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How to Install a Pocket Door (A DIY Guide)

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Pocket doors save space, divide rooms, and give your home a retro feel. And here’s how to do it.

Pocket doors are an excellent option for separating spaces while retaining an open-plan feel. And it seems that pocket door installation is now back in vogue because it gives your home retro styling while adding functionality.

We show you how to install a pocket door and run through the associated costs of fitting one.


Can You Install a Pocket Door In An Existing Wall?

You can DIY install a pocket door in an existing wall as long as you check for obstructions first. What constitutes an obstruction? Anything within the fabric of the wall can hamper your efforts, and you could destroy the structural integrity of your home.

So, what obstacles are we talking about?

Pipes and Electrical Wires

Pipes and wires are expensive to reroute and beyond most people’s capabilities. You need a qualified electrician or plumber, which will cost serious amounts of money.

They can advise on local building codes to keep on the right side of the law. You don’t want to find yourself doing five to 10 in the pen’ for a rogue switch or socket.

Load-Bearing Walls

Cutting a large hole for a set of sliding doors in a load-bearing wall is never a good idea. You will need additional supports like steel joists to take the weight. This dramatically increases costs, including employing a professional to complete the job.

Heavy Frames

The wall in question needs enough strength to hold the weight of the pocket door frame. These frames can be heavy, requiring fasteners that penetrate deep into the drywall.

If the screws protrude too much, they can impede the door mechanism and even gouge the door.

Lack of Space

If the wall doesn’t have enough space, the doors will not fit. Most standard doors measure 32 inches wide, so you will need 66 inches of linear space for the double-door option. That’s 32 inches for each door and two inches for the housing and trim.

If the wall is smaller, you could install a single sliding door. It would look less impressive, but it would save you 10 square feet of space compared to a swinging door.

And then you need to decide on the type of door handles you want. Do you want the doors to open fully, are you happy with protruding handles that impede the sliding movement?

How Difficult Is It to Install a Pocket Door?

Retrofitting a pocket door is challenging compared to standard swinging doors, but it can be done. It’s the reason why most people decide to install them in new constructions rather than cutting out an existing wall.

We’ve already mentioned some of the obstacles you might encounter and the challenges you could face.

How a Pocket Door Works

A pocket door glides on a track so that when opened, it is concealed in a recess within the wall. This recess is called the pocket. The doors are thin, lightweight, and offer very little soundproofing and insulation.

How Thick Does a Wall Need to be for a Pocket Door?

You need a minimum of four inches of wall thickness because most sliding doors are two inches thick. This allows for fasteners to be embedded 0.5 to 0.75 inches into the wall to hold the door’s frame.

Pocket Door Installation Kits

Pocket door installation kits are available from most DIY stores and well-known online retailers like Amazon. They come with everything you need to install the frame and sliding mechanism. Some even come complete with a door.

Johnson’s Hardware Industrial Sliding Door Kit is a commercial-grade door kit with a soft opening and closing feature. It has all-steel studs for improved weight-bearing, and it even comes with self-tapping drywall screws.

This heavy-duty pocket door kit by Hartford Building Products is easy to install and can take the weight of a 250-pound door. It comes with everything you need to hang a pocket door, except the door itself.

This stylish National Hardware Pocket Door Kit can take the weight of two 125-pound doors. It adapts to any wall type, including plaster, wood paneling, and drywall. It is also easy to install. The doors are not included with this kit, so that is an added expense to keep in mind.

How to Install a Pocket Door

So, you’ve chosen the wall, and you are about to cut the rough opening, but before you do, you should take stock of the tools you will need to get the task done.

Safety Is Key

If your home was built before 1978, the wall paint could contain lead. Check to see how you safely remove and dispose of it with your local authority.

What You’ll Need

  • Door kit.
  • Saw.
  • Hammer.
  • Screwdriver.
  • One-inch screws.
  • Sander (orbital).
  • Sanding block.
  • Sandpaper.
  • Drywall tape.
  • Joint compound.
  • Square.
  • Spirit level.
  • Drop cloths.
  • Plumb line.
  • Vacuum cleaner.
  • Face mask.
  • Goggles.
  • 2×4 timber.
  • Two-inch nails.

Before You Start

Lay the drop cloths and don your face mask and goggles. Sawdust contains pollutants that can irritate your lungs. It’s always a good idea to vacuum periodically to remove excess dust.

These instructions are for hanging a double-opening.

