Last updated: July 26, 2021 at 9:34 am
In the past, barns were mostly used to house animals and farm equipment and were far enough away from the house that any stray sounds didn’t matter.
Nowadays, not only are there a lot more houses than there were, but there are also many more noisy options than cows to store in them.
In this article:
We’ll go through (in detail) how to effectively soundproof a barn for weddings, music and more!
Reasons to Soundproof Your Barn
We’re going to assume you’re not talking about a barn conversion. For a conversion, building regulations specify the soundproofing required as well as numerous other factors.
Reasons you might want to soundproof your barn include:
- Using it for events such as weddings or parties
- You are using it for music practice, either solo or as part of a band. If you’re using an amp, this will ramp up the decibels
- You may have a workshop in there for DIY projects
- Use as a garage for repairs and retuning the engines of your cars
- If you’re running a business or a side business that makes a lot of noise, e.g. making furniture or working with metal
- You have generators or servers running in there
How to Soundproof a Barn
Before we begin, let’s talk about a few things you should consider. Firstly a barn is a large area, so consider whether you’ll need to soundproof the whole thing or just a section of it. The bigger the area, the higher the cost, both in soundproof materials and your time. You should also think about how much noise you’ll be making and how close the barn is to other houses. You may only need to dampen the sound to an acceptable level and not soundproof it completely.
A Room Within a Room
As barns are built using wood or stone, there’ll likely be many gaps that will let sound escape. If you’re going to be doing something very loud, or you’ll generate a lot of low-frequency sound, or the building is close to other houses, then the gold standard would be to build a room inside your barn. By creating an enclosed space, you can seal up all the gaps and ensure no noise can escape.
Even if you only plan to soundproof part of your barn, it will be a large space. There won’t be any existing walls for part of it, and you may want a lower ceiling, so you’ll have to construct the frame.
It’s tempting to do it all yourself to save money, but if you do it wrong and have to pay a professional to fix it, it will end up being a false economy. Try to assess your skills objectively before you start. Watch videos about how to build walls on YouTube and consider whether you think you can manage it and if you’ll need help.
If you’re soundproofing a large area, you could ask a tradesman to come in for a day or two to teach you how to do it and then do the rest yourself.
To Soundproof Walls
You have a range of options. You could use:
- A double layer of plasterboard
- A thick layer of insulation between two sheets of plasterboard
- Acoustic plasterboard – it’s thicker and more dense and will block noise well, but it is heavier, so bear this in mind
- A layer of Mass Loaded Vinyl (MLV) between two layers of plasterboard. MLV is thin, flexible and easy to install. It blocks and reflects sound, so it’s a great option. It’s also not particularly expensive
- Green Glue soundproofing compound between two layers of plasterboard. This is one of several products by this company. It converts sound waves to heat and will block most sound. It’s also easy to apply either from a bucket or using an applicator
- Acoustic tiles – will block all sound, but they are very expensive. Unless you’re building a recording studio, you won’t need to go this far
- Soundproof tape to seal up the joins between sheets of plasterboard
- Acoustic sealant where the wall meets the ceiling, floor and around light switches or power sockets
If you want to create a completely sealed space, so whichever method you choose, you’ll need to do it on the ceiling too.
Depending on what you’re using the space for, you could lay mass loaded vinyl or rubber mats on the floor to deaden any impact noise. Many schools get rid of their old gym mats either for free or for a nominal cost, which may be a good option. As the room should be sealed and damp isn’t an issue, you could also consider thick rugs or carpet.
The door is another weak point. You can buy heavy-duty doors that are built to be soundproof. If you already have a lighter door you want to use and noise is still escaping, then a curtain or a sheet of MLV over the door would be a good option. You could also nail an old quilt or blankets to it. You should also add soundproof rubber strips to seal up any gaps.
If your barn has windows or you’re going to add some to the room you build, then as a minimum, it must be double glazed, but triple glazed is better. Be extremely conscientious when fitting the windows and seal up any gaps with acoustic sealant. If you’ve gone to all the work of building a soundproof room, you don’t want the windows to let you down.
Bales of Hay
As we’re discussing a barn hay bales are an obvious option. A solid bale of hay is incredibly good at blocking sound. In fact, they are so effective they are used in the construction of houses in some parts of the world.
If you build an inner wall of hay bales, this will probably be enough to block the majority of sounds you could be making in there. You may not even need to do the whole barn, just the wall closest to other buildings.
Always take the necessary steps to make sure any construction is completely to a safe standard!
Yes, believe it or not, hemp is used in soundproofing. Available in insulating sheets or blocks and called hempcrete, it is used as a replacement for bricks, mortar, and anything else used to create walls. It is an excellent insulator, both keeping the heat in and blocking sound from escaping. This is still a less commonly used material though, so you may want to contact a hempcrete company for advice.
Mass Loaded Vinyl
Even if you’re not going for the room within a room option, then MLV is still an excellent product to use. It’s usually less than a quarter of an inch thick, and it’s very flexible. If you want to apply it to the entire barn, then fitting it will not be a difficult task. It is one of the lower-cost options, but as you’re likely going to need a lot of it, make sure it fits your budget upfront. If you ensure you properly seal the doors and windows, then very little sound should escape
Rigid Panel Insulation
As the name suggests, these are panels designed to insulate a room and keep in the heat, and if they stop heat escaping, they’ll block the noise too. They are made from foam plastics such as polystyrene or polyurethane or fibrous materials such as fibreglass or slag wool. They are all waterproof, which is ideal, as the barn may not be completely watertight. A bonus feature of this method is that it will also warm up the temperature meaning you’ll need to spend less on heating.
You can cut the panels into the exact size you need and attach them to the wall using an adhesive. They are relatively lightweight, so you should be able to fit them without help. You can either leave them as they are or add an additional layer of foam panelling.
Sound Absorbing/Moving Blankets
This option is only workable if you want to soundproof one wall as it would be expensive to buy enough blankets to cover an entire barn. Most sound absorbing blankets come with fittings for hanging them up, so they are easy to fit.
You can cover the wall with them, and they will stop up to 70% of the sound from escaping. Make sure you choose the correct type, though. If you’ll be producing sounds with a lot of bass, then you’ll need to get quilted blankets that are designed to block low-frequency sounds.
There’s no getting away from the fact that a barn is a large space to soundproof. It will be more expensive and may require more developed DIY skills to complete it successfully by yourself. Consider what you’ll be using the space for, your budget and how much room you really need.
Once you know this, consider your options and also how much noise is likely to be generated. This will allow you to thoroughly plan your project up front and find the most appropriate solution to meet your soundproofing goals.