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Is a pocket door your next DIY project? Here’s how to install one

Go with the flow

A pink dining room with a pocket door leading to a living room. Credit: Getty Images / Scovad

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Pocket doors are a great way to reclaim space from the swing of a traditional existing door. Whether it’s clearing up door congestion in a hallway or gaining access to the corner of a room, pocket doors can make a big difference in the flow of your home.

Pocket doors aren’t right for every home, however. While they don’t require space in the room to open, pocket doors do require about the same amount of space inside the wall as the door opening itself. That space must be free of studs, wires, pipes, or duct work. If you don’t have that space available and are planning a pocket door installation, then you’ll either need to reroute the obstacles, or, as is often the case, simply use a traditional door.

While pocket doors are not easy to install, the process is fairly straightforward, provided that your wall has the space and isn’t load-bearing. A determined homeowner with a moderate level of DIY skill and knowledge should be able to tackle the pocket door installation project themselves, though as always, if you have any questions or doubts, it’s far better to bring in a professional than to do it wrong.

If you’re interested in installing a pocket door in your home, here’s a quick guide about how to get it done.

What you need

Materials

Tools

How to install your pocket door

Step 1: Determine if your wall is structural or not

A stylish living room with a blue pocket door.
Credit: Getty Images / Scovad

Is your wall the right fit for a pocket door?

Not all walls are made equal. Some walls are simply partitions between rooms. Others are actually structurally important to your house, and can’t be easily removed or modified.

The surest way to know if a wall is load bearing is to bring in a structural engineer to check. Before talking to an engineer, however, there are a few signs to look for. The first is the direction of the floor and ceiling joists in your attic and basement. If the wall in question is perpendicular to those joists, there's a decent chance it’s structural. If it’s parallel to those joists, then more than likely it’s not—though not always.

Another sign is if there is additional support below that wall. Are there columns or beams in the basement supporting that wall? If so, it’s probably structural.

Do not try to demolish and rebuild a structural wall yourself. Instead, bring in a professional who understands how to support and rebuild a structural wall that can accept a pocket door.

Step 2: Measure and mark the door opening

A person measures a stretch of wall with a measuring tape.
Credit: Getty Images / MartinPrescott

Mark the size of the opening you'll need.

While the specifics will depend on which pocket door frame you wind up purchasing, most pocket doors require a few inches more than double the width of the door opening.

So, for a 30-inch door, plan about 64 inches of wall space. Mark the size of the proposed opening on your wall, and then use a stud finder to identify all of the studs inside that opening. Also find the next stud outside of that opening.

Step 3: Identify and move any pipes or wires running through the wall

A person checks to see if there's any pipes in a wall with a device.
Credit: Zircon

Check for wires and pipes inside the walls before removing drywall.

Walls aren’t just empty caverns behind the drywall. They carry wires and pipes to bring power and water throughout your house. Most walls will at least have electrical wires in them. One way to find those wires and pipes is with a stud finder and wall scanner. When you run one of these over your wall, it will identify both the wood studs inside, and other types of obstructions.

Even if your wall scanner doesn’t identify any obstructions in the way of the door, be careful when opening the walls. You don’t want to accidentally cut through a live wire.

If there are obstructions that need to be moved, bring in a professional electrician or plumber to relocate them.

Step 4: Remove the drywall and studs

A person removes drywall.
Credit: Getty Images / powerofforever

Removing drywall isn't as easy as it may seem.

Drywall is easy to remove. Just hit it with a hammer, and it will fall apart. Once you have a hole made, you can just use your hands to rip the rest of the drywall down. This method, however, isn’t very precise, and makes a giant mess. It’s far cleaner to use a reciprocating saw or hand held drywall saw to cut the wallboard out in pieces. Just don’t cut through any wires or pipes.

Once the drywall is removed out to the stud beyond your proposed door opening, use a reciprocating saw and hammer to cut out the existing studs to make room for your new door framing.

Step 5: Using two-by-fours, frame the new opening

A person hits a nail with a hammer.
Credit: Milwaukee

Follow. the specific directions that come with your kit.

Each door will have its own specific framing requirements, so follow the directions that come with your kit.

However, in general, you will need to install a stud on either side of the pocket door frame, making sure that the studs are plumb, and then install a header that runs over the entire width of the opening.

A non-load-bearing header will most likely be multiple two-by-fours, sixes, or eights nailed together to create whatever height header your opening requires. This header will be nailed into the king studs on either side of the pocket door opening, and rest on a second pair of studs called jack studs, which are connected to the king studs.

Step 6: Install the track and frame

Close up of a wooden door frame made of 2x4s.
Credit: Builders Choice

It's important to make sure your door frame is level.

Most pocket doors hang from a track at the top. This track is attached to the header and the jack studs.

When installing, use your level to make sure that the track doesn’t dip. A non-level track might not allow the door to fit, or more likely, it will cause the door to open and close on its own. Take your time, and level the track properly.

Once the track is installed, secure the rest of the frame to the studs and floor.

Step 7: Install the hanging brackets in the door and hang the door

Close up of a pocket door frame.
Credit: Getty Images / BanksPhotos

Ensure that the door smoothly opens and closes.

Again, follow the manufacturer’s instructions to actually hang the door. Typically, you will need to drill holes for the brackets in the top of the door, and then secure the brackets in place with screws.

Then you can clip them up to the track. At this step, make sure to level and plumb the door so that it opens and closes smoothly. The brackets should have levelling adjustments built into them.

Step 8: Install the latch hardware to the door and frame

Close up of pocket door hardware.
Credit: Getty Images / Baloncici

Make certain the hardware is perfectly aligned.

The last step on the door installation is to install your latch system. Once again, follow the manufacturer’s instructions on your product. You’ll have to drill/chisel out holes in the door and the frame to accept the handle and latch, respectively, making sure that they are perfectly aligned. Then, screw the latches into place.

Step 9: Rebuild your wall

Two people paint walls in a house.
Credit: Getty Images / AJ_Watt

Paint the wall to match with the rest of the room.

Once the door is installed, it’s time to rebuild your wall. Screw the new drywall to the studs, making sure to keep tight seams between pieces and cut openings for any needed switches or outlets. Tape the seams, and then apply drywall joint compound. Sand it smooth when dry.

When the drywall is finished, paint the new wall to match your color aesthetic, and then trim out the door frame.

Voila! Your pocket door is complete.

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