Solutions for a sound-leaky door?
September 22, 2006 11:08 AM   Subscribe

Help me muffle (or eliminate) the sound escaping from my badly-hung door so that my roommates are less likely to figure out what sort of shenanigans I'm up to in my room...

I live with three roommates in the first floor of an older house that was probably built around the turn of the century. The door to my room has, through warping, terrible carpentry, or mere settling of the house over time, become so NOT-square that there are significant gaps at the top and side where sound easily leaks out.

As you can see, there is a latch affixed to the interior so I can lock the door. This was done because the handle hardware and the door latch on the frame no longer match up.

When we moved in, my landlord had the bottom of my door planed off so the thing would actually shut, because it protruded below the top of the floor in the hallway and wouldn't shut all the way. However, I'm still stuck with the gaps.

For normal everyday activities, I couldn't give a shit that some sound is getting out of my door, but my boyfriend will be visiting on some weekends while we live here, and I'd like it if we didn't have to be silent as the grave while misbehaving.

Short of having the door entirely replaced, what can I do to block the sound from escaping through those gaps? Is there any sort of stripping (like weather stripping, but not as ugly and for interior doors) that I could affix to the top and side of the door?

I'd also like something pretty permanent, rather than stuffing scarves in the gaps or something every time we go in the room, because that would be a) conspicuous, and b) a pain in the ass.
posted by dorothy humbird to Home & Garden (16 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
This might be more construction than you want, but:
If you can put up a sturdy curtain rod over top of the door (could be inside or outside it), then you could hang a very thick velvety curtain like they use in theaters, which would help block the sound to some degree. When bf isn't around, you can sweep the curtain off to the side.

Another thing would be to reduce the surfaces in your room that bounce the sound around. Put down carpets in your room, maybe even hang tapestries (I'm thinking batik cotton sheets, but of course medieval-style tapestries would be even better) from walls/ceiling to dampen the sound before it gets to the door.
posted by LobsterMitten at 11:35 AM on September 22, 2006

A blanket or heavy curtains hung in front of the door would probably help immensely. If you hang a blanket, you could roll it up and tie it off when it's not in use. Curtains would probably be easier, because if you hang them from a rod you can pull them to one side of the door when you don't need them for soundproofing.
posted by cerebus19 at 11:35 AM on September 22, 2006

Not necessarily beautiful, but you could tack carpet scraps to the bottom &/or top to muffle noise. I'd turn up the stereo & remember that if you live with normal human beings, they have sex drives too. (On the other hand I totally understand!)
posted by soviet sleepover at 11:37 AM on September 22, 2006

Attach a curtain rod to the frame above the door. When you want some privacy, hang a heavy curtain on the rod. When not is use, you could slide the curtain all the way to one side, and still use the door.

You could also plane the top of the door, reposition the hinges, and then have fewer cracks to worry about.

They sell plastic stops to put on the bottom of doors to block drafts, you might want one of those too.
posted by sulaine at 11:38 AM on September 22, 2006

I believe, first off you need to unscrew the lower hinge where it meets the jamb, not the door, stick some shim wood behind the hinge (something that won't split like a thin plywood or hardboard) and rescrew it to the jamb - maybe use longer screws so you'll bite into fresh wood. This should solve your gap problem, as far as it looks from here. Then, if you still have gaps and noise problems, look at self adhesive foam (or fuzzy stuff) strips that are sold for just this type of use. If the door catch still doesn't line up, something like a sliding bolt (like you see on garden gates) will give more holding compression.
posted by Flashman at 11:42 AM on September 22, 2006

Ya do as Flashman says, it's a 15-minute job and solves all your door worries.
posted by Mister_A at 11:45 AM on September 22, 2006

It sure seems like it, though I wonder why the landlord didn't do this instead of planing the door - which must have involved taking the door right off. So, take my advice w/ a grain of salt.
posted by Flashman at 11:55 AM on September 22, 2006

If your door frame is out-of-square (old house, wall settling, door frame wracking), then Flashman's excellent suggestion will not work (because the door is square and the opening is not).

The raised panels within the door are likely quite thin, which does little to reduce sound transmission.

I would first try to close air gaps (weatherstripping would be the appropriate product) and then add additional layers of absorption to the room-side of the door. (maybe a layer of homasote cut to fit the size of the door?)
posted by misterbrandt at 12:06 PM on September 22, 2006

Having been on both sides of your dilemma, fixing the door itself will probably be more trouble than it's worth, since it's the thickness (or, in this case, thinness) of those two big, rectangular door panels that affects sound -- not the air gaps around them. The suggestions here re: sound-dampening materials hung on the door and walls are excellent, as is some sort of white noise (a radio, even tuned down low, works wonders).

