Soundproofing Sliding Doors (Dealing with Glass and Pocket Doors)
In all the time I’ve spent advising you on how to go about soundproofing your home, I’ve always said that doors are going to be your biggest hurdle to cross. However, I’ve never covered the full extent of the types of doors that exist. Today my aim is to rectify that by telling you how you can soundproof your sliding doors.
Actually, many homes have at least one sliding door. Of course, one of the most popular types of sliding doors are the glass patio ones. But believe it or not, those aren’t the types of doors you’ll need to worry about when it comes to soundproofing.
Usually, patio doors already come with double or triple glass and weatherstripping tape. Those are the key components you want your exterior glass sliding doors to have. However, if the ones you have do let sound in, don’t worry. I’ve covered some great ways to soundproof sliding glass doors further down in this article.
If you’ve done your research on these models, you must know that there are at least a dozen varieties. Still, I’ve isolated two types to cover today, based on the way they open:
- The sliding barn doors are the ones that move along a railing above the entryway. They usually leave significant gaps all around the sides. So they may be the worst type for soundproofing purposes.
- Then there are pocket sliding doors that slide away into the wall, rather than on top of it. These models are also tricky to soundproof since you can’t make them thicker. Basically, they need to be able to slide inside the wall pocket.
I’ll discuss all of these disadvantages later on. For now — let’s talk about glass doors.
As I’ve said, glass sliding doors are usually reserved for patio exits. Depending on the type of glass door you have, you may experience more or less noise coming through.
For example, PVC sliding doors are more or less a sure thing for your peace of mind. That’s because these models have a complete frame they’re sliding against, complete with internal weatherstripping brushes. In addition to the frame and the seal the weatherstripping features provide, PVC doors often have double or triple glass as well.
However, that’s not the case with all sliding glass doors. Sliding French doors, in particular, don’t typically slide against a great frame. Instead, they slide against railings at the top and the bottom. Some even have gaps in the bottom too.
On top of that, I’ve also seen plenty of exterior glass doors that have regrettably thin glass. Now, I’ve got to say that, if you can, you should just fix your problem by upgrading to a soundproof model. Still, since many people can’t do that, I’ve thought of several soundproofing techniques that can help. So let’s start with the first logical step.
Close the Gaps
Every time I’ve written about soundproofing doors, I’ve always started with this obvious tip. After all, the gaps in the frame and between the frame and the wall are going to be our biggest concern.
First, you’ll need to use weatherstripping tape along the inside of the door. I’ve written a bit more about weatherstripping tape in my article on door sweeps. However, I only mentioned the rubber variety in that one. But seeing as how well weatherstripping brushes work on PVC sliding doors, I thought I should look into those.
Lo and behold, I found something quite similar to rubber weatherstripping tape, complete with a peel and stick adhesive on the back. Rather than rubber, this weatherstripping tape has a dense brush that can fit into 0.18–0.3-inch gaps. Just make sure to clean the surface you’re sticking it to, in this case, the door frame. If you’re working on one of those old, wooden frames, you could also sand the surface and stain it if you want to spruce it up.
Now, depending on the type of the door and frame you’re working on, you can put the tape on the former or the latter. Personally, I’d say that the frame is always the safer option. But ultimately, you’re going to have to decide based on your own situation.
Under and Around the Door
Next, you’ll need to plug the gap underneath the door. For this article, I tried to think of a door sweep that would be able to slide with the door. In the end, I decided that another brush product would be perfect for the occasion. I already recommended one of these types of products in the article I linked to.
So to avoid repetition, I’ll point you toward a similar product instead. Since the brush sweep is only 36 inches long, though, it may be too short for your door. Still, you can always buy a few of these and cut off the excess. Or, if you don’t want to damage the wood or plastic, you can always just place a heavy draft sweeper on the inside of the door when you close it.
You can even make one yourself. In fact, you’d need to if you wanted to have a single draft stopper covering the entire length of the frame.
Finally, all that’s left to do is pay attention to the space between the frame and the wall. If you had the door installed recently, this shouldn’t be an issue. However, old models do sometimes get small cracks around the perimeter of the frame. If you still feel a breeze coming through once you’ve put all the weatherstripping in, you can caulk around the frame.
Thicken the Glass
The glass is often the weakest link when you’re talking about this type of door. Unfortunately, there are only a few ways to thicken glass without covering it up completely.
For one, you can try to use a plastic film for windows. You’d need to get enough of it, and you may still have a line in the glass where two pieces of film meet. Still, if you get one with a pattern, the line may be less noticeable. You’d also get all the daylight you need and you’d get to have something pretty to look at.
But if you’re more about effectiveness and less about esthetics, you could also get your hands on transparent MLV and put that on the glass. And if your glass is single-layer (which would be criminal) you may also look into adding another layer of glass. However, this would be a job for a glazier.
Finally, if you don’t mind blocking out light, you could also build a window plug. Just keep in mind that whatever you put on the glass will need to be thin enough for the top panel to be able to slide over the bottom panel.
