Picking pocket… doors

Back in 2009, while deconstructing the 1st floor, we were thrilled to find framing that suggested we once had pocket doors between the library and living room. I remember seeing original pocket doors during our design workshop at Saint Agatha Catholic Academy and couldn’t get over how cool they were.

Although we have the pocket door framing, the most important piece, the doors, are missing. That is a real problem because it is not easy to find replacement doors. Finding the right style and dimensions is one issue, but finding replacement doors that are affordable turned out to be the biggest hurdle.

We looked at a number of architectural salvage and antique stores and were blown away at how much they cost. Frugal as I am, I began to search on Craigslist. After about a year I came across a pair that looked interesting and that was affordable.

These were apparently oak doors with six glass panels each. We couldn’t say for sure if they were oak, because the doors were painted white. The real issue, though, was that the doors were too short and a little too wide.

What kept my interest in the doors alive were the glass panes. Curiosity drove us (pun intended) to take a look at the doors in person.

There was oak under the white paint, and Cathy decided on the spot that we could strip the paint away. The doors also came with the original roller mechanism, which was a big plus. The only real stumbling block that remained was the dimensions.

I took a risk and decided that I could add three inches to the door at the top and bottom. That would make them the right height. To deal with the extra width, I would need to adjust the framing in the house, which could be done. We went ahead and purchased the pocket doors for $400.

Rest assured that there will always be the lingering question if this was the best decision. These pocket doors are, strictly speaking, not an authentic replacement – because of the glass panels and the dimensional issue.

But the bottom line for us is that we have found affordable pocket doors we like, even though they need some work.

About Marcus de la fleur

Marcus is a Registered Landscape Architect with a horticultural degree from the School of Horticulture at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, and a Masters in Landscape Architecture from the University of Sheffield, UK. He developed a landscape based sustainable pilot project at 168 Elm Ave. in 2002, and has expanded his skill set to building science. Starting in 2009, Marcus applied the newly acquired expertise to the deep energy retrofit of his 100+ year old home in Chicago.

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