Pocket doors are a great way to add space to any room or to connect two adjoining rooms. They also add a touch of elegance and style to large formal rooms. If you are building a new house or just remodeling an existing one, pocket doors are an option definitely worth considering.
The pros of pocket doors are that they add space otherwise wasted by swinging doors, they look great, and they add authenticity to historic homes. The cons are that they are hard to install and maintain, do not block noise and odors well, need a lot of interior wall space, and be noisy.
Interior designers love pocket doors because they look great in just about any room. They are frequently used to adjoin a dining room and living room to give both a sense of airiness and space. If you are thinking about putting pocket doors in your house, there are several things to consider, so read on to decide if they are right for you.
The Pros of Pocket Doors
Pocket doors are a wonderful option if you need extra space or want to give a sense of openness between two rooms. You’ve probably seen them in older homes, but they’re quickly making a comeback. Here are some of the best reasons to install pocket doors in your house.
Pocket Doors Look Great
The first and most obvious reason anyone considers pocket doors is because they look great. Pocket doors enhance the aesthetics of both old and new home designs. An open swinging door clutters up a room and detracts from its architectural ambiance. The disappearing pocket door adds a stylishness and dramatic flair to even the humblest chamber.
Add More Space to Your Home
Swinging doors typically use up to ten square feet of space to allow for the door’s opening and closing. By adding pocket doors, you can free up this space for added furniture or accommodate the placement of existing furniture. It also gives you added wall space to hang artwork, towel racks, etc.
Improve the Flow of the Room
Many people specifically add pocket doors to rooms where they know the door will be left open most of the time, but they want to have the option to close them when the need arises. If the dining room and living room are adjoining and connected with pocket doors, those doors will probably remain open 90% of the time to allow ease of movement through the rooms and make both rooms feel larger.
Likewise, pocket doors to a walk-in closet from a bedroom will usually be left open for easy entry.
Pocket Doors Give Historic Homes Authenticity
Pocket doors initially became popular in the U.K. and America during the Victorian era, beginning in the 1850s. Many older homes have been remodeled several times, and the old pocket doors were often replaced with swinging doors when the pocket doors wore out. Some were replaced because they rode on raised rails, which pose a tripping hazard.
Restoring the pocket doors enhances the beauty and grandeur of these historic homes. It makes them more authentic and increases their value.
Work With Any Decor
Pocket doors work just as well with modern homes as they do with older homes. In fact, many upscale modern designs incorporate pocket doors that open from the living room onto the patio/pool area for an indoor/outdoor living experience.
A house on a hill with a spectacular view just begs to have pocket doors that open up the house to take in the view. This setup works particularly well in areas with mild climates when you want lots of fresh air circulating throughout the house. They also work exceptionally well with Japanese/Asian design concepts.
Pocket Doors Can Be Moving Sculpture
Most interior swinging doors are just one solid color with no design elements; they do nothing to enhance the decor of the room. When you go with pocket doors, you can be more daring and choose intricate design patterns and/or bold color schemes that add vibrance and flair to the room. Since pocket doors are often used in areas where they are generally left open, you do not have to worry that the colors will be too loud or the design too busy.
Afford Greater Accessibility to Wheelchair Users
Because pocket doors slide completely out of the way, they provide no obstruction whatsoever to anyone in a wheelchair. As long as the user has full use of their hands, pocket doors are an ideal choice for wheelchair users’ homes.
The Cons of Pocket Doors
Although they look great and have other positive attributes that make them an attractive option, there are some substantial drawbacks to pocket doors.
Provide a Minimal Seal
Bathrooms are often small and cramped, which is why many people consider pocket doors for a bathroom. However, because pocket doors ride on rails and need space on either side to slide properly, they provide little in the way of a seal against odors, sound, and light. This is a serious consideration for a bathroom.
Likewise, any home office with pocket doors will get more than the usual share of ambient noise leaking through the door. If you have kids, this can certainly be a problem because they can often be too loud. Also, kitchens with pocket doors will bleed food odors to the adjoining room.
