How to Soundproof a Pocket Door for Noise Insulation
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Doors are often the biggest culprits when it comes to letting in unwanted sounds to a room or house.
However, most homeowners don't realize this and end up leaving them out of their soundproofing projects.
Unwanted sound, however small it is, could be a significant distraction. It is even worse when you are in the comfort of your home but cannot get any peace.
There are several ways to soundproof a regular door, but to effectively soundproof a pocket door, we need to understand how it works.
So, if you have been looking to block unnecessary noise coming through your pocket door, this guide should give you all the tips you need.
What Are Insulated Pocket Doors?
Pocket doors are sliding doors that, when fully open, slip into a pocket that is fitted within the adjacent wall cavity wholly hidden from view.
They are usually top hung and slide along a track mounted inside the wall. These doors are superb space savers because they don't open into a room and are prevalent in small homes, apartments and studio flats.
Structurally you can already tell that there are ways a pocket door is susceptible to sound leaks and even sound production!
Unlike regular doors, once a pocket door is installed, it isn't easy to uninstall, making it a bit more challenging to fix.
Here are some reasons why a pocket door is more susceptible to sound pollution.
Pocket doors do not sit and seal as tightly as conventional doors. Therefore, they might not effectively prevent noise from traveling from one room to another.
Pocket doors roll on the track for you to open or close them. No matter how carefully you try to push the door, it is bound to make some noise as it moves
Typically, pocket doors are 32" and need an adjacent wall opening that twice as wide as the door itself. Not only does this leave the wall flimsy and sometimes wobbly but also leaves a lot of air space that acts as a medium for sound to travel.
Pocket doors are notoriously temperamental. They're known to fall off their tracks, stick or move with difficulty, and screech when rolled which is bound to make a lot of noise
The structure of pocket doors makes them a bit harder to work on as your DIY projects than conventional doors.
However, that doesn't mean that it is an impossible task, and I'm here to show you how.
Choosing Appropriate Soundproofing Material
When soundproofing, there are some basic principles you need to understand before you purchase materials.
All types of door DIY soundproofing projects only require you to know two of these principles:
Dense material is more efficient at blocking noise than a lighter one. Therefore, your pocket door is probably letting sound in because its density isn't thick enough.
Any air gaps allow sound to travel, so the bigger the holes, the more the sound travels.
Well, let's just say pocket doors have a lot of air spaces, especially in their adjacent walls. Given that even the smallest cracks and gaps allow sound to travel, you have your work cut out to block these spaces.
Now that you know what and where the sound is likely leaking from, you can better understand what materials will work best for you.
Some materials available to soundproof a door are:
Mass Loaded Vinyl is a unique soundproofing material that is thin and flexible. It is also referred to as "Limp Mass Barrier," and its primary purpose is to act as a sound barrier.
It is designed as a very dense but flexible material that fits a variety of soundproofing jobs.
Vinyl is the material that makes it flexible, while Barium Sulphate or Calcium Carbonate are the compounds that make it highly dense.
What makes this such an excellent choice for your soundproofing is the fact that MLV is a double threat that adds mass to your pocket door.
MLV can not only block sound from being transmitted into your room but also prevent noise from leaking out.
Furthermore, its flexible nature means you can bend it and install it in whatever manner you wish. This makes it very convenient for pocket doors as they vary in sizes and designs.
If you're concerned about how safe the material is, then you don't need to worry. As long as it used safely, MLV is entirely secure.
Barium sulfate is safe in its inert form, unlike elemental barium, which is toxic at high levels.
The material is also designed to withstand higher temperatures making it somewhat fireproof.
So, we've covered its functionality, the next question in your mind is probably how good it looks.
MLV is available in stores in two colors; gray and black. If these colors don't work for you, you'll be happy to know that MLV is paint-friendly.
Generally, MLV is either installed directly to the surface or sandwiched between other materials.
