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Pocket Doors:  Yay or Nay?

Pocket Doors: Yay or Nay?

For some reason, I have talked with many people over the years who have very strong negative feelings about pocket doors.  Just today I was talking with a contractor who HATES pocket doors.  Who knew that something as basic as a pocket door could stir up such feelings of hatred?

Pocket doors, in case you aren’t familiar with them, are doors that slide neatly inside the wall, keeping them out of the way and eliminating the space required for the swing of a standard door.  While they were sometimes used in Victorian-era homes to separate living spaces, they are also used in new homes to provide a door to a small powder bath, mudroom or a master closet.

pocket door diagram

Diagram courtesy of Johnson Hardware: (left) a Standard Swing Door & (right) a Pocket Door

To be sure, pocket doors can create problems.  For one thing, if they aren’t installed at the time the home is built, they are much more difficult to add later; the adjoining wall must be at least partially dismantled to create the frame in the studs.  Additionally, pocket doors are notorious for being temperamental when opened and closed.  They can stick, making it difficult to operate them smoothly and quietly.

However, I don’t think pocket doors need to be written off completely.  In fact, I think pocket doors are sometimes the perfect solution in a tight space.  Some rooms simply don’t have the luxury of extra space – even if that space is just enough for the swing of a door.  The door may slam into nearby furniture and make it difficult to open the door fully.  In a closet, the swing of a door can mean fewer shelves and less hanging space inside.  In these instances, a pocket door can be the best option.

pocket door

Photo courtesy of Steve Slesak / Johnson Hardware

In other cases, the door to a room may not be used often enough to justify the lost floor space created by a standard swing door.  Again, think of a master closet; in many homes, the closet door is left open 95% of the time.  Why lose out on closet space when a pocket door would preserve that space?  It may not be as easy to operate as a swing door, but since it’s only going to be used a few times a year, who cares?

If you decide to install a pocket door in your home, I have just two pieces of advice.  First, choose a quality door with a sturdy frame.  This is not a place to go cheap, because you will notice it every time you try to open or close the door.  Secondly, be sure to choose a good contractor to do the installation.  A pocket door needs to be carefully leveled and plumbed for it to operate properly.

pocket door mudroom

Photo courtesy of Johnson Hardware

So what do you think?  Do you love pocket doors, or do you hate them?  If you have a pocket door in your home, what do you like/dislike about it?  Leave a comment and let everyone know; we would love to learn from your experiences…

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One Response to Pocket Doors: Yay or Nay?

  1. Skye says:

    I’m constantly wishing we had a pocket door instead of a swing door to our TV room, since we only close it when we have guests staying there (foldout couch) and that’s about 7 days of the year. The swing door takes up tons of space and means we have to put the couch off-center on the wall in the room so the door can open. Pocket door haters, back off! 🙂

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