When it comes to soundproofing your practice space, every crack and seam must be taken into consideration. Doors are no exception. (In fact, if you don’t address the doors, your soundproofing efforts might be rendered completely ineffective!)
Sliding doors, in particular, may seem to present an impossible challenge. But, fret not, thoughtful musos! There are actually plenty of simple, affordable, and effective ways to minimize sound transmission through every manner of these sliding sound sieves.
But first, a semantic distinction…
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Soundproofing vs. Acoustic Treatment
Spoiler alert: you can’t soundproof a door. You can, however, apply acoustic treatment, which is what this guide will cover.
Proper soundproofing can really only be done to an entire room. It is most effective when done at the construction level and usually involves decoupled walls, floating floors, in addition to layers upon layers of the types of acoustic treatments we’ll discuss here to absorb, dampen or otherwise improve sound within the space.
We tend to use the word “soundproof” in any instance where we want to minimize sound transmission. But you can’t completely proof just one part of a space against sound. Instead, we use acoustic treatments to achieve our goals.
A nit-picky distinction, to be sure; but if treating your sliding doors are just a part of a larger acoustic project in your home, knowing the difference between soundproofing and treating may be helpful in your journey.
Your Door-to-Door Guide
Sound, like light or water, is a quite mischievous little force and it will use any void at all to seep through and pursue its travels. Which is why treating doors can seem so formidable.
In this guide, we’ll address how to “soundproof” sliding glass doors (both exterior and interior), pocket doors, and barn doors. Specifically, we’ll cover three major points of weakness in all of these types of doors: cracks, gaps, and density.
Sliding Glass Doors
Sliding glass doors feature large frames that can fail over time, weatherstripping and gaskets that take a lot of abuse, and they’re made of glass which is notoriously bad at resisting sound.
First, it is imperative that you identify and fix any cracks as your first line of defense. You should be able to see or feel any spaces that may have developed between the wall and the door frame.
You can even run your hand along the perimeter to feel for air flow or discrepancies in air temperature. Because we’re addressing sound specifically, use a special acoustic caulk such as Green Glue to seal these back up.
Second, check the condition of any weatherstripping or gaskets. If the weatherstripping looks dry, cracked, or is separating from the surface, it is definitely time to replace it. All it typically takes is some new weatherstripping, a utility knife and a little patience.
As a bonus, your newly sealed frame and fresh weatherstripping will keep bugs out and your desired interior temperature in!
Next, it’s time to add some kind of density or additional layer to the door. Seeing as the whole point of sliding glass doors is to enjoy the view on the other side, it’s not likely you want to permanently attach acoustic treatments such as Mass Loaded Vinyl or foam tiles. (I’m not sure you could if you wanted to; many of these are simply too thick!)
You’re looking for a treatment that can be removed easily to reveal the view when you want it.
In fact, you’ve likely already got some stylish curtains mounted over the door. Thankfully, soundproof drapes exist, and they come in a variety of colors and patterns so that you don’t have to compromise style for function.
Additionally, curtains like these are also often rated as black-out curtains, so you’re not only improving your sound privacy but visual privacy as well.
Just be sure to take precise measurements before you purchase. Sound finds every gap, so you want your drapes to reach from above the top of the door all the way down to the floor.
A slightly heavier-duty version of this treatment is soundproof blankets and sheets.
Sadly, neither of these options come in a wide variety of colors and patterns. In fact, soundproof blankets look strikingly similar to moving blankets. But they will do the job better than soundproof curtains. And if you’re intentionally going for that “recording studio” aesthetic in your own home, these will definitely fit the bill.
Soundproof sheets are a bit sleeker and modern-looking — and they have the price tag to prove it.
Both of these can be purchased with grommets already installed so you can hang them about as easily as you would standard drapes. Again, keep those measurements handy; you may have to mix and match to get the proper coverage.
The ultimate way to acoustically treat a sliding glass door is to replace it with a double or triple-paned glass door. Multi-paned glass doors have air between the panes which serves to increase sound absorption.
While it’s certainly an expensive choice, it is the most effective. Plus, you’ll enjoy superior insulation and a decrease in window condensation!
Pocket doors are interior doors that seemingly disappear by sliding into the wall. They may separate two rooms or open into a closet. They may have one door or two, and they may be constructed of wood or glass. Not only do they save space where a traditional door might be clunky, they have a desirable minimalist and uncluttered look.