  1. Cut the drywall away with the saw, remembering to remove the studs. Use the hammer to take out stubborn bits of wood. Use the sander or sanding block to smooth rough edges.
  2. Assuming your door is the standard 80 inches high, you need to make the rough opening to match. The rough opening should also be twice the width of one door plus an inch and three quarters for the rail and jamb. Most doors are 32 or 34 inches wide, so you will need a total distance of 69.75 inches.
  3. Use the 2×4 to make the header and the studs of the frame.
  4. Square the header bar and make sure it is plumb. The spirit level and square will help you achieve this.
  5. You will need to factor in the clearance for the door, so measure the opening to a maximum height of 80.75 inches.
  6. Mark where the rough studs are located, securing them with two-inch nails. Leave some of the nail protruding so you can rest the pocket door header brackets.
  7. The header consists of a wooden header and a metal track. Measure the length of your door and cut the wooden header to size. Now cut the metal track two inches shorter than the header.
  8. Reinstall the end bracket back on the cut end of the header.
  9. Measure the length of the door and add one inch to give you the length to cut the nailing strips.
  10. Now cut the nailing strips on both sides of the header.
  11. Hang the header endplates over the protruding nails in the studs. Make sure the header is level and drive nails through the remaining slots in the endplates.
  12. Hang the plumb line from the header endplate and mark the floor. Repeat this halfway into the pocket of the wall.
  13. Attach the bottom of the split jamb to the floor plate. It has fingers that protrude and slot into corresponding holes in the split jamb.
  14. Now butt the split jamb against the nailer header and nail it in place. Repeat this with the second split jamb on the halfway point.
  15. Attach the floorplates to the floor.
  16. To enclose the frame, cut the drywall to size, hang it and seal it with drywall tape. One-inch drywall screws should be suitable to fix the drywall without interfering with the door mechanism.
  17. Cover the tape with joint compound and sand it smooth when it dries using the sanding block and 220-grit sandpaper.
  18. Paint or stain the door before hanging it and attach the door hardware.
  19. Measure from the bottom of the door to halfway up and fix the bumper strip to the back of the door.
  20. Measure two inches from each end of the door to attach the doorplates. Make sure the lock tabs face in the same direction.
  21. Insert the hanger onto the track, making sure the weight is distributed evenly.
  22. Push the pin in place and rotate the lock tab. Do this for the other hanger and doorplate.
  23. Now install the finished jambs, split header, and trim. Use the screwdriver and screws to attach the jambs to the steel studs on the pocket side opening.
  24. Vacuum up the work area.
  25. Make a coffee and reward yourself with cake.

Average Cost to Install a Pocket Door

The cost of installing a sliding pocket door varies depending on the door type and the work needed to create the opening. The average cost of fitting a pocket door is about $600, but it could range between $235 to $1,650.

You can buy pocket door installation kits that cost a couple of hundred dollars, but they rarely come with the doors or door hardware.

FAQs

​​Are Pocket Doors Good for Bathrooms?

Pocket doors are perfect for the bathroom, especially if it is a small space. Pocket doors use about 10 square feet less space compared to swinging doors. It means you get more floor area for bathroom fittings.

How Long Does It Take to Install a Pocket Door?

If the opening is already there, it will take you anywhere between two and four hours to complete the job. However, cutting the rough opening could be an all-day task.

What are Standard Pocket Door Sizes?

Standard pocket door sizes are 80 inches long and 32 to 34 inches wide.

Does a Pocket Door Need a Header?

A pocket door needs a header because it is a crucial part of how it operates. Without it, the door mechanism would not function correctly.

Can Pocket Doors be Locked?

Pocket doors can be locked from both sides, although not all sliding doors have locks fitted. They are more like room dividers rather than for beefing up your security, so many see a lock as pointless.

Can You Install a Pocket Door Without Removing Drywall?

Only if you hang the pocket door in a new construction, where the opening is part of the home’s design. If you are retrofitting a pocket door, you will need to create an opening by removing the drywall.


Perfect Pocket Doors

Installing a pocket door is not as easy as hanging a standard door. It requires a bit of technical skill, especially if you are altering a wall to accommodate the frame and track. So, why go to the bother?

Pocket doors are the perfect solution for small spaces. The door glides into a wall recess and takes up less floor space than a swinging door.

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About the Author

Mark Weir

Mark spent 24 years working in real estate, so he knows his way around a home. He also worked with contractors and experts, advising them on issues of planning, investments, and renovations. Mark is no stranger to hands-on experience, having renovated his own home and many properties for resale. He likes nothing better than seeing a project through to completion.