I love pocket doors because each one will save you the 10 square feet of floor space needed to open a swing door. (Maybe more if you have to get your belly out of the way–like I do.) They save you wall space needed for a swing door to open against. They are particularly useful when some architect designs the 4′ x 4′ bathroom you have to back into and stand on the toilet to close the door.
Pocket doors have been, or are, used for every room in the house. They come in many different configurations. Some are just a sheet of plywood. Some are fancy glass doors. Or double doors–with, or without glass. A lot of them are hollow-core interior door slabs. And some of them are solid-core doors.
But regardless of style and design, they all have one problem in common; they are very difficult to soundproof. Hopefully, you will find some of the following suggestions useful. And they will solve some of your soundproofing problems.
Option # 1 – Hanging Solutions
Blankets are a quick and relatively inexpensive answer. They can usually be put up fast; from quick and dirty with nails or screws, to a curtain rod and grommeted blanket that acts like a curtain. Although a few blankets provide different colors–some of them quite vile in my opinion–generally they follow Henry Ford’s quote: “Any customer can have a car painted any color he wants, so long as it is black.” Black is not usually high on the décor or designer list. (Unless, of course, you are blessed with a teenager in the house. I once built a bonus bedroom over a garage for someone’s teenage daughter. Painted the whole thing–and I mean everything–black. My Lord!)
Soundproof curtains are also a fairly quick, and inexpensive, answer. Although any heavy curtain, or drape, will cut down the noise; soundproof curtains are heavier and contain sound abatement materials–such as mineral wool, cotton, fiberglass, or polyester–not found in regular curtains. They are also generally available in many colors.
When you look for soundproof blankets, you will almost invariably find moving or packing blankets. For very good reasons. They are heavy. They absorb sound. They are inexpensive. And a few creative manufacturers have gone to the effort to produce acoustical blankets as part of their regular product line. (Find more by going to our article Soundproof Blankets for Windows.) Some blankets come with grommets on at least one side so they are relatively simple to hang from hooks. Then, if you install a curtain holdback on the pocket side of the door, you are in business.
Another option is to hang them from a curtain rod; giving you the option of sliding them out of the way. (Note: You may want to purchase a grommet kit if your choice of blanket does not have any, or if you want to add more.) Use Velcro on each side to ensure a tight seal when the blanket is across the opening. It is also very important that the blanket touches the floor to soundproof that gawdawful gap below the door.
1) Audimute Absorption Sheets
- Manufactured by Audimute Soundproofing. One of the best all-round choices for soundproofing blankets. The company was started by a musician frustrated by not being able to find decent soundproofing products.
- Long, but a little narrow (54″ x 95″) weighs approximately 10 lb.
- Not machine washable
- 0.85 Noise Reduction Coefficient (NRC) which means that it theoretically absorbs 85% of the sound that gets to it. (For more on NRC please see this Wikipedia article.)
- Recycled cotton and cellulose filling
- Six colors – bone, steel, white, black, green screen, navy blue
- Three grommets at top, and three grommets at bottom (54″ sides)
2) US Cargo Control Large Sound Blankets
- Manufactured by US Cargo Control
- Very large, heavy blanket (80″ x 96″) Suitable for double pocket doors although you might give some consideration to cutting it in half (and sewing the cut edges to keep the filling inside). Then you can use curtain holdbacks on each side, or slide them open in both directions if they are hung from a rod.
- Machine washable – you will need a big machine
- Polyester exterior/cotton filling
- Grommets on one side only
- Fire retardant may off-gas for quite some time, although washing before use might eliminate the problem
3) Haul Master
- Manufactured by Harbor Freight Tools
- Two sizes that will work for doors (40″ x 72″ blue and 72″ x 80″ grey)
- Very inexpensive
- Polyester filling
- No grommets
4) Sure-Max Moving and Packing Blankets
- Manufactured by Sure-Max Industries
- Large, heavy blanket (72″ x 80″) weighing 6.25 pounds
- Machine washable
- Polyester exterior/virgin cotton filling
- One side green/one side blue, or black/black
- No grommets
Soundproof curtains are an improvement over most blankets. They are usually made with soundproofing as the main goal. Most of them also have additional advantages such as serving as black-out panels and adding insulation value to the door (which is probably more important if you are using it on an exterior door). Most curtains come with grommets, straps, or a pocket for hanging.