Best bet, however -- IMO -- is scheduling nookie for times when roomies aren't home. Your BF will probably appreciate it, especially if he's not yet good friends with your housemates: Three strangers within earshot while you're trying to perform is not a romantic situation, and depending on the guy, maybe even a stressful one.
posted by turducken at 12:25 PM on September 22, 2006

I've shimmed a hinge in the way Flashman suggests and it did straighten out the door. You can use cardboard or paper behind the hinge leaf; it doesn't have to be wood. Do the repair on the jamb side of the hinge, not the door side. And don't use corrugated cardboard (as I once did), because it will compress after you do the repair.

Another thing that might help: weatherstripping. You can buy self-adhesive foam weatherstripping and stick it to the face of the door, along the edge -- or stick it to the stop, which is the wood strip that keeps the door from swinging through the frame.

In addition to both of these methods, I'd also hang a curtain.
posted by wryly at 12:40 PM on September 22, 2006

turducken writes "it's the thickness (or, in this case, thinness) of those two big, rectangular door panels that affects sound -- not the air gaps around them. "

Actually, sealing all air gaps will have a significant effect on high frequency sound transmission. Sealing a 1/4" gap can reduce sound transmission by 60% [pdf].

If you're feeling Bill Nyeish[1] compare sound levels in a parked car between window cracked open and window full closed.

You can get white vinyl foam weather stripping mounted on a white painted wood mounting board (like this only white). It's cheap, blends into the door jamb and is easy to install.

As for transmission thru the door, a few strips of double sided tape and some acoustical ceiling tile can be used to deaden sounds being transmitted through the door. Cover the acoustical tile with cork board. I've made several hollow core door - acoustical tile - cork board sandwiches for offices in noisy enviroments. Cuts the noise and looks crafty rather than ugly.

[1] One test is worth a thousand expert opinions
posted by Mitheral at 12:57 PM on September 22, 2006 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Since I'm renting, I'm concerned about making permanent changes to the door/interior of my room that I can't easily patch up or remove in some way.

Any insight on whether weather stripping or any of the other constructive (and helpful - thanks everyone!) suggestions can be made temporary but still effective? (Aside from shimming the door--obviously that would be pointless to undo.)
posted by dorothy humbird at 1:27 PM on September 22, 2006

The weatherstipping I suggested is held on by a few finishing nails. These would leave small holes that need to be patched, a simple spackle and paint job. Alternatively some double sided tape could be used, the non exterior stuff is easy to remove mechanically with the assistance of a little WD-40. However you might find it coming off if you bumped into the weather stripping.

You could also seek permission from your landlord to just leave the weather stripping in place as a service to the next tenant who will have the same issue as you.

What I'd do, though it is more work, is remove the door stop strip and replace it with the weather strip I suggested. That way the holes in the jamb will be covered by the door stop strip which you would replace before moving out. This only works if the jamb is builtup from multiple pieces.

wryly's foam tape stuck to the jamb would just peel right off when it came time to move.
posted by Mitheral at 1:48 PM on September 22, 2006

Something like this might help: it's intended to stop drafts but I'm sure it would muffle noise too.
posted by joannemerriam at 3:28 PM on September 22, 2006

A door frame that is wracked more than a 1/4" to 3/8" out of square (measure diagonals and compare), is indicative of foundation or framing problems. You don't own the house, so you don't really care about that, but from your pictures, it looks like not only is your door frame wracked, but it also looks like some doofus hung a lot of weight on that door for a long time, and your top door hinge is loose.

To fix it, you need to try to tighten the screws holding the top hinge to the door jamb. But probably, the wood holding those screws is damaged, and to repair that you must remove the screws holding the hinge to the jamb, and repair the holes, either by drilling them out, and filling with glued in dowel pins, or by putting plastic drywall anchor inserts (which can expand as the screws are pushed back into them) in the old holes.

Once the door is firmly attached at the hinges, and as square as it can be to the hinge side, you could have a sheet of 1/8" Masonite cut at any Home Depot type lumber yard, to dimensions a little bit larger than the door (say 3/8 to 1/2" larger in each dimension). This is cheap (a panel custom cut to door size will be less than $10), adds strength to the door, and can be painted or covered in colors/materials to suit. Then, screw the Masonite panel to the inside (your room side) of the door with small wood screws around the perimeter of the door at 6 to 9 inch intervals, leaving an even "lip" around the edges of the door to slightly overlap the frame. Cover the Masonite panel with cork, fabric, or carpet tile squares for additional noise damping, and if necessary, use the "lip" you've created on the edge of the oversized Masonite panel for attaching weatherstriping, for additional sound deadening. You can trim the Masonite panel by scoring it heavily with an Exacto knife, and breaking it along the score line, so you can trim the panel to any shape needed to create an even "lip" no matter what the wrack of the door or it's frame. It's as lightweight as any decent construction material you can find, won't warp, and won't chip or splinter like plywood.

Don't ever hang heavy stuff over doors.
posted by paulsc at 4:44 PM on September 22, 2006 [1 favorite]

I like all the ideas here, but I would imagine if your tomfoolery is loud enough to hear with the gaps there, it'd be loud enough to hear with the gaps not there. Most people don't have high-frequency sex. (I certainly don't [rimshot])
posted by hoborg at 4:44 PM on September 22, 2006

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