Before jumping into a project like this you will need to answer some questions and make some decisions.
Soundproofing your garage can be a quick, one-weekend project with a small cost. Or you might be taking a week off to do the work, and find it costs more than you had planned.
An honest assessment of what you have, and what you want to accomplish is an absolute necessity.
Why do you need to soundproof your garage?
- Will it be a workshop?
- Do you long for a man cave?
- Do you, or one of your kids, have a band?
- You need a place to sleep when you get kicked out of the house–and you don’t have a dog; let alone a dog house?
- How much are you going to use the finished product?
What type of construction are you dealing with?
- Are you building a new garage?
- Is it attached to the house? And how?
- If it is detached, how far is it from your house, or the neighbors?
- Is it a bare shell that you can have your way with?
- Is the interior finished–and how?
How much does it cost to soundproof a garage?
The cost of soundproofing your garage almost always varies in direct relation to the answers to the above questions. And, to how much of the work you can, or are willing to, do yourself.
For under $1000.00 you can hang packing blankets on all of the walls including the big door and the ceiling. That will quiet things down for the weekend warrior who does not want to annoy the neighbors too much when she/he is out there tinkering with whatever hobby or interest. Or you are sharpening lawnmower blades occasionally. Or you just want to be able to turn up the music while you are out there. (Led Zeppelin IV needs to be loud. Otherwise, why bother?)
But if you, and your band, want to play Led Zeppelin IV every night until 2 AM, you could spend in excess of $10,000.00 to make the garage soundproof. A few blankets hung on the walls will quite likely not be enough to prevent your family, the neighbors, and the police from showing up at the door. And I guarantee that the door will be your biggest challenge.
How to Soundproof a Garage Door
When it is open this is the biggest hole in any of your walls. If your garage is constantly used to park vehicles, and only occasionally for noise-making projects, you can probably get away with cheap door soundproofing. Or possibly with no soundproofing. But if you are using it for a workshop, for band practice, or for a gym with loud music, you are going to have to be more creative.
The style, or type of door in your garage also dictates the options you have. Most newer garage doors are sectional overhead doors. Generally they are insulated for heat retention but unless the insulation is something like polyurethane open cell spray foam, the noise reduction can be negligible. Older sectional overhead doors will not have any insulation; nor will those gawdawful one piece doors that are hard to raise and bark your shins when opened from outside.
I have also seen swinging garage doors, and even garage doors that slide sideways (usually when someone converts an old barn or Quonset into a garage). You can use some of the soundproofing ideas listed below on these types of doors. Any kind of weatherstripping and sealing will help although some doors are way more challenging than others. But realistically, the only effective method is to hang sound absorbing blankets in front of them, or eliminate the door part of the opening by building a wall.
See more options for soundproof moving blankets here.
Cheap Garage Door Soundproofing
I do not like to use the word ‘cheap’ when describing the cost of something. It makes me think of slipshod, sloppy, and ineffective. I try not to give advice that is any of these. Having got that off my chest, some of the less expensive door soundproofing options are:
- New Weatherstrip – Not only will this help soundproof the door; new garage door weatherstrip will help keep out water, snow, small rodents, and even insects. It can usually be installed quickly with only a few tools. (Note: If it is a vinyl based product, install it on a hot day, or cut it 1/2″ short while leaving the rubber that does the sealing longer. Throw away the nails that come with it and use 1 1/2″ painted screws. Screw it about every 6″. Vinyl expands and contracts a lot. If you only secure it every foot or more it will expand off the door frame.)
- Garage Door Bottom Seal – The thicker, heavier, and bigger; the better. Garage doors are notorious for not sealing at the bottom. The concrete could have heaved. It can be off level. It can be cracked. Or it can be a packed dirt, or a wood floor. If possible, get a seal that will fit in the tracks on the bottom of your door (There is a wide range of options available.), or get M-D Products seal that comes with its own track so it can be attached to most doors.
- Soundproofing Attached to the Door – Once you have eliminated the gaps around the door, you can tackle the door itself. There are many products available that will insulate your door. They will also help with soundproofing. But to get better soundproofing I would suggest a product used for automobiles. The Noico Red 150 mil is a product that works well. (Note: 1 mil = one thousandth of an inch.) One side is completely self-adhesive eliminating the need for double-sided tape, glue, or clips.Although having a roll of Noico tape to use at the joints and around door hinges will provide a better seal. There will still be some small amount of noise that transfers through the hinges, wheel brackets, and overhead motor bracket. You can remove them one at a time to ensure a complete soundproof blanket. Caulk around the bolts before reinstalling each hinge and bracket.
