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Qs about adding a pocket door

Posted by carol08 (My Page) on
Wed, Jul 7, 10 at 14:06

Were considering adding a pocket door from our kitchen to our dining room. It would solve lots of layout problems and would match a pocket door at the other side of the kitchen that we really like. While interviewing contractors (for a kitchen renovation), however, weve been receiving very different reactions from each of themincluding some contradictory descriptions about installation. I have no way of judging which contractor knows what he is talking about, so I thought Id try asking some of you very knowledgeable GW-ers. In particular:

1. If one were to install a pocket door between the kitchen and the dining room, would one need to tear out the drywall (actually, its some sort of plastered wallboard but I assume that doesnt matter) in both the kitchen and the dining room, or could one open up the wall on the kitchen side only?

2. Would one have to widen the wall that contains the pocket door (thereby reducing the size of the kitchen by several inches)?

3. Is it true that a wall with a pocket door is substantially weaker, and therefore one could not hang wall cabinets on the portion of the wall with the pocket?

4. Is it possible to fit an electrical box within the pocket door area or would the light switches in the dining room (currently where the pocket of the new pocket door would be) have to be moved?

Thanks in advance for your help.


Follow-Up Postings:

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RE: Qs about adding a pocket door

I'm not a builder but do have pocket doors in my house and from looking at them can make some good guesses for you:

1. Since the wallboard is attached to the studs, and you will have to pull out studs fro the pocket, I'd say there's no way to keep wall intact on one side.

2. Assuming 2x4 interior framing, yes you will have to make the wall thicker (but only by 2-3", not "several").

3. I wouldn't say "substantially" since you do have a header, depends on how wide the door is, but no, you can't hang cabinets within the pocket space since you can't drive long screws or mollies into the pocket - you wouldn't be able to move the door (or would scratch it). Now, if you wanted to make the wall "several" inches thicker than it is now, I suppose you could have 16-24" OC 2x4 studs supporting wallboard & cabinets, and a frame within that for the pocket.

4. Yes, this is the one thing on your list that *can* be done (and very easily). While the wall is out and they are reframing, they can put "pancake" boxes in for the light switches that will fit b/t the drywall and the pocket frame. I have sconces and receptacles in some of those areas in my house.


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RE: Qs about adding a pocket door

I think a pocket door is a great idea in your situation. That said, I avoid pocket doors, because I find them prone to problems and difficult to fix.

Typically, pocket door frames fit a standard 2x4 wall, but if you want to mount cabinets or hang substantial weight on them, you'll have to thicken the wall.

The narrower and lighter a pocket door, the more likely it will hop and bind and wear out it's hardware. Heavier, wider doors tend to move smoothly and steadily, but require more effort.


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RE: Qs about adding a pocket door

Thanks for the quick and helpful reply, ajsmama.

RE #1: I'd assumed that we'd have to tear out the wall on the kitchen side, but one contractor suggested that we'd have to tear out the wallboard on the dining room wall, too. That prospect doesnt thrill me.

RE #2: Good to know. That might be a problem, as that could affect my ability to fit in both a dishwasher and a wall oven before running into the chimney. Ill have to see what losing those inches would do to the rest of the layout.

RE #3: Makes perfect sense. I dont know why I didnt think about the fact that the fasteners for the cabinet would intrude into the space where the pocket door would need to slide. Perhaps I could get away with an over-the-refrigerator cabinet there, if the fridge cabinet had wooden sides from floor to ceiling to provide support for the cabinet? Or perhaps I could just forego the cabinets above the fridge.

RE #4: It's nice to know about the "pancake boxes." One contractor mentioned something like that, but another acted like we were from Mars when asked about the possibility.


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RE: Qs about adding a pocket door, to mag77

Hi mag77,
Thanks for weighing in on this. I was busy replying to ajsmama when you posted. Our posts must have crossed in the ether.

I've heard lots of people complain about pocket doors, yet the other one we have in our kitchen is 45+ years old and seems fine. I wonder if this is a case of "they just don't make em like they used to" or whether it's just important to make sure one has a high quality product and a great installer in the first place. Or maybe we've just lucked out?

If a pocket door does go bad, does one have to rip out the wall in order to fix it?


