Are you afraid of unwanted noises in your man cave? Either from the man cave going out or from the outside coming in? What can you do? Professionals might charge you a whole lot for noise insulation. Your budget is probably already a bit strained and for most people noise insulation is a bit of an afterthought. Here are some tips that can help you DIY sound insulation for you man cave easy and cheap.
There are some things you should understand before doing anything. Soundproofing isn’t always as straight forward as you might think.
Recommended sound proofing products
Here are the products you can use for soundproofing and deadening your man cave. If you want to know why and how, keep reading. It’s all explained in this post.
Product links (Amazon)
- Noise proof door sweep
- Weather stripping
- Acoustic caulk
- Soundproof curtains
- Acoustic foam
- Mass loaded vinyl
- Heavy moving blankets
For more information on how, where and why to use these products, keep reading.
How does sound transmit to other rooms?
- At its base, sound is air moving at certain frequencies. That moving air moves your eardrums and the little hairs in your ear pick up the sound and your brain translates it to something you understand.
- You soundproof something to prevent noises to reaching your or other’s ears.
- The way to do that is to prevent the moving air from reaching your ears. Sounds simple enough but in practice it can be quite challenging to reach that goal.
- Air has mass. When air moves because of sound, it can start pushing against other objects, making them vibrate as well
- When the object (let’s say a wall) starts to vibrate, it will push against the air on the other side of the wall. This recreates the sound vibrations on the other side of the wall or another object.
Good to know
- Making objects vibrate takes energy. Low frequency sounds contain more kinetic energy than high frequencies (at the same perceived volume). That’s why a subwoofer needs a stronger amplifier than tweeters to create the same sound level.
- This fact makes low frequencies the most difficult to insulate.
Sound deadening or noise insulation?
They are not the same thing.
- Sound deadening: Keeping noises from bouncing around inside a room.
- Noise insulation: Preventing noises from getting into or out of a room.
Sound deadening measures might have a small effect on noise insulation but they’re not going to have the noise insulation effects you’re looking for. You’ll see below they are addressed separately in this post.
Basic noise insulation strategies
What are some basic strategies to prevent noises from getting where you don’t want them? You stop the air from vibrating. How can you do this?
- Fill any air gaps. Sounds transmit easily through air. So if you’ve got a direct air route between the source of the noise and the listener, those are the easiest gains you can make.
- Make things more difficult to vibrate. Walls and windows transmit noise by vibrating. Stopping those vibrations will stop the transmission of noise to the other side.
- Detach the noise from your ear: If the noise can’t reach your walls or windows, you won’t hear anything.
Basic sound deadening strategies
With sound deadening, you’re not trying to prevent sounds from going to another space. You’re trying to not let the same sound come back to your ear twice or more times. There are two ways to do this:
- Sound absorption: Absorb the sound energy so it doesn’t go anywhere else
- Diffuse the sound: Break up the sound in different parts and send them in different directions.
How to DIY noise insulation in your man cave
What can you do to insulate your man cave from unwanted noises? Looking at the basic noise insulating strategies above, we have a few options that are cheap and easy to do yourself.
Here are the most common problem areas from easiest to hardest to fix:
- Gaps around the doors
- Gaps around the windows
- Windows itself
- Doors itself
Before you start
Analyze where the noise is coming from. Blocking the window while the door is the problem is obviously not an efficient use of your time.
Sound proofing tip 1: Block gaps around the doors
This is by far the easiest and cheapest way to prevent noises from transmitting. Find air gaps. Any hole that let’s air go from one room to another is an easy way for noise to get out. Most doors are huge sound leaks. Here’s how you fix that:
- Get a heavy rubber door sweep (Amazon) for the bottom of the door. The heavier and denser the better. The hole at the bottom of the door is usually the biggest gap so this deserves something good.
- For the rest of the door frame, use weather stripping. This can be foam or rubber. Rubber gets a bit better seal in my experience. A better seal means less noise coming through. If you go for foam remember; heavy and dense is better. Closed cell foam has a slight advantage in soundproofing if you can find it.
