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Amanda Harvey
Amanda
Harvey

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Commercial soundproofing: tips & tricks!

Last modified: 2019/03/06 | Approximate reading time 5 mins

If you work in a noisy restaurant, busy boutique or open-concept office, chances are you’ve thought for a moment or two about the sound in the room. In all of these commercial spaces, it’s probably obvious that sound can be difficult to contain: whether this means receiving noise complaints from neighbours, having frustrated customers, restaurant crowd commotion or the roars of construction finding their way into your quiet business. So, what are the ways to soundproof for a commercial space?

With all of these common problems, serious soundproofing is necessary. We all need a little bit of peace and quiet and when we can’t get that, we need the next best thing: the correct dispersal of sound within a space. Both acoustic design and soundproofing require various skills and methods. Luckily, we’ve compiled tips that can help you better tackle this problem.

Commercial soundproofing: tips & tricks!

hallway office

Soundproofing a commercial space: where to begin

When it comes to soundproofing a commercial space, the first step will be to try and identify potential places within the rooms where noise may be a problem as well as sources of offending noise that may make its way from outside to inside. If possible, start with some acoustical testing, as this will allow you to analyze the ways in which soundproofing the commercial space will be most effective. Another note is to consider the specific materials that will be necessary for your space. Of course, the materials you use to soundproof will really depend on the commercial venture you’re running. After doing a walk around and considering how noise travels within your business, ask yourself the following questions:

  • Are you looking for noise reduction or noise absorption methods?
  • What is the path of noise, how will it travel through the space?
  • Which will be more of an issue: interior or exterior noise?
  • Can soundproofing methods be visible or is it necessary for them to be hidden?

Having detailed answers to each of these questions will allow you to narrow down the installation methods you’ll need to take as well as the right materials for your business.

Absorption, Reflection, Diffusion

Understanding how sound travels within a space can be a little bit difficult to grasp. Luckily, there are some simple terms and concepts that can help clarify what soundproofing method would be best for your specific needs. It’s also important for us to mention that If you’re in the early stages of renovation, there are specific building and construction steps that you can take in order for sound to flow correctly around the space.

Let’s begin by discussing the three terms that will help us better understand building with acoustic design in mind.

1- Absorption

Consider a cloth or towel and how it absorbs a liquid. In soundproofing, this is the same concept, only the sound waves are what’s being absorbed. Absorption methods work to dampen the sounds of the environment and are best in open-concept spaces, as well as reducing the infiltration of exterior noises into interiors and environmental noises. When people think of soundproofing, they usually turn to absorption-methods first but these will not work for every space.

2- Reflection

Again, this method of soundproofing is inherent in the name. Think about an echo, and how the sound reflects off of one surface and bounces towards another. In large spaces, including restaurants or conference rooms, sound reflection can be a problem. In this case, a combination of the right materials, as well as some structural design, will work towards reducing noise.

3- Diffusion

Of the three concepts, this may be the most difficult to grasp. Sound frequencies occur in many ranges, but the most commonly audible are high, middle and low. A room with balanced sound will have high and low frequencies balanced evenly throughout the space. If your boutique, restaurant or office will employ a speaker system for music, this term is important.

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Commercial soundproofing: the design stage

Coffeeshop

If you’re still in early design stages of your office, boutique or cafe, then it’s crucial to think about acoustic architecture and design. If you’re trying to create a relaxed and intimate atmosphere as may be necessary for fine dining or smaller retail spaces, then we’d suggest working with an acoustic consultant. They will help you to really understand the architecture of your space and help you build into it in the most effective way.

When it comes to the building plan, there should be available information regarding ideal decibel levels for your building, and these specifications can help the architects or contractors you may be working with.  

When it comes to the structures of a room, including walls, ceilings and floors. In certain spaces, these may need to be customized to allow for a better dispersal of sound. Further, certain noise-emitting features of the room must be considered. To give you a better idea of what that means, this may include the following:

  • Angled ceilings or walls;
  • Door placement;
  • Placement of heating and cooling vents;
  • Acoustically-designed windows;
  • Location of ducts;
  • In-house sound system placement.

These aspects will have a huge impact on the feel of a business and obviously, all of these will be site-specific. As mentioned it’s sometimes best to work with a professional to determine the necessary steps.

The best soundproofing practices

Commercial space decor

In every single space, there will be a way to improve the sound quality through a few simple practices. Here are the most important of them, all of which could be considered for fostering a beautiful business environment.

Flat surfaces: Too many flat surfaces will lead to sound reflections, and as we mentioned these are unwanted in thorough acoustic design. Flat surfaces can lead to a lack of concentration from office team members, as well as disorientation in busy spaces like cafes or restaurants.

Conflicting noises: Between the HVAC system, elevator music over the speakers, conversations in every direction and even noises wafting in from the street, too many sounds can be overwhelming. Make sure you’re well aware of the possibility of several conflicting noises as well as ways to eliminate or reduce them.

Sound path: We mentioned the sound path briefly, as it is important when it comes to the flow of noises within a room. Keep obstructions to a minimum in relation to the desired path of sound, especially if you’re running a shop and trying to have an even dispersal of music. Another note is that low-frequencies can bend around objects whereas high-frequency sounds will be absorbed.

Dampen: If you’re located within a building with many other commercial spaces, you may need to curve sound flowing into yours. This is when you’ll need to take dampening methods.  Think about materials you can work with that have absorbing properties, including furniture.

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