Green glue soundproofing material is a viscoelastic damping compound that is used between layers of materials to dampen sound vibrations drastically.
By damping sound, green glue reduces noises and eliminates any sound leaks from the room. Since it can go between any two materials, it is used for a variety of projects.
The compound is designed to tackle all types of sound frequency. It can work for both interior pocket doors and exterior doors.
Its efficiency comes in when it quickly fills in every single crack and air space exposed by your pocket door. As a sealant, green glue is used to cover corners and provide complete coverage.
A big sell for this compound is that it is very affordable and you can purchase it on a budget. It is easy to use and comes with instructions that make your DIY project that much easier.
Furthermore, this sealant is entirely water-based, which makes it non-toxic and non-carcinogenic.
The material has a mild odor that's similar to other latex products but isn't harmful in the least.
Homasote is a material made from recycled paper that is compressed under high pressure and held together with adhesive.
The cellulose-based fiber wallboard is similar in composition to paper mâché and is designed for insulation projects. It looks like plyboard but is a lot lighter and great at soundproofing.
The material is easy to work with, cut, and form into shapes during your installation. It's technically a product from wood. However, it is made resistant to termites, rot, and fungi. Beware of the termites, however, because for them, nothing is impenetrable no matter how hard of a material. Subterranean termites burrow behind the stucco and crawl through tiny cracks in the cement, and then they burrow through limestone mortar. The best route to take in termite case is a good exterminator.
Resilient channel is a holed thin metal channel that is designed to improve sound insulation. The channel effectively isolates a surface, which leads to the weakening of sound waves.
Although commonly used to reduce sound vibrations, it can also aid in sound reduction.
How to Soundproof Pocket Doors
There are a variety of ways to soundproof your pocket door.
These methods are directed at particular features of the door, whether its air spaces or material density. Here are some factors you should consider before picking a plan:
The type of noise you are dealing with
There are two common types of noise you can come across; structural and airborne noise.
Structural noise is also known as vibrations. This is usually dealt with by thickening doors and adding mass that would dampen noise.
Airborne sound is the type that passes through the air, and therefore you're targeting the air gaps around the door.
The levels of noise
The amount of noise you're planning on dampening determines the effectiveness of a soundproofing technique.
The higher the noise levels, the stronger the material and technique it requires to dampen it.
Soundproofing materials come in a range of prices, some heftier than others. Your budget might limit what you can and can't do to soundproof your door.
The different types of soundproof materials also come with varying durability. Some are permanent measures that last longer than their temporary counterparts.
It is up to you to figure out just how long you need the dampening to last.
Method 1: Reinforcing the Door Panel
1. Applying soundproof material
When considering the first principle of soundproofing, your pocket door is probably letting sound leak because it isn't dense enough.
By applying soundproofing material to your door, you're subsequently increasing its density. This is where MLV comes in.
Unlike ordinary doors, we cannot just stick any thick MLV we find and be done.
When thickening pocket door panels, you have to stick to MLV that is thin enough to fit into the pocket wall when the door is open.
At the same time, the MLV must be dense enough to help in soundproofing your room ultimately. It's a good thing MLV scores high on STC.
The type of MLV you pick must also easily slide along the floor when you open and close the door.
As luck would have it, MLV comes in a variety of material combinations that give you plenty of options.
Once you have the right thickness and size for your door, attach the Vinyl to the door using a strong adhesive and let dry.
Another nifty trick is using soundproof paint on your door.
This type of paint is available in any hardware store and contain polymers that transform sound to heat energy.
It works well with rooms experiencing medium to high levels of noise.
2. Get a door with a high STC rating
Another option when reinforcing a door is just to get a new one. This option is best when you're newly installing a pocket door, or your current one is too damaged to sustain effective soundproofing.
Numerous choices of good quality pocket doors that are well soundproofed are available in the market.
Modern pocket doors come in different grades and frame ratings.
