How to Soundproof a Garage on a Budget

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One of the most common problems encountered by the proverbial "garage band".

Do you have a garage you want to jam in but the neighbors just aren't your best fans? You need to whet that 130dB inside down to 5 or 10dB outside. The best and, maybe, only way to do that is to trap air in between several walls spaced far enough apart to stop the sound waves from getting to your driveway. This usually means framing a new, separate wall inside the garage wall, covering both sides with drywall, and building a room within a room. This article is, in no way, a technically accurate or sound engineering description of how to build a real, professional studio. It does, however, describe a room I built in Pasadena, TX in 1980, which kept my neighbors happy, and us jamming.

Using pallets (you can usually get free) will save you some money from not buying framing studs and you won't need a carpenter.

Is your garage already finished inside? I mean does it have drywall on the walls and ceiling? If so, you're automatically way ahead in the game. Also, you need to have a separate, normal sized entry door to get in and out of the garage. If the big door is the only door, this won't work.

  1. If your garage is not finished inside, go to a hardware store and obtain enough 4' x 8' sheets of drywall to cover all the walls and enclose the ceiling space so you have four flat walls and a flat ceiling approx 8' off the ground. If you can get your mitts on 1/2" plywood or siding, paneling, or any other 1/2" or thicker rigid material (1/2" cardboard will even work), use that instead of the drywall. You can usually find a lot of usable stuff at building construction sites in the dumpsters, or ask the foreman if you can have any unused or demoed material and shipping crates or heavy boxes.

    Now you've got a garage with three covered walls, a ceiling at the bottom of the roof joists, and a big door. At this point you need to decide that the door and its huge opening are to be sacrificed to the god of lost memory because you won't use it again until you tear the jam room apart.

  2. Use old rope, rolled up newspaper, old sheets or blankets torn and rolled and stuff this into any gaps between the door and door frame, or the floor, and at the top of the door. You should not be able to see any light coming in from outside.

  3. Now, get a hold of some rolled fiberglass insulation 4" thick with no paper covering. Using contact cement, glue this to the inside of the garage door and to the walls on each side so all you see is a wall of pink insulation, from wall to wall, floor to ceiling.

    Now for the new wall . . .

  4. Find yourself eight wooden pallets approx. 4' x 4', all the same thickness or height. It's best if they are all alike. Trim off any overhanging surface boards so they are all flat along all four sides. Arrange them flat on the floor so two pallets butt against each other. Drill holes through both pallet sides and use at least 3/8" bolts, washers, and nuts to bolt them together so you have an 8' x 4' pallet. Do this again three more times until you have four of these 8' x 4' pallets. Cover one side of each pallet section with drywall or siding. The four foot wide pallet is a perfect mate for four foot wide drywall or plywood.

    Measure out from your garage door 8-10" and draw a line on the floor and ceiling from one side to the other parallel to the door. This marks the position of the new inner wall.

  5. One at a time, lift one of the 8' pallet sections up and move it to the line you drew on the floor and ceiling. Using Liquid Nails in a caulking gun, glue the bottom of the pallets to the concrete floor so they line up on the backside with the line you drew. At the top, either liquid nail the pallets to the drywall ceiling or, if the pallets are too short, use bailing wire or jack chain nailed to the top of the pallets to hold the top in place using hollow wall anchors in the ceiling. Each time you put up another pallet section, drill holes and use bolts and nuts to connect the two sections together. Repeat this until you have a new wall frame 8-10" from the door, from one side of the garage to the other. If there is a gap at each side wall because the pallets aren't wide enough, don't worry about it, we'll fix it later using the drywall.

    You now have an insulated door, which is no longer visible, a new drywall wall 8-10" inside that, and a new wall frame inside. All you should see is the pallet frame with the drywall on the backside going from floor to ceiling, wall to wall.

  6. Cover the new wall frame with more drywall, siding, paneling, etc. until it's covered from sidewall to sidewall, floor to ceiling covering any gaps or spaces at the ends of the pallet frames if they are too short. It's a good idea to stagger the drywall so that its joints fall in the middle of a pallet and not on the pallet joints. This makes the pallet joints more rigid.

    You now have a garage door with insulation inside, 8-10" of dead air space, and a new wall on each side of the pallet frame.

