How to install a pocket door | Pro Construction Guide

How to install a pocket door

How to install a pocket door

To accommodate a pocket door in an existing wall, select a suitable run of wall that the door can slide into. Then decide which side of the wall to open up, preferably the side that will create the minimum amount of disruption and require the least amount of drywall installation later.

Installing a pocket door that slides into a wall instead of swinging into the room is a real space-saver. Plus if you know how to install a pocket door it gives you a problem-solving alternative to offer your customers.

If you don’t know how to install a pocket door, consider starting with a kit. Kits come in standard door openings of 24, 30, 32 and 36 inches, or double that for converging doors, and include just about everything you’ll need except for the door. That allows you to match the pocket door to other doors that are already installed.

Installing a pocket door in an existing wall is a bit more involved than putting one in new construction. Still once you have the opening prepared, the steps are much the same for either type of installation. For this installation, we’re using a kit from Johnson Hardware.

Selecting the location

To accommodate a pocket door in an existing wall, select a suitable run of wall that the door can slide into. Then decide which side of the wall to open up, preferably the side that will create the minimum amount of disruption and require the least amount of drywall installation later. If possible, select a section of wall with no electrical wiring or plumbing. Moving either one to accommodate the pocket for the door will increase the cost of the project.

If the pocket door will be installed in a load-bearing wall, you need ceiling jacks and lumber to support the ceiling joists and spread the load while you build a new header to span the width of the pocket.

Remove trim and drywall from the area where you want to put the door. Use a reciprocating saw or multi-tool to cut through the stud nails at the top plate and sole. The studs will still be attached to the undisturbed drywall on the opposite side (the side you are not opening). Next, cut the nails or screws attaching the drywall to the studs by slipping the saw between the drywall face and the studs. Remove the studs.

The opening should be twice the width of the door plus 1 inch. For the height of the opening, add 4½ inches to the door height. Create a header to frame the new opening and install cripple studs above the header to nail drywall to later.

How to install a pocket door track

Install the track assembly, which is the track pre-mounted to a wooden header, by driving flat-head nails into either side of the frame at the height of the door plus ¾ inch for finished floors or plus 1½ inch if you’re installing above a subfloor. Leave about ⅛ inch of the nails protruding.

The track assembly installs by first slipping the slots of the track end mounting plates over the nail heads. Check for plumb and verify the height is correct by positioning the split studs in the opening. With the track level, drive nails or screws through the end plates. This is likely adequate for most pocket doors. However, for heavier doors, you may want to support the track with additional framing, such as a 2×4. If you are using additional support, shim and screw the track to the additional framing now.

How to install a pocket door


TIP: Before installing the track, spray a flat black paint into the track assembly to disguise the track in the opening of the finished door.

Creating the pocket

The pocket is created using split studs, typically steel wrapped around a strip of wood. The steel provides support and the wood accepts short drywall screws. Before installing the split studs, snap chalk lines even with the side jambs across the opening to guide where the split studs should be. This will ensure the pocket is true and the door won’t bind.

Install the split studs by insert the fingers of the floor mounting plate into both split studs and, using the trimmed part of the track to position and mount the first split stud. It must be tight to the track and absolutely plumb.

Nail or screw the top of the split stud to the track assembly and the floor mounting plate between the snapped chalk lines. Check for plumb. Nail the second split-stud in the middle of the pocket opening. If you are attaching to a concrete floor, you’ll need fasteners that are appropriate for concrete.

Next screw the existing drywall on the undisturbed side of the wall to the split studs.

TIP: To minimize damage to the wall you left intact, use a construction adhesive to attach it to the split stud nearest it. Of course, this must be done before you install the new drywall.

Drywall the pocket and the area above the door opening. Use 1-inch screws to avoid extending into the pocket space. Doing so will damage the door. To make it easier to screw into the split studs, insert a piece of board or 2×4 trimmed to exactly fill the slot.

TIP: Rather than measuring and cutting the new drywall, attach the sheets and then trim the sheetrock to the opening size.

Hanging the door

The doors you hang can be 1⅜ or 1¾ inches thick to fit standard 2×4 stud frame walls. Custom doors up to 3 inches thick can be used where you have 2×6 studs or thicker walls.

Before you hang the door, it should be sealed or painted. Install the door catch, pull, locks (if any), and the top mountings. Attach a bumper to the back edge of the door so it opens to the correct point quietly and does not slam into the pocket.

Insert the three-wheel trucks into the track, alternating the orientation so the two-wheel side of one is on one side of the door, and the two-wheel side of the other is on the opposite side.

Hang the door by inserting the bolts in the trucks into the door plates and close the clamps. Slide the door closed to ensure it meets the jamb precisely. If necessary, adjust the bolts. At the wall end, you should have a gap of at least 3/16 inch between the door edge and the split stud.

Attach the finish jambs to the split stud, shimming if necessary to ensure both finish jambs correctly align with the door edge. The steel of the split jambs is drilled to accept the nails. Attach the finish header trim on both sides of the track. Attach the nylon door guides at the bottom of the finish jambs. Install face molding, replace baseboard and paint or stain the woodwork, as needed.

How to install a pocket door that combines two doors

For a larger opening with converging pocket doors, installation is basically the same, with the doors sliding into pockets on opposite sides of the opening. Converging doors use a joining plate assembly to connect the trimmed ends of the two header kits. This joining plate has a lag bolt that supports the assembly in the middle. Since there will be a gap above this connected track, shim at the lag bolt and screw the bolt into the rough frame. Check for plumb.

When installing the doors in the connected track for converging doors, screw door stops in the center but don’t tighten them. Close the doors. It may be necessary to adjust the truck mountings to get a correct center closing. Set the stops so each door only opens half way. Finish as with a single door.

–By Steve Sturgess



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