Articles & Advice

Savin' Space with Pocket Doors

by Matt Goering

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Doors

Pocket doors are doors that slide into a wall instead of opening on a hinge like most conventional doors. They have been used for over a century in order to save space, both in cramped areas and in the central areas of Victorian style homes in order to close off large areas such as sitting rooms and dens. If you're looking for a space saving solution in closets, bathrooms or in larger homes with interior French doors, these innovative door solutions are the answer you've been looking for.

Where Did it Go?
The benefit of this type of door is obvious. Traditional swinging doors hung on a hinge can take up as much as 10 square feet of your living space just to accommodate the space they need to swing open and closed. A pocket door, on the other hand, simply slides into a frame installed within the wall, freeing up the space that a conventional door occupies. They are particularly suited to cramped, small areas, such as half-baths and small closets, where a swinging door takes up valuable space and often is an inconvenience to those using them. And in more wide open homes where French doors are often installed between living areas, they free up valuable space for furniture and foot traffic.

Quiet as a Mouse
One of the major complaints of this style of door in the past has been that older versions ran on steel runners and rollers and were noticeably noisy in comparison to their hinged counterparts. Not the case anymore. The runners are still made of solid steel, but the most common rollers are now made of a hard nylon material, reducing the noise they make when the door is opened or shut. Deluxe ball bearing rollers are also available that reduce the noise to almost nothing.

The innovations in runner technology have also alleviated one of the other drawbacks of these types of doors that arose mid-century, when poor products often resulted in doors that jumped the tracks inside the wall. Modern doors rarely have this problem because of the high quality products currently available on the market.

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Not for Everywhere
The one drawback of these doors is that they can't be used just anywhere. Because they necessitate a special frame to house them, several factors must be taken into account before they are installed.

Obviously they will only work where there is enough interior wall space to house the door, but you also need to take into account things such as electrical wiring, plumbing, and ductwork, as the space needed for the door and frame won't be able to accommodate these features of your home.

Finally, while the frame is plenty strong to be installed in most interior walls, it is not as strong as regular framing. That being the case, you can't install a pocket door in areas where extra strength is needed, such as load bearing walls or walls where heavier home features such as cabinets are already installed.

A Few Extra Thoughts
While these innovative doors are convenient as a space saving alternative, they also have other benefits. They are handicapped accessible and make it easier for those in wheelchairs to maneuver around a home, and some of the more novel designs include multiple panel glass doors for luxury homes that allow the homeowner to open up an entire wall to the outdoors when the weather permits. Regardless of your need, a cramped bathroom or a sprawling great room, pocket doors are a convenient, attractive and space saving alternative door option.

Matt Goering, formerly a carpenter and house painter, is a freelance writer for the home improvement industry who has published over 600 articles.