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RE: Qs about adding a pocket door

In regards to #4, you can't put a switch in a pancake box, it's only 1/2" deep, much too shallow for a switch. A pancake box is also round, whereas a switch mounts to a rectangular-shaped box. There is very limited room to even fasten (stress-relief as required by code) the wire itself within the pocket door's wall cavity, and no ability whatever to cross through the space sideways; the wire has to run vertical.
The likelihood that anyone could install the pocket door (which could require a structural header to support the wall above) without at least cracking the plaster on the untouched side is virtually nil.
I replaced a regular swinging bathroom door with a pocket door for my sister (her walls are regular drywall) and I was able to do it from one side only but it still did some mayhem to the unopened side. For example, you still must fasten (with screws) the wallboard to the thin, metal-clad studs supplied in the kit; if these are screwed through your veneer plaster system, good chance for cracks @ each location. Of course those holes have to be filled. If while fitting the header it bumps the plaster; crack!

If you studded out the cabinet-hanging wall with at least 2x3 steel studs and glued on 3/4" plywood instead of drywall, it would be sturdy enough to hang cabinets upon, but you only save an inch over a full 2x4 wall. You can tile and skimcoat directly on primed plywood, so the transition from ply to sheetrock could be hidden if the diverse thickness is allowed for by shimming the adjacent rock.
Casey


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RE: Qs about adding a pocket door

Pocket doors often seem like a neat idea. But almost invariably they get fouled up unless they are put in by experienced installers and then used with care. A client insisted on three sets in a custom home I built a few years back. Several callbacks in the first year alone as her four-year old kept slamming them closed and fouling them up. I just noticed an original pocket door in the place I bought three months ago. The po obviously got sick of it decades ago. It's staying put and going into the landfill with the rest of the house. (I should post this fast before the house realizes its imminent fate and I'm trapped in a Stephen King novella!)


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RE: Qs about adding a pocket door

Installing a pocket door is fairly straight forward.You'll first need to determine if the wall is load bearing, because even though you need a header above the door, the structure above will determine the size.

Whether or not you'll need to remove both sides of the wall material is determined by that material as well as your talent. If its plaster, talent has no bering.

If there is a method of energizing and illumination device, within 6' of this new door way, when entering the rooms served by this doorway, you'll not need additional switching.

Although cabinetry is supported by the wall, its mounted "too" the wall and the attachment, or screw rail is a 1x3. By simply changing this to a 1x6 will increase the ability of the cabinet to self-support.

Of course this depends upon the header height.

In 40yrs. I've never had to "thicken" a wall, other than architecturally, to support attachments.


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RE: Qs about adding a pocket door

I was just going by our house - the jamb is 2" wider on the pocket door walls than the other doors, that makes sense since the door is 1.25" thick and you do want clearance on each side as it slides into the pocket.

I did not know that you could hang cabinets on the steel studs if you used a 1x6 mounting strip. I also didn't realize that pancake boxes only came round. Sorry to mislead you, glad you got advice from more experienced people than I!


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RE: Qs about adding a pocket door

Thanks for all of this new information! You folks are an amazing font of knowledge! It sounds as if I couldn't get away without wreaking some havoc on the dining room side of the wall, and that pancake boxes are out, but that there might be ways of doing this without making the wall substantially thicker. It also sounds as if I'd need to figure out whether it's a load bearing wall. I've been assuming that it isn't, but I confess that I don't know how to tell. The wall runs only half the width of the house. Does that mean it can't be a load-bearing wall?

Most important, it sounds as if it would be foolish to try this unless I can find an expert installer. So far, the contractors I've spoken to haven't impressed me in that regard. Some clearly don't want to do it and have tried to talk me out of the idea (tho I can't tell if that's because they don't have much experience putting in pocket doors or because they do have experience and, like worthy, have concluded that pocket doors are problematic). Others have been very vague and have said things like, "well, we might be able to put in a pocket door, but I can't tell you whether it's possible or what it would cost without opening up the wall to take a look at what we're dealing with." And one person said essentially that he'd be happy to do it but it would entail ripping out the wall completely and then rebuilding it wider/thicker, as if he were doing new construction -- which would entail destroying both the dining room wall and part of the dining room ceiling. Of course, part of the problem as I've talked to these folks is that I haven't known enough to talk to them intelligently about the task at hand (e.g., which sorts of questions to ask, and how to tell when the answers they were giving me were suspect). Another person is coming to look at the job on Saturday. I should be in a much better position to talk with him, armed with all of the information that you folks have shared. Thanks!