Sound proofing tip 2: Block gaps around the windows
Although windows usually have better seals than doors, in older houses you can still get some big gains. There are a few things you can do:
- For windows that don’t have to open, you can use acoustic sealant. This is specially formulated caulk to prevent vibrations being transmitted between the two things its sealing. Buy acoustic caulk on Amazon.
- If you want to open the window, use weather stripping, similar to what you used for the doors.
Sound proofing tip 3: vents
Ventilation holes are a bit difficult. They are supposed to let air through so that makes them let air through at the same time. There are two options:
- Can you get away with completely blocking it? If so, this is the easiest and best option. Drywall or insulating foam will do fine.
- Still need the vent? Things are going to get a bit complicated…
Here are some things you can do if you still need the vent.
- How much ventilation do you need? More ventilation = bigger hole = more sound. Can you make the hole or duct smaller?
- You can install some sound deadening mat on the outside of the metal duct so it doesn’t act as an amplifier. This sound deadening mat on Amazon is for cars but that means it’ll work well for metal surfaces.
- You can put some acoustic foam (Amazon link) on the inside of the duct so the sound doesn’t bounce around in the duct
- Hang a soundproofing curtain in front of the vent opening.
- Build a vent maze. This can become a home for mold and smells however.
Sound proofing tip 4: Other holes and cavities
Got any other holes or cavities that let noise through? Fill them up with what’s appropriate.
- Accoustic sealant for small holes
- Insulation foam for medium holes
- Rock wool with drywall covering for large holes
Sound proofing tip 5: Windows
Windows can be a massive source of noise coming into your man cave. There are some thing you can do to prevent that from happening however.
- Install insulating glass. This isn’t cheap or easy but, it is the best solution.
- Hang noise proofing curtains. It’s easy and pretty effective although not completely.
- Create a double window. From Perspex you can create a window that goes in front of the original. This is effective but how pretty it is depends on your skills.
- Create a window plug. This is a piece of acoustic foam with hard backing that plugs exactly into the window frame. Only viable for smaller windows however.
- A combination of all of these.
Sound proofing tip 6: Doors
Doors are a huge gap in the wall that makes it easy for noise to leak through. We already addressed the gaps around the doors but there’s also the door itself.
Vibrations are sound. Cheap and light doors vibrate more easily. Heavy and dense stops sounds. SO, what can you do?
- Install a heavy wooden door. If you can find a used door that fits in your frame, that’s a great cheap option. New doors are expensive.
- Make your current door heavier and denser. It’s
difficult to make the inside heavier so you’ll have to do it on the outside.
- Hang a thick rug on the outside of the door. This can prevent the door vibrating and transmitting noise.
- Mount acoustic panels on the inside of the door. This can absorb a little bit of the sound coming through and help with the sound deadening of the room.
Sound proofing tip 7: Sound insulating for the walls
Once your house is built, your walls are set. There’s not much you can do about it. Try all the above options first before you try to soundproof your walls. It’s the most costly, difficult and time consuming. It’ll also eat up a lot of your available space. Once you’ve exhausted all your other options try this:
Build a second wall
- You build a frame to mount drywall on. Leave some space between wall and drywall, to install the acoustic barriers.
- Install an acoustic barrier on the wall. https://www.soundproofcow.com/product-category/soundproofing-materials/soundproofing-barriers/fiberglass-composites/
- Line the drywall with MLV (Mass loaded vinyl) before mounting.
- Mount drywall
- Fill any air gaps in drywall with acoustic sealant.
If you’re redoing the drywall in your man cave anyways, this isn’t too difficult to add although a little pricey. Otherwise this should only be a last resort.
How to prevent your man cave from sounding like an echo cave
Can you hear yourself talking in your man cave through echoes? Then you’ve got a different problem. You don’t need sound insulation, you need sound deadening.
Echoes are noises bouncing back off surfaces and coming back to your ear again. This can be irritating, make the noise levels higher and make it difficult to understand each other. It also negatively impacts the sound quality of your sound system or TV.
To prevent this, create as many “Soft” surfaces as you can. Sound bounces off hard surfaces, creating echoes. Here’s how you can do this yourself for cheap:
Sound deadening tip #1: Curtains
Hang some heavy curtains. The heavier the better as long as they’re soft. This removes the hard surface of the window from the room and replaces it with a soft, sound absorbing curtain.
