Full height pocket door appears completely trimless. In a hallway with wood panel wall.

What to consider when choosing a modern pocket door

December 28, 2022

Are you looking to buy the best pocket doors? This guide covers the key considerations for custom pocket doors in the US.

A common myth with pocket doors is that you must specify the door panel (sometimes called a slab) separately from the pocket door frame kit. While this may be true for a DIY door project where you source each part individually, you should expect any leading interior door manufacturer in the United States to provide a complete and well-engineered door unit.

Let's go over several key factors to consider when choosing a well-designed modern pocket door:

Door height

Modern luxury residences (as well as commercial spaces like Class A offices) skew heavily towards full-height doors, which are absolutely gorgeous and create a relatively inexpensive illusion of grandeur. However, full-height pocket doors also present a few construction and planning challenges you must consider — the most critical one is the clearance required for the top track that you will recess into the ceiling.

In new construction, you can design the joist layout so that the pocket door frame kit runs parallel to the joists, and the top track will recess into the space between them.

In remodels, you are often limited by the ceiling joist layout. You may not always have the option for a floor-to-ceiling pocket door without massive effort — you may need to go with a small header unless you drop the ceiling a few inches across the home or specific area.

Note that a self-supporting pocket door kit does not need any structural support for itself, however, you will need to install a beam above the pocket door to create a self-supporting rough opening.

Modern pocket door such as Dorsis Belport from Angelbau can be up to 9' 10-⅛" tall.
Modern pocket door such as Dorsis Belport from Angelbau can be up to 9' 10-⅛" tall.


Door width

Modern pocket doors can be really wide. When our Angelbau team discusses super wide pocket doors with architects and interior designers, we go straight to the core expectations for how the space is going to be used by the homeowner. A wide pocket door that the family will use relatively infrequently is typically fine - we have frequently designed wide pocket doors to close off a game room or a hallway laundry closet (or similar clever storage ideas). But for a powder room, you'll prefer a narrower opening that feels lighter and more pleasant to operate.

White door slabs for sliding pocket door, from narrow to super wide at 59" (1500 mm).
A single Dorsis Belport trimless pocket door can be as narrow as 2ft and as wide as 59".


Upper track and rollers

Modern pocket doors almost exclusively use amazingly smooth anodized aluminum tracks combined with high-quality rollers, sometimes called running gear. This combination results in near-silent operation and requires low opening force - which is a major departure from the noisy steel tracks in low-end pocket doors.

But not all rollers are created equal. The rollers you get on our Dorsis Belport modern pocket door are also height-adjustable (⅛" up or down). You can make these micro adjustments with the door already installed.

Height-adjustable rollers used on Dorsis Belport.
Height-adjustable rollers used on Dorsis Belport.
You can easily make height adjustments on Belport pocket doors using a hex key.
You can easily make height adjustments on Belport pocket doors using a hex key.


Serviceability

Look for a pocket door frame kit that lets you access the top of the door and the door hardware. Old-style pocket doors do not typically allow you to access the track and rollers, making service or adjustments quite impossible without removing the trim around the door — a labor-intensive process.

When you look at advanced pocket door systems available today, you will see that not only can you adjust the door elevation, but you can easily remove the door and adjust the stop points for soft-close on both sides.


Hardware & Locking

You have two exciting door hardware options to choose from, and they depend on your preferred mode of operating the door and how wide the clear passage is.

Do you have wider pocket doors? Consider a modern door pull handle - you will sacrifice roughly 3 inches of width, but you'll gain an unusually pleasant way to operate the pocket door. For narrower doorways, we typically look at options for recessed door pulls. These allow the pocket door panel to slide fully into the pocket.

There is a ton of high-end architectural hardware, including from our friends at leading European manufacturers Formani or M&T.

Elegant black pocket door privacy lock by M&T for Dorsis Belport sliding door
Can you lock pocket doors? Yes, absolutely. One of the locks we at Angelbau frequently specify for our Dorsis Belport contemporary pocket doors is this elegant black pocket door privacy lock by M&T. It works with a number of recessed door pulls by M&T and others.
Black door M&T Minimal door pull with privacy thumbturn lock for Dorsis Belport cavity slider pocket door.
M&T Minimal II recessed black door pull with a privacy lock thumb turn is a popular choice for Dorsis Belport modern pocket doors.


Location

Most pocket doors form a wall, but it may not always be the case. At Angelbau we designed and installed pocket doors that disappear into a perpendicular wall, typically in a hallway, or they slide into what looks like a wall of built-in cabinets.

How can you achieve this look? The answer is a split jamb designed to blend with drywall. The door jamb of the pocket door is flush with the wall. This critical detail gives you a clean finish — when the pocket door is open (the panel is in the pocket), the wall appears uninterrupted.

A similar condition happens on the "solid jamb" side (lock side) of the pocket door. A modern trimless pocket door would have the jamb recessed into the wall by about ¼". When the door is closed, the panel sits in the indentation, preventing any light leaks.


Soundproofing

Typical pocket door panels installed in US homes are 1 ¾" thick (~45 mm) but what affects sound transmission has less to do with door thickness and more with door panel composition. Hollow core slabs are the least expensive panels available — they are lightweight, but their major downside is that they provide limited sound deadening and feel cheap to the touch. Honeycomb core door is the next step up - they feel sturdier and reduce noise transfer better than hollow cores. The ideal choice is a solid core door panel - they are the heaviest of the three but provide the best sound insulation at a better price-performance ratio than specialized acoustic doors.

The default Belport pocket door slab from Angelbau is a solid core door panel which is the most satisfactory option for bedrooms, offices, and home theater rooms. We typically recommend a honeycomb core door slab for non-occupied rooms such as a pantry or walk-in closet, where there are no expectations about noise.


Style

Without much debate, flush door panels win almost every time due to their simple and universal aesthetic. However, nearly every modern condo or residence provides an opportunity to introduce clever design variations of door panels, so let's review some of them.

First, consider if the space gets any natural light. A hallway door may well benefit from a door with a glass panel ("lite") by introducing some light into the darker area. As you can imagine, the glass options are broad — from transparent to bronze to satin/frosted glass. You will hear door manufacturers use terms like 1-lite or single-lite for a single glass segment or 5-lite for a door with five vertical glass sections.

Probably the easiest decision is about the paint option versus the wood veneer. Custom modern pocket doors, such as Dorsis Belport from Angelbau, offer comprehensive style and finish options, allowing architects and interior designers to focus on meeting the functional and visual expectations of the space. 


Angelbau designs and manufactures modern European-style pocket doors for high-end residential projects across the United States and Canada.


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