Soundproofing a Garage (Start with the Door for the Best Results!)
If you’re anything like me, your garage is your safe haven. Your entire tool setup is in there, with projects past and present scattered everywhere around your car. Well, whether you use your garage like I do or even as a hobby room, you may have to implement some soundproofing techniques. So in this article, I’m going to talk about the best ways to soundproof a garage.
As always, there are but three reasons why you may want to soundproof a room:
- Blocking noise from leaving the room. If you’ve been getting noise complaints from your neighbors, this may be your primary concern. Fortunately, I’ve got just the thing for you if you want to keep the sound of loud machinery or your band’s greatest hits to yourself.
- Stopping sound from getting in from the outside. Many people use their garages as their “man caves” or even their home offices. Whether you’re one of those or you just want to use your workshop in peace, there are ways to ensure your peace. Typically, the methods that stop the sound from getting in are the same ones that stop it from going out of a room.
- Improving internal audio quality. Lastly, if you’re someone who uses their garage as a recording studio, you may also want to improve the audio quality within the room. The techniques you’ll be using to do that are different than the noise blocking ones.
All this to say that you need to decide why you’re doing this in order to know which soundproofing methods you need to use. So let’s see what are some of the other factors you need to consider.
If you’ve been following my articles for a while, you know why taking stock of the situation is the first thing I always do. In the case of soundproofing your garage, you should ideally know the answers to the following questions:
- What do you use your garage for? Do you have a car in there or your tools or musical instruments?
- Do you need to improve the sound quality or to block the noise from coming in/going out?
- What is the general layout of the garage like? What type of doors do you have, and how many? Where do they lead to? How many windows are there?
- How was the garage made? Are the walls hollow or do they have insulation in them? Otherwise, are they made of brick or concrete?
The first two points focus on identifying your primary concern. But we’ve already talked about some of the reasons why you might need to soundproof your garage. So now, all that’s left to do is focus on the final two points.
Understanding the Space
The properties of the space you’re working on are our priority here, which is why we need to consider the materials that went into making the garage and the layout. Since the doors and windows are often the most vulnerable parts of any room, we’re going to pay special attention to them. The first step toward fortifying your garage doors is figuring out what type of door it is. Fortunately, that’s as easy as can be.
Does your garage door roll up or slide open? Are they double swing-out doors, like a wider version of your home’s front door? Or are you working with hinged doors that swing up?
Each of these types of doors has their own advantages and disadvantages when it comes to the soundproofing methods you’ll be able to employ. In fact, I’d even say that roll-up doors, which are otherwise one of the most convenient models, are the most difficult ones to soundproof.
Of course, the next area you’ll need to worry about is the windows. However, most garages don’t have too many of those and the ones they have are typically on the smaller side.
Now, while many people stop at soundproofing the walls, some may also have to do the floors or ceilings. Soundproofing these two surfaces will affect the audio quality in the room, although it may not do much else. Garages are often built directly on top of the soil, so you’re not having to worry about people living above or below.
SOME SIMPLE WAYS TO SOUNDPROOF A GARAGE
With all that in mind, we can finally begin soundproofing the space. Because the doors are the most important, we’ll first talk about how to deal with the main garage door. And I’ll also mention how to deal with any secondary doors that lead out into the yard or back to the house.
Just remember to first identify the reason why you’re soundproofing at all, then divide and conquer the areas around the space. So without further ado, let’s get into it.
Soundproof the Garage Door
When you’re soundproofing your main garage door, the main question you should be asking yourself is whether or not you’re using it. If you don’t have a car or you don’t plan on taking it out of the garage for a while, you’re free to completely block off your door.
No matter what type of door you have, this is when you’ll be able to completely seal it off from the inside. I’m talking nailing boards, MLV, or blankets over the whole thing. That should be enough to completely block off outside noises. However, you could also push shelves in front of the door or even build a wall in its place.
On the other hand, if you do use your main garage door often, you’d need to find another way to soundproof it. In my opinion, soundproofing roll-up doors and ones that swing up or slide to the side is definitely more difficult than dealing with doors that swing out. After all, most of the doors in our homes swing out, so we know how to manage those. Still, there’s a method I believe can work for any type of door.
Mass-Loaded Vinyl Curtains
If you’re not familiar with Mass-Loaded Vinyl, I invite you to check out the article I’ve linked to. Essentially, it’s a thick and very dense rubber material that’s perfect for soundproofing, because thickness and density are the natural enemies of sound.
My idea was to set up a curtain rod or even a spiked pipe inside the garage, above the door. Then, you can add grommets and hang up either regular black MLV or go for something a bit thinner but transparent.
If you use black MLV, you may want to leave it hanging off the curtain rod in strips that move independently. That way, you’ll be able to get your car into the garage without having someone holding the MLV to the side. Or, if you want to be able to push the MLV off to the side, you can make the curtain rods longer than the door itself.
On the other hand, you could also use soundproof blankets as curtains here too. However, you will need someone to move them before you can drive into the garage. Also, I’m actually not a big fan of using fabric or foam materials to soundproof a garage.
If you have a workshop in there, as I do, the fumes coming from your car and the various machinery, sprays, paint, and adhesives are going to seep into the material. You’d just end up with a horribly smelly room, so if you really want to go this route, be ready to wash or switch out the materials often. In any case, using curtains to soundproof your garage doors should work on both roll-up and sliding models.
Doors that Swing Up
As for the doors that swing up, you may be able to get away with just using door sweeps and weatherstripping tape. However, since draft stoppers don’t really come in 8-foot widths, you may have to improvise here too. Most door sweeps consist of two parts — the rubber that goes from the door to the floor and the metal bit that holds the rubber. You’d put your screws through the metal and the rubber into the bottom of the door to attach the piece.
Personally, I’d attach something like this 5-inch wide roll of rubber to the bottom of the door. You can simply attach it to the bottom of the door, so when the door comes down, the rubber will bend a bit, sealing the garage. This will also stop airflow, which should stop the sound from passing in or out.
You can actually use a similar material to line the insides of the door frame. The easier alternative would be to use self-adhesive weatherstripping foam.
However, none of these methods will work if the doors themselves are too thin or structurally weak. So if you need to, you can also cover the inside of the doors with MLV and/or thicken them up with moving blankets. Still, since I don’t like the idea of using breathable fabrics, I recommend using acrylic and fiberglass welding blankets.
Double Swing-Out Doors
Well, if you’ve ever worked on soundproofing or even weatherproofing your front door, you’ll know what to do to swing out garage doors. Just make sure to plug all of the air gaps around and between the two doors. You can even apply door sweeps, although the way the doors move will make them harder to close with rubber in the mix.
Instead, you can wait until the doors are shut, then put heavy draft stoppers on the inside. You can even make a couple of those yourself with bags of rice and some old jeans. Or, if you have heavy bags of sand already in your garage for some reason, you can lay them against the bottom of the doors when you’re not using them. Alternately, you can stuff some old towels, blankets, or rags into the bottom gap of the doors.
In addition to the main garage door, you may need to deal with the secondary door as well. Typically, your second door will be a regular single door but the way you treat it will depend on where it leads to.
If it leads to the yard, you can soundproof it as you would an external door. So, weatherstripping tape, rubber gaskets, and some of the regular door sweeps I’ve recommended before will be perfect.
On the other hand, if you’re working on a door that leads to your house, you can treat it as an interior door. Consider whether it needs to be thicker or more solid. If your family is right beyond the door, you’ll want to employ more serious techniques to spare them and yourself the noise.
But since I’ve already written about door soundproofing before, I won’t drone on about it today. So let’s move on to the second most vulnerable area in the room.
Thicken the Windows
Once again, the ways to soundproof your garage windows are pretty standard. Like with the doors, you can use weatherstripping tape and even smaller draft stoppers.
If your windows were never installed properly, they could be letting air (and noise) in on the sides. In that case, you can caulk all around the window frame.
I’ve also recently written about plastic acoustic film, which you can use to thicken the glass itself. Or, if you don’t need the natural light from the windows, you can plug the area with a window insert.
Make the Garage Walls Sturdier
If the walls of your garage are much too thin for comfort, you can either open them up or work on the surface level only.
Personally, I’m partial to the first method, simply because it’s the best way to soundproof your walls. You’d be able to take out the old insulation and replace it before putting the drywall back. I recommend going for soundproof materials and MLV, as I’ve explained in the article I linked to.
However, if you wanted to step it up, you could use resilient channels. They will make sure that the sound doesn’t vibrate through the walls.
But then, if you have cement or brick walls, you can also put wooden studs directly over the wall, then continue as usual. Additionally, you can always just attach MLV and welding blankets over the walls as they are. As I’ve said, I’d steer clear of the more breathable materials if you use your garage as a workshop.
Using the Garage as a Studio
On the other hand, if you mostly use your garage for band practice or for hobbies in general, you can use all the acoustic foam products, soundproof curtains and blankets your heart desires. But, if you have a big space to work with, there’s a better way to make a garage studio. Especially if you’re still parking your car in the garage, you should consider making a room inside the garage.
Build a Separate Room Inside
As I’ve said time and time again, building a room within a room is simply the best way to stop bass from traveling. If you’ve got frequent jam sessions with your band, that’s exactly what you need. In fact, if you’ve ever been in a professional music studio, you’ll have seen that the recording booths are typically completely separate from the rest of the building.
You can use fiberboard for the main part of the construction and thicken it with foam or cork. I’d even add a layer of Green Glue and soundproof drywall on top. Speaking of the top, you should also create a completely separate floor and ceiling to prevent the sound from traveling. Then you can line the inside of your room with various acoustic products.
Now, I wouldn’t leave your little DIY studio booth directly on the ground of your garage. Instead, I recommend laying thick rubber or rubber foam under your floor board to act as an anti-vibration mat. I’ve also seen people use tennis balls to create a drumming platform, so you can also do that.
You can see how one drummer made his platform in this YouTube video. And you can also check out my own article about soundproofing a drum room for further instructions.
Soften up the Floors and Ceilings
If you need the audio quality inside the garage to be good, you’ll want to soften up the floors and ceilings as well. Still, I wouldn’t go strewing carpets around your garage for just any reason. Just like with the blankets or curtains, carpets will absorb the car fumes and any other smells from your garage. Additionally, since I often do light welding in my garage, I’d need to work with fireproof materials only.
In any case, most of the garages I’ve been to sit directly on the ground. But even if the garage is above a storm shelter, there’d be no need to prevent noise from traveling down.
Similarly, the space above the garage is, most of the time, uninhibited. However, in case that you do have an apartment above your garage, I recommend soundproofing the floor above, rather than the ceiling below.
This is exactly why you need to know why you’re soundproofing your garage. You’ll only need to soundproof the floors and the ceilings if you want to stop the sound from bouncing inside. Therefore, the only reason to use carpets and attach acoustic foam to the ceiling is to improve audio quality.
If you’re starting out with concrete floors, you may want to lay down some flooring. If you’re still parking your car in the garage, you can get vinyl flooring. Otherwise, laminate or hardwood should be fine, and you can even use soundproof underlayment underneath it. Then, you can lay down some foam carpet underlay and top it with a carpet.
What’s more, you can give the ceiling a similar treatment as well. Or, if you want to keep it classy, you can just put up foam panels and be done with it.
FINAL THOUGHTS ON SOUNDPROOFING A GARAGE
After all that work, you should never get another noise complaint. Better still, if your garage is your main getaway spot, you can be sure that it’ll be free from distractions.
Just remember, if you want all of this, you’ll need to identify why you need to soundproof your garage first. Then, you’ll also need to figure out the main vulnerabilities of the space. These two things should be enough to get you started on your journey to having a quiet garage.
Still, if you need another pointer, I’ll simply leave you with a piece of advice. Always focus most of your energy on the doors. After all, they’re often the main thing you’ll need to worry about.
As for everything else, you’d be surprised at how far you’ll be able to get with MLV and welding blankets. Now that that’s been said, you can soundproof your garage like a pro!