How to Install a Pocket Door in An Existing Doorway

How to Install a Pocket Door in An Existing Doorway
Image courtesy: Pro Construction Guide

A pocket door is great for any space, small or large.

It frees up space that would otherwise be needed to allow a door to fully function and enables you to change the feel of a space from wide and expansive to small and cozy in seconds.

While you could hire someone to do the job, installing a pocket door isn’t difficult for any homeowner with basic DIY skills…but it can get messy!

Before installing a pocket door, be sure that the wall you’re intending to modify is a feasible option for the door. Do the following before you begin.:

  • ⬥ Check to be sure you have enough room for a pocket door. The space needs to be about double the width of the door.
  • ⬥ Check for plumbing or wiring within the wall. If you have pipes, you’ll obviously want to choose another wall. You may be able to move the wiring, but use a voltage sensor to find them before you begin.
  • ⬥ Check if the wall is a load-bearing wall. If it is, you’ll need a temporary means of support while you build a new header for support.

Your pocket door kit should include the following elements:

  • ⬥ The door
  • ⬥ Split studs (allows the door to retract back into the wall)
  • ⬥ A track
  • ⬥ Door hardware

Once you’ve secured the items you need, it’s time to begin the build.

Remove the molding

This step assumes you’re installing a pocket door where you currently have an existing doorway.

Use a pry bar and hammer to remove the existing molding around the door. Be as gentle as possible to avoid damaging the molding and/or the surrounding drywall.

Tip: Use a razor blade to easily cut through the caulk, making it easier for the molding to come off and preventing the wall paint from being peeled off.

Install the pocket door kit

Measure the door frame and cut the pocket door kit to fit the space. Install according to the directions that came with the kit.

Install the door

Once the framework is in place, it’s time to install the door. The most critical step is to make sure that the top track is completely level so that the door will slide as it should.

Replace the drywall and attach to door framework

Measure and cut the drywall to fit the space where your door is going to hide. 

Note: If you’re uncomfortable doing drywall, it may be worth the cost of hiring someone to help with this step.

Once the drywall is in place, attach it to the framework using screws. Be sure to countersink them into the wall so that when you tape and float the drywall, they won’t be visible.

Finish the drywall

Tape and float the drywall, adding several thin layers rather than one thick one. Sand the joint compound in between layers to achieve a nice, smooth finish.

Prime the wall

Roll on one or two coats of drywall primer

Tip: To ensure the paint adheres to the wall, be sure that you’ve cleaned it thoroughly of any dust or debris.

Texture the drywall (if desired)

Texturing drywall helps to ensure that your paint will stick well, but if the surrounding drywall isn’t textured, you can skip this step as a good primer will accomplish this as well.

However, if the other walls are textured, you’ll probably want to do this. The idea is to match the newly installed drywall as closely as possible to the surrounding walls. 

Note: This step can be done either before or after priming the wall; it’s your choice.

Finish the wall

Finish the wall however you want; paint, shiplap, knotty pine, panelling…whatever you want.

Lastly, install new trim work around the door frame to finish the look.

For more posts on doors, you can read these:

Updating Windows & Doors: What You Need to Know

Inside and out: How folding doors could suit your home

How to Pick the Best Color Front Door for a Beige Home