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How To Install A Pocket Door - Part 1

Part 2

Also see Sliding Doors

A pocket door is a sliding door that disappears into a pocket in the wall when opened, as shown in Figure 1. Pocket doors have been in use for centuries. The major advantage of a pocket door is that it does not require an area to swing open, hence in smaller rooms, and hallways it never prevents an obstruction to furniture or to the walking path within in a room or hallway.

mirrored pocket door in bathroom
Figure 1 - Pocket door in bathroom

Note: Note: The pocket door in the bathroom, depicted in Figure 1, has a mirror on the side that is visible and a flat painted panel on the opposite side. The door was made to order by a custom cabinet maker. Due to the weight of the mirror an extra door roller was installed on the pocket door. As well, additional screws were used to support the pocket door track.

Pocket doors can be installed as singles or double doors opening in opposite directions.

When space is a premium, pocket doors are a worthwhile consideration.

Installing a pocket door as a home improvement, where a standard door was previously installed requires substantial work. It may even require changes to the roof structural support and moving electrical outlet and switch boxes. It will require drywall installation and taping.

Pocket door installation kit
Figure 2 - Pocket door installation kit

The easiest method to construct a pocket door is to buy a pocket door installation kit, as shown in Figure 2, that includes all of the necessary track and structural supports for the door assembly.

Many manufacturers are now making kits with easy to follow instructions. In most cases the pocket door kits do not include the doors themselves. This allows the homeowner to choose a door or set of doors that match the doors in the rest of the home or the decor of a specific room. Most kits can handle door weights of at least 175 lbs, which is more than adequate for 99.5% of residential applications.

Always follow the manufacturer's instructions for their specific kit. The order of installing the components can be critical.

There are differences in kits. As most pocket doors in a residential application will be installed in existing walls, they must allow for the construction within a 2 x 4 standard wall. In order to maintain the support integrity of the wall the better framing kits utilize steel structural support members, the less expensive kits use wood.

Kits are available for single or double doors (Figure 3). A double pocket door kit is not two single door kits, as the pocket door track for a double door is one piece for both doors.

double pocket doors
Figure 3 - Double pocket doors
pocket door track roller
Figure 4 - Pocket door track rollers
pocket door track
Figure 5 - Pocket door track

Another difference is in the rollers (Figure 4) that are used to on the sliding track. Ball bearing rollers perform much better than rollers that do not utilize ball bearings and ball bearing rollers will last longer.

The rollers slide along a track (Figure 5) which is fixed to structural support. The track is not designed to be mounted at its ends and support the weight of the doors. It must be secured along its full horizontal length and the best way to do this is with a double 2 X 8 header.

Figures 6 and 7 show the rough-in for a double pocket door installation. In this case, for overall finished aesthetic purposes the pocket doors are installed between two sets of 2 X 4 walls and a single, well supported 2 x 10, which has been ripped to fit the width, is installed as the support for the door track.

rough-in for double pocket doors
Figure 6 - Rough-in for double pocket doors
pocket door rough-in
Figure 7 - Pocket door rough-in

The greatest difference in installing a pocket door versus a standard opening door is that standard doors are one of the last things installed, in many cases rooms are fully painted before the doors are hung. In the case of pocket doors, they are installed during the rough-in phase of construction, otherwise they cannot be installed because the door is larger than the door opening once the trim is installed.