Soundproofing a Church Building: A Complete Guide


soundproofing a church

Are your neighbors uncomfortable with the noise coming out of your church on worship days? Noisy neighbors are annoying and it kind of sucks if you have to be one. If you’re like me who saw a small family church grow into a huge congregation with more sound requirements, you’ve probably witnessed the complaints from your neighbors too. Fret not. In this article, I will tell you all you need to know about soundproofing a church building so you can improve the quality of sound in your church and also be at peace with your neighbors. 

Before I begin to go on and on about the technical details of soundproofing a church, it’s a good idea to clearly state what your objectives are in the first place. In some areas, soundproofing a worship center is more than a good idea, it’s mandatory. But in other areas, it’s more courteous and well-mannered to consider your neighbors.

There are two major reasons why a church may need soundproofing. They are:

  • Improving the sound quality in the church
  • Preventing volume overspill outside the church

The reason you want to soundproof your church plays a significant role in the soundproofing process you choose.

Soundproofing a church to improve the quality of sound

Some churches already have thick walls that keep much of the noise within the auditorium. Those types of churches aren’t primarily after shielding the outside world from their sound. Their principal objective may be to enhance the quality of sound within the worship area.

The church may want to get their congregation more engaged in worship activities like the sermon, choir ministration, and discussions. Taking steps to increase the acoustical properties of the church building helps them to achieve that.

Using Acoustic Materials

The most effective way to improve the sound quality in a church is acoustic treatment. Acoustic treatment simply means, adding some devices and materials that distribute sound better. You can use the following acoustic materials in soundproofing a church for better sound

  • Acoustic panels: These panels work by absorbing most of the sounds that come to them. Without the panels, the sounds would hit hard walls and produce undesired reverberations and echoes. So they reduce reverberation and echo, which allows sermons, choir performance, and discussions to be heard more clearly. They are available in various sizes and shapes. A cheaper alternative would be acoustic wall fabrics or blankets.
  • Sound diffusers: Sound diffusers break up and disperse soundwaves by reflecting them in many different directions. They spread sound more evenly in a given environment which produces a richer experience for the congregation. They also reduce echo and reverberation. However, they don’t absorb much sound in the room which can sometimes make the auditorium feel hollow.

A special arrangement of speakers

Arranging your speakers in a certain way helps to control the quality and direction of sound within the church. According to Music Academy, the arrangement of the speakers – especially the subwoofers – can also relieve your neighbors of some headache. They recommend that for big evens, you arrange your speakers in a Cardioid Subwoofer Array.

In addition to the arrangement of subwoofers, you can also use speaker cloths to improve the sound of your speakers. A speaker cloth or grill cloth could positively affect your setup. Use grill cloth for organ chambers, speaker clusters, and much more.

Learn more from this very informative video I found on the Youtube.

Soundproofing a church to prevent volume overspill

This is the area of soundproofing a church that involves the neighbors. Preventing volume overspill or controlling the amount of noise that escapes the building is a difficult task. Though, it’s one you have to consider if you want to live peacefully with your neighbors.

To control the volume outside the church, you have to understand what produces the most noise in the church and the types of sounds that usually escape the church building. This way, you can better address the situation.

Types of sound in churches 

There are broadly two types of sounds to worry about; high pitch and low pitch sounds. They both cause different problems concerning soundproofing a church. You will see what I mean in a second.

  • High pitched sounds: Instruments such as trombones and trumpets produce high pitched sounds. While they are loud to hear within the auditorium, they are relatively easier to prevent from escaping the church. Oftentimes, adding mass to the interior of the church and solid walls are effective against high-frequency noises.
  • Low pitched sounds: These are tricky sounds. They don’t seem to cause much trouble while you’re worshipping, but they spill out and bother the neighbors. Preventing low-frequency sounds, like those produced by a subwoofer, is a more daunting task. This requires extensive measures and even construction in many cases.

What produces the most noise in churches? 

Generally, your instruments should support worship activities, not dominate it. But in most cases, we find the opposite to be in play. So below are some of the noisiest instruments in a regular church setup.

  • The Sound System: In my search for the highest sound-producing instrument in churches, I stumbled upon a remarkable article written in 2014. In this article, the sound system was described as the biggest and most revolutionary musical instrument. Of course, it makes sense when you think of it because you come to see that the sound system regulates the sound level in the church. It is a fairly recent type of instrument and with it, sounds can be amplified, which disturbs the neighbors. You can read more of that article here.
  • Bass Guitars: Typically, the walls of the church provide enough soundproofing against high-frequency soundwaves. However, the low-frequency sounds – bass sounds – are still going to escape and cause problems. The bass guitar has the lowest pitch in the guitar family, so its sound is most likely to be heard from outside the church.
  • Acoustic Drum Sets: Probably an essential instrument in large churches and gatherings, these drums produce loud noises. If there are no adequate steps taken to soundproof this instrument, it could be a pain point for the neighbors.

Finding specific methods to hush the noise from these instruments will certainly help you to soundproof your church. In the next section, you get to see exactly how you can reduce the noise from these sources.