This way, you don't have to stress about how best to soundproof as its already done for you. You can even work on the air gaps and cracks while you're installing for maximum sound cancellation.
Method 2: Sealing Gaps
In this method, we look at how you can take care of those pesky cracks and sound spaces that are leaking in sound.
However, some of these cracks are probably hard to spot, so before you start your project, you need to figure out what you're working on.
Follow the following steps to spot cracks and airspaces on your pocket door. This experiment is a two-person job.
Close the door and turn off the lights on both sides of the door
Get your partner to shine a flashlight around the edges of the door with the door between you.
Note all the areas the light passes through, with the larger spaces taking priority.
Proceed to fill the gaps
You can confidently proceed to soundproof when you've noted all the cracks and air gaps around the door.
Green glue, acoustical caulk, and soundproof rubber are all excellent soundproofing materials for this job.
Whichever material you use depends on the size of the gap between the door and frame. You can use a caulk gun to squeeze the caulk into the holes carefully. Just be warned that it might get a little messy.
You can purchase soundproof rubber and line the gaps between the door and frame for a quicker job. It is less messy than the other two options but is trickier to work around the corners.
You can use green glue to fill in the holes or whichever small gaps exist. This will create a better seal.
Lastly, we can't forget to plug the holes on the adjacent wall that the door slides in. Here you can use a weatherstripping brush tape along the area inside the pocket where the door slides out.
If you wish for something more permanent than weatherstripping, then you should consider getting door gaskets.
Door gaskets are made of flexible, long-lasting soundproof material.
They seal the spaces between the frame and door while easily staying durable. Their only downside is they are higher on pricing than most gap sealers in the market.
Method 3: Hanging Soundproof Materials
You've probably heard of soundproof curtains, and if not, then you're just about to.
Soundproof curtains are made of thick and dense material that doesn't allow sound to pass through them. They are easy to use and hang like ordinary curtains.
They also come in different styles and designs to fit the aesthetics of your home.
Another material you can hang on your door is soundproof blankets.
Yes, you heard that right. You can hang these special blankets on your door just like you would a curtain.
Some people prefer tacking these blankets to the door rather than hanging them, which still works. When nailed to the door, they increase the thickness of the panel and also block all airspaces.
Method 4: Sealing the Bottom
The earlier mentioned methods of sealing the space between the frame and door might not particularly work on the bottom of the door.
This area of the door likely has a significant gap between the panel and the floor. As we've learned, gaps and airspaces are the enemies of soundproofing.
This is why advanced technology and lots of smart people did us a favor by inventing automatic door bottoms.
This soundproof material is used primarily to fill gaps at the bottom of your pocket door. As the name suggests, this automatic door bottom acts on an automated system.
It fits well at the bottom of your door during installation. This durable soundproof material works by dropping a seal to the flow when the door is closed and raises the seal when you open the door.
Challenges You Will likely Face
The first challenge will likely be which of the methods suggested are the best choice. The temperament of your pocket door might not favor specific soundproofing techniques.
Secondly, effective soundproofing sometimes needs the collaboration of different materials.
The problem with pocket doors is that the more elements you use, the higher the possibility that it might jam on the tracks.
Lastly, this challenge is tied to the previous one. Requiring and purchasing different types of soundproofing material might put a strain on your pocket.
Despite these challenges, soundproofing your pocket door comes with some benefits. These include:
Pocket doors are space-conscious and give you more room to work with, especially in small quarters.
These doors are convenient when separating spaces and rooms to serve different functions.
They come in a variety of stylish designs and improve the aesthetics of your room.
They provide privacy and silence when well soundproofed.
Conclusion: On Insulated Pocket Doors
Even with their temperament, we can all agree that pocket doors are beneficial commodities.
Soundproofing them effectively just makes them that much better. It might take time, effort, some creative maneuvering, and a chunk of change, but at the end of the day, the silence is worth it.
Most DIY projects require almost the same attention anyway, so what's one more?