Pocket doors are all the rage, haven’t you heard? Luckily they aren’t super-duper hard to put in. Annoying yes, but totally doable, even for do-it-yourselfers. If you’ve dreamed about having a pocket door in your home — you’ve come to the right place!
The door in our guest bathroom was always in the way. So much so that the kids and I would usually just leave it opened when we were in there. It drove hubby crazy! The door opened in and to the right, which meant it crashed into the shower doors, and later into the shower pan after I removed the doors.
I could have just flipped it to open to the left, but then it would open 180° and you’d have to walk around it to get to the sink. That is one of my
many pet peeves. I got so annoyed with a similar doors going into my bedroom that I took it down and threw it in the trash. True story. Still no door on there.
Getting back to the bathroom… I also thought about moving the door opening to the left side of the bathroom, so you would look at the sink when the door was open. The door would swing 90° into an empty wall, which was perfect except there would be a floor vent smack in front of the door. Normally I would consider moving the vent, but it’s on a concrete slab. Sigh.
So for six years we dealt with the awkwardly placed bathroom door. But once I decided we were going to remodel the guest bathroom (posts here, here and here), I figured it was the perfect time to find a solution for our door problem too. The logical answer was a pocket door. (I know, you’re shocked given the title of this post an all.) Hubby was beyond thrilled as he’s always wanted a pocket door. Who knew? Smart Jr on the other hand was NOT happy with the idea. I believe her response was, “Eew. Nobody has a pocket door!” Agh… to be 13 again. Well guess what sweety? We will have a pocket door by the end of this post.
I ordered the Johnson Hardware 1500 Series Pocket Door Frame for $106.70 from Home Depot online. According to the reviews, this was the brand to buy because, apparently, the brand they have in stock is not so good. The current door is 28″ and I plan on reusing the it as the pocket door, so I ordered the model that was compatible with 28″ doors.
I highly recommend watching the this video by Johnson Hardware before you begin. I watched it about 25 times! The directions that come with the door are terrible! I know people always complain about directions, but I’m usually not one of them. I complain about everything else, but not usually directions. I love Ikea instructions, for example. One of our PhD neighbors once had to call me over to assemble some Ikea furniture for him because he just wasn’t getting it. Anyway… these directions stink. Watch the video.
Supplies I used:
- blade to score drywall (especially at the corners), drywall saw, drywall, drywall screws
- hammer, pry bar
- reciprocating saw, miter saw, jigsaw (to make funky cuts in hardwood flooring)
- shop vac
- 2x4s to re-frame wall if necessary (try to reuse the ones you take out)
- 2x6s for header (even though my wall is not load baring I still wanted these bigger pieces of wood to span the 6 foot section necessary)
- 2 framing nails
- threshold/flooring (I used Bruce Saddle Oak to match what was in the hallway)
- liquid nails (to attach hardwood if necessary)
- pneumatic nail gun for attaching door molding
How to Install a Pocket Door:
I will go by the instruction numbers listed on the Johnson Hardware directions, to make it a bit easier to follow along, so remember I was not the genius that broke these steps down. As you can see, step 1 is like five days long and step 2 takes 90 seconds. took the liberty of adding a simplified directive for each step.
1. Construct Rough Opening (Tear out everything existing and rebuilt a new frame and threshold, possibly relocated electrical)
This step is the longest and most difficult, and it is totally dependent on your situation. If you are putting a pocket door into a space that used to have a double door (like I’m thinking of doing for my master bedroom — we’ll see how this one turns out first) then you already have a wide opening to work with and can just start building. But chances are you’ll need your door to tuck into an existing wall — the bad news is that at least one side of the drywall has to come off. It’s theoretically possible to only take the drywall down on one side of the wall, but I don’t think I would have been able to do it if I tried. I don’t see how it can be done with this kit.
A. Remove the door frame and molding around both sides of the current opening. You can reuse it if you’re careful not to damage it. I threw mine out because I am going to replace all the door molding and board and batten.
C. Remove all the studs in the wall where the door will be stored (the pocket). Even the bottom plate (the horizontal 2×4 on the floor) needs to come out to make room for the door to slide into the pocket. All electrical outlets and switches must be relocated as well.
