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A pocket door is a door that is not set on hinges to swing open, but that slides in and out of a space hidden within the wall. These doors come either as singles, which slide open and shut from either the left or the right, or double pocket doors, which slide together and meet in the middle from both the right and left sides. The primary reason for installing sliding pocket doors is to save space; a hinged door can take up to 10 square feet (1 square meter) of floor space.
Pocket doors have been around for more than 100 years, and they have recently resurfaced as interesting architectural elements. They were extremely popular during the late-1800s and early 1900s, and many historic homes still hold fine examples of these antique doors. No one is quite sure why the pocket door went out of fashion, although changes in architectural styles are one likely reason.
The main reason for the renewed interest in pocket doors is the space factor. Smaller homes mean that intelligent use of limited space is critical. Architects designing these smaller residences have recycled the pocket door idea, and people shopping for a new house have once again become enchanted with the sliding doors. In addition, while the older pocket doors of yesteryear frequently jammed or derailed, the improved hardware allow smooth and quiet opening and closing.
Another reason why pocket doors have resurfaced is that they are very accommodating for people with disabilities. Opening a regular swing door can be quite challenging for those in wheelchairs or those using a walker. A pocket door simply slides aside, allowing people with disabilities to more easily maneuver from room to room.
For homeowners who want to install a pocket door, kits can be purchased at a local home improvement store. Before installing one, the homeowner will first need to find out what lies within his current walls. If the wall adjacent to the doorway is a load-bearing wall or if it is loaded with pipes, cables, or wiring, it is more difficult — but still possible — to install a pocket door. The installer will need to address these issues by redirecting the weight by adding a weight bearing beam or relocating the existing pipes, cables, or wiring.
If you have walls where you would like to install pocket doors, here is a good tip for determining if they will work in your home before you put a lot of money into the project.
All you have to do is cut a small hole in both walls and shine a bright light into the hole. You should be able to see whether you have wires or pipes you will have to deal with, or if your walls are free and clear of these issues. If it looks like the job will be too difficult to do, all you have to do is patch up the holes with a bit of plaster, paint over them, and choose different types of doors.
Pocket doors are great, but installing them is definitely not an easy task. My brother installed them in his home a few years ago, and he ran into all kinds of problems.
First, he misjudged the size of pocket doors he needed, and had to return them and buy another set. Next, when he cut into the walls where he was installing the doors, he ran into plumbing work that he didn't know was there. Fortunately he had the help of a friend who had experience in plumbing and home building, though it took a while to work around the issues.
The bottom line is that if you are planning to install pocket doors, you probably will need the help of a professional building contractor. At the very least, don't try to take this job on by yourself.
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