How Hard Is It To Install a Pocket Door?

How hard is it to install a pocket door if you use a kit? How tricky is it to make the hole in the (plasterboard, interior, non load-bearing) wall?

Pocket doors are great.  They provide privacy and they contain sound, yet they disappear when you don’t need them.

Too often they are used only in extreme circumstances:  that tiny downstairs bathroom where the door hits the toilet, the kids’ bedroom where an extra few square feet of space is premium, etc.

Often I’m amazed that builders don’t put more pocket doors in homes, so that homeowners like you don’t have to install them retroactively–a far messier job than if they were installed in the first place.

How hard?  Pretty hard, even if you use a pocket door kit.

Instead of making a hole in the wall, you remove the entire wall section where the pocket door will go.  Everything:  plasterboard, studs, header, trim.  Then you build a new wall section that has the pocket door framing in it.

Yes, it does help that your wall is not load-bearing.

At least you’re not dealing with the problem of maintaining your house’s structural stability.

Plasterboard or drywall, it doesn’t matter, since it all comes out anyway.

If you relish a semi-big project with lots of carpentry, you can do it.  But if you have any trepidation about your abilities, then hire a carpenter.

Are You Really Sure You Want to Install a Pocket Door?

A pocket door seems like the ideal solution to space problems. A regular, swinging door can suck away as much as sixteen square feet of room. A pocket door—nearly zero square feet.  So, why doesn’t every house have a pocket door?

So, many homeowners think that installing a pocket door will take care of all of these problems. But if you’re dealing with an existing house (in other words, not a new construction house or even a house that is undergoing major remodels involving taking down some walls), putting in a pocket door can be a giant undertaking.

Here is a checklist of some items you need to think about before pocket door installation. It could save you lots of heartache.
Pocket Door

  • Measure the width of your intended pocket door. Now double that. Now add another six inches. Make a light pencil mark on the wall where you plan to put the pocket door. That’s roughly the distance your new pocket door will chew into the wall.
  • Does this distance have any light switches or electrical outlets? Since the electrical code requires that switches and outlets be placed at certain distances, there probably are some. Are you ready to move these? Or are you ready to pay an electrician to move them?
  • Do you have any heating/cooling ducts or vents located in this area? These will need to be re-routed.
  • Is the wall load-bearing? Some walls in a house, particularly interior walls, are called partition walls and do not bear (or carry) weight from above. Other walls do carry weight. Can you determine this by yourself? Or are you prepared to pay a contractor or even structural engineered to look at this for you?
  • If the wall is load-bearing, are you prepared to install a new header to carry the weight?

A pocket door isn’t an impossibility, but it’s a difficult thing when retrofitted.

Tip: Sealing Edges of Wood Door

When you take a door off the hinges to paint or stain it, you may also want to deal with the edges of the door.

Leaving raw, unfinished wood edges on your door is a big no-no. Over time, moisture can enter these unfinished edges and slowly warp and otherwise disfigure your door.

So, if the edges o the door are unfinished (that is, unpainted and raw), seal the edges of the door with one thin coat of clear wood sealer. A coat of paint may be too much, and may adversely affect the operation of your door. But wood sealer soaks in and is thin enough that it won’t affect the opening and closing of your door.

Clear Wood Sealer

Butted Door Casing Saves You From Dealing with Mitered Cuts

If you’re installing door casing (or door trim or door molding, whatever you like to call it), you probably think you’ll have to pull out the old miter saw and start making those angled cuts.

Admittedly, mitered casings are not too hard. For goodness sake, it’s just a 45 degree angle cut.

But for some reason, those mitered casings sometime go wrong. Something is out of square—the door framing, your brain, or something—and those two angles just don’t come together.

Butted door casings save you from all that. The horizontal and the vertical door casings meet at a 90 degree angle. Except, of course, there is a blank space where they are supposed to meet. Hard to describe, so look at the image above. So in that blank space you drop a corner block, or rosette. Rarely do you have any gaps with this butted door casings plus rosette design. Terminology: this isn’t really a true butted door casing—that’s another thing we cover—but it’s just what I call it.
Casing with Rosette

But, yes, like anything, there are some drawbacks with the butted door casings plus rosette design:

  • Those rosettes can be expensive.
  • This style tends to be more classic and traditional. If you have a contemporary style house, this may not work.

Install a Storm Door Even in Fair Climates

Storm doors tend to be found only in places that have severely cold climates. But the real question should be: why aren’t storm doors installed everywhere? And why do we persist in calling them “storm doors” anyway?

Storm Door is Not a Storm Window

One problem seems to be that houses often have storm windows, and these storm windows are temporary things that go up in the Fall and come down in the Spring. Storm windows are designed to provide windows with extra protection during harsh weather.
Storm Door
But storm doors do not come off. They stay in place, year-round. They are a completely different animal than storm windows.

Why a Storm Door Should Be Everywhere

Exterior access doors are expensive and very hard to install. Despite your climate, exterior doors always get a beating. If it’s not snow, then it’s sun. If it’s not sleet, then it’s tropical rains.

The main argument for installing a storm door is that it greatly extends the life of your exterior access door. I estimate that a storm door will triple the life of your exterior door.

Learn the Right Way to Plan Your Door Installation

It’s just a door. Big deal, right? Just pound a big hole in the wall and fit in the door, and you’re all done.

No. You’ll need to plan your door installation just as you plan other aspects of your home renovation. I shouldn’t have to tell you why, but here’s one “why”: doors are forever.

Whereas you can rip down that bum crown molding and replace it (not likely, but whatever), it just ain’t gonna happen with a door. So here are some rules of thumb about planning a door installation that you had best heed:

  • Width and Thickness of Exterior Doors – How wide are exterior doors? How thick? This measurement can vary, but think of 36 inches wide and 1.75 inches thick as being standard measurements. Now, the 1.75 thickness is for the door, not the door frame.
  • Width of Interior Doors – Sizing is less important for interior doors, because we don’t have emergency egress to worry about. Look at 32 inches as a good width for interior doors
  • Height of All Doors – For either interior or exterior doors, 80 inches is the standard height.

Door Installation

Tip: Remove a Sliding Glass Door

Sometimes you need to remove a sliding glass door. Perhaps the door is broken or you may simply want to thoroughly clean out the track.  Believe me, I’ve spent quality time trying to remove a sliding glass door, only to remember that the solution is brain-dead simple:

Sliding glass doors are installed top first.

So, the way to remove a sliding glass door is by doing the opposite. Even the strongest person may find that this requires a helper.

Grasp each side of the door. Lift up. You will find that there is some “give,” about half an inch.

Keeping the top edge of the sliding door in its channel, swing out the bottom edge so that it clears the sill.

Now the door will be free, and you can move it the rest of the way out.
Sliding Glass Door