We recently attended a social function at the new home of an acquaintance.
The home was spacious and had lots of natural light and high ceilings with nice
During our visit, we had the occasion to use the powder room. It was then
that we realized that the architect who designed the home had made a grave error.
Our attempt to get in and out of the powder room was hindered by a smaller than
average swinging door that bumped up against the toilet when opened 90 degrees.
And the room was so narrow it required straddling the door to get in and out.
The first thought that came to our veteran-remodeling-contractor minds consisted
of two words: "pocket door." While we maintain that the room is functionally
too small, the convenience of getting in and out of the space could have been
vastly improved by installing a pocket door instead of the swinging one. As
the name implies, when in the full open position, a pocket door slides into
a pocket that is hidden inside a wall. When closed, the door looks essentially
like any other door. A pocket door can help to facilitate traffic, improve decorating
space and enhance privacy.
A pocket door consists of the door, the pocket frame, the jamb and stops and
the casing and hardware. When installed, unlike its pre-hung swinging counterpart
that requires a rough opening that is just a few inches wider than the nominal
size of the door, a pocket door needs a rough opening that is slightly more
than double the size of the door to accommodate the frame which will eventually
be hidden behind wallboard. The opening must also be a couple of inches higher
to make room for the J-shaped metal track that is mounted to the underside of
the head jamb. The pocket door hangs in the track with rollers that are fastened
to the top of the door. The rollers glide along the track as the door is opened
In contrast to a pre-hung door, which is installed during the ``finish carpentry''
phase of construction, a pocket door is installed in two phases –framing and
finish. The pocket frame and jamb are installed during the framing stage and
the door, stops, casing and hardware are installed in the finish stage. To achieve
the smoothest operation, the jamb side of the frame should be installed plumb.
The head jamb and strike jamb (the one that the door closes against) are usually
just tacked into place while the wallboard is installed and finished. This will
simplify hanging the door and allow for adjustment once the door has been hung
on the track.
Use a combination of shim shingles and construction screws to securely anchor
the door frame into the rough opening. Be sure to select a jamb with a width
that corresponds to the wall thickness (studs and wallboard). With the frame
securely installed, the wallboard should be hung and finished. One common mistake
is to use drywall nails to fasten the wallboard to the pocket door frame. Driving
nails can weaken the frame and the nails can protrude beyond the inside face
of the frame (into the pocket area), preventing the door from sliding in the
opening. To avoid both of these problems, we suggest first applying an all-purpose
construction adhesive to the slats on the pocket door frame and then fastening
the wallboard with 1-inch drywall screws (for half-inch wallboard) and 1 1/8-inch
screws for 5/8-inch wallboard. Finish the wallboard and match the existing texture
to conceal the patch.
After the wallboard has been finished, the next step is to hang the door in
the opening. This will require attaching a set of rollers to the top of the
door. The rollers can be adjusted with a small flat wrench appropriately called
a "pocket-door wrench." The door should be adjusted down to facilitate
the ease of installation. In addition, the bottom of the door should be held
out of the opening at about a 30-degree angle to allow the rollers to seat in
With the door in place, the head jamb can be leveled and permanently installed.
The door guide, which keeps the door centered in the pocket, can be installed
at the base of the mouth of the pocket. The stops (trim pieces) can be installed
on the frame side of the jamb and the door can be adjusted so that, when open,
the edge of the door is flush with the stops on the frame side of the jamb.
The strike side of the jamb should be shimmed and fastened with the pocket
door in the closed position. The strike side of the jamb can be adjusted in
and out to ensure that there is no gap between the edge of the door and the
face of the jamb. This done by moving the shim shingles in and out. Once the
jamb is complete, the casing can be installed at both sides of the opening using
finish nails. Be careful not to use nails that that are too long at the frame
side of the opening as they can end up going right through the frame and into
the face of the door.
Next, install the stops at the head jamb and the strike jamb. Stops at the
strike side of the jamb are rare, but can be installed where additional privacy
is a concern.
Complete the job by installing the hardware on the door and mortising the
catch into the jamb.