When you have blasting music you want to keep inside your man cave, or you have sound you want to keep out from the rest of your house, sound isolation is very important, and often an overlooked aspect of man cave design.
But before you go slapping those ugly foam panels onto every cave wall you can see, there is some important groundwork you have to do before you make any purchase.
- What is Sound Isolation?
- What’s the difference between Sound Isolation and Sound Insulation?
- Keeping Sound Out vs Keeping Sound In
- Noise Isolation vs Noise Cancelling
- Airborne Noise vs Impact Noise
- How to Prevent Echos in your Man Cave
- Noise Reduction Coefficient
- Final Thoughts
What is Sound Isolation?
Simply put, sound isolation is the process of stopping outside sounds from getting into your man cave. There are many terms that are used today when talking about sound. Soundproofing, sound isolation and sound insulation all refer to keeping sound in or out of a space.
What’s the difference between Sound Isolation and Sound Insulation?
Sound isolation simply means to keep two different sound sources apart where sound insulation is the barrier used to isolate two sound sources.
Another way to look at the difference is sound isolation relates to separating sounds while sound insulation is more about protecting sound.
Although there are differences in both terms, they do get interchanged all the time, most people will refer to sound insulation but they are talking about both.
Keeping Sound Out vs Keeping Sound In
There are two problems every man cave owner has when dealing with sound and it really comes down to what your goals are. Do you want to improve sound within your man cave (keeping sound in) or do you want to stop sound leaking in from an adjacent room (keeping sound out)? Sometimes you want to tackle both problems at once.
Once this is decided, you need to work out what changes you can make to your man cave… can you remove walls, ceiling of floors? Many products on the market can only be used with these types of modifications so it’s pointless looking at these if you can’t make the required changes to your cave.
Noise Isolation vs Noise Cancelling
When talking about noise isolation or noise cancelling, there are distinct differences between them. Noise isolation refers to the separation of sounds. This is different to noise cancelling, which is a method to remove a sound by creating the inverse wave. It is very common in headphones but man cave owners are really more interested in barriers to either keep sound in or out.
Airborne Noise vs Impact Noise
There are two types of noises that can impact your man cave. Airborne noise and Impact noise. You may or may not want to tackle both but it’s important to differentiate them as there are different products on the market for each.
Airborne noise is noise that has transmitted from a sound source and travels through the air (eg. music or talking).
Impact noise is noise created through vibrations. These can be through joists in the floor or ceiling, or studs in the walls. An example of this would be someone walking on the floor above you.
Both may not be of interest to you. Most cave owners are more concerned about airborne noise than impact noise.
Once you’ve worked out whether you want to get rid of airborne noises or impact noises, it’s time to tackle soundproofing.
While it’s impossible to eliminate all airborne noises, there are quite a few ways to greatly reduce them. A good way to get rid of airborne noises is to fill any gaps. This is where sound travels through nooks and cracks. It doesn’t take much of a gap to let sound through so preventing sound from getting through these will help tremendously.
Impact noises usually arise from vibration so the best way to get rid of impact noise is to get rid of the vibration. Some of these fixes will be easy while others may be in difficult to reach places.
In the next section, we’ll tackle each area of a man cave where soundproofing can be done.
Doors are usually the biggest culprit when dealing with sound leakages. They have air gaps around every side and the door itself will cause plenty of sound echoes.
An easy place to start is by plugging the gaps around the door. This may involve installing a heavy duty door sweep to cover the gap on the bottom of the door. It is a permanent solution so be sure it blends in with your door color.
If you want something a little less permanent, the Holikme noise blocking door sweep will do the job nicely.
Around the rest of the door frame, it’s best to use door weather stripping (B07P114Q57) as these gaps will only be small but can be easily blocked to keep the sound in or out.
The door itself can also be a cause of noise leakage or vibration. Ensure the door is installed firmly and does not rattle or shake. Unfortunately, most doors on the market are built with hollow or cardboard insides. These are just awful to use in man caves. Large, heavy, solid timber doors are best.
Avoid installing glass doors if possible as glass can vibrate as well as bounce sound waves back into the room causing echoes.
If you don’t mind the ugly sight of them, installing acoustic foam panels will definitely do the best job at absorbing sound but not every man cave owner wants to see these in their cave.
If you’re in the process of building your man cave, there are acoustic doors on the market. These are constructed with sound deadening material inside the door. Although expensive, these will be the most aesthetically pleasing doors to look at.
Nothing about a window is good for man caves… They are glass (which is terrible for acoustics), will rattle and vibrate easily and can be hard to seal around the sides of the window and still be able to effectively use it like a normal window.