D. Build frame for opening + pocket. This opening will be twice as wide as the door, or more precisely:
- Height = door height + 4.5″
- Width = 2 x door width + 1″
Tips for building frame:
- The measurements above are NOT MINIMUMS! They need to be exact. I thought I’d be smart and make my door opening a little wider, you know, just in case… Well when I went to put the slider in it was too short. Duh! To fix this I added a 1×4 to the right side of the frame and luckily it added the perfect 3/4″ I needed. So be precise.
- Try to reuse studs to re-frame opening.
- Remember height is measured from the finished floor, not the sub floor.
- I used 2x6s for the header even though my wall is not load baring. I didn’t want to worry about a sagging header. Of course you’ll want to make sure you have proper support on a load baring wall.
- You might have to move electrical switches or outlets. I knew this going in. And so should you. Neither light switches or electrical outlets of any kind will fit in the wall once the pocket door is installed. There simply isn’t any room. The door takes up all the available space between the drywall, makes sense, right? In my bathroom there was no way to move the light switch to the other side of the door opening because it would have practically been in the shower. My solution was to add this Lutron Maestro Motion Sensor switch on the wall furthest from the shower. It’s called an occupancy sensor and now the vanity light comes on automatically when you enter. The kids think it’s so cool. The fan and shower lights were also moved to this wall and now everything sits next to the existing outlet near the sink. Tip: I had the sensor switch installed low on the wall because it picks up 180° of horizontal movement, meaning if you’re shorter than the sensor it won’t see you. I have short people living in my house, so it’s low enough that everyone will be able to activate it.
I moved the door opening as far as I could to the right, so it would be further from the shower door. This meant I had to build a 6″ in frame on the left side. This would not be necessary if you weren’t relocating the doorway.
- Flooring must be a consistent height across the threshold and inside the pocket. The easiest thing to do is use the same material.
I removed the existing threshold because I am going to re-tile the floor anyway. I had some hardwood left over from upstairs (read post HERE), so I was able to add more pieces of flooring instead of needing a separate threshold. I simply continued the hardwood flooring into the door opening.
The nails will be used to hang the pocket door header/slider (step 4). One nail on each side of your opening.
- Set nail exactly 3/4″ above the door height. DO NOT hammer it all the way in.
- Make sure the door is sitting on top of finished floor before measuring.
- A nail is better than a screw because you need it to lay flat against the wall.
- Make sure you check to make sure the nail head will fit through the slat. Duh!
3. Snap a Chalk Line
4. Attach Frame Header to Rough Studs (Hang the pocket door contraption)
Hang the header (let’s call it a slider) on the nails you just installed. There are two slots, one on either end of the slider/header, that will fit over the nails you hung in step 2. The video is pretty clear on this.
- Make sure the slider/header is level.
- Secure it with 4 more nails on each side. There are 4 holes next to the slot, it’s pretty self-explanatory.
5. Attach the Split Jambs (Build the walls for the pocket)
The split jambs are the skinny little “studs” that hold up the pocket wall. They are metal (for strength) with just enough wood on the front to screw in short drywall screws.
- There are 4 split jams. You must make them into two sets of 2 by joining them with the floor plate. It’s easy, just slide one “finger” of the floor plate into one jam and the other finger into a second jam. Remember the wood faces outwards. Now repeat and make a second set.
- The first set of jams goes at the door opening. You’ll know where this is because the jam will be pressed up against the door slider you hung in step 4. The thicker part of the door slider is called the “header nailer.” Butt the split jam right up against the header nailer and nail (I used screws) the jam into place on both sides.
- The second set of jams gets hung halfway into the pocket. In other words, between the jam you just installed and the far end of the frame you built in step 1. Nail or screw it in the same way.
- Both sets of jams are now dangling from the header and must be secured to the floor.
- Using the chalk lines (or tape marks) from step 3, and a level, align the jams and check for plum. Secure both floor plates to floor. This was a little tricky for me because under my 3/4″ hardwood was concrete. Crap. You can use glue or Tapcon fasteners in this case.