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RE: Qs about adding a pocket door

If you decide on a pocket door use the equipment from Johnson Hardware.
The 111PD hardware is very good.

I never use the framing kits.

One improvement to the install is to not use the plastic guides to prevent the door from swinging.
They WILL scratch the face of the door.

I cut a narrow groove on the bottom of the door (not all the way to the show edge) and then place a piece of aluminum angle in the pocket floor that rides in the groove.

Nothing shows and the door cannot swing.


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RE: Qs about adding a pocket door

Thanks, brickeyee! Great advice, and what a creative solution to the door swing problem!


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RE: Qs about adding a pocket door

There is some hardware available now for double pocket doors to make them move together.

I made some years ago for a client using 1/16 inch aircraft cable, steel pulley wheels for sliding glass doors, and then a couple brackets to fasten the cable to the doors.

It is still working like a champ about 12 years latter.

I also made a nice brass lock to hold the doors closed when desired 9a hook shape rotates out of one door into a slot and cross bar in the other door to lock them closed).

I did not charge enough for either initially, but the client has since hired me multiple times for other jobs, and recommended me to their friends for even more work.

It ended up more than paying for the work.


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RE: Qs about adding a pocket door

Here is how you can determine if your walls are load bearing.

If you have a basement with a center support beam and this wall occurs above above that beam, either parallel or perpendicular with the floor joists, it could be load bearing.

If your house is single story, in the attic, if the ceiling joists continue over it, end over it, are spliced over it, or you have roof bracing landing on it, It's a bearing wall. If the ceiling joist are parallel with the wall and you have roof bracing landing on it, It's a bearing wall.

If there is a 2nd floor above the wall, you have two options. You can remove a section of ceiling on both sides of the wall to determine if the 2nd floor, floor joists, cross it or end over it. If so, Its load bearing. Or you can use a stud finder to determine the location and direction of the joists.


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RE: Qs about adding a pocket door

"Assuming 2x4 interior framing, yes you will have to make the wall thicker (but only by 2-3", not "several")."

Isn't several more than 2?

You can make the wall thicker if you want to but it's not necessary; a pocket door support frame is designed to replace the original stud framing. It's like putting very thin walls on either side of the door pocket so outlets and cabinet support would require thickening one side of the wall.


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RE: Qs about adding a pocket door

I grew up with people calling 2 "a couple", 3 "a few" and 4 or more "several". So since my pocket door wall is 2" thicker than my others, that's "a couple", I was willing to say "a few", but thought any contractor who would tell OP "several" was misleading - I don't think she'd miss 2-3" out of the kitchen, but "several" (how many? 5"?) might cause problems.

I agreed that adding cabinet support on the kitchen side might necessitate "several" inches of studs on that side of the pocket frame.

Since Casey pointed out they don't make rectangular pancake boxes, and I don't think you want to pad the wall on the DR side too (might end up 8" thick), I'd see if the switch can be positioned on the other side of the door, since I do think you're going to end up ripping out the DR wall as well as the kitchen.

The door wall in my powder room might just be 2" thicker for the sconce. I think they used a regular box, not a pancake one. I'll have to take a better look (and measure the jambs in the master bath, esp. the wall that has a GFCI on it - bet that one's 6.5", don't know about the other 2). We have Johnson hardware.

Thanks brickeye for the tip about the guides - I did notice a line on 1 side of the PR door (though I haven't finished that door yet - and it has a nasty scratch higher up where it contacted something in the wall 1 time when it fell off the track). The other doors haven't gotten any use since the master bath isn't finished. We may end up ripping out walls to lower tracks any way, so we can groove the doors and put in angle then.


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RE: Qs about adding a pocket door

"a nasty scratch higher up where it contacted something in the wall 1 time when it fell off the track"

You really need better hardware.

