In the early part of the 20th century pocket doors were a common fixture in most quality built homes. However, somewhere around the 1950’s home builders and designers decided pocket doors either weren’t functional or stylish enough to be included in new homes, and as a result, nowadays a home with pocket doors is unusual.
However, in spite of the changes in home styles, the logic behind a pocket door is hard to dispute. Because a pocket door slides into a wall out of the way (and out of sight) it gives you up to an extra 10 sq. ft of useable floor space in comparison to a swinging door, giving you more options when placing furniture in a room. As well, pocket doors work great in small areas like a powder room or a laundry room where space is at a premium and a swinging door requires too much floor space.
Installing pocket doors in new construction or as part of a major remodel is a relatively simple job, but to replace an existing door, or install a new pocket door while not impossible, does require a fair amount of DIY skill. If you’re thinking a pocket door might be the answer to some of your interior space problems, here’s some things you need to consider.
Planning for your pocket door
Step 1 - Calculate
Installing a pocket door is going to require at least partial demolition of an existing wall to give you enough space to install the door’s sliding hardware. The rule of thumb for sizing the opening is door width times 2 plus 1 ¾”. For example, to install a 36” pocket door you’re going to need an opening that is 73 ¾” wide - (2 X 36 = 72, 72 + 1 ¾” = 73 ¾”) while installing a 32” door would require an opening 65 ¾” wide. If you are considering a double installation and having two pocket doors that meet in the middle, you will need to double the width of your opening. For the installation, the standard height for all pocket door installations should be 85 1/2”.
Step 2 - Investigate
Check out the wall area you are considering for your new door. There can be lots of different things hiding inside walls. For example, plumbing pipes, electrical and communication cables, heating ducts, and cold air returns. The presence of any of these doesn’t mean you can’t install a pocket door, but you will need to determine where and how you will relocate the obstruction prior to beginning.
Step 3 - Inspect
You also need to check if the wall you are thinking about opening is a load bearing wall or not. Since load bearing walls often run at 90°to your floor joists, a look up from the basement or down from the attic will tell you which way the joists in your home run so you can figure out if the wall might be load bearing. If so, you will need to figure out how to provide structural support for the upper levels of your house while removing the existing wall structure.
Murray Anderson is an experienced freelance writer with over 500 articles published on the web as well as in print magazines and newspapers in both the United States and Canada. He writes on a wide range of topics and is a regular contributor to DoItYourself.com. He can be contacted at [email protected]