Storage Solutions: The Secret Life of Pocket Doors

Gain storage space and usable square footage by installing pocket doors.

Because a pocket door slides into the wall instead of swinging open and shut, you'll gain a lot of storage space next to the door. Image: Johnson Hardware

Pocket doors maximize under-utilized areas around doorways and transform them into smart storage spots.

The swing of a standard interior hinged door eats up as much as 10 square feet of floor space. That’s not to mention the unusable wall space the door occupies when open. By gliding on a track that disappears into the wall, pocket doors reclaim that space and increase the usable square footage of your home.

Is the additional space worth it? It’s not exactly an open and shut case. For starters, unless you’re dealing with new construction, you’ll need to demolish a wall. Here’s what else you need to know before giving the sledgehammer a heave-ho.

Benefits of Pocket Doors

Space. With more available wall space, you have room for furnishings or freestanding storage. However, avoid penetrating the pocket-door wall to hang shelves or artwork—nails or drywall anchors might damage the door or prevent it from sliding. Instead, use adhesive-backed wall hangers. (Easily removable versions that don’t damage walls and hold up to 20 pounds are available).

Aesthetics. Create a clean, airy look when you do away with bulky hinged doors. Door styles are limitless.

Functionality. People of all ages and abilities can operate pocket doors easily.

Drawbacks of Pocket Doors

Privacy. Because they don’t close as tightly as hinged doors, pocket doors don’t seal out sound well from one room to another.

Mess. Installation of a pocket door means demolishing and re-framing a wall, so plan to haul a few wheelbarrow loads of old drywall and wall studs out of your house.

Before demolishing the wall, investigate what you might find inside: plumbing, electrical, heating and cooling ducts. If rerouting these is an option, it will come at a price—anywhere from $300 to $800. You’ll also need to determine if the wall is load-bearing, and if the door opening needs to be reinforced with a header.

What Do They Cost?

Top-quality pocket door kits feature heavy-duty, ball-bearing nylon rollers guaranteed to not jump off their tracks, and studs wrapped in metal to prevent warping. Kits are available to fit 2x4 or 2x6 wall construction. Kit cost: $150 to $350; add $350 to $550 for professional installation, depending on the complexity of the demolition work.

Make sure your door opening is square, plumb, and level. Cut corners on hardware quality or installation procedure and you’ll risk having to redo it all down the road.