How to Install a Pocket Door: Slide Into This 5-Step Guide

by Team eLocal
sliding pocket door

Pocket Door Installation at a Glance

  • Step 1: Remove door
  • Step 2: Remove drywall and studs
  • Step 3: Install new header and slider
  • Step 4: Install new drywall
  • Step 5: Install new door

If you need some extra living space, installing a pocket door could be a good solution. Unlike regular swinging doors, pocket doors slide neatly inside the abutting wall to free up more usable floor space.

Pocket door installation is challenging, but you can do it yourself with moderate DIY skills and the right knowledge. Below, you can find step-by-step pocket door installation instructions.

Can You Install a Pocket Door in an Existing Wall?

You can install a pocket door in an existing wall, but you'll need to consider a few factors to decide if it's a good idea.

First, check your local building codes for any relevant restrictions. Generally, it's prohibited (and unsafe) to put a pocket door in a load-bearing wall without reinforcing it first. Failing to reinforce the wall adequately could cause the door frame to sag or even collapse. Therefore, installing a pocket door in a load-bearing wall is a job for professionals, unless you have extensive building experience.

You'll need to hollow out at least 34 inches of drywall in the wall adjacent to the door to allow enough room for the door to slide inside. The wall also needs to be at least 4 inches thick to accommodate your new door. It's important to consider whether there are electrical circuits or pipes in the wall that will prevent the door from sliding in. If there are, you'll need to rewire your electrics or reroute your plumbing, and those jobs are — you guessed it — best left to the pros.

Finally, consider whether you'll ever need to attach heavy items to the wall containing the door. Drilling into the wall or attaching heavy-duty fixtures like wall anchors could penetrate through to the door and damage it.

How Difficult Is It to Install a Pocket Door?

Pocket door installation is a relatively complex project, so it's only suitable for confident DIYers. Installing a pocket door from scratch is difficult, but you can make the task a lot simpler by purchasing a prefabricated pocket door installation kit. Prefabricated doors come preassembled, cutting out several of the trickiest installation steps and reducing the chances of making mistakes.

Installing a pocket door is also a messy job, and you'll need to dispose of the materials removed from the abutting wall properly. You'll need to pay particular attention to safe disposal guidelines if you have an older home with lead-based paint. If you're not prepared for the inconvenience of hollowing out a wall and getting rid of the debris, you may be better off hiring a contractor to install the door for you.

How Long Does It Take to Install a Pocket Door?

How long it takes to install a pocket door depends on your home's structure and how much DIY experience you have. Generally, you should set aside a couple of days to install a pocket door in a non-load-bearing wall. You might be able to complete the job quicker if you use a prefabricated pocket door kit.

Installing a Pocket Door

Before you start installing your pocket door, measure double the new door width from the furthest edge of the door frame across the wall where you plan to create a pocket to ensure you have enough space. Lay dust sheets over the surrounding area to protect your floors and wear protective goggles to shield your eyes.

Step 1: Remove the Door

First, you'll need to remove your existing door. Unscrew the door from the hinges and set it aside. Next, pry the molding away from the opening to expose the shims. Use a saw to cut the shims away to leave a clear opening.

Step 2: Remove the Drywall and Studs

Measure the width of the pocket door from the opening on both sides of the drywall and mark the distance with a pencil. It's wise to use a stud finder to check for any plumbing or electrical hidden in the wall that you might be unaware of. Switching off the electricity at the breaker and water at the main can help you avoid a flood or electric shock if you accidentally cut through a wire or pipe.

Next, use a reciprocating or oscillating saw to cut away the drywall on both sides of the wall up to your pencil markings. You may need to use a pry bar to pull the drywall sheets away. Use a saw and a pry bar to remove any studs obstructing the space you need for the pocket.

Step 3: Install a New Header and Slider

Next, you'll need to cut a new wooden header and stud and attach them to the wall using a hammer and nails. The required header size varies for different assemblies, so check the dimensions carefully on your pocket door's instruction manual.

After installing the header and stud, follow the instructions in your pocket door slider kit to install the slider. Use a spirit level to ensure that the slider is straight and make it easier to slide the door into the pocket. Install the metal studs on the slider and attach the hangers to the upper edge of the new door. Insert the carriages into the slider and hang the door from them by the hangers to check that it sits correctly and can slide in and out smoothly.

Step 4: Install New Drywall

Screw new drywall sheets to both sides of the wall to conceal the pocket. You'll need to hide the joints between the sheets using a joint compound before sanding it smooth and painting the new drywall to match the rest of the room.

Step 5: Install the New Door

Following the assembly instructions, install the door hardware to your new pocket door and the surrounding wall. Finally, use a nail gun to install the new door trim.