Doors & Windows

The Right Time and Place for Pocket Doors

Photo courtesy: A&A Millwork

One of the reasons we chose the house plan we built was because there was a “flex” room off the breakfast nook. We thought it was the perfect location for a playroom during these early years with our kids. For one thing, it's close to the kitchen, where I spend a good portion of the day. In the future, it will make the perfect guest room or study.

The original house plan called for traditional French doors in this space. But since we plan to use this breakfast nook for all our eating and entertaining (we're just not formal dining room people), we felt the French doors, which opened out, would really get in the way and impede our use of the space. So instead we decided to have pocket doors installed.

Diagram courtesy:

A pocket door is a door that slides, via rollers on an overhead track, into a “pocket” in the wall on either side of it. When it's fully open, the door completely disappears. Pocket doors were very popular in the Victorian era, but when they went out of fashion, many of the hardware manufacturers went out of business.

They are seeing a bit of a resurgence in smaller spaces, like condominiums and townhouses. Having come from a tiny apartment in New York City, I was already in love with the pocket door's space saving practicality. Pocket doors do have their drawbacks though and are not the right solution for every space. Keep these things in mind if you're weighing the decision:

Photo courtesy: Design Door

• Pocket doors save valuable floor space by eliminating the room you need for traditional doors to swing.

• Because the door slides into the wall, you need to have enough clearance in the wall framing for the door(s) to fit, and you cannot put any light switches or outlets in those walls (there's no room).

• The hardware for pocket doors is fairly stripped down, since it also must be able to clear the framing in the wall. It just allows you to slide a finger in to pull the door closed. Double-pocket-door privacy lock sets do exist, but they are not common and can be expensive.

• The tracks and hardware in a pocket door frame are hidden, so if it needs repair or replacement, access can be very difficult.

I haven't regretted for a second the decision to put in our pocket doors. They are the perfect divider for the space we have. We kept the glass French door design, so we can close the doors after dinner and still see what our girls are up to while they play with-errr-fight over the play kitchen.

For more ideas and how-to information on doors, consider:

French Doors Everywhere
Installing a Pocket Door (VIDEO)
Making Friends with a Detail Sander: Refinishing Your Front Door