NOTE: Before applying any glued material to a metal door (painted or not), make sure you wash the surface with something acidic to remove the oxidation. I use a 50/50 vinegar/water solution–then rinse and let dry. (Vinegar is ‘cheap’, plentiful, and does a good job.) If the surface is not cleaned, you are asking glue to adhere to the oxidized surface powder.
- Sound Absorbing Blankets – In addition to, or instead of, soundproofing the door itself you can hang sound absorbing blankets over the opening. If you have any type of door that opens up toward the ceiling–with, or without, a motor and mast–you will have tracks on both sides of the door.Permanent installation of blankets is almost impossible if you are opening the door even a few times a year. Make sure you buy blankets that come with grommets. Install hooks along the top of the door opening for hanging the blankets. If the blankets are wider than the opening, you can use bungee cords to pull them snug on each side. It will be almost impossible to get a perfect fit around the tracks, and wheels, and brackets, and mast but you will keep most of the noise inside, and you can take the blanket down if, and when, required.
Eliminating the garage door
If you never plan on parking a car in the garage again, then take out the door and build a wall. Then you can use any of the soundproofing ideas you see in this article, like Roxul 80 insulation, Mass Loaded Vinyl, double drywall with Green Glue, or sound absorbing blankets.
If you choose this option, and are comfortable with it, you made a plan that makes sense to you. Congratulations. It should provide uniform interior walls for you to work with. And, if you can restrain yourself from using an air nailer and screw the new section into the opening, it will be fairly easy to remove (without too much damage) should you want a door again–possibly for re-sale).
I have seen suggestions about bricking up openings for better soundproofing. Seems just a bit of overkill to me when there are other options that are less permanent–or costly.
Note: You might want to consider including a larger door in your wall for moving things in and out. A 42″ wide steel insulated door (STC between 40 and 50 when installed properly) from Home Depot, or an insulated roll-up door (STC 30). You have been using the big door for so long that you might not even think of getting things through your 32″ wide man door.
How to Soundproof Garage Walls
Unless your garage is brand spanking new, it probably has accumulated ‘stuff’ either attached to, or hanging from, the walls. Usually both. So whether the interior is finished with drywall (or something else), or bare studs, you are going to have to detach and move things to accomplish any kind of serious soundproofing. (Removing my workbench would require serious demolition. The air nailer was handy. On the other hand, I can park a truck on it.) If there is any way you can completely clear the garage–do it. This provides easy access to walls, floor, and ceiling.
How to Soundproof Finished Garage Walls
I have seen interior garage walls finished with everything from cardboard to exterior siding–vinyl and steel. If yours has these products, you might want to pull them down and start over. So, for the following suggestions, I am going to assume something relatively benign–like drywall.
If you are not completely certain that the walls are insulated, you should remove a couple of sheets from different walls to check. You may also have concrete or concrete block walls. If that is the case, you are starting with more soundproofing mass than a stick-frame wall, and can improve things by using some of the suggestions below:
- Sound Absorbing Blankets – You can line all of the garage walls with sound absorbing blankets. You can use moving blankets–preferably with grommets on at least one side. This gives you the option of hanging them on a rod. Although you can attach them directly to the wall, soundproofing works better if there is a space between the wall and the blankets. 2″ -3″ works best. The blankets are thick enough, and heavy enough, to absorb sound and deaden echos. And they are an inexpensive option to cover a lot of area. (My 24′ x 24′ x 9′ garage has about 860 square feet of wall area including the doors and windows. Each blanket covers about 36 square feet after overlap. You will need about 24 of them for the complete job.)
However, they have a few drawbacks. Most packing blankets are only between 6′ and 7′ tall. If you are covering floor to ceiling there could be a lot of cutting and sewing in your future. If you are creating a studio or band practice room, it is way more difficult to attach acoustic panels to the blankets–especially if they are hanging 3″ away from the wall. If the garage is going to be a workshop making dust, they will have to be cleaned regularly.
For a true soundproof curtain check out the Moondream 3 in 1 Soundproof Curtain. They are available in sizes 57″ wide and up to 108″ high. They are more expensive than moving blankets, but because of the height, you will need fewer of them. And no cutting and sewing. Remember that you will need rods or hooks for any curtain or blanket with grommets.