And, they allow for a lot of sound transmission.
Once again, the first step to treat this type of door is to find and seal any cracks around the frame using Green Glue or similar acoustic caulk.
Next, you’ll want to address any gaps around the door. The most likely culprit will be the space between the bottom of the door and the floor. In this instance, a great solution is a door sweep. Depending on the type of flooring you have or the size of the gap, you can choose from plastic, tube style, or brush.
The most important step in selecting an appropriate sweep is measuring the space in between the door and the pocket wall.
You want to select a sweep that isn’t so thick that it interferes with the movement and function of the door. For example, tube sweeps may be too thick depending on the style of pocket door you have.
After you’ve sealed up the seams, you can address how to add density.
As with the glass sliding doors, you can certainly elect to mount sound deadening curtains over your pocket doors. As interior pocket doors are often wood construction (not glass), you’ve actually got a few extra options here.
The soundproof blankets we mounted over the sliding glass doors can actually be applied directly to your pocket door. Try velcro or Command Strips to minimize damage to the door.
Pocket doors are also a great candidate for Mass Loaded Vinyl (MLV). MLV is a flexible yet heavy and super dense sheet material that is a go-to solution for most soundproofing professionals.
It is often placed in between walls during the soundproofing process for a room or studio; but you can simply attach it directly to your door using Green Glue or a similar adhesive.
The old adage “measure twice, cut once” rings very true here. You’ll need to measure the MLV very precisely as any overage will most definitely affect the function of the door.
Thankfully, MLV is pretty thin, so your door should still slide nicely into its pocket. Still, it’s a good idea to ensure you have the space for it. MLV is not exactly cheap.
If MLV isn’t your style (or in your budget), you can certainly explore the world of acoustic foam tiles. Just keep in mind that they are often thicker than soundproof blankets or MLV and may not be suitable for your particular sliding pocket door.
Sliding Barn Doors
These popular and chic sliding doors are actually some of the easiest to treat. Without pockets or intensive sliding hardware, your possibilities are almost endless. However, some of the gaps around sliding barn doors are utterly massive, in which case you may have to get a bit creative!
Begin, again, by sealing up any cracks or gaps using caulk, door sweeps or other weatherstripping-type material where applicable.
In this instance, brush weatherstripping or sweeps are a popular and effective solution, especially on the bottom of the door where other materials might damage the floor after regular horizontal movement.
To this end, oversized barn doors are preferable to their smaller counterparts because they completely cover the doorway. You may still need to address gapping in between the surfaces of the door and wall; but oversize doors eliminate at least one opportunity for sound to travel.
As with pocket doors, you can then attach soundproof blankets or MLV directly to the door. Acoustic tiles are a good candidate for barn doors as the door doesn’t need to fit inside a pocket. They can also have that hip studio aesthetic!
Just keep in mind that acoustic tiles are designed to absorb sound and reverberations. This sounds good in theory when it comes to soundproofing. But in practice, absorption is better at shaping the sound within a room, not so much proofing against transmission between rooms.
Acoustic tiles will certainly help; but you’ll get much better “soundproofing” results from applying something more dense like the blankets or MLV which are better at blocking sound.
To that end, an extra choice you have with barn doors is adding an extra layer of wood. Paint or stain it for ultimate style flexibility.
Similarly, if it’s within your budget and ability, choosing a solid-core door over a hollow-core door will significantly reduce sound transmission.
In the end, there are just a couple core concepts that guide any successful sliding door soundproofing project:
- Seal cracks. Acoustic caulk like Green Glue is great for this and is designed to dampen sound.
- Close gaps. Look to weatherstripping and door sweeps to eliminate spaces where sound can seep through. Even if your door already has weatherstripping, replacing degraded material is worth the time and expense as it can have a major impact on your efforts. Some people even find that performing only these first two steps achieve the results they want.
- Add density. Depending on the type of sliding door you’re treating, you can choose from soundproof curtains, soundproof blankets and sheets, MLV, acoustic tiles, and adding an extra layer of wood. Ideally, replace sliding glass doors with double-paned glass, and ensure that interior doors are solid-core vs. hollow-core.
Ultimately, there’s no reason to let a door keep you from mastering your craft. Follow these simple guidelines to keep playing without waking the baby or disturbing the neighbors!