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Are pocket doors soundproof?

are pocket doors soundproof?

For some rooms in the home soundproofing isn’t important, but if you are creating a home office, a guest bedroom or a kids’ playroom, then blocking out noise is very important, and in the case of a kids’ playroom, you are actually wanting to keep noise in! However, it is a common misconception that pocket doors are not soundproof and that the space-saving benefits you create which allow you to re-purpose a room or space, are offset by the nuisance value of noise transmitting through the door and being carried around the house. In an office in the workplace this can create similar issues relating to privacy and even security.


An outdated view of pocket doors

The popular opinion that pocket door systems are not soundproof is perhaps an outdated concept based on the traditional view of a pocket door being a Victorian design feature, or dating back to the 1970s when pocket doors enjoyed a brief comeback. While the 21st century pocket door is still viewed by some as a quirky retro feature, there is no doubt that modern pocket doors are well-made using quality materials and contain features which tackle the soundproofing issue.

A traditional view that pocket doors are not good for soundproofing is essentially based on old designs where pocket doors were much thinner and flimsier than regular doors, and were also installed badly and sized badly, so that there were gaps around the perimeter of the door. With modern designs that issue has been eradicated. 


How doors can be poor for soundproofing

Ask an expert whether regular doors or pocket doors are better or worse for soundproofing and the answer will return that they are both pretty much the same, neither are better or worse. That is because the door thicknesses are the same, they are both constructed from the same materials and installation is key to cutting out noise transmission.

Pocket doors tend to range from 35mm to 44mm in thickness, which is the same range as for regular doors, although these can also go thicker for specialist, non-standard doors. However, most noise transmission comes via the gaps underneath or along the vertical perimeter of the door. This can be worse if you have not sized the door correctly, or you have had to plane some material off the bottom because you haven’t allowed for carpet thickness. This issue exists whether you have a pocket door or a regular door. When a pocket door is installed there is very little protrusion of the door into the pocket when the door is in the closed position, this can lead to gaps if the door has not been sized correctly or has not been installed correctly, both of which are avoidable.


How to soundproof a pocket door

Although there is no discernible difference between the soundproofing qualities of a pocket door and a regular door, you can be supplied with acoustic features which improve the soundproofing for situations where it is more important. You can of course install curtains around the door, and some people have fitted a mass-loaded vinyl sheet to the door to make it thicker and more sound-absorbent, but this doesn’t address the key source of noise transmission, which is gaps around the door perimeter.

Acoustic door systems come with noise –reducing features such as:

  • Gaskets and jambs – activated when the door is closed to seal the vertical edge of the door.
  • Weather strips – to seal the upper and lower perimeter edges when the door is closed.
  • The use of acoustic plasterboard on the frame will also add additional acoustic properties.

Together, these features ensure much better sound insulation for a pocket door, because they seal the entire door perimeter. These are also much more effective than a similar system would be on a traditional hinged door, because the opening and closing action doesn’t damage or dislodge the seals. A pocket door runs along the track in the same plane, so the seals run along that same plane also. On a traditional hinged door fitted with the same type of seals, the seals would be dragged and potentially damaged and dislodged when opening and closing the door, because this opening and closing action moves the door in a completely different orientation, up to 90 degrees different.

So to summarise, modern pocket doors are no more or less soundproof than regular doors because they are made from the same materials to the same thickness range, and are susceptible to the same sizing and installation issues which can create gaps around the perimeter of the door. These gaps are the main reason why sound insulation can be poor around a door. There are ways to avoid this when choosing the right size for your pocket door and when installing it, but in situations where you definitely need better sound insulation for work or other specific purposes, it is possible to improve the soundproofing of a pocket door, with an acoustic door system.     

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