- Tip: Mark where the jam is located (like with a piece of tape on the floor and mark on the wall or ceiling above) so you know where to screw in your drywall.
7. Seal All Edges (of the door)
Yeah, I didn’t do this. I reused the same door that had been swinging into that bathroom for 30 years. I maybe could have painted it, but that will be later. If ever.
8. Fasten Bumper (to the back of the door so it doesn’t crash when you push it into the pocket)
See we’re alternating really long vs really short steps. This is another 90 second one. Screw the bumper to the back edge of the door 40″ or so up from the ground.
9. Mount Door Plates and Mount Door (Hang the door)
A. On the top edge of the door, attach the two door plates 2″ from either edge by screwing them in. Just make sure the hooks both open in the same direction.
B. Insert hangers (the part with wheels) into the track. Hang them opposite from one another, meaning one has 1 wheel forward, the other has 2 wheels forward.
- Cut drywall so it comes to the edge of the split jambs. Both will be covered in the next step.
- Use the shortest screws possible to adequately attach your drywall. If the screws are too long they will poke into the door.
- Use the markings you made in step 5 to locate the split jambs, which are the “studs” in this case.
- Before I added drywall to the bathroom side of the wall, I added some scrap boards between the jambs because I may put a few towel hooks on that wall and I wanted something to screw them into. Totally not necessary.
This is a bad picture of the wall, but a good sneak peek of the shower installation (coming soon!). You can see that the drywall comes to the edge of the rough frame on the right. It comes to the edge of the split jambs on the left too, you just can’t see it.
10. Install Finished Jambs, Split Header and Casing (Install the door frame)
The easiest way to frame the door is to buy the Johnson Hardware Pocket Door Jamb Kit. Now I’m not proud of it, but I totally bought this. OMG we’re on step 10 already and I just wanted to be done with this thing. You could totally cut these pieces yourself though.
A. Install finish jambs
- Finish jambs = 2-piece door molding that covers the split jamb and drywall
- Finish jambs go on the pocket side of the door opening, on either side of the door when it’s in its pocket.
- Attach the split jambs with a pneumatic nail gun. Leave at least 3/16″ clearance between jamb and door.
B. Plumb the door with the jamb
- The bolts in step 9 can be adjusted to bring each side of the door up or down
C. Install flat jamb
- The non-pocket side of the door gets a 1-piece molding = a flat jamb
- Close door (meaning pull it out of the pocket and up against the flat jamb), then (if necessary) shim flat jamb flush to door. Then nail it in place.
D. Install split header
- Split header = 2-piece molding that goes on either side of the track above the door
- The split header fits between the finish jamb and flat jamb
- Attach it using provided screws?
E. Install door casing of your choice
- Instead of reusing the original door casings, I decided to replace them with the same 1x4s I used on the upstairs doors. Of course this meant redoing all of the board and batten and the other two doors in this hallway, but we all know I have issues.
11. Fasten Door Guides
- Screw plastic door guides to the bottom of the split jambs to hold door inline.
DONE!!! You did it! Well, I did it, but you totally can too. Next up is installing the door lock. Very important for a bathroom! Be sure to let me know if you give this a try! And if you think you might want to build a pocket door in the future, make sure you pin this now so you don’t forget.
My Guest Bathroom Renovation — Step-by-Step:
- Demo shower pan and walls
- Decide on new shower fixtures, demo shower framing, have plumber move pipes and rough in for new fixtures
- Have electrician relocate light switch, install occupancy sensor, install light in shower
- Demo tile floor (2 layers of tile) and toilet, uninstall sink/vanity to save for later, build shower curb and shower walls
- Install pocket door and extend hardwood to edge of bathroom << You are here
- Apply self-leveler to bathroom floor to bring it to proper height
- Tile, grout, and freak out about bathroom floor
- Install shower drain and build shower pan
- Plank and paint walls and trim
- Install new toilet (after bringing first choice back)
- Reinstall IKEA vanity and make adjustments to drawers
- Install light and make new mirror
- Install pocket door lock
- Tile and grout shower floor
- Paint ceiling and install new fan
- Tile and grout shower walls
- Finishing touches