Most curtains can be ordered long enough to touch the floor which eliminates the gap at the bottom. You can add Velcro or double-sided tape to the sides so they can be sealed. One of the biggest draw-backs of most curtains is that they are pleated when closed; allowing sound to travel out of the top. Because noise will travel like water, you could have 15% – 20% of incoming or outgoing sound getting through that area.
Curtains by Nicetown
- Heavy noise reducing blackout curtains available in many sizes (double 42″ wide panels should cover double pocket doors)
- Machine washable
- Micro fiber weave reduces noise transfer
- Many colors available
- Large grommets (Curtain rod purchased separately)
Roll Up Curtains by Residential Acoustics.
- AcoustiDoor is a heavy (average weight 10 – 15 pounds) sound-blocking curtain. Designed to block up to 30 decibels (approximately 87% of sound). It is hung from the wall or ceiling above the door and can be raised or lowered with a built-in strap arrangement
- 15 panel colors
- Grommets at the top. (Hooks can be added to the order.)
- Sewn-in raise and lower straps
- Choice of Velcro or magnetic fasteners on sides
- Standard sizes available or will customize
Option # 2 – Soundproof the Door You Have
So a blanket, or curtain will not work–for whatever reason. You still need to soundproof the existing unit. Or you are going to use curtains, but still want to get the best noise solution possible by improving the existing unit. Here are a few suggestions to help you accomplish your goals.
Change the Door Slab
This may not be as simple as it first looks. You are going to want to use a solid wood slab or a solid core slab. Both of these are probably way heavier than the existing unit. (If the one you have is solid there is no need to change it.) The problem is going to be the pocket door frame and track. If it is not rated at 150 lb. or better (like the Johnson Hardware Pocket Door Frame), the hardware could have trouble carrying your new slab. (Note: If it looks wimpy; it probably is wimpy.) If this is the case, and you are determined to change the slab, you probably will have to rip the wall out to change the pocket door frame.
If you are changing the slab, upgrade to a 1 3/4″ thick unit. The extra mass will provide more soundproof value. (Note: Before buying the new unit, make absolutely certain it will retract through the frame opening.) New latches or handles may also be necessary for a thicker door.
Soundproof the Existing Door Slab
If you do not want to change the slab, you will need to glue, or otherwise attach soundproofing material to it. What you can use will be determined by the available space in the pocket door frame. Adding drywall for the mass is great, but if the door will not open because it no longer fits, you have wasted time and money. The following products are fairly thin but will improve the quiet of your room.
- Mass Loaded Vinyl (MLV) has been a soundproofing ‘go to’ for years. Although it is usually meant to be covered with another product, it can be glued to a flush (smooth) door slab and painted, or covered with some kind of thin designer fabric for a better look. Weighs 1 pound per square foot, is only 1/8″ thick, but provides an Sound Transmission Class (STC) rating of 27.
- Soundproof Wallpaper like Rhino Acoustic Absorption Panels are only about 3/8″ thick. If there is enough room for the door to slide back into the pocket when they are glued onto the slab, they are a very good choice. They have a Noise Reduction Coefficient (NRC) of 0.95–meaning they absorb 95% of the noise–according to lab tests. (Although I am not sure I would bet the farm on that.) These polyester panels can be installed with 3M double sided tape, and are available in 3 colors–grey, black, and white. (Not very exciting choices, but you are looking for soundproofing.)
