To have a glass conference room is a matter of privilege and prestige. At least that’s how a blue collar guy like myself feels about them.
But one things for sure: glass is not a good soundproofing material. Unless it’s really thick. Unfortunately, the glass used for conference rooms is usually not very thick, so a lot of sound can pass through. It can also cause a lot of echo as the sound bounces off the glass surface. You can read more about getting rid of echo in a conference room here.
This will not only allow the outside noise to bother you during a PowerPoint presentation. It will also jeopardize the privacy of the meetings held inside the conference room. Because anyone who passes by the room can hear what’s going on inside.
So how can you soundproof a glass conference room? It’s actually very simple. These are popular and very affordable methods that will improve the room’s sound insulation.
1. Cover the glass with noise-blocking curtains
Thick curtains that are designed for absorbing sound are the best option for windows, sliding glass doors and basically any glass area. They’re also a great option for a glass conference room because they look classy and they’re fairly affordable.
The size of the conference room and the amount of glass areas that need soundproofing will determine how many you’ll need. It will also depend on their width.
There are two basic options: one-panel and two-panel curtains. For areas that are wider than a regular window, my recommendation is to use wide, one-panel type. Simply because it will look better.
In order to hang these curtains, it’s necessary to install curtains rods along the glass areas.
In case of these rods, two options are available once more. The first option is a regular curtain rod for hanging just one curtain at a time. But if you require better noise absorption, a better option is a double rod.
A double curtain rod allows you to hang two curtains, and therefore two layers for blocking sound.
Doubling the thickness and mass is a simple way to double the soundproofing results. Especially since, I assume, you’re dealing only with airborne sound.
In other words, sound that travels through air, not sound made by vibrations that resonate on the surface. Except in those, hopefully rare cases, when the boss starts yelling from the other side of the table. 🙂
How to pick the right noise-blocking curtains for a conference room
There are a few things to consider when buying these curtains:
- WEIGHT & THICKNESS – These features determine a curtain’s sound absorbing capabilities. The heavier and thicker it is, the better.
- ONE PANEL OR TWO PANEL – This is more of an aesthetic consideration. You’ll have to decide which of these options are better for the area you’re covering. In my humble opinion, larger areas look better with wider, one panel curtains, and regular windows look better with two panel curtains.
- COLOR AND DESIGN – Pick the color and design that will fit in well with the overall look of the conference room. Dark grey, blue, red, purple.. there are really a lot of colors to choose from so pick the one that you like best.
- WIDTH – The width of the area is important because it’ll determine how many curtains you need in order to cover it. So I suggest measuring or having an approximate length of the glass area when purchasing.
- HEIGHT – The height of the glass surface will determine how long the curtains need to be. My general advice is to always purchase the longer curtains that hang from the curtain rod all the way to the floor. They look better and they cover more of the area, and the sound-absorption is better because of that.
- PRICE – These thick noise-blocking curtains are not all equally priced. You could find them anywhere between $15 and $300. Regular ones that most people buy cost around $30-$60. The price can vary depending on different factors such as quality of the material, heaviness, size and design. But in terms of noise-blocking, the differences aren’t all that big and the price is often more dependent on the design and the manufacturer. For soundproofing, choose the heaviest curtains you can find.
What I can say is that 4 pounds is a good weight for solid noise-blocking capabilities (dimensions of this pair are 52″ x 95″). So my recommendation is to get a similar 4 lbs or heavier one-panel curtains.
Don’t forget the curtain rod!
Basically any curtain rod will work fine as long as it’s wide enough and the rod is thinner than the grommets of the curtains. So this is the first criteria to have in mind. The other one is the appearance. Make sure that it fits the overall style of the conference room.
Also, don’t forget what I mentioned earlier about double curtain rods. The best way to double the soundproofing results with curtains is by hanging two layers instead of only one.
The setup is straightforward: 2 screws with anchors (provided in the package) are placed on each side, and the steel rods are placed in-between. Done.
2. Cover regular walls with polyester panels
A glass conference room doesn’t have to be completely made out of glass. If there are any regular walls that require soundproofing, curtains may not look the best, although you could still use them even for these areas.
But you’ll get the same result and possibly a better looking room by covering the walls with polyester panels. Polyester is the dominant material of noise-blocking curtains, so this is more about a better design choice than anything.
An even better alternative are heavy acoustic panels made specifically for soundproofing a room. They’re also more expensive.
Take your available budget into consideration before choosing one or the other option. Consider the size of the surface you need to cover when making this decision, because the more you cover, the better results you’ll get. So it’s better to use cheaper panels but cover a larger area than to hang better panels sporadically. Obviously, the best choice would be to cover the entire wall with better panels.
How to hang acoustic panels
To hang either of these panels on a wall, use one of the following options: a spray adhesive, screws, nails or adhesive strips.
My favorite method are adhesive strips because they’re easy to remove and won’t damage the wall in any way.
Try using two at first and see if it’s enough to keep the panel hanging. If it’s not use another one or two.
When hanging a panel on the ceiling, place one adhesive strip on each corner of the panel because of gravity.
3. Reinforce the door with soundproofing material
In case of a regular wooden door, mounting acoustic panels with one of the previous methods is the best option. In case of glass doors, hang a noise-blocking curtain in front of the door from either side. If you’ve already soundproofed the walls, perhaps you can get away with not doing any of this.
But one thing that can make a big difference is sealing the gaps between the door and the frame. And also the gap under the door. The free flow of air that occurs in these spots moves the sound easily from one room to another.
For the gap in the frame, cover the frame where it meets the door with a self-adhesive foam tape. To cover the gap under the door, attach a door bottom to the door. I’ve covered the best basic and automatic door sweeps and how to install them in this article.
If you have a glass door, this can be more difficult and perhaps even impossible. It depends on the design. If it’s not possible or wouldn’t look nice, let it be and focus on soundproofing other critical areas or using other methods that I’m about to explain.
4. Re-construct the conference room
This is obviously an extreme step. But if you have a huge multi-million dollar company and changing the entire structure of the conference room is not a big deal for you, then this could be the ultimate solution.
Basically, replacing the current glass structure with one built from thicker glass could fix the sound-transmission problem without having to do anything else. Thick, acrylic glass is the best solution for sound-blocking.
In case of regular walls, inserting mass loaded vinyl on the studs or mineral wool batts between the studs would be the second thing on the list. Or installing an additional layer of soundproof drywall.
The reason why these methods are tricky and expensive has to do with time and labor costs required to get it