At first glance, installing a pocket-door kit might seem like a
pretty simple task. But the truth is, messing one up is pretty
simple, too. In this article, I'm going to share some of the
lessons I've learned — the hard way — about
pocket-door kits, along with some tips for improving their
function and feel.
Pocket-door kits come in two types: good and bad. Inexpensive
kits with light-duty track and carriage wheels (sometimes
called "trucks") are the bane of door-hangers and homeowners.
Not only are they difficult to install, but in no time at all
the track bends or the wheel bearings wear out. And everyone
knows fixing a pocket door isn't easy or cheap.
So whatever kind of door you're using, invest in heavy-duty
track and high-quality carriage wheels. Several makers have
good kits, including Johnson (800/837-5664,
www.johnsonhardware.com) and Hager
(800/255-3590, www.hagerhinge.com). The kit shown in this
article is a new one from Pemko (800/283-9988,
In addition to the split studs and track, which is mounted to
the header frame, most pocket-door kits come with pretty much
the same hardware (1): two door hangers, two roller carriages,
two floor brackets, a rubber bumper, and a wrench.
Resizing the Header Frame
The first step when you're installing one of these kits is to
check the size of the rough opening (2) and, since the kits are
supplied for 36-inch doors, to cut down the head frame if the
door is narrower. The width of the rough opening should measure
two times the width of the door plus 1 inch. For Pemko's Husky
Heavy Door kit, the height of the RO should measure the door
height plus 5 inches, though most other models require an
additional 4 inches in header height.
For doors narrower than 36 inches, you have to do a little
math. Start by doubling the difference between your door and a
3/0 door. For example, a 2/8 (32-inch) door is 4 inches smaller
than a 3/0 door; 4 x 2 = 8 inches. Subtract that amount from
the header-frame top cleat (3, 4) and from the aluminum track
(5), but don't cut anything just yet. A piece of masking tape
makes it easier to see the mark on the aluminum frame.
When it comes to the two pieces of wood that cover the sides of
the track, which are half as long as the header piece, you want
to cut off only the difference between your door and a 3/0 door
— 4 inches in this example (6). I use a jigsaw to cut the
wood (7) and a hacksaw to cut the track (8), then reinstall the
end plate (9).
Installing the Frame
Cut out any bottom plate and snap lines on both sides of the
opening (10). For 6/8 doors, measure up from the floor 81 1/4
inches on the jack (11) and partially drive in a screw,
centered on the stud (12). Don't use a nail for this; it's easy
to relocate a screw if need be.
With 80-inch-tall doors, 81 1/4 allows 1/2-inch clearance from
the floor and automatically aligns the head jamb with existing
prehung jambs so that the casings will line up around the room.
Nothing looks worse or more unprofessional than a pocket door
with casing that's an inch taller than that of surrounding
prehung doors. Site conditions vary considerably, so be sure to
check your door and the jambs on your job before mounting the
head track. For odd-size doors, locate the mounting screw by
adding 1 1/4 inches to the door height.
Next, slip the header-frame end plates over the screws (13),
check that the track is perfectly level (14), then snug up the
end-plate screws and install the remaining screws.
Once the head is secure and level, insert one of the split-stud
mounting plates into the bottom of a split stud (15),
then insert the bottom of a second split stud on the other side
of the plate (16). Note that the top of the split stud
has two notches in the aluminum frame so that you can run
screws through the face of the stud into the head frame
Temporarily clamp the tops of the split studs to the header
frame, then fasten with 11/2-inch screws (18). Plumb the
split-stud pair to the floor (19), then fasten the plate,
centered between the snap lines (20). Use Tapcons or anchors on
Install the second split-stud pair the same way. If possible,
be kind to the drywallers and try to align the split studs with
the cripple studs above (21). On a remodel, I'll just center
the second split-stud pair. Attach each stud to the head with
screws, then plumb the bottom, making sure the studs are
centered on the two snap lines.
It's important, when drywall is installed before the door is
hung, to stiffen the split-stud wall with a temporary brace
(22). Otherwise, the drywall installers might bend the inner
split studs and pinch the door. (If you hang your doors before
drywall and leave them in the pocket, good luck!)22