Pocket door improves bedroom flow

Installation advice to rectify banging problem, light switch access

Q: I’ve got a problem with my bedroom door. The bedroom is at the end of a hallway with a 3-foot-wide door that swings into the room. When my husband and I open it we often hit the closet door because we tend to leave it open. The closet door opens into the room also. When both are opened they crash into each other.

I’ve thought about replacing the single 3-foot-wide bedroom door with a pair of 18-inch doors set in the same opening. What I’m envisioning is a scaled-down version of French doors, where the side nearest the closet can be secured, or not.

The advantage I see is that if the door nearest the closet is opened all the way, it won’t hit the closet door when we leave it open.

There’s a light switch on the bedroom wall that operates an overhead fixture in the center of the room. It will be partially blocked by the small door, but I think I can live with that. There’s about 3 inches of wall between the door opening and the closet.

I’m wondering if the size of the door is too small and if there’s another way to solve my banging door problem that I’m not seeing. What do you think?

A: We admire your thinking outside the box, but we don’t think you’ll be happy with 18-inch French doors. We believe you’ll find that it’s too narrow an opening if you keep one side closed. We’d bet you’ll end up keeping both doors open.

There are two better ways to accomplish your mission. The simplest thing to do is install the door on the other side of the jamb. This way the door opens away from the closet door into the hallway. The downside is that the light switch won’t be easily accessible when entering the room. If there’s enough room on the wall near the closet it’s a pretty simple matter to relocate the switch so it’s within reach when you open the door.

Another alternative is a pocket door. A pocket door is a door slab that slides on a rail and is stored in a slot built into the wall. For a 3-foot door the rough opening will be 6 feet. When the installation is complete the door will slide into the wall and be completely hidden.

We suggest you go to a door manufacturer and buy the compete unit consisting of the door slab and the pocket. It’s possible to buy pieces, but we don’t think it’s worth the hassle.

To install the door unit, remove the existing door and frame. Cut out the drywall and then frame the rough opening. We think it’s easiest to open a 6-foot-wide hole from floor to ceiling on the bedroom side only. Remove the extra studs and install a new header. At this point the wiring for the switch is exposed. Relocate the light switch outside the new rough opening.

Place the pocket-door frame into the rough opening, and add shims until the jambs are perfectly vertical and the track is absolutely level. If the track is not level, the door will not stay in the correct position. Nail the frame into the opening. Install drywall over the pocket-door frame. Tape and texture the drywall. Install the finish trim, then prime and paint.

When you’re finished, you’ll have a 3-foot opening, no door banging and privacy just a finger pull away.                                       

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