Q&A / 

The Perfect Hideaway – Pocket Doors

DEAR TIM: I am considering the use of pocket doors for an upcoming project. However, a neighbor of mine has several problems with their pocket doors. Their doors routinely jump from the track and rub the frame. Is it easy to adjust pocket doors? Is there a restriction to the type of door design one can install? Can you install double pocket doors like the ones in my parents' old house? Ed T., Kittery, ME

DEAR ED: You are very wise to consider the use of pocket doors. They offer many advantages. Pocket doors were very popular at the turn of the 20th century. They enjoyed renewed success in the 1950's. I believe their time has come again! I have installed nearly a hundred smooth operating doors in the past 10 years. Every customer has been delighted. I think your neighbor's pocket door problems can be traced to inferior hardware and possibly some critical installation errors.

This is the pocket before it has been fitted with a removable jamb. The pieces of jamb are cut so there is but 3/16ths inch of space between the edge of the jamb and the sliding door. The jambs pieces are screwed to the rough frame with decorative brass screws.  This feature allows you to remove the jambs easily in the future.

This is the pocket before it has been fitted with a removable jamb. The pieces of jamb are cut so there is but 3/16ths inch of space between the edge of the jamb and the sliding door. The jambs pieces are screwed to the rough frame with decorative brass screws. This feature allows you to remove the jambs easily in the future.

New housing and room addition construction prices are rising each day. It is vital to make use of every square foot of finished living space. A regular pivoting hinged door can steal nearly 10 square feet of floor space. They require a wasted area for the storage of the swinging door when it is opened. Paintings or pictures can be hidden behind an open door. Unsightly baseboard or hinge door stops become a necessity to prevent door knob holes in walls. Pocket doors eliminate all of these problems.

The secret to smooth, trouble free pocket doors lies in the frame and hardware used to hang the door. A box shaped track and tricycle hangers with nylon wheels are a must. These items prevent the doors from ever jumping off the track. Thin studs that create the hidden pocket for the door need to be wrapped with steel on three sides. The steel prevents warping of the thin furring strips. This warping may be one of the reasons your neighbor's door rubs when it goes in and out of the pocket. The steel also prevents drywall nails or screws from penetrating through the thin studs. Deeply driven fasteners can scratch the door as it opens and closes.

Quality pocket door hardware allows you to easily make adjustments once the door has been installed and trimmed. In many cases all you have to do is temporarily remove one side of the top door jamb. A good carpenter will install these with small head trim screws. Once the piece of wood is removed, you can gain easy access to the door suspension parts. Often you simply flip a lever and the door will separate from the rollers. Adjustments are made quickly and easily with standard tools. It is entirely possible to complete the entire adjustment process in as little as 10 - 15 minutes.

There is virtually no limit to the type of door design you can install in a pocket door frame. Flush, 6 panel, 15 lite glass, and even frosted or hammered glass full lite doors are possible. Many standard pocket door frames and hardware will support doors that weigh up to 125 pounds. With an optional kit you can install a 200 pound door! Double acting pocket doors are no problem. You simply install two pocket door frames that point at each other. I intend to install this setup in the study of my next Victorian house.

Pocket doors are excellent choices for people who use canes, walkers or wheelchairs. If you install a 36 inch wide pocket door frame with a hidden bumper and a U shaped handicapped door pull, you can achieve a finished opening of just over 32 inches. This will allow easy passage for those individuals who are challenged with swinging doors.

Your painter will need to cooperate during the installation process. All hidden edges and surfaces of the doors must be painted or sealed before the carpenter installs the door into the pocket. High humidity in houses can cause unprotected doors to twist and warp. If you seal the hidden edges and use the best hardware and frame, your pocket doors will be highly coveted by your friends and neighbors!

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