A log cabin or summerhouse at the bottom of the garden can make the perfect home studio or bar for a karaoke night. Unfortunately, sound can escape all parts of a garden building, and without soundproofing, your neighbours can probably hear you singing into the night.
A garden room is an ideal location for entertaining friends and family. Many great examples of builds we have seen feature beer taps and even drum kits. Another use case is your own private music room, tucked away in the tranquillity of the garden. But one of the biggest challenges is soundproofing and finding a way to keep noises levels outside to a reasonable amount.
For new owners, it can often be surprising just how much noise can be heard outside a log cabin or summerhouse. Due to the timber-framed design, they offer far less soundproofing compared to a residential building. While we can’t stop all of the noise, we can take practical steps to stop as much sound as possible getting out by installing soundproofing features.
A soundproof design should be considered early on in the design and construction stage. Building features such as thicker timber logs and insulation all support extra soundproofing, as well as their other benefits. We can still add extra soundproofing once the log cabin or summerhouse is constructed, it may just require additional work and become a little more obtrusive.
While professional soundproofing products from specialist companies will achieve the best results, this will be out of the question for most of us. Luckily, many common building products which can be used as part of a DIY job are great for effective results. Let’s take a look at our top tips for soundproofing your garden room.
Soundproofing the Door & Windows
Doors and windows are one of the biggest culprits when it comes to letting noise out of a log cabin or summerhouse. Many buildings use doors & windows which let plenty of light in to enjoy on a warm summers day. Unfortunately, they often do little to add to the soundproofing effect. In an ideal soundproofing scenario, windows would likely be removed in place of thick walls.
Upgrading to double glazed windows & doors is an effective way to improve sound isolation. Most garden building manufacturers will offer upgrades at the time of purchase and we highly recommend them for reducing noise levels. Window panels with a larger gap in-between will provide increased sound protection. If double glazing is not available, opting for thicker glass such as toughened safety glass will still provide some soundproofing benefit.
If your windows are already installed, clear plastic sheets can be used to attach to the windows, increasing the thickness and making it harder for sound to escape. This secondary glazing approach uses acrylic sheets cut to size and placed into the interior of the window. The effects of an additional layer can also increase heat-insulating properties.
In older garden buildings, the windows should be inspected to ensure the rubber seals are in good working order. Inadequate seals create gaps for sound to escape.
A common issue with log cabins can be small gaps appearing around the windows and doors. This is due to the wood naturally expanding and contracting over time, resulting in movement around where they join. Larger holes can be sealed with acoustic foam. For smaller gaps, sealant can be used to cover over spaces and create an airtight seal. Any sealant will increase soundproofing, but special noise reduction compounds are available.
As an additional layer, we find soundproof curtains work very well to reduce the noise coming out of a garden building. Of course, this will mean they need to be closed to get the maximum effect. Soundproof curtains are thicker than usual curtains to reduce the amount of noise that can travel through and effectively lower the sound level.
The gaps around doors are a particularly troublesome area for soundproofing. Whilst a gap is required to allow efficient opening and closing, too much is going to allow sound to escape. We use a drought excluding seal all of the way around the door. Door seals are self-adhesive and can be installed quickly and easily. When the door is closed, they compress together to create a tight seal that won’t affect the functioning of the door itself. They can also be used for windows which open as well.
Depending on the type of lock a summerhouse or log cabin has installed, it may have an exposed gap where the key fits. A door lock cover can be placed over the top to stop sound escaping and create a seal around the lock when the key is not placed inside.
Soundproofing the walls
The walls are the biggest area of any log cabin or summerhouse and increasing soundproofing to them is going to have the biggest overall effect.
Purchasing a garden building with heat-insulating properties in mind is also going to have a big effect on noise reduction. For a log cabin, thicker walls such as 44mm and above create additional soundproofing by making it difficult to sound to get out. A dense wood structure will do a better job at insulating against sound.
For a summerhouse, installing insulation is essential for increasing soundproofing, but not all types of insulation will work. We usually recommend rigid insulation boards which are great for heat insulation. Unfortunately, due to their lightweight design, they are going to have a minimal effect when it comes to sound. Instead, opt for an acoustic insulation roll which will provide both heat and sound benefits. Acoustic insulation is very thick and can be packed in tightly between the interior wall lining for maximum results.
