Can you soundproof pocket doors? Yes, we can certainly reduce the sounds going through the door, quickly and easily. However, we can’t completely soundproof a door, as we’ll explain below. In general, pocket doors do not provide very good sound insulation.
Making the problem worse, the pocket door itself, if not installed correctly, produces noise itself, when sliding, and even when closed. Pocket doors travel in a track, on wheels, that may squeak. They also often rattle in the track, due to their being slight gaps between the wheels and the track, allowing too much movement.
Unlike regular doors, pocket doors are located in between walls. This means that once the pocket door is installed, you can’t readily add materials to the door panel, because the thickness of the panels may prevent the door from sliding into the pocket. So, just adding acoustic tiles or panels won’t work here.
Secondly, some pocket doors contain glass window panes, which transmit sound very well, unfortunately. You probably don’t want to block the windows all the time, so this limits the soundproofing methods and acoustic materials you can use. Of course, if creating a soundproof environment is more important to you than being able to see through the door, replacing the glass paned door with a solid door will help a lot with the sound insulation.
Whether your pocket door is solid or paned, you’ll still need to deal with leakage around the edges – even more so than with a regular hinged door.
Note that, in the photo above, this is not actually a true pocket door. Rather, it’s a sliding barn door. We’ll only be talking about the pocket door here. We’ll talk about a sliding barn door another time. (Actually, getting sound insulation in a barn door is even more complicated, since the door generally sits a bit away from the wall.)
Why are Pocket Doors Noisy?
The main reason why pocket doors produce noise is that they are not installed as tightly as regular doors. They are held in place by a track, so move in and out slightly, even when closed. Since they are set slightly inside the walls, there’s a gap on either side of the door, and sound can actually travel around the door itself. In a regular door, there are fewer air gaps when it’s closed.
Since the pocket itself can’t contain support studs, that wall is actually a bit more flexible than the typical wall, so can transmit sound a bit more than the rest of your walls.
Although it is difficult to soundproof a pocket door, this doesn’t mean that it can’t be done. In fact, there are a variety of ways to improve sound insulation. Some are quick and easy, and you can do them yourself. Others are much more extensive (and expensive), and you may need to hire a handyman to tackle them.
The Simplest Way to Soundproof a Pocket Door
First, Soundproof the Bottom of the Door
The most obvious place for air (and sound) to leak around a pocket door, is under the bottom of the door. That (sometimes sizable) gap is a very obvious place for sound to pass through the door.
The most basic solution is to attach a door sweep to the bottom of the door. This is basically a metal and rubber blade that just screws onto the bottom of the door, and usually glides along the floor as the door is opened and closed. It’s easy to install, using just a screwdriver, and blocks out unwanted noises and other sounds well enough, especially if it maintains contact with the floor.
If the door sweep doesn’t contact the floor well enough, you’ll still have air leakage, which will let unwanted noises into the room.
If the door sweep doesn’t form a good enough seal, the next step, which is still very easy and inexpensive, is to apply weather stripping to seal the gap at the bottom of the door. This “D shape” self-adhesive weather stripping provides a nice flat adhesive side, for the best contact with the door bottom. The rounded portion seals the space but doesn’t add too much drag to the door, which would otherwise tend to make sliding the door more difficult, and possibly cause the adhesive to pull away over time. This weather stripping is also very durable, and is very similar to the weather stripping used in sealing car doors, which provide an excellent seal and last for years. Be sure to get the self-adhesive weather stripping – it’s much easier to install!
A word of warning: Before installing the weather stripping, make sure the bottom of the door is very clean – that’s a place where dust and dirt like to gather. If you try to stick adhesive to a dirty door, the adhesive won’t stick well, and as a result, will bunch up under the door, and you’ll need to replace it very soon.
Next, Soundproof Any Glass Panes
Obviously, if your pocket door doesn’t have windows, you would skip this step. But, many pocket doors do have windows, and those windows cause soundproofing problems in at least two ways. First, glass transmits sound very well, as it’s very “acoustically active” as they say. Secondly, if the panes have loosened even a little bit over time, they can rattle due to any vibration, sound, or air movement.
So, we’ll attack these two problems separately.
Quite often, window panes will move slightly, even when new. To fix this, we’ll apply a small amount of acoustical caulk. We use acoustic or soundproofing caulk for two reasons – the caulk actually absorbs sounds, and it stays soft and flexible, so won’t separate over time. (Happy users report using this same acoustic caulk for soundproofing bedroom windows against noise from a nearby very busy road, and call it “a game changer”.)
There’s an additional option, to make the window glass absorb some of the sound. You could add safety window film to each window pane. This self-adhesive film was designed to make windows shatterproof, and to partially block UV rays, but it also dampens sound.
If you decide to use both the acoustical caulk and window film, it’s recommended that you apply the film first, so it lays nice and flat at the edges of the glass.
Now, Soundproof the Perimeter of the Door
The next step in soundproofing a pocket door is to seal the gaps around the edges. This is a bit more of a challenge, since a pocket door does not fit snugly into a door jamb, so leaves gaps all the way around that require sealing. Door gaskets, or door seals, often called weather stripping, are applied around the perimeter of the door frame and header. Weather stripping may sound like a strange term for a door gasket inside the house, but the the same material can be used in both cases.
One easy and effective solution is to install brush weather stripping all along the inside edges of the pocket frame (not on the door itself), where the door slides in. This brush stripping is very similar to the material used in the door sweep, and is very durable and effective.
You can also use a rubber door gasket if necessary, but if it comes too close to the door itself, it can bind, up making the door hard to close. And, if the gap between the gasket and door frame is too wide, of course, you sacrifice some of the acoustic sealing. So, a fabric material works best in place of a rubber gasket in this case.
As with anything you want to stick something to, make sure the pocket frame is clean, so the weather stripping adheres well.
Another Quick and Effective Way to Soundproof a Pocket Door
Another way to greatly improve the soundproofing of the entire door at once is to hang a sound absorbing curtain over the door. These provide excellent sound deadening, and can easily be moved aside to enter and exit the room. Not only do they block sound from coming into the room through the door, but they absorb lots of the sounds inside the room that would normally be bouncing around – drastically improving the room’s acoustics. These noise-reducing curtains come in a wide range of colors as well.
Note: You’ll still want to seal the bottom of the door, and the window panes, even when using sound absorbing curtains, to get the best acoustics possible.
For extreme cases, such as for sound recording, where you want total silence in the room if possible, you might consider attaching a sound absorbing blanket to the pocket door frame. These heavy blankets are made specifically to improve the acoustics in a room by reducing sound echoes and reverberation.
The sound absorbing blanket can be attached to the wall above the pocket door opening, in a couple of ways. If you use the grommets along the top, it’s fairly easy to attach hooks to the wall, and looks fine.
However, sound can still seep in around the perimeter, obviously reducing its effectiveness, since the blanket won’t completely seal at the edges. One solution to the sound leakage problem is to use velcro. Run one side along the frame of the door opening, and attach the other to the blanket. You may want to sew the velcro to the blanket, though, since the glue side of the velcro doesn’t still to fabric very well.
These steps should be more than good enough for the average person wanting some peace and quiet in their home. They’re probably sufficient for those who need to videoconference from home, or even recording a podcast. However, if you really need superior acoustics, in cases like recording music, you’ll probably need to make more significant changes in order to get really great sound insulation. These will likely involve some level of construction expertise, so you may need to enlist a handyman.
Choosing the Best Soundproofing Materials for Pocket Doors
We’ve talked about how to seal around the door, and what to do about soundproofing any windows glass in the door, but we haven’t mentioned the door itself yet.
As mentioned, the materials you use will determine the overall success of your soundproofing project. Luckily, there are lots of choices when it comes to soundproofing door panels.
1. Soundproof Padding (aka Mass Loaded Vinyl)
Soundproof Padding (also called Mass Loaded Vinyl) is sound absorbing material, that comes in rolls of sheeting, and provides excellent sound absorption, while being very easy to work with. (I mentioned this material in my previous article about soundproofing ceilings in apartments.) This material can be found in various thicknesses, including 1/8 inch thick, so could be attached to the door panels, and still let the door close correctly.
“Mass Loaded Vinyl” sounds technical, doesn’t it? All it means is that the material is made out of vinyl (for flexibility), and has “mass” (weight) added to it, which is what makes it absorb sound so well. It’s very popular acoustic insulation material, with many, many uses.
Since MLV doesn’t have an adhesive on it, you’ll need to find a way to attach it to the door panel. You have options, depending on the appearance and cost you want. You could staple the MLV to the door. Lots of articles recommend using Green Glue to attach MLV to surfaces, but experts warn against that, since MLV can react badly with some glues. (Green Glue’s website specifically advises not to use it directly on MLV.)
A good alternative to stapling is to use Soundsulate Peel & Stick Mass Loaded Vinyl – MLV material with the adhesive already applied – the same sound-absorbing material, less hassle.