- Automotive Sound Deadener like Noico 80 mil Sound Deadening Mat is a thin material weighing 0.7 pounds per square foot. (80 mil is 80/1000 of an inch.) Unlike the first 2 options, this product is self-adhesive. Which is good for installation but makes it difficult to leave long enough to touch the floor because it will stick. It also has a shiny aluminum finish which can be covered with fabric for looks.
Fill the Gaps
And there are lots of them on your average pocket door. And they are difficult to soundproof adequately. Airborne Noise will travel through any gap–under the door, over the door, and around the door slab. Following you will find some relatively inexpensive suggestions.
- Quick, Easy, and Inexpensive. Get a thick throw-rug, or even a carpet remnant. Make sure it is thick enough that the door bottom runs through the fibers. Use double-sided tape to hold it in place. (Note: Lift your feet to avoid tripping.)
- Even Easier. Get one (or two, if a double door) of those draft-stopper snakes. Throw it in front of the door after it is closed. Hang it out of the way when open. Great for soundproofing that bottom gap.
- Also Easy. But not as effective, and may not fit into the pocket, is the Frost King Brush Door Sweep. It will slide easily on the floor, but it does not soundproof as well as the previous options.
- Automatic Door Sweep. These attach to the door, and when adjusted properly, snap down to touch the floor when you close the door. (Some are made to be routered into the bottom of the door.) These are also pretty thick (over 1/2″) so fitting into the pocket could be a problem.
Note: I am not a big fan of these. If you are attaching it to a hollow core door, you are just screwing it into 1/8″ paneling. What could go wrong? And routering one into the bottom of a door is starting to get way too complicated. If the floor is uneven, or if the door is not plumb (because it is usually adjusted to fit tight to the strike jamb–which also may not be plumb), it may not do the job you are hoping for.
- Rubber or Neoprene Door Sweeps. These also attach to the outside of the door, so there must be enough room for the door to slide back into the pocket. The door may become more difficult to operate because these must be touching the floor to stop the noise. (See ‘Note’ above for some other potential issues.)
Door Strike Side
- The most efficient method of sealing this side of the door is to create a pocket on the jamb for the door to slide into. This is relatively easy to accomplish by closing and locking the door in place, then attaching oak door stop, or small oak crown molding, to the jamb on each side of the slab. Leave about 1/4″ gap between slab and molding, then install pile door weatherstrip on each piece of molding facing the door. (Note: Do not use rubber or neoprene weatherstrip. Just makes opening and closing harder.)
If you have a double door, you can use the same pocket system by attaching your door stop to both sides of one door in such a way that it will create a pocket that overlaps the other when closed. Then install a weatherstrip on the edge of the door inside the pocket you have created.
Door Top and Pocket Side
- One option I have found for the door top and pocket side is manufactured by K. N. Crowder Manufacturing. It will take a little creativity to frame the top down far enough to get past the top of the door slab but then you can install their part # W-23 (go to their website and search ‘Sound Sealing Pocket Doors’. They have a cross section showing how to install it.) Because it is a nylon brush, it is not the best soundproof material available, but it is way better than nothing, and will allow the door to slide easily. Another option is the Frost King Brush Door sweep. Because it is for the bottom of the door you will have to buy more than one–especially if you are doing both sides of the door.
On the pocket side attach the brushes to the framing so they touch the door slab. There should be enough pressure that they seal, but not so much that the door is difficult to operate.
Option # 3 – Replace the Whole Unit
Install a Swing Door
If all else fails, yank the thing out of there and install a completely new solid core swing door. Of course, this also might defeat one of the main purposes of having a pocket door in the first place–space for the swing door to operate. If you choose this option, make sure you get a solid wood or solid core door–then soundproof it properly. For more details about soundproofing a swing door and replacing a pocket door, please see our article How to Soundproof a Bathroom Door.
All of the size measurements in this article are expressed as width first x height (length) second. Because I am an old window (the type with glass) guy. If I wrote it any other way the Window Fairy would quite likely swing by one evening and smite me.