Soundproofing an old church building

a church building

The long and short of soundproofing an already existing building is to try to prevent sound from bouncing randomly. If you can control the direction of the sound produced, you can ensure better sound and reduce volume overspill. That is exactly what every method and application I’m going to explain below is about. 

Soundproofing an old church is significantly harder than building a completely soundproofed church. Although it is relatively cheaper, it’s harder to block all the spaces sound can escape through in an old building. However, that is exactly what you have to do if you’re looking to prevent noise from disturbing your neighbors.

Soundproofing the church auditorium

There are specific areas you can soundproof within the church auditorium that will have the most effect on noise cancellation. There are also certain things you can do to improve the quality of sound within the auditorium.

Using thick rugs to cover the floor

Rugs have a specific function with regards to soundproofing a church building; they help to absorb more sound. Although, they don’t do much soundproofing in the sense of blocking the escape of noise. The idea here is, you want to avoid hard floors like tiles, hardwood, concrete, etc. On no account will any of the floor types be preferable to a completely rugged floor if sound quality is important to you. The general idea is to cover every inch of the hard surfaces if possible.

Another way rugs help is to cushion the transmission of impact noises. Impact noises such as a mic hitting the floor, footsteps, and someone tripping over can be very distracting in a place of worship. Using carpets will help you reduce the noise from such impacts, thereby reducing distractions. This is one of the top sellers if you want to buy on Amazon.

Soundproofing the church windows

soundproofing church windows

Windows not only let out but also let in a lot of noise. So they have earned themselves an undisputable spot on the list of soundproofing any type of building – church included. The good news is, there are lots of approaches you can use to soundproof a window apart from just using a soundproof curtain.

I won’t go into all of that right now because this article, how to soundproof a window, extensively explains the various ways you can insulate a window from noise. We spent days researching the dos and don’ts about soundproofing a window and came up with that article.

Try using white noise

Okay, this application does nothing to block noise from leaving the church, but it reduces distractions within the church. How white noise works is simple: it reduces your ability to notice sudden small changes in sound levels like side talks and footsteps by introducing its noise. This mild noise creates a masking effect and blinds out sudden changes in sound levels while it highlights the big sound differences like preaching and choir ministration.

White noise is becoming a common technology in modern offices, so why not in a worship place? Using this technology will help reduce distraction from the sermon or other church activities. People moving around and dropping things won’t be as distracting as it used to be.

Soundproofing the church door

Cracks on the door and spaces between the door and its frame are potential escape routes for noise. This is another subject we have extensively covered in another article. In this article, how to soundproof a door, we explained in detail the materials and means to soundproof any door.

Use cushioned chairs

church chairs

Wood surfaces and other types of hard surfaces reflect sound too much, so you want to steer clear of them. This only adds to the problem of sound reflecting that is predominant in churches. Instead of wooden or plastic chairs, you should use cushioned chairs within the church auditorium. Chairs covered with fabric will do their part to absorb sound, hence, much less noise escapes the hall. My recommendation would be these ones from Amazon, made up with a durable black fabric and a thick foam.

Use thick drapes and curtains 

Using thick drapes and blankets around the stage, the backdrop of the altar, and anywhere necessary is crucial to noise reduction and soundproofing. Thick drapes will absorb the sound and prevent noise from slipping out. You can also use soundproofing curtains for the windows of the church. Normally, curtains are used in various parts of the church either to separate or block some areas from view. So with thick drapes, you can do that and also reduce the rate at which sound bounces. I would recommend you to get these from Amazon as they are available in a variety of colors and have some really good reviews.

Acoustical treatment for soundproofing a church

Yes, I talk about acoustic materials a lot. This is because it is impossible to soundproof any space without considering acoustics. A church is a building that is primarily meant for holding services, weddings, and loud music. Not investing in the right acoustics for such a building will affect the quality of services held in it.

Having sounds reflected at them from every direction will make it difficult for your congregation to enjoy the service. So you must get your sound under control with acoustic materials. These materials include panels, foams, fabrics or blankets, acoustic artworks, and sound diffusers.

Acoustic panelsacoustic panels

You can use sound-absorbing acoustic panels to reduce the echo in the church. These panels are usually made of porous materials that tend to trap sounds directed at them. With acoustic panels, you have a wide variety to choose from as they come in different sizes, shapes, and colors. Here is the link to one of the best acoustic panels available on Amazon.

Laying acoustic panels on the walls of the church will also help to add mass to them. This way, it becomes harder for sound to pass through and escape the church. Here is a Youtube video that can help you with the right placing of the acoustic panels.

Use artwork to decorate the walls 

Another innovative way to improve the acoustic properties of your church is to use acoustic artworks. There are some canvas and artworks that have the dual function of beautifying a space and reducing reverberation. These types of artworks are widespread so it won’t be much of a challenge finding one with the right aesthetic and moral appeal for your sanctuary. Apart from interrupting bland wall surfaces, artworks also help to add mass to the walls.

Pad the ceilings with ceiling clouds and acoustical foams

Apart from the walls and floor, another area you should focus your church soundproofing efforts on is the ceiling. Church buildings are usually characterized by high ceilings and gothic shapes, especially old churches. This type of design doesn’t help the sound quality and apart from the thick walls, does very little to prevent volume overspill.