Curtains don’t look ugly like other acoustic treatments. In fact they will dress up most man caves. Sound deadening curtains come in many price ranges. On Amazon you can get them at all price point. Choose what you can afford.
These soundproofing curtains are quite cheap and highly rated. Get yours on Amazon.
Sound deadening tip #2: Rugs
You’ll be surprised how much of an impact an area rug has on your room’s acoustics. It’s super easy to do and doesn’t have to be expensive.
If you want something that’s more effective at reducing noise transmission to other spaces, use rubber gym flooring. You can put it underneath a carpet if you like.
Bonus tip: If you’ve got some used carpet that will fit the look of your man cave, you can make a rug out of that for free.
Sound deadening tip #3: Soft furniture
If you don’t have any furniture yet, this is very easy. Choose furniture that’s soft. A sofa or armchair is a giant trap for soundwaves. Now you’ve got a great excuse to buy a pool table as well! Think of that beautiful soft top….
Sound deadening tip #4: Decorate
If your man cave is still empty, there is a good chance the acoustics of your room will still change a lot after you’re finished decorating it. Some decorative options that are great sound deadening tools:
- Shelves with books
These are things you’ll do anyways so it doesn’t cost you anything extra. Most of these things don’t necessarily absorb the sound but they diffuse it. That means the noise doesn’t come back as an irritating echo.
Sound deadening tip #5: Moving blankets
Acoustic foam is a type of heavy foam that traps sound waves inside until they run out of energy. The drawback: it’s expensive. That’s where moving blankets come in. These are heavy blankets that are used to wrap furniture in during a move.
These are quite popular in home recording studios since they do a great job of absorbing sound at a great price. As you can see here (Amazon), they are much cheaper than dedicated acoustic panels.
Man Cave Noise Cheats
If none of the previous noise proofing solutions sound feasible, here are some cheats that might help you out. These might not accomplish the goal of preventing sounds of getting into or out of your man cave. They will prevent certain sound from reaching the wrong ears however.
Soundproofing cheat #1: Noise canceling headphones
Noise canceling is one of the best innovations in headphones for a long time. Just put on the headphones and you can’t hear anything else. And nobody else can hear what you’re listening to. If you want to listen to music or watch movies by yourself, this is the perfect solution.
Good noise canceling headphones aren’t super cheap but think about it like this: If you get the headphones, you don’t have to buy a sound system. And you save money on the sound treatment for your man cave so you’ll save money.
The Sony WH1000XM3 is not the cheapest but generally regarded as one of the best noise canceling headphones. And as said, probably cheaper than soundproofing your whole man cave. Check the price here on Amazon.
Soundproofing cheat #2: Move your man cave outside
Ok, this is not a realistic option for most people but, if you haven’t finished your man cave yet, think about it. Do you have the option to build a man shed in the garden? If so, that would solve most of your noise problems since you just move further away from the house.
Soundproofing cheat #3: Eliminate the source of the sound problems
Maybe eliminate is a bit harsh if we’re talking about people but, you get the point. You could just ask people to be quieter. I know, that gets difficult after a couple of beers…
Soundproofing Cheat #4: Play around with the equalizer
Depending on your man cave, certain sounds will get out easier than others. In general low frequencies are harder to insulate than high frequencies. So if your noise problems are coming from a sound system, play around with the equalizer.
The equalizer is the thing that can add or subtract certain frequencies from your sound. If your sound system has one (usually digital nowadays), play a certain piece of a movie/music and see what eliminating certain frequencies does.
This might negatively impact your sound quality but, it’s completely free to do.
Can you reach complete sound insulation in your man cave?
Technically it’s possible. But in most practical situations it’s not realistic to expect a 100% soundproof man cave. It would take a lot of money, space and time to get this done. Not to mention you have to design it from the ground up. This is just not feasible for most man caves and certainly not on a budget.
Check out: anechoic chamber. Take a look at the pictures and you’ll realize this is not something that’s going to be realistic for your man cave.
For more budget conscious guides, check one of these posts: