Which Is Better: Pocket Doors or Barn Doors?

Stephanie Shaykin
Updated January 11, 2022
Modern dining room with a double barn door entrance
PC Photography/iStock/Getty Images Plus via Getty Images

Pocket doors and barn doors are both popular choices for home projects, but the choice you make between them depends on a few distinctive factors

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Does a type of door reflect your style? It should! Opt for barn doors when you want a rustic appearance. Choose pocket doors when you want a more discreet design or to show off wall decor. When planning this home improvement project, you'll want to do your best to consider the below aspects to make the best decision.

What Are the Differences Between Pocket Doors and Barn Doors?

Both pocket doors and barn doors are efficient in saving space and come in all types of designs and styles. A pro is that they don't swing out but serve as a solution to bathrooms, closets with limited access, or other areas requiring easy access.

Pocket Door vs. Barn Door Functionality

You may have seen pocket doors in retro 60s or 70s homes, but they're making a comeback. These doors slide into the wall, and when open, are inconspicuous. The doors also slide between spaces like rooms or hallways, and they're more practical. Meaning, your guests might not be able to tell there's a door when they're open.

Barn doors cover a wall when they're open and slide on tracks. Barn doors also block electrical outlets and switches in the wall when open; for this reason, they should have dedicated walls to slide over.

What Is the Look and Feel of a Pocket vs. a Barn Door?

A barn door can be a rustic or industrial-looking element for the home because they’re available in a variety of materials. It’s all about personal preference. However, the space where your barn door will go should be empty, with no aesthetic or functional elements. 

On the other hand, pocket doors require no exterior side panels, so they are easy to have in a home with little wall space when you want to decorate. Feel free to hang your most beautiful artwork on the walls.

Pocket doors are usually plain on the outside. They look amazing with an interior decor faux vinyl covering or custom-ordered with a design of your choice. You can choose any type to match your style.

Either way, a pocket door will improve your home's overall look and aesthetic. There are a few door materials to choose from, and you are not limited to a number of styles. You can pick a sleek modern one or something much more rustic. You can also find pocket doors made out of aluminum or glass.

Which Is Easier to Install?

Barn doors are much easier to install than pocket doors because they run the track outside the adjacent wall. The labor cost for installation is much lower. Plus, there's no need to tear up walls or refinish after installing. Although the track is more noticeable, it's larger and even more decorative than pocket-door tracks.

“Pocket doors are a great space-saver,” says Bob Tschudi, Angi Expert Review Board member and general contractor in Raleigh, NC. “But they require extensive reconfiguration of the walls on either side of the door, which can be time consuming and expensive.”

Installation Costs of a Barn Door or Pocket Door

The main difference in cost between a pocket door and a barn door is the installation. Pocket doors are more expensive to install because they usually require construction to a home's structure.

Both doors have a nominal cost of $400 for an average 30-inch solid wood door. However, the installation cost of a new barn door is anywhere from $100 to $300 per existing wall.

The cost of installing pocket doors for new construction ranges from $100 to $500. For installation in an existing wall, it can go anywhere from $1,000 to $2,500.

Pocket doors typically cost between $500 to $1,200 installed by a professional. Comparatively, barn door installations range from $500 to $2,900 and vary depending on the material used.

Should You Hire a Professional to Install Barn Doors or Pocket Doors?

Barn door installation and pocket door installation is more doable with a professional. They'll configure walls and install a quality track. Pro tip: Always compare quotes when looking for a local door installation professional to install either type of door.

Which Door Is a Better Solution: Barn Door or Pocket Door?

Pocket doors and barn doors both save space when they are not in use. They work best in areas where the door doesn't swing back and forth, like closets and bathrooms.

For space and construction, a pocket door will let you house shelves and wall decor. A barn door would get in the way.

Which Door Provides More Privacy?

Barn doors and pocket doors can provide some privacy, but they are not suitable for blocking sound or light. Most pocket doors slide smoothly and fit the doorway, but a tight seal is not something you will get. 

“We recently installed a barn door for a bathroom in a master suite bedroom,” Tschudi says. “While it was a dramatic look, there was enough of a gap to make the bathroom not soundproof, which doesn’t appeal to some clients.”

Barn doors have a track on the outside, making them hang with space between the doorway wall and the door itself. But you can always buy a door that has a locking mechanism to help with privacy.

Which Door Is Easier to Maintain?

Whether you opt for barn or pocket doors, both types require the same kind of maintenance. Lightly oiling the track after cleaning will keep it in a good state for long periods. Also, if you notice that the track is sagging, you must rehang the doors to get them back into their original position.

Another benefit of barn doors is visible racks and rollers—they require less maintenance and are easier to clean. Due to how a pocket door is hidden in a wall, it can be more challenging and time-consuming to clean.

Luxury bathroom with sliding pocket doors
Anton_Sokolov/iStock/Getty Images Plus via Getty Images

Which Door Is More Durable?

Pocket doors can have wear and tear with how they move on a track. The more expensive the tracks, the less likely there will be the problems associated with the more affordable versions.

Both pocket doors and barn doors can start getting squeaky, become hard to move, get off their track, or hang out. Even though they have a track visible and more prominent, barn doors come with fewer problems than pocket doors. This is due to their design outside the wall, rather than the interior, which is hard to reach.

What Can You Use Instead of a Barn Door?

Here's an idea if you love pocket doors but prefer the barn door style: a pocket door that looks like a barn door. You might prefer pocket doors but still desire the rustic aesthetic of a barn door. You can simply choose a function pocket door with the same style as a barn door. There are many options available on the market to fit the look you want to achieve.

Pocket Door and Barn Door Alternatives

Believe it or not, there are some stylish and space-saving alternatives to the pocket door. Many of the options below are affordable and do not require you to make changes to your walls.

Bi-Fold Doors

Bi-fold doors are making a comeback as they now come in modern styles. They offer a convenient alternative when you install them in specific spaces. This type of door works well in spaces where standard swinging doors can't open. These doors help solve space problems. You won't have the door swing clearance between separate rooms to worry about.

Accordion Door Dividers

A fresh look for a tired old standby, modern accordion doors are full of revitalizing styles and colors. They combine the practicality of accordion-style doorways with elegance if you go for a French door look without wasting space. The glass panes let light inside the house, and when opened up, they take up little space.

Sliding Glass Doors

Sliding glass doors are convenient for both the interior and exterior of a home, and they add an air of luxury to any room. Many times, they come in frosted options, which maintain some privacy while still expanding the space.

Mirrored Doors

One option for making a smaller room feel larger is to use mirrored doors. These types of doors reflect light around the room, giving it an illusion that it's brighter and more spacious.

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