There are some things that you can do to help soundproof your windows. Installing insulating glass will definitely help keep soundproofing. If this isn’t an option, the next best way to soundproof is to install curtains around the window. These will help with sound insulation and reduce echoing.
The last option would be to use weather stripping around the window trims. In most cases, there won’t be much room to install weather stripping so be sure to check the size of your gaps before buying.
Vents can be very tricky to soundproof. The ventilation holes are there to let air in or out. There are a few options available to keep sound in or unwanted sound out:
Block off the air vent altogether
If the vent is not required then the best way to soundproof will be to block it off totally. One option is to install drywall over the vent and treat it like any other part of the wall. The other is to use a soundproofing sealant inside the vent to completely fill the inside of the vent. The vent will still be visible, but it won’t be letting much noise in or out.
Cover the vents
Using a curtain or a soundproof blanket usually is a temporary solution, especially if you need to keep using the vents but covering will do a pretty good job at soundproofing. Magnetic vent covers are also a great solutions as they allow you to remove them when not required. Plenty of sizes are also available.
Add acoustic foam inside the vent
Adding acoustic foam inside the vent will help absorb some of the sound. If you have access to your vents and need them to be functional as well then this may be an option. Building a sound maze will also help.
The type of wall you use in your man cave will be the most important decision you will make in regard to soundproofing. If your man cave is already built then your options are limited. The options listed below relate to drywall only, if you would like to install acoustic foam panels then read on later in this article.
If you have the option to replace your drywall, you have quite a few options to install new drywall with soundproofing.
If you have brick or stone walls in your man cave, it’s a hard decision to cover them up with drywall. You will lose much of the man cave feel by doing this but if soundproofing is paramount then installing drywall over the top will reap benefits. The new drywall will add a sound deadening barrier.
Lining the inside of the wall with Mass Loaded Vinyl (MLV) will help absorb a lot of sound. There are plenty on the market as it’s also used in a wide variety of applications such as soundproofing cars, boats and machinery rooms. Find the right size for your area. MLV is a superior soundproofing solution as it’s very thin and flexible and does an excellent job of soundproofing.
The type of flooring you have in your man cave will make a huge difference in terms of sound isolation. Good flooring will help absorb both impact and airborne sound which is ideal. If you are installing new flooring then these floor types will guide you while if flooring is already installed then these floor types will give you an idea as to how good or bad that flooring is for acoustics.
We can rate each floor type for it’s sound deadening properties:
Tiles – Terrible
Concrete – Almost as bad
Hardwood – Still not good but there are options
Rubber – Good
Vinyl Tile with sound-insulating underlay – Pretty good
Carpet – Ideal
As you can see from the list above, only carpet and vinyl tiles are worth installing if sound isolation is all that is important to you. Every man cave in existence is used for multiple activities so your flooring decision will be influenced by more than one factor. Acoustics is just one of those factors. Aesthetics and stain resistance also need to be considered, so installing a flooring ideal for acoustics may not be the best choice either.
Each floor type has it’s Pros and Cons in regard to sound and acoustics.
Pros: Easy to clean but do nothing for acoustics
Cons: Tiles in a man cave are the worst type of flooring you could possibly have. Not only do they bounce sound extremely easily (think echoes), they also don’t have any sound deadening underlay. Sound and vibration will travel through the floor.
Pros: Looks nice in a modern man cave but does nothing for acoustics
Cons: Like tiles, sound bounces off concrete very easily (think echos). If you are stuck with concrete then either look at installing Vinyl tiles with proper underlay or carpet. Large rugs will help absorb sound.
Pros: Installing soundproofing underlay will absorb a lot of impact and airborne sound from going through the floor. Hardwood itself is not a great choice for acoustics as sound will bounce off the floor fairly easily.
Cons: Will echo badly if the correct soundproofing underlay is not installed
Pros: Very good at absorbing sound. Hard-wearing and cheap.
Cons: Not aesthetically pleasing to look at. Not ideal to install under a pool table.
Vinyl Tile with sound-insulating underlay
Pros: Excellent choice for sound insulation. Great durability
Cons: Depending on the type of underlay used, may not be a good choice for flooring under a pool table
Pros: Carpet and carpet tiles are excellent choices for the acoustics in your man cave. High pile carpet with a thick underlay are both good at absorbing sound. Carpets that are designed for home theaters will work equally as well in a man cave.
Cons: Not ideal flooring for pool tables or around bars, hard to keep clean
A key concept here is floating floors, meaning that the floor is installed on top of an appropriate sound insulating underlay. The sub-floor acts as a sound barrier that absorbs noise and vibration.
