Interior doors provide privacy and soundproofing—but they do take up room. A 30-inch interior door requires more than 6 square feet of unoccupied swing area. Pocket doors give you just as much privacy and soundproofing—yet they slide invisibly away when not needed.
Installing a pocket door is a one- or two-day intermediate- to advanced-level project if you’re starting with a double-size doorway rough opening. If the door needs to be widened, the project can take several days and may require the assistance of a contractor, especially if the wall is load-bearing.
What Is a Pocket Door?
A pocket door is a single slab door that slides along an upper header track. When open, the door slab is hidden in an adjacent wall.
How Pocket Doors Work
At the heart of every pocket door installation is a pocket door frame system, also known as a cavity slider. Pocket door frame systems fit into a double-wide doorframe. They act as both the pocket and as the track that carries the door into the opening.
Half of the frame system is the pocket: a hollow wall that holds the door slab when the door is open. This half is sturdy enough to replace the missing wall section. After installation, drywall, trim, and paint are applied to the outside of the pocket. It then blends in with the rest of the wall.
The other half of the frame system is the track. The track continues out of the pocket and across the door header. The slab door hangs from a roller carriage that runs along the track.
Door frame systems usually do not come with slab doors. You’ll need to purchase a separate 30-inch by 80-inch door slab.
Buying a Pocket Door Frame System
Most pocket door systems come fully disassembled in a narrow package of steel, aluminum, or wood pieces. A major part of installing a pocket door is assembling the door frame system, a job that takes two to four hours.
Lower-Cost Door Frame Systems
Inexpensive door frame systems start at around $100 to $200. Typically, these kits are all made of wood, except for the track, fasteners, and a few small parts.
The benefit of these systems is that they are low-cost—a strong advantage since other items, such as the door and drywall, need to be purchased.
On the downside, these lower-cost pocket door frame systems tend to be flexible around the pocket opening. Also, they may have carriages that don’t move as easily as higher-cost systems.
These lower-cost systems will also have as few as two horizontal slats in the pocket area—a weak type of construction that can lead to bowing after the drywall has been installed.
Higher-Cost Door Frame Systems
Higher-cost, higher-quality all-metal door frame systems are sturdy around the lip of the pocket, so they cannot bend as easily as the wood models.
The silicone carriage wheels run on ball bearings for smoother sliding. The tracks often are sturdy enough that they don’t need to be attached to the door header.
They’ll also have more horizontal slats in the pocket area—up to five—for creating a strong wall. These door systems run between $200 and $800.
When to Install a Pocket Door
In new construction or with major remodeling, it’s ideal to install the pocket door during the framing stage. The doorway opening can be sized in advance to the proper width and height.
During a minor remodel, install the pocket door before drywall installation and painting. This allows you to seamlessly merge the pocket door’s drywall and painting work with the rest of the room’s drywall and painting.
Codes and Permitting
Installation of an interior pocket door itself generally will not require a building permit, though it’s best to seek guidance from your local building authority. If the doorframe needs to be widened or altered in any way, a building permit may be required.
Turn off circuit breakers to any wall areas that you will be working on. If you need to enlarge the doorframe, make sure that the wall is not load-bearing. If it is load-bearing, you will need to replace sections of the wall with a laminated structural beam.
Source: The Spruce