This is understandable because old churches weren’t built with the modern musical instruments in mind. That’s where the problem lies. But to solve this problem, you would need to use ceiling clouds and acoustic foams to pad the ceiling of your cathedral.

Acoustic ceiling clouds are aesthetically appealing but very effective at absorbing sound energy. They are used to reduce reflection of sounds in large spaces with high ceilings, meaning they are perfect for churches. They are touted to perform better than wall panels because they absorb sound throughout their entire surface – even the backside of the cloud absorbs sound.

Pay attention to your musical instruments

The musical instruments in the church are responsible for the loudest noises, so how can we not talk about them. The easiest way to prevent sound from leaving the church building is to switch off the instruments. Yes. Turn off the sound system and opt not to use any other instrument and you have a soundproofed church.

But we have become accustomed to using these instruments and service may seem boring without them. So here are a few ways we can help your church soundproofing efforts

Construction of a new soundproof church building

a soundproof church

To abandon an old church and build a completely new soundproofed church from scratch is a different ball game. This is significantly more expensive, but it is far easier to achieve a better result this way. In this section, I will show you what you need to know about soundproof construction and soundproofing a new church building to block noise from escaping and disturbing your neighbors. 

There are three major areas you want to consider in soundproof construction, they are the wallsceiling, and floors.

Soundproofing the walls of the church

Soundproofing the walls of a church is possibly the most straightforward soundproofing activity you can do. It’s straightforward because it doesn’t require much work to achieve and the solutions are pretty apparent to start with.

Build with solid walls

Typically, the walls of most churches don’t require much soundproofing. That is, of course, if you avoid using certain materials for your walls. Ideally, the walls of a church shouldn’t be made of wood, drywall, or any other light materials.

The best type of materials to build a church with are marble, stone, and concrete. Although these materials aren’t perfectly soundproof, they will do a better job even without additional insulation. Usually, using thicker blocks or filling the holes inside these types of walls is enough to stop almost any sound from passing through.

If you decide to go with a drywall or wooden wall, maybe due to personal preference, there are steps you can take to beef up the walls. Basically, the steps can be summarized into three main parts; putting sound-absorbing materials in the walls, using thicker plasterboards, and installing acoustic boards.

I spent a week researching and came up with The Ultimate Guide to Soundproofing a Drywall. That article will tell you everything you have to know about soundproofing a wooden wall.

Reduced or no windows

Windows are notorious for letting huge amounts of noise through. Now, it doesn’t matter if your walls are thick as the earth’s crust, your windows could ruin everything. A simple solution to this would be to opt for building design with small or no windows.

This concept would’ve been outrageous in the olden days, but not as much right now. In modern times, we can afford to have churches without windows. We now have terrific lighting systems and adequate heating and warming systems that don’t require a window to be open or shut to regulate the temperature within the cathedral.

With that said, the function of windows is now limited to design preference. If soundproofing your church is your priority, then maybe you should consider avoiding structures window designs.

Alternatively, you can still have windows and opt to reduce their sizes and quantity instead. If you reduce the windows and apply the soundproofing techniques in how to soundproof a window, you will drastically reduce the amount of sound that escapes the building.

Ceiling soundproof construction 

soundproof church ceiling

If you do all you can to only soundproof the walls and floor, you will still have a significant amount of noise escaping through the ceiling. In an already constructed building, the best you can do about the ceiling is to add ceiling clouds.

For a brand new construction, you can do a lot more, but you have to plan for it. It’s far easier to soundproof a ceiling when the walls haven’t been affixed yet. At that time, you have both freedom and flexibility at your disposal to do what is necessary.

Here’s what you can do to soundproof your ceiling:

Install Insulation

Ordinarily, you don’t have to bother about soundproofing a roof except in situations like these which involve loud noises. When considering soundproofing the roof of a church, what you want to do is prevent transmission of the airborne noises.

You can use noise cancellation materials like Fiberglass Batts to pad the spaces in the joist of the roof. This way, it becomes increasingly difficult for noise to escape or enter through this medium.

Construct noise-insulating floors

There’s indeed very little you can do about huge impact noises and vibrations, but your flooring construction can deaden a lot of unnecessary sounds. Using the right materials from the beginning will help you reduce and avoid expenses in the future.

Use soundproof materials for the floors

If you’re not new to soundproofing, then I’m certain you already know that there are floors that suck at soundproofing. You should avoid solid floors such as tiles, concrete, and hardwood. Not only will these floors bounce sound all over the place, but they will also cause problems with echoes and reverberations. Instead, you should opt for floorings like cork and vinyl.

Conclusion

At the end, I would just say that soundproofing a church building is not at all a difficult task and you can easily do it by yourself using some very cheap and readily available soundproofing materials in the market! Just make sure that you leave no gaps and spaces for sound to escape and cover all places properly with a good soundproof material. Good quality acoustic panels for the walls and ceilings, thick rugs for the floor, and thick dense drapes for the windows – that’s all you need for soundproofing your church building completely and effectively! Good luck!

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