Every man cave owner has their own requirements for flooring. Sometimes acoustics just cannot be the only factor when choosing a floor type. Choose the floor type that suits your budget and your entire cave.
The ceiling is often an area of the man cave that’s neglected when it comes so soundproofing. There are a few things that you can do to help with sound isolation.
Foam insulation is an excellent way to absorb sound in a ceiling. Foam is available in both sheets as well as a spray. The type used will depend on how much access you have in your ceiling. Sheets will absorb more sound than spray but access to ceilings is not always easy.
Installing an Isolation Channel is an effective way to reduce impact noises. It works by isolating or decoupling the drywall from the ceiling joists. This helps reduce impact and vibration noises. Once in place, it’s a simple case of installing drywall over the top.
Sealing Gaps & Cracks
Gaps and cracks around water pipes, ducting and electrical wiring can be easily sealed using acoustic caulk or spray foam. Even though these gaps may be small, sound can easily travel through them. Acoustic caulk also helps reduce vibration noise.
How to Prevent Echos in your Man Cave
Echos are sounds that bounce off hard surfaces and come back to your ears. They can be annoying in any man cave and will make your space feel very uncomfortable.
Solving this problem first involves identifying what surfaces the sound is bouncing off. Common areas include the flooring type (tiles and hard floors). Replacing or covering these surfaces with soft items will help. Whether that is carpet for the floors, curtains on the windows or fabric sofas, fabric does a very good job at absorbing these sounds and stopping them from rebounding back into your ears.
Curtains do a very good job at absorbing sound. The heavier and thicker the curtain, the better job they will do. There are sound deadening curtains on the market, but with their premium price, they will only do a slightly better job than standard curtains. And really, your man cave is not a movie theater.
If curtains aren’t your thing and you want to keep your man cave modern, installing fabric roller blinds will help. These won’t do as good a job as curtains, but the fabric in the blind will absorb some sound and stop it from rebounding.
When you have a tile or hardwood floor that you just can’t change, adding a large rug or two will have a great impact on acoustics in your man cave.
Be sure to lay them where sound is likely to cause echos. The beauty of a rug is that you can pick it up and lay it wherever you like. It’s not permanent and they’re pretty inexpensive.
Once flooring and curtains have been installed, it’s important to also consider soft furnishings as a way to absorb sound. Fabric sofas, rugs and even cushions will all help absorb sound and reduce echoes in your man cave. They can be moved around to suit your needs.
All fabric items in your man cave help absorb sound, that includes pool tables. Now you have another reason to buy one!
Unfortunately, the reverse is also true when adding items to your man cave with hard surfaces, so that full size air hockey table and ping pong table won’t do you any favors when help it comes to echos.
In days gone by, acoustic panels had to be ugly foam, egg-crate shaped panels on your walls. While these are still available, and do a pretty good job, modern and stylish acoustic panels are now available.
Get creative and think of them as art. There is no hard and fast rule to say that you have to install them in a certain way. What is important is that you are covering walls that normally would bounce sound and create echos. The more acoustic panels you install, the more effective they will be at removing echos, but every man cave owner needs to draw a line between functionality and aesthetics.
If you want to save some money then why not make your own acoustic panels. Adding your own fabric can help blend them into the rest of your cave.
You can add acoustic panels onto your ceiling as well as your walls. The limit is only what you can bear to see.
Acoustic Paint, Sound Deadening or Soundproof Paint has been on the market for many years. In many ways the product is misleading as it doesn’t actually make a room soundproof. Simply put, soundproof paint is very thick paint that once applied, takes 3-4 days to dry. It will absorb sound better than standard paint so in that regard, it does help. Soundproof paint can be useful in a man cave that doesn’t have carpet or has limited soft furniture or curtains. There are other soundproofing methods that can be done in your man cave that will have greater benefits. Acousti Coat is one of the more popular sound deadening paints available.
Soundproof paint won’t block sound from traveling to other rooms in the house but it will help absorb sound and reduce echoes in your cave.
Noise Reduction Coefficient
A term that is often used when talking about soundproofing is Noise Reduction Coefficient (NRC) is a rating that is used to show how much a product absorbs sound. It’s a value between 0 to 1. An NRC value of 0 means that the product doesn’t absorb any sound, while an NRC value of 1 means 100% of sound is absorbed.
When looking at products, compare NRC ratings to help determine if a product in the right fit for your man cave.
There are areas of a man cave that can use sound isolation. Some are quick and easy, while others are only relevant if you are building or renovating. Choose the methods that fit your budget and your man cave. With many soundproofing problems, always use trial and error to see what works for you. Soundproofing is going to be a gradual process. Above all, you want your man cave to be comfortable.