When specifying internal doors, hinged, swing models are all too often the default option, but pocket doors – which glide into a cavity in the adjacent wall – can add wow-factor and save a lot of space. They’re also a good solution in open plan rooms that can be closed off left open to create a flowing layout.
“A normal hinged door requires a swing area of 7ft², and no obstructions can be placed in this area; which is not always possible,” says Philip Jones, PC Henderson’s Technical Services Manager.
Pocket doors operate on a top-hung track – leaving the floor free of obstructions. Such kits may or may not come with the door itself — meaning you’re free to choose your own model.
There are two types of pocket doors on the market; those that slide directly into the wall cavity, and those that feature a metal cage, or ‘cassette’, that provides a self-contained pocket for the door to sit in. Generally, the second option are more expensive, as they provide extra reinforcement within the wall.
“Those kits without a cassette are more than adequate in the home,” says Helen Butland of Doorstuff.co.uk. “The cassette-type kits tend to be more commonly specified in commercial buildings and in high-end projects.”
The application of a heavy duty can be highly beneficial – even essential – in some instances, as Helen again explains: “If any heavy wall covering like bathroom tiling is going to be applied, we recommend using a reinforced kit.” High-traffic areas or rooms regularly used by guests or children can also benefit. “You’ll also need a cassette-type system if you’re installing a frameless glass door or a fire door,”
Installing pocket doors
Time spent preparing and planning for pocket doors is key to its smooth operation when it comes to both installation and use. Installing one within an existing home in particular can be more complex than in a new build. You will need to think about where electrical wiring, pipes, switches and sockets sit on your walls. “You need to consider whether there’s obstructions such as windows, and radiators and the associated pipework, which could prevent you installing a kit.” says Philip Jones.
“One situation in which you won’t be able to have a pocket door, however, is where you don’t have enough wall space next to the door opening; you’ll require a wall at least the width of the door,” Philip adds. Options, such as the Eclisse Novanta, which slides partially into a cavity with a hinged section which folds back, can work in this instance.
Establishing whether an existing wall is loadbearing and non-loadbearing is essential when planning for a door too; loadbearing walls will invariably need propping up during the work, with the introduction of a lintel possible. This is where the job’s best left to a builder or carpenter, preferably one with prior experience installing a pocket door.
Kits for pocket doors are designed to be accommodated within a studwall, so solid walls can pose a challenge too. “It may be more appropriate just to use wall-mounted sliding door gear, than have the carpenter or builder construct and finish a single stud skin of their own design on the one side,” says Helen Butland of Doorstuff.co.uk. “This will be vastly cheaper for the same spec, although labour costs may be higher as the work is a little more time consuming. The finished wall thickness will be kept to a minimum this way too.”
Sticking to a standard door width and thickness is a good idea for keeping a hold on costs, as non-standard sizes may require a bespoke option. Bear in mind that the weight of your door will also have a bearing. Lightweight hollowcore doors are usually suitable for all systems, but this may not always be the case with some heavy solid doors. “Our system can sustain a load of 60kg, which will take a standard solid door,” explains Philip Jones of PC Henderson. Eclisse can provide systems to support a weight up to 120kg on request, for very heavyweight doors.
You’ll usually have to specify hardware as an extra too. Among the most discreet options are finger pulls and spring-operated options such as Coburn’s ‘pocket plunger’. Pull handles may be preferable in homes with children, but bear in mind that pull handles protrude, meaning the door will not be able to slide entirely into the cavity.
Architrave-free kits are great for contemporary homes; so too are glass doors, which can be used to introduce natural light. “If you’re going to specify frameless glass for the door then wait until you have begun to install the kit before ordering the glass,” advises Helen Butland. “Then make a template from ply or cardboard to get the height perfect. This makes it much easier to fit, but also makes for a time-delay which needs to be planned for.”
There are a number of configurations which you can opt for, including double doors which slide back into cavities either side (as the top image shows), or telescopically slide into one cavity, while a unilateral arrangement allows two adjacent doors to slide into the same cavity within a central wall.
Among the most impressive options are curved doors. But as John Monaghan, Managing Director of the Disappearing Door Company explains, installation should be left to a professional. “Most systems come in standard sizes with a predetermined radius to build the studwork to. Drawing a template arc on the floor to the correct radius and using flexible plasterboard make for a professional job. Curved doors can be made by a quality joinery manufacturer, but ideally purchase ones that come from the same manufacturer as the pocket door system to avoid tolerance issues.”