, but then when it's open, use the outside pull handle instead to close the door.

These are just those minor details that are important to think about when installing a sliding barn door. If you are hanging double doors or bypassing double barn doors, then this needs to be carefully thought out and measured before making any holes.

Now that you have a handle on this topic...

We've covered 2 types of pull handles and 2 types of pocket handles. We have talked about when and where to use each type as well as how to select the right size of handle.

Most importantly we covered the ideal height to place your handle. Again my recommendation is to set the bottom of the handle at 36-inches, measured up from the floor.

I hope this has helped you in some way. Follow Neater Nest for more great tips about home improvement. If you haven't done so yet, check out the sliding barn door hardware products that we make for DIY customers like you.

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