Note: Make sure that all rods or hooks are screwed into wood framing. Just throw away whatever screws that come with the rods or hooks. These are heavy items. Use screws that penetrate the lumber at least 1 1/2″–more if possible. Having to re-hang curtains because you trusted those little plastic things in the drywall will hurt your morale.
- Drywall and Green Glue – Add another layer of drywall with Green Glue between the existing and new to make a soundproofing sandwich. Use 5/8″ drywall if possible–nothing less than 1/2″. Just get the cobwebs off the walls, spread the glue on the backs of each new drywall sheet, and screw it over the existing. Make sure that the new joints do not line up with the old joints. Tape, drywall mud, and paint as desired. You should at least get a coat of primer/sealer paint on the new drywall. Dirt and dust do not adhere to painted surfaces as well as unpainted drywall.
Note: In my garage, the interior walls are sheathed with 3/4″ G1S (Good One Side) plywood. Just because I hate looking for studs when I want to attach something to the wall. You will get the same soundproofing if you use Green Glue between plywood and drywall. The plywood is more expensive than drywall, but you have more options. You can paint it and attach acoustic panels–just like you can to drywall. And you can hang anything anywhere you like–without much fear of it coming down.
- Drywall and Mass Loaded Vinyl – MLV had been one of the ‘go to’ soundproofing products for years–because it works. It has a Sound Transmission Class rating of 26, is very versatile, and can be painted. To install it over your existing wall, screw 1 x 2 furring strips onto the studs vertically, then hang the MLV floor to ceiling. You can attach it with nails, screws, or 1″ long wide crown staples. (If you have a compressor, and a roofing nailer or sheathing stapler–life is good.) The stuff is heavy–approximately 1 lb per square foot–so hopefully you also have a friend. Keep it smooth, or the drywall installer (probably you) could be upset.
Now you can just drywall over it. If you feel the need for even more soundproofing, use the ‘Drywall and Green Glue’ idea above. Or the Green Glue and Plywood suggestion. Whichever method you choose, you can paint it and then add acoustic panels as/and if required.
- Resilient Channels & Isolation Clips – Although you can use these products over the existing drywall–or any other interior wall finish–the manufacturers recommendation is to use them directly on open studs. By going over the existing, even if you screw them into the studs, you are losing a lot of the decoupling effect because they are in direct contact with the old finish. More on this in the next section.
How to Soundproof Unfinished Garage Walls
- Blown in Cellulose Insulation – Whenever possible, blow-in cellulose is my first choice for insulation and soundproofing. (Please see the Wikipedia article on cellulose for most of the reasons.) Once all of the electrical, plumbing (if needed), and heating is in the walls you have two ways to insulate with cellulose. The easiest, and more expensive, is wet blown–almost invariably professionally installed. If you choose to do it yourself you can rent machines from Home Depot or Lowe’s (where you buy the product). You will have to purchase netting to hold it between the studs until the drywall is installed. (You can also have it installed professionally if you prefer.) Cellulose has a Sound Transmission Rating of 44.
If you want to have 2 drum kits going flat out at the same time–and still not annoy anyone outside the building–now you can go soundproof crazy. Add a layer of Mass Loaded Vinyl (STC rating of 26) to the studs. Install Resilient Channels (or Isolation Clips and Hat Channels) horizontally to the studs to provide decoupling (reduces vibration transfer between the framing and drywall). Two layers of 5/8″ drywall with Green Glue sandwiched between them will provide the significant amount of mass you need. Tape and mud the drywall, and paint to finish. Below is a chart from Wikipedia Sound Transmission Class to give you an idea of your noise reduction targets. Please take a look at the article for a fairly complete explanation of STC ratings.
|STC||What can be heard|
|25||Normal speech can be understood|
|30||Loud speech can be understood|
|35||Loud speech audible but not intelligible|
|40||Loud speech audible as a murmur|
|45||Loud speech heard but not audible|
|50||Loud sounds faintly heard|
|60+||Good soundproofing; most sounds do not disturb neighbouring residents.|
Note: I would use one layer of drywall, the Green Glue, and finish with 3/4″ G1S plywood. The plywood allows you to hang things anywhere on the wall without the need to find a stud. And this is one of the few times you do not want to find a stud. Screwing through the drywall and into a stud defeats the decoupling effect of the Resilient Channels.