An alternative that doesn’t change the appearance of the door is to put the MLV inside the door. You’d need to remove the door, carefully remove one of the door surfaces, put the MLV inside, then put the door back together. Of course, a simpler solution would be to just buy a soundproof door outright and install it. (Read about acoustic doors below,)
A word of warning about Mass Loaded Vinyl for doors, though: since it’s heavy by design, you want to make sure your door is strong enough to support it. If not, you’ll need to buy a stronger door and possibly a stronger track.
2. Green Glue Noiseproofing Compound
Green Glue Noiseproofing Compound is great material that’s used for sound insulation in building construction and renovations. Green Glue is applied just like caulking compound, between layers of materials (usually layers of drywall), where it isolates the sound, and it prevents the sound from passing through a partition. You can use Green Glue as caulking, to seal gaps wherever they are – but, remember, you can’t use it directly on MLV.
3. An Alternative to Brush Weather Stripping – Soundproofing Rubber
Neoprene soundproofing rubber is another great acoustic material commonly used for soundproofing pocket doors. It does an excellent job of sealing the gaps between the door frame and wall. It’s easy to work with, since it’s very flexible and has adhesive already on it. And, it’s very durable – it’s the same rubber weather stripping they use on car doors and hoods, so you know it’s strong.
After installing the rubber strip, examine all the corners. If you find small gaps still there, you can use the Acoustic Caulk to block all those little potential sound leaks.
4. Consider Using Sound Deadening Acoustic Paint
Since a pocket door needs to fit inside its narrow pocket, we’re very limited on the thickness of materials we can stick on the outside of the door. Thick acoustic panels, for instance, won’t work. Another alternative to attaching acoustic panels to the door is to paint the entire door with sound deadening acoustic paint. Acousti-Coat is a thick, soft coating designed to act as a ‘sound sponge’. It can be tinted using universal colorants, to light or medium shades. If a darker color is required it can be painted over but a very cheap flat interior paint must be used. (Using a high quality paint will seal the surface of the ‘sound sponge’ and diminish its dampening abilities.)
Installing a New Soundproof Pocket Door
If you’re building a new home, or adding an addition, you obviously have many more options as to how you can soundproof your pocket door.
1. Use Solid Doors
First of all, solid doors, being more dense, absorb more sound than hollow doors, so provide better sound insulation. Even better, if you can spring for it, is to purchase a specially-built soundproof door. Another factor in favor of solid doors is, if you want to beef up the soundproofing later, you can readily add heavier acoustic materials to the door, without worrying about the door frame being too weak to support it.
2. Use 2 X 6 Walls
If you’re building anew, use 2 x 6 walls. They provide more space inside for soundproofing materials in general, and specifically for the pocket itself.
3. Use High-Quality Hardware
The durability of pocket doors starts with the type of materials being used. To avoid future problems, I always recommend using high-quality hardware. Cheap wheels and/or a flimsy track will give you constant headaches down the road, with the door jamming, coming off track, or just having too much play in it, leading to unnecessary noise.
For instance, instead of buying inexpensive rollers, choose the heavy-duty ball-bearing nylon rollers.
4. Purchase an Acoustic Pocket Door, Specifically for Noise Control
You can actually buy a specially-designed acoustic pocket door, ready to install. Eclisse makes a variety of specialty doors, including an acoustic pocket door, that is very high quality. All of the Eclisse acoustic door components that provide the sound insulation we’re after have been specifically designed to limit unwanted noises.
- Acoustic door panel: the various layers within the door panel are specifically arranged for high sound-proof performance, and are built up to the most effective thickness.
- Acoustic jambs are already milled, for the application of gaskets.
- Gaskets and bumps are activated when the door is closed. They seal the vertical sides of the door hole, preventing sound from passing through.
- Magnets: they provide for perfect closing of the door, keeping it tight against the door post.
- Weatherstrip: activated when the door is closed, they very effectively seal the upper and lower perimeters of the door.
Of course, for a solution like the specially built acoustic door, you’ll very likely need professional installation.
Final Thoughts: Consider Whether a Standard Door May Be Better
Pocket doors are nice when you don’t to have to leave room for a door to swing open. And, they’re nice for when you want the door to remain open most of the time, for aesthetic reasons. However, they present complications when it comes to sound insulation, so you might want to seriously consider the trade-offs, and maybe opt for a regular, swinging door. The area around the door will be much easier to completely seal, and you can add as much thick material to the door that you want.
I hope that this simple article helps you decrease if not totally eliminate the disturbing noise in your house.