SOUNDPROOFING SLIDING BARN DOORS
Sliding barn doors tend to be a bit more effective than single-pane glass ones. However, the real problem that comes with sliding barn doors is one that even I’m not sure I could fix. At least, not without covering the whole thing with heavy fabric. But I’ll talk about that after I’ve exhausted all of the options.
Namely, the one major problem many barn doors have is that they often stand a good half-inch away from the wall. And they’re essentially hanging from the top track, so they also have gaps at the bottom as well. So even if you cover the entire frame, there are huge gaps on all sides that are going to be incredibly difficult to plug. Still, let’s give it our best shot.
Closing the Gaps
Unfortunately, most types of weatherstripping tape won’t help you with this type of door. However, if the particular model you’re working on has a smaller gap between the panel and the wall, you could use a weatherstripping brush. Again, rubber won’t do much good because it won’t be able to slide along the floor and the wall.
Well, you could use thicker insulation foam strips onto the wall where the door closes. And you may also attach a sweep brush to the bottom and even the top of the panel towards the wall. This could work for doors that don’t have a huge gap, though I’ve seen many that have truly ridiculous ones.
For those, I would even suggest making draft stoppers to go all around the frame, plugging the holes between the wall. The fabric casing should slide against both the walls and the floor, at least, and you could even stuff them with rice and insulation to get the most out of them.
Thickening Sliding Barn Doors
Sliding barn doors aren’t typically very thin on their own — they’re often solid wood panels. Still, if you do need to thicken them up, you could do that with Mass-Loaded Vinyl, or even by adding layers of wood (although you’ll only be able to do that on a flat surface).
Additionally, if you have a lot of acoustic foam in the room you’re working on, barn doors are the only type of sliding door that will allow you to attach acoustic foam to them. After all, foam would look pretty unsightly on glass doors, and it would prevent pocket sliding doors from opening at all.
But if you have a huge gap between the wall and the door, you may even be able to put acoustic foam on both sides of the panel. On the other hand, you could also put the foam on the front side and on the exposed wall that’s under the door when you open it. So when you close it, you’ll have foam all along the wall. Just know that you likely won’t be able to put foam on the wall and on both sides of the panel as well.
Otherwise, with any of these types of doors, you may also decide to get acoustic foam or acoustic fabric panels on a stand. Then, you can wheel the stand over the door when you need it there, and move it away when you don’t. If you can’t find a good acoustic foam stand, you can also use a soundproof partition to cover the area when you need the extra security.
SOUNDPROOFING POCKET SLIDING DOORS
Although pocket sliding doors aren’t nearly as hard to soundproof as some of the other models, there are still some limitations you’ll have to work around.
For one, if you need to thicken the panel itself, you’ll have to stick to thinner MLV. As I’ve mentioned, whatever you use must be able to fit into the pocket in the wall. Another issue is that the materials would also need to be able to slide along with the floor. But since we’ve managed to solve those problems with the other models, I have no doubt that soundproofing your pocket sliding doors will be a breeze.
Your primary concern with pocket doors will be closing the gaps. To that end, you can put regular rubber weatherstripping tape along the edge of the panel, where it meets the frame. This will create a better seal when you close it.
Additionally, you’d still need to plug the holes around where the panel slides into the wall pocket. I suggest using the weatherstripping brush tape along the insides of the pocket, just where the panel comes out. What’s more, you could also use the door sweep brush I linked to earlier in the article. And if you don’t want to damage the wood at the bottom, you could also use a draft stopper, as always.
THE ULTIMATE WEAPON: SOUNDPROOF CURTAINS
Finally, soundproof curtains and similar fabric materials are the one type of product you’ll be able to use no matter what kind of door you’re working with. They’d even cover flimsier sliding doors such as traditional Japanese Shoji doors or accordion style ones. Honestly, accordion models are pretty much my nightmare. But if anything could soundproof them, it’s soundproof curtains.
As you know, soundproof fabric materials are essentially the thicker and denser versions of the regular curtains and blankets. You install them in much the same way too. Although you would need to consider their soundproofing capabilities as you hang them.
To begin with, simply install a curtain rod on the wall or even the ceiling above. Just keep in mind that the curtains need to be longer than the frame. They need to pool on the floor in order to work.
You may not even need draft stoppers if you get curtains that are long enough. Although, draft stoppers would certainly make the method even more effective.
Now, if your soundproof curtains aren’t effective enough to your liking, you could thicken them with MLV. Better still, soundproof room divider curtains tend to have double layers of fabric. That means that you could open them up and attach MLV inside. Then, you can just sew the curtains shut and hang them up.
The result will be thicker, heavier, and denser curtains that should block more of the noise. As a bonus, they’ll also look prettier than if you were to just hang up the MLV on its own.
FINAL THOUGHTS ON SOUNDPROOFING SLIDING DOORS
As you can see, soundproofing sliding doors is definitely more than a little tricky. However, it is possible if you’re working with the right materials. Hopefully, I’ve managed to point you to some of the options you could use on any type of sliding door.
From weatherstripping and door sweep brushes to draft stoppers and soundproof curtains, there are soundproofing methods that will improve any sliding door design. But ultimately, only you’ll be able to determine which of them will be the best fit for your sliding door.