- Other Options – If you are not that crazed, or if you just do not need that much soundproofing, stop at any point of the above program. Another insulation/soundproofing product to consider is Roxul 80. It will give you an STC rating of around 45 for the complete wall system–exterior sheathing, 2 x 4 studs c/w 3 1/2″ Roxul, 5/8″ drywall. It is also fire resistant and easier to install than cellulose. Just construct and finish your walls as you would with fiberglass batts, 6 mil poly, drywall, and paint. You will also have a problem getting a tight fit around wires and electrical boxes. Because Roxul is a semi-rigid product you can easily use spray foam insulation around boxes and wires to cover any cutting errors.
Note: Just to be snarky. I have seen the claim on other sites about an STC rating of 45 for 2″ Roxul. Not true. The rating is for the complete wall system. If you need more information please go to the manufacturer’s website–Rockwool AFB. I usually ignore, or do not care about, those who consider themselves our competitors. But some things–like false information–just annoy the crap out of me.
- Fiberglass Batts – Fiberglass batt insulation is great at keeping the garage warm but not so good for soundproofing (STC rating of 36). Fiberglass will provide adequate soundproofing if you never plan to use the garage for much more than vehicle parking. You should seriously consider at least using Roxul 80 now even if it will cost more. Having to add soundproofing after the garage is finished, because your life changes unexpectedly, will be even more expensive.
How to Soundproof Garage Ceilings and Floors
Generally speaking you do not have neighbors living above your garage. And sound that gets through the ceiling and roof will mostly continue to travel vertically, so this is not going to be your biggest concern. On the other hand, why stop now? If you have gone to the trouble and expense to soundproof the walls, doors, and windows you should get it all done.
How to Soundproof Finished Garage Ceilings
The absolute easiest way to do this–if you have access above the ceiling–is blow-in cellulose. Adding 10″ will give you a minimum STC of 44 and an R-value of 40 in addition to whatever is there. (If you are doing the job yourself, don’t fall through the drywall.) If you have recessed pot lights you may have to construct a box over them to prevent excess heat build-up. Half inch drywall works fine–then blow the cellulose over it.
Frame a 10″ high box on the attic side of your access hatch, fill it with cellulose, and you are done. (Other benefits of blow-in cellulose is not having to lower light fixtures, not having to remove and replace overhead door hardware, or anything else (like shelving) that is attached to the ceiling.
You can also use most of the ‘finished garage wall’ suggestions on the ceilings–including attaching moving blankets. Mass Loaded Vinyl is a great choice for soundproofing once it is installed. (Note: Keep the women and children away while you are putting it up. You will curse–a lot. It is soft, and heavy, and you are working above your head.)
Then you can add drywall, or a drywall/Green Glue/drywall sandwich. Again, I would use 3/4″ G1S plywood. The plywood just makes it easier to attach, or hang, anything from the ceiling. Remember–you will have to lower the light fixtures, and remove and replace, anything attached to the ceiling. Use spray foam or caulking to seal any gaps.
How to Soundproof Unfinished Garage Ceilings
Cellulose again–if you have an attic with a pitched roof. Put up your 6 mil poly vapor barrier, 5/8″ drywall for a little extra mass, and blow 10″ of cellulose. Remember to construct an attic access hatch with a 10″ high frame to hold the cellulose. If you have recessed lights (pot lights) they must be rated to be covered with insulation or you will have to build a box around them to avoid overheating.
For flat roofs, you can still use cellulose, but it will have to be a wet blown installation by a professional. (If you use wet cellulose you will have to let it dry before installing vapor barrier and drywall. Sealing gallons of water in the wall and ceiling cavities leads to mold, rot, and more cursing.) Roxul 80 soundproofing insulation batts are a viable alternative. After you have installed the Roxul, you can again decide on how much more soundproofing you want to add to your ceiling.
How to Soundproof Garage Floors
Soundproofing the floor is not nearly as important as the walls, doors, and windows–unless it is being used by the band or as an entertainment area. If that is the case, you will need to take acoustics into account. A bare concrete floor is going to bounce sound all over the place and distort any sounds you are creating or trying to listen too. Carpeting will be helpful–preferable wall to wall. You can also add sound absorbing carpet underlay for even better results.
If you are using the garage as a gymnasium, there are many types and styles of gym floor mats and exercise mats available. You may want to start with carpet for a little added warmth or comfort, then add the floor mats over that. Or you can just use the mats wherever you need them. Any noise you create will not travel very far through the floor or the dirt under it. If there is a lot of sound like grunting, groaning, or moaning, it will most likely travel through the walls along with the sound of music.
How to Soundproof the Other Garage Door and Windows
We have talked about the vehicle door into the garage, but usually there is at least one man door (person door?) in every garage. If you have an attached garage it might have two doors–one from the house to the garage, and one that exits outside. Generally there is also at least one or two windows to provide light and/or ventilation.
How to Soundproof Garage Man Doors
If you have an A-grade steel insulated door (polyurethane filling) that was well installed, and the weatherstrip is still intact, your STC rating is already between 40 and 50. You can nudge the rating towards 60 by hanging a Moondream Soundproof Curtain over the opening. Make sure the rod is long enough to get the curtain completely out of the way and that it touches (not drags on) the floor. You can also add Noico Red self-adhesive soundproofing to the inside of the door slab. (Wash the slab with a 50/50 vinegar/water solution to ensure the Noico sticks.) You can use the same ideas on a solid wood door because it provides the mass you need for good soundproofing. As mentioned before, you can also hang a packing blanket over the opening. (Again, make sure you can move it completely out of the way. Because you want a clear space when moving things in and out.)
Almost any other type of door should just be replaced. Because your soundproofing efforts will not only be like putting lipstick on the pig; they will be akin to dressing her for a night out. Once it is replaced with a good door you can proceed as described.
Note: When working on the door, make sure that the weatherstrip and sweep are in good shape, and the perimeter gap between door frame and wall framing are insulated and sealed. All of those small gaps allowing sound to escape means you are not achieving the soundproofing that you are trying to accomplish.Spray foam around the door and replace worn or painted weatherstrip. (Getting paint on weatherstrip turns it hard and worthless.) Adjust the door strikes to ensure positive contact with the weatherstrip, and adjust the sweep on the bottom of the door. (Make sure you use a sweep with at least 3 strips of mohair–available from most building supply stores. Those rubber fin sweeps are only good for keeping out larger rodents.)
How to Soundproof Garage Windows
Although it is not always possible, changing your windows to true triple glazed units (glass, 1/2″ air space, glass, 1/2″ air space, glass) is a great first step. (Every time I installed triple glazed windows, the customer’s first comment was about how much quieter they are.) Whether you are changing the window or not, you still need to ensure that the insulation around it, and the weatherstrip is sealing as much noise in, or out, as possible.
Then you can hang packing blankets, or Moondream Soundproof Curtains, or the Nicetown drapes. Mass Loaded Vinyl is very soft and pliable. I would give some consideration to cutting it to size, adding grommets or hangers, and making my own curtains. (It is also paintable but I do now know if the latex paint will stick for long if the material is moving around a lot. Might be worth giving it a try.)
Of course, the best way to soundproof your garage windows is to remove them, and frame in the opening, using the appropriate soundproofing techniques. If you do not care about natural light or ventilation, then blocking up the opening is your best option. (Picture AC/DC in your smoke-filled–of some description–dark studio blasting out Highway to Hell.)
I am not going to get into how to make a ‘window plug’ because this article is already too long, and I am not sure they are any better than a curtain. At some point–whenever I write a post about window and door soundproofing–I will cover the topic.
I know that I did not cover all of the possibilities. Garage styles, sizes, finishes, and locations are almost infinite. Hopefully, this will give you enough ideas to use as a starting point.
Is there any value in soundproofing my garage?
If you garage is getting old and tired, and you are thinking of a fairly extensive soundproofing program, maybe you should give some consideration to investing in a new, purpose built structure. Some of the old buildings being used as garages are way past their ‘best before’ dates. You could end up spending a lot of money and getting mediocre results. And still have an old building to which you have added lipstick.
So you might want to do a cost analysis comparing a new building to soundproofing the old one. It will be cheaper (there is that word again) to soundproof the old garage. But will that be as satisfying–and useful–as the new studio?
Soundproofing a new garage
If you are building a new garage, quite a few of the recommendations above will still apply. Planning the soundproofing of a new garage gives you the opportunity to use some of the best practices while keeping the cost down. It is way more efficient to soundproof the building as it is going up, rather than after it is finished.
For instance, you can order triple glazed windows. Or you might be considering infloor heating. Make sure that your builder–if you are using one–knows that soundproofing is going to be an important consideration during construction.
If you are the general contractor, please talk to all of your sub-trades and suppliers (concrete, electrical, window and door suppliers, roofers, overhead door suppliers) before starting the project. Good sub trades will try to be accommodating and make suggestions–but we do not read minds. Make sure that everyone knows what end result you are trying to achieve.