When I had originally thought that having a bar in my garage was a good idea, I didn’t necessarily think through a number of things that were tangential to the garage bar experience. Things like folks needing to come into and out of the house on the regular to hit the bathroom, storing beer nuts in a cabinet and mice finding their way into my prized snack stash or the noise that would transmit through the walls of my home and how that would disrupt things like children sleeping or my wife working on the other side of the wall in her office.
As I began to think through the mechanics of mitigating this situation, I naturally found my way to the internet and was confronted with what felt like two million options and opinions on what would or wouldn’t work without much empirical data to attach to any of the claims being made on effectiveness of the various products or options. Rather fortunately for me, I have spent some time working on mitigating noise associated with oil and gas operations, which, at various times produce quite a bit of noise and so I didn’t necessarily approach this subject as a novice. I’m hopeful this article will help some of you out as you think about your situation.
Sound is created through a source that makes vibrations in the air that spread from that source like the ripples on a pond. As you move away from the source the sound produced dissipates and can also bounce off objects that may be in its path. Sound is made up of several components, amplitude or the level of sound, the pitch (or frequency) which is whether that sound is a deep rumble or a shrill whistle and duration, which would be if the sound is continuous, intermittent, or impulsive. Whereas sound describes an audible event, noise is essentially sound that is unpleasant or unwanted.
With that quick primer, soundproofing involves reducing noise (unwanted sound) and preventing sound from travelling between various points – in my case between the garage bar and my wife’s office and other rooms of my home that may, at times, include sleeping children. To mitigate or abate the ripples of sound that are travelling through my walls, I spent some time researching lots and lots of options for garage soundproofing. Many of which included demolishing my current wall and adding sound treatments using specialized insulation or soundproofing spray foam. I really didn’t want to rip down the wall and deal with the mess so I opted to go a different route and will spend the rest of this post talking about what I did and how effective it was in mitigating my noise problem.
Noise Meter Sound Measurement
First, as any good scientist who likes data would do, I wanted to begin my grand experiment in noise mitigation by measuring what the level of sound was before I began. To do so, I downloaded a sound level meter on my iPhone (NIOSH SLM) and ran it at 30 second intervals in various locations in my home to produce an average sound level at each location while playing the same song, AC/DC Highway to Hell. When you measure noise, you’re measuring the intensity which is expressed in units called decibels or dB(A). What I found was that in my wife’s office just on the other side of the garage bar wall the sound level was nearly 4 dB(A) higher when I had the speakers going at their “normal” level. What physics tells us is that for every 3 dB(A) increase there is a doubling of acoustical energy. What this means in the context of my home is that there is a very noticeable change in the amount of noise when I have the bar open. My goal therefore was to reduce the sound pressure level by at least 3 dB(A) in order to have a noticeable impact on the perceived volume in my home. Did I succeed, yes!!
Understanding I wasn’t wanting a mess ripping out a wall, I took a multi-faceted approach to hitting my goal of keeping the increase in perceived volume inside my home to a minimum.
Garage Soundproofing. Mass Loaded Vinyl with Sheetrock Overlay
I started with utilizing rolls of mass loaded vinyl (MLV) to cover the existing wall and tacked it in place – the stuff is heavy so make sure you’ve got help if you’re covering a large space or cut it accordingly, to manageable lengths. MLV is a super dense, rubber-like material that helps block the ripples of sound that would otherwise be coming through the wall.
I then installed two layers of ¼ inch drywall on top of the MLV, separated by a layer of green glue. Green glue is a “visco-elastic damping compound” or simply, acoustic caulking that dampens vibrations ultimately reducing the amount of sound transmission between two rooms. Make sure you have a 29 oz size caulking gun for these big tubes! Finally, rather than take the effort of finishing off the drywall and priming and painting the wall, I opted to instead install acoustic panels held up by heavy-duty double-sided tape to provide yet more noise absorbing opportunity and to also eliminate some of the echo that occurs in the garage bar when we have large gatherings.
Garage Soundproofing. Side Profile of Material Overlay.
Although I didn’t eliminate the noise coming from the garage bar, I certainly was able to reduce the transmission of sound to a manageable level. Mitigating noise is not an easy feat, and as you can tell, even with a lot of work, I can still hear music from inside my home. Although small, the progress was meaningful and hit the mark for the goal I had in mind when I started my garage soundproofing project.
Garage Soundproofing. Home Soundscape.
Garage Soundproofing After Project Completion
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