  7. Repeat the procedure using more pallets and drywall to build three more walls 8-10" inside the existing walls. If possible connect the ends of each new wall frame to the frame of the adjacent wall at the corners with bolts or nails for rigidity. (Don't get overzealous and cover the door leading out. You won't be able to get to your guitar, or food, hehehe.)

This new room inside a room should limit the sound you hear outside to almost a whisper. In the one I built we were able to jam at full volume with a fully wailing drummer and only hear a muffled bass and a small thump from the kick drum. The neighbors heard nothing even standing in their front yard.

This takes care of the neighbors, but what does it sound like inside? With all those flat walls and ceiling it will sound like dog puckey. Way too reverberant and live. I suggest getting, again, rolled fiberglass insulation, but this time with a paper surface or "craft facing" on one side. Roll it out and use long nails, 16d will do, to tack it to the inside walls. Unfold and overlap the paper on the side of two rolls and use the long nails to tack that seam of the two rolls to the wall. Don't nail it all the way in, just far enough to hold it to the wall. You end up with a "tuck 'n roll" wall. Usually you will only need this on the two sidewalls. You might lightly spray paint the exposed paper face to glue any free fiberglass fibers down and keep them from getting on you and any listeners. Flat black makes for some great atmosphere. Black tuck 'n roll ! ! Reminds me of my '55 Ford Victoria.

Egg crates are usually no good for soundproofing. BUT, if you stack four crates into each other and tack them, as one crate, to the ceiling in a checkerboard pattern leaving every other space blank, it will absorb a lot of unwanted high end and make the room more playable. The back wall, opposite the amps, is a good place for this too. Four crates stacked does offer just enough of a barrier to "fine tune" the room and helps control feedback.

Heavy carpet curtains about three feet wide, caddy cornered in the back corners, from ceiling to floor, helps the bass sound thumpier and removes a lot of boom. Hall runners are great for this.

In my room, we initially covered every wall completely and ended up with the guitar and bass not being able to hear each other. We could both hear the drums, but not each other. So, we took down crates until it livened up. It ended up in a checkerboard on the back wall and ceiling. We painted the egg crates black for the back wall giving it a real checkerboard look. We painted the crates for the ceiling four different fluorescent colors and ran the colors diagonally on the ceiling. Behind the band, on the wall covering the garage door, we painted a big rainbow on a sky blue background and hung black sheets draping to the side to look like stage curtains on the rainbow wall. It was very colorful and became a minor legend in the South Houston area.

A nice shag rug on the floor and a drum riser 12" high gave us the best amateur practice/jamming/recording room on the Gulf Coast. KHOU FM radio station even brought their mobile recording/broadcast truck out and did a "Seeds of Rock 'n Roll" show taping from our studio. That was a gas, whatta' party ! !

We were called "Granite Press". (A big heavy metal machine that stamps out hard rock.) We were all original and stayed together until 1986, and had a lot of fun in that room. Then the guitar player got married, moved to Livingston and couldn't jam anymore. Then the drummer met Jesus (I could have introduced them anytime) and he became a minister and sold his drums. He made a better drummer than he did a minister.

Good riddance to bad roadies ! ! I'm still kickin', or trying to anyway.

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User-submitted comments

jenniferhelen
May 07, 2010 08:07 am
Very nice article.

Nice point about the carpet “Heavy carpet curtains about three feet wide, caddy cornered in the back corners, from ceiling to floor, helps the bass sound thumpier and removes a lot of boom”
You have mentioned: “Repeat the procedure using more pallets and drywall to build three more walls 8-10" inside the existing walls”. I think that will remove a lot room space. I am planning to use Quietrock instead of drywall. I’ve heard that they are really good and one layer will make a big difference. I found some useful information on their site: http://www.quietrock.com/educational-resources/

ethanpop42
May 14, 2011 12:52 pm
Starting the same thing here in Duluth MN.
This sounds excellent! I've come to realize that MASS and Density are the best sound proofers along with any studio's best friend "ISOLATION" I am going to incorporate a few of these ideas and a few others and will let you know the outcome. We have big drums and big guitars so I am anxious to hear how this works. My whole neighborhood is awesome and no one has complained but I like to be as considerate as poss. what with 16 kids total in a stone throws distance. My wife supports it totally and is willing to give up the garage for this (it only means I have to buy her a starter for her car) no prob. So thank you and I will share my ideas and progress as it goes! HAPPY JAMMIN! I am glad you're still rockin out!


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