These days, a home theater can provide an experience that does a great job of replicating or even surpassing what it’s like to go out to a movie; you have your big screen of course, as well as an excellent home theater sound system and even your own custom-built cinema seating. Unfortunately, your home theater may also have some things that a movie theater will not: dogs barking, neighbours mowing their lawn, or maybe kids or a spouse trying to sleep in an upstairs bedroom.
These are just some of the reasons why you might want to find out how to soundproof your movie room, but what exactly does soundproofing do?
Soundproofing’s main purpose is to isolate sound for a given room. The goal is to not only keep your action movie viewing from disturbing the rest of the household—or the neighbour—when they want a bit of silence, but also to keep outside noise from intruding on your entertainment.
Noise travels between rooms in two different ways: through the air and through the building’s structure. Sound moving through the air is easy to understand. After all, an open window or open door very clearly lets sound pass through. Less obvious paths include such things as outlets, HVAC ducting, and gaps under doors.
While a closed door reduces sound compared to an open one, it doesn’t stop the sound entirely and that’s because sound causes structures to vibrate. That vibration recreates the sound in other rooms and other parts of the building. This is how a bedroom on the second floor of your home can still hear your movie viewing in the basement.
Objects and structures in the home will have a sound transmission class (STC) rating. Drywall, for example, is rated at around 40 decibels (dB). If your speakers reach 110 dB, you are left with 70 dB travelling through your walls. Even concrete provide a means for sound to travel.
The Key Elements of Good Soundproofing
Soundproofing itself isn’t necessarily difficult, but the amount of money and work invested in your efforts will determine how successful you are. When planning out your soundproofing project, there are four principles to keep in mind:
- Damping involves reducing the amount of vibration being transferred through objects. This works by having material that absorbs the vibrations before they can become sound waves. While there are specific types of drywall designed for damping, they can be expensive.
- Mass is a very straightforward concept that essentially means that heavier materials will absorb more sound. This is what causes some people to hang carpet on their walls to reduce noise. While this is technically a valid approach, it is not terribly effective.
- Decoupling is a method of soundproofing that stops vibrations from passing through a wall by creating a void between surfaces. An effective means of doing this is to hang two sheets of drywall on separate studs. While this is a fairly simple and relatively inexpensive means of reducing sound transfer, it involves some work, and you will want to consider whether you are ready to pull down your walls and re-hang them.
- Damping and Mass. More of a combination of the first two principles than anything else, this approach mixes mass with absorption. Since each method has its shortcomings, this attempts to combine the two into a more effective whole. When considering this option, keep in mind that materials with a rigid mass, such as drywall, are much less effective at absorbing sound than those materials with what’s known as limp mass.
These are the essentials of soundproofing and once you have a good grasp of them, you will understand how to soundproof your movie room. You won’t need to hire an acoustic expert. How you put this into effect will depend on your budget and what you are willing or able to do. For example, if you are living in a rented property, there are likely limits to what changes you can make. Tearing down walls to install soundproof materials may not be an option.
Tips to Soundproof Your Movie Room
Soundproofing can be either a quick fix that reduces sound minimally, or a more involved project that includes significant structural changes. Here are some approaches to soundproofing that you may wish to consider:
- Absorbent Sound Panels are a readily available means of soundproofing but are not your most effective approach. Still, you may note some difference by placing them appropriately around your speakers and sub woofers, making them worth considering if you can’t afford or don’t want to consider structural changes. A positive to this approach is that the panels are available in a range of styles that might look good on your wall.
- Window Plugs. If you have windows in your movie room, building a window plug is an option to look at. Build the front with something that has sound-absorbing mass, while filling the rest with insulation.
- Insulate the Walls and Ceiling. Using the mass and damping approach, this involves filling the voids between walls and ceilings. Several damping materials can be found online, so be sure to review which is the most suitable for your needs and budget. Consider whether you wish to install the material onto or behind the drywall and be sure to measure the surface area to be covered.
- Isolating Ceiling Joists. We often focus on the walls, but don’t forget about your ceiling, as it should be a key area to work on. Ceilings will often have insulation already, but the construction and materials used will often allow sound to transfer easily. You may choose to open your ceiling and install some new joists, isolating them from the existing ones in a manner that is like decoupling your walls.
- Remember Your Floor. Like the ceiling, the floor can be easy to overlook, though they are a major part of sound transference. Consider laying a carpet with a thick soundproof underlay. If you have hardwood floors, you may want to lay a variety of thick rugs, though this will have little impact.
Soundproofing may not be the first thing you consider when creating your movie room, but it is something that should be addressed. After all, while movies are often best enjoyed with company, your neighbours may not wish to join you by having your sound disturb their peace.