For use as a music studio, acoustic foam panels can be installed on the walls to cut noise levels further and create a professional feel. These work by using soft materials to absorb sound energy and stop it from bouncing around the interior space. Most panels are 5cm thick which will reduce the interior space on a smaller garden room so may not be used on every wall. Installation is simple, spay adhesive or sticky pads can be used to fix the panels to the wall.
Sound damping in walls works by removing vibration energy from the structure. The energy is converted to heat energy and therefore the sound vibrations are prevented from travelling through the wall. Effectively the material in the wall acts as a shock absorber to prevent sound from travelling through. To achieve this in a log cabin, another wall has to be created inside of the current one. While this approach of a ‘cabin inside a cabin’ can be effective, it will often be expensive and time-consuming to set up.
Guide: Log cabin wall thickness
Soundproofing the floor & ceiling
Both the floor and ceiling can be soundproofed to improve the results further in a log cabin or summerhouse. For the floor, opt for a covering on top of the standard timber floor installed with most log cabins. A carpet works well to reduce noise by providing a soft material to absorb vibrations. The effect can be seen inside a house, where carpeted rooms have little echo compared to those with hard flooring. If you’re not a fan of carpets, rubber floor mats such as those used for home gyms can be used for sound absorption.
Before installing carpet, be sure to check the flooring for any gaps which can be sealed up, particularly in the corners. An acoustic underlay can also be used to lower sound levels further if there is enough of a gap before the log cabin door.
To achieve soundproofing in the ceiling follow the same approach as the walls. Acoustic insulation rolls can be fitted between the framing in the ceiling and then an interior lining of plywood or similar can be installed. If acoustic insulation is not available, a thick wool insulation roll is also suitable. The benefits are also increased thermal insulation, ideal for using a log cabin in all weather conditions.
The elements of soundproofing
Effective soundproofing for any building relies on the same principles. Increasing each of these in a log cabin or summerhouse will increase the levels of sound insulation
Mass – Thick mass impedes the transmission of sound vibrations as it becomes increasingly difficult for sound to vibrate a heavier item. Increasing thickness with a dense material will raise the soundproofing properties of a garden building.
Decoupling – Separating each side of a structure prevents sound from travelling between them. This is achieved in buildings by separating the interior & exterior sides of the wall, with the studs not joining to both. Decoupling is not suited to a garden room due to its high cost & complexity.
Damping – This works by reducing sound vibration energy and converting it to heat energy as it enters the wall. Damping can somewhat be achieved by creating a sandwich effect in the wall, with an insulating material in the middle.
Absorption – When sound waves come into contact with absorbing materials, energy is lost as it is converted to heat. The sound is reduced instead of being reflected back into the room.
Sealing gaps & ventilation
Soundproofing a garden room essentially involves sealing any gaps and creating an airtight structure. Materials such as thermal compound do a great job of covering air gaps and preventing sound from escaping. Unfortunately, log cabins & summerhouses require ventilation to maintain longevity. An unventilated building can lead to dampness and high humidity levels in the room.
Ventilation is going to have the opposite effect to soundproofing, so it’s important to balance the trade-off between them both. The most effective solution will be to use a small passive air vent that can allow for fresh air to circulate. If your garden building does not have any ventilation, it will be important to open windows and doors regularly to stop the build-up of warm moist air.
The cost of soundproofing
The exact amount required to soundproof a garden building will vary by its size and the level of performance required. For a 3x3m summerhouse, an uplift of around £500 can be expected when upgrading to thicker wall logs and double glazing. Small rolls of acoustic insulation start from £30 and at least several will be required for effective results. Remember, most of these are DIY solutions to improve soundproofing. Professional services will often cost as much as the log cabin itself.
A garden building is the ideal location for entertaining friends or converting into a music room. But timber structures are inherently weak at insulating sound which can lead to your neighbours being disturbed by loud music. Taking practical steps can increase the soundproofing properties, allowing you to sing to your heart’s content.
The premise of soundproofing is simple, covering up gaps and increasing thickness to stop sound from escaping from inside. For optimum results, we recommend choosing thicker timber walls and double glazing on windows & doors.