Pocket Doors Are Noisy
Swinging doors with well-lubricated hinges can be opened and closed with little to no sound at all. On the other hand, pocket doors will always make some noise as they roll along their tracks. Modern pocket doors with upgraded hardware can minimize this noise, but they will never be as quiet as swinging doors. This is a serious consideration when thinking of installing them as bedroom doors.
Have Long Term Reliability Issues
When a swinging door has an issue with a hinge or a latch, it is a simple matter to fix. When something goes wrong with a pocket door, it can be a major operation to solve the problem.
Pocket doors are notorious for coming off their rails. If the door comes off the rails or if the rails somehow get damaged, it can involve tearing open the wall to get at the rail. Needless to say, this will be expensive and time-consuming. That is why pocket doors are not recommended for areas where the door will be opened and closed daily.
Afford Limited Accessibility for Some People
People with limited use of their hands or those with arthritis will have more difficulty with pocket doors than conventional swinging doors. This can be mitigated by ensuring that the pocket doors open and close smoothly with minimal effort. This boils down to proper upkeep and maintenance.
Conversely, people in wheelchairs with full use of their hands will find pocket doors offer greater accessibility than swinging doors.
Pocket Doors Can Be Challenging to Install
Not every home, and certainly not every room, is suitable for pocket doors. If you want to install pocket doors during the construction of a new house, it is much easier than for a finished house. A pocket door needs a wall that is more than twice as wide as the door. If there are obstructions, such as pipes, wiring, HVAC ducts, etc., these will have to be relocated to allow for the door’s smooth flow. Also, if it is a load-bearing wall, it will need to be reinforced.
Things to Think About Before Installing Pocket Doors
- Pocket Doors work best in 2×6 walls rather than 2×4 walls.
- Use heavy-duty hardware rather than the stuff that typically comes with the doors.
- Use solid doors, as they are more durable. Hollow doors wear out too quickly.
- Be extra careful when hanging anything on the wall. Protrusions into the pocket can damage the door and/or rails.
Pocket Door Alternatives
Here we will discuss the various forms of sliding doors, not all of which are technical “Pocket” style doors.
- Bypass doors: These doors are commonly used as closet doors, where one door slides over the other. They are space-saving, easy to install and maintain, and do not require a pocket.
- Barn doors: Works the same as pocket doors, but they just don’t have a pocket; they are mounted on rails outside the wall. The upside is they’re easier to install and maintain. The downside is the wall that the slide is on must be left empty of furniture and wall hangings. Also, light switches and electrical outlets will be inaccessible while the doors are open. These are typically much cheaper to install because they don’t need a pocket.
- Sliding French doors: This option gives you the elegant look of French doors and the space-saving of sliding doors. These work well as patio doors and can open a wall of the living room to the outdoors.
- Shoji doors: These doors are traditional Japanese room dividers made from translucent sheets (rice paper) on a lattice framework. They are very versatile, as they both slide on rails or can easily be detached to open up and connect two or more rooms.
- Pivot doors: These doors are a dramatic new design that you typically see in modern architecture. They revolve around a hinge that is offset from where a traditional hinge is placed. This means the door is connected to the top and bottom of the door frame, instead of one side of it. Because they are so unusual, pivot doors make a bold design statement.
Pocket doors are wonderful space savers and definitely should be considered when building a new home or remodeling an old one. Modern pocket doors have mitigated or eliminated some of the problems of the past. Being able to slide a door out of sight is a stylistic choice that proves very effective for many homeowners.
But with any design decisions, there are pros and cons in using pocket doors. They look great in almost any setting, they can be used as artistic statement pieces, and they offer greater accessibility to wheelchair users. However, they provide only a minimal seal against noise, odors, and light. They also have reliability issues, and they can be difficult to install or adjust later on.
Whether you want to get a pocket door or not is up to you. Remember that they’re fairly inexpensive, especially when your house has wide doorways. As long as you keep it free of rust and corrosion, you shouldn’t have too many noise complaints.