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How To Install a Pocket Door

Pocket doors are sleek, stylish alternatives to traditional or sliding doors. Here's a helpful guide on how to install them.

January 1, 2018

Since 2015, houses have been getting smaller. With the rise of minimalism and the appeal of cost-effective, environmentally-friendly homes, people are electing to invest in smaller spaces.

Smaller spaces present unique benefits but also unique challenges; homeowners must prioritize intentional design choices to maximize the available space. One favorite addition is a pocket door. A pocket door is a great space-saving measure that is as functional as it is attractive. Pocket doors are popping up in all manners of homes but are particularly popular in ADUs.

The experts here at Cottage are here to help. Whether you’re looking to add a splash of style to your ADU, or you just want to find a little more space in your home, read on to learn how to install a pocket door.

An Introduction to Pocket Doors

A pocket door is a stylish, space-saving feature that works similarly to a sliding door, though there is a key difference. Instead of a perpetually visible door that’s usually saved for outdoor spaces (like a sliding door), pocket doors slide into a “pocket,” or sleeve installed into an interior wall or divider.

These doors open up spaces by freeing the area needed for a traditional door to swing open and provide a sleek alternative by gliding the door out of sight.

These doors are ideal for smaller rooms or areas like:

En Suite Bathroom

Say you’ve chosen your floor plan and realized that the door to the bathroom in the master bedroom swings out just enough to knock into your antique credenza, possibly damaging a prized family heirloom.

Swinging doors can damage furniture and take up precious interior space. With a properly installed pocket door, your retro-chic furniture will be safe from the scrapes and dents from an outward swinging door.

Laundry Room

ADUs come in all shapes and sizes. Smaller ADUs demand creativity; you’ll want to save precious space wherever you can. If you have a closed-off laundry room, maximize the nook that separates your washer and dryer and the rest of the home with a convenient pocket door.

Kitchen and Pantry

Your ADU kitchen space is incredibly valuable and useful. Besides the cooking station, refrigerator, and maybe a granite island, some kitchens are fortunate enough to have a well-stocked pantry.

A pantry with an outward swinging door could prove frustrating when you’re trying to gather the ingredients you need and place them on the counter. A pocket door solves this issue by clearing your path to your kitchen’s storage.

Wherever you decide to put your pocket door, make sure you purchase a kit or consult a professional to acquire one that fits your look and style.

Make Sure You Have Enough Space

As mentioned before, pocket doors need a sleeve to retract into when they open. For most standard, 32-inch doors, you’ll need at least 66 linear inches of wall space to house it properly.

You’ll also want at least double the width of a standard pocket door (two inches) for a total of four inches of space. That way, you have enough space on either side of it to avoid scraping and any possible damage to it.

It is also essential to measure the doorway itself. You will want to ensure that there is enough room for the pocket door to disappear entirely into its install wall. The only thing you want to be exposed is the handle or latch on the leading edge.

This is only true unless you opt for handles, of course. This is mostly a cosmetic choice but double-check that you’ll have enough space to get through the doorway before adding ornate handles that shave off four inches of clearance.

Common Renovation Concerns To Keep in Mind

When installing a pocket door, be on the lookout for:

  • Pipes and Electrical: If you’re going the DIY route, perhaps this isn’t the time to take on a whole new skill set that requires rewiring electrical cables and upsetting your plumbing system. Generally speaking, unless you’re in the hands of a trusted professional, stay away from these walls. Electrical work may seem pricey at first, but it can be even more expensive and disruptive to fix after a job goes wrong.
  • Load Bearing Walls: These integral parts of your home’s bones are best left alone to support the weight of your abode. One technique to see if your walls are load-bearing is to pop up into the attic and see which direction your joists are running.

If your existing wall is running parallel to the joists, then you should be good to go. If the wall is running perpendicularly, this could be a load-bearing wall. This is not a good choice for your pocket door.

Make Sure You Have the Right Tools

Before mounting on your installation endeavor, take note that you have all the right tools and materials for your project.

Here’s a quick list of what to have nearby:

  • Pocket door kit
  • Reciprocating saw
  • Power drill
  • Crowbar
  • Tape measure
  • Drywall compound
  • Drywall paneling (unless you plan to reuse what you remove, of course)
  • Lumber for header and studs
  • Assorted nails and screws

A quick trip to your local hardware store should ensure you have everything you need before starting your project.

How To Install Your Pocket Door: Step-by-Step Instructions

Generally, it’s best to reach out to a professional when installing a pocket door. If you are forging your own path, here are some things to expect:

1. Purchase a Pocket Door Kit.

You can find these at your local hardware store. Consider your purchase carefully, as some of these doors include tracks that run on the ground and may produce trip hazards.

2. Remove the Old Door and Its Frame

Removing an old door is usually a pretty simple task. You’ll likely need to unscrew it from its hinges and take it down. You can scrap it or save it in case you want to convert your old door into a pocket door.

3. Cut Out a Rough Opening for the Door

This is where a reciprocating saw will come in handy. Cut out a section of the existing drywall to create a rough opening for your pocket door. This is the space where the frame and pocket door will nestle. It goes without saying that this step (and all the steps) call for extreme caution and diligence.

4. Removed Wall Studs

Now with the drywall out of the way, you’re going to need to remove any wall studs that are in the way. This is done to ensure room for your new door header and the framework for the pocket door apparatus. As mentioned above, you will need to ensure you are not removing anything load-bearing. Always consult with a qualified professional when in doubt.

5. Construct Your New Frame

It’s now time to start constructing your new door frame. The new header will be longer than the one you removed, given it must allow for your new pocket door to slide along it. You will also need to fit new studs in place to hold up the header and its outside.

6. Install the Pocket Door Kit

Cut the track to the correct length you measured and mount it as detailed in its instruction packet. Use nails to fit the split studs into the floor brackets and attach the top of the studs to the header.

Continue along with the instructions indicated in your install guide, and once everything is prepped, you may now hang your new pocket door by sliding it into place. Give it a few test slides to ensure everything is in working order.

7. Replace and Paint the Drywall

Once everything is ready, it’s now time to replace that drywall you cut out. If you were careful with your cut, you might be able to salvage the piece you cut out. Otherwise, you may need to install a new section.

Paint what needs to be painted and make sure everything fits the look and style you wish to achieve. Take a step back and enjoy your newly installed pocket door.

Trust the Professional Expertise at Cottage

Going the way of DIY is always a great way to challenge yourself and learn new, interesting things along the way.

Pocket door kits come with the track system and all the hardware you need to install your door. They do not, however, come with any of the necessary tools needed, nor any readily approachable consultants, to properly install it with the quality craftsmanship and practiced precision you desire.

Cottage offers ready-made, customizable floor plans that are realized from start to finish by professional ADU experts always working to see your vision come to fruition. If you want to add a pocket door to your ADU construction, all you have to do is say the word.


Installing a Pocket Door | Bob Vila

How to Tell If a Wall Is Load-Bearing | The Spruce

How to Take A Door Off Its Hinges | Hunker

The Shrinking Size of Single-Family Homes | MReport