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Installing pocket doors

QuestionI am finishing a basement and will be installing two pocket doors to make a large opening into a den from a guest bedroom. Do you have any tips for me?

AnswerPocket doors can really convey a sense of openness. Installing them is easy; however, there are a few things to consider that can help make your installation proceed smoothly. First of all, depending on the height of the ceiling and the presence of a support beam directly above your planned door opening, you may have to raise the header in order to install a 6' 8" door. Check with your local building department if you are unable to fit in a full 6' 8" door size as there may be some local code requirements. When purchasing your pocket doors, choose a complete system that includes the hardware—and then check the hardware before purchasing to make sure that roller parts are readily available and that once the trim is in place you will have easy access for future adjustments.

If you have to open a wall, it's important to think about the space where the pocket door will sit. Figure the door width twice and then add about 4" to that figure to get a rough total area for the door and pocket. If the wall is a bearing wall, you will need to install a header. In this case the wall will have to be wider than the overall measurement required for the pocket door to allow trimmers for the header.

When applying wallboard to the frame of the pocket, use adhesive and screws just long enough to do the job—you don't want your screws to poke through the frame and go into the door itself, nor do you want that screw point to scratch the door every time it's opened or closed.

If you choose to paint the door while it's in the pocket, be sure to paint both sides of the door, especially if it's got a hollow core. If you paint only one side, the moisture alone will warp the door. Cut out for the handle before you paint; you may find it easier to make this cut with the door lying between sawhorses. One last point—install adhesive on the bottom of the pocket frame where it rests on the floor (this, of course, depends on the frame's structure). A strong bond to the floor will help stop the pocket from movement.

A pocket door is especially great where there's simply no room for a conventional door's swing. I don't know all the facts, but why two pocket doors? They will take away wall space from either side of the room—unless you have a purpose for this. Instead, install one 2'6" or 2'8" door. That will give you enough room to move furniture into the room. Normally pocket doors are used when you don't have wall space for a door to swing up against.

If you have such a wall, I would recommend a pre-hung door that would swing in and up against it. If you are building this room, install a closet on the wall that divides the bedroom from the den. Hold the closet back about 3 feet from the corner. That way you can install a door with either a left- or right-hand swing (up against a partition or the closet end wall). Check out my book, Remodeling A Bathroom, page 13 for an idea of what I'm talking about when it comes to the swing of a door.

There is one other thing to consider: make sure this new bedroom has a means of exiting directly to the outside through either an approved egress window or a door from the bedroom directly to the outside. You'll need a building permit to finish this unused area.

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Question answered by Leon A. Frechette.

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