The Johnson closed tracks cannot fall off since the wheeled bogies are trapped in the track.


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RE: Qs about adding a pocket door

Wow, brickeyee, you seem to be a real pocket door expert; too bad I don't live in your area so I can't hire you!

snoonyb: Thanks for instructions for determining whether the wall is load bearing. I'll have to do some more investigating, but it sounds as if it could be. The wall is parallel to the floor joists and perpendicular to a wall running down the center of the basement (with a steel beam at one point, where a door interrupts that wall). And there is attic above; I'll have to crawl up there to assess the situation.

macy and ajsmama: Use of terms like, "several," "a few," and even "a couple" seems to vary a lot across people. In fact, confusion about that term is one of the things that got me worried about how much installation of a pocket door might cut into my kitchen. One the contractors I talked to wanted to relocate the sink to that same wall. He said that he'd need to steal "a couple of inches" to relocate the pipes. Turned out that he meant 6 inches! I'll be sure to get very specific numbers from people from now on.

Thanks once again for all of you help!



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RE: Qs about adding a pocket door

I have been installing pocket doors for going on 30 years now in numerous remodels.

The hardware has gotten much better over the years.

The old tracks had a v-shaped bottom and the hanging bogies could easily 'jump the track.'

The Johnson hardware is first class, not noisy, and the bogies stay on the track no matter whet.

They can be removed if required if the track is installed correctly.
It should be a few inches away form the jamb opposite the pocket.
The trim will conceal the track.

At least one side of the split trim along the top of the door needs to be screwed in place if you ever want to remove the door without damage from prying off nailed trim.

A 3/32 grooving bit in a router makes a narrow slot for 1/16 inch thick aluminum angle to guide the door.

It does need to be exactly fastened to prevent the door from rubbing on the split jamb on the pocket side.

For bathroom pocket doors a stop bead on the jamb opposite the pocket provides a little extra privacy and helps with noises.
It only need to be about 1/2 inch by 1/2 inch wood fastened to the jamb.
I have had clients want it larger to blend in better (they seem to like 1/2 inch thick by 1 inch wide as 'looking right.'

Some older door jambs do use about that size, so it then appears to 'match' better.


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RE: Qs about adding a pocket door

We do have Johnson hardware, just that the builder installed all the doors 1" above subfloor (he got all wrapped around the axle about my tile, said doors were "cut for carpet" so had to block them up) so we had the door literally hanging by a thread (on each roller) to get *any* privacy in the bath. So the bolts would unthread and one end would drop and we'd have to try to ease the door out of the pocket (always seemed to happen halfway back or almost all the way back!). No problems since we added threaded rod and some connectors to lengthen the bolts.

I took the guides off today and just stuck felt furniture pads on the inside of the split jambs as a temporary measure. Is your 1/16" angle very short and only at the edge of the split jamb, or does it have to extend the length of the pocket? I'm wondering if we can retrofit without having to cut a long rectangle out of the bottom of the sheetrock for access?


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RE: Qs about adding a pocket door

You are welcome.
The trick to most rem. projects is the "KISS PRINCIPAL", Keep it simple stupid.
The Idea being to not allow it to become, in your mind, larger than it is.

The last set of pocket doors I installed were double acting.
I purchased, for a 2x4 stud frame wall, an 1-3/4" pocket door frame, had 1-3/8" doors laminated with mirror on both sides and hung off of nylon truck and alum. track hdw. for the adj at the bottom I installed spring loaded rollers adjustable from the inside of the closet by the removal of a 1/4" plug in the base.
To control the low voltage lighting in the closet I installed a micro switch in one door.

Some times being smarter than what you are working on is as much fun as being paid.

After all, you can't let these inanimate objects get the best of you.


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RE: Qs about adding a pocket door

Thanks again for all of the wonderful advice and encouragement, everyone! I just met with another contractor who came to look at my kitchen remodeling job and, for once, I was able to fully understand what he was saying about the pocket door installation, and judge whether what he was saying made sense. This guy actually seemed to know what he was talking about (e.g., his answers to my questions matched the answers that you folks gave me). Here's hoping that his bid for the rest of the job is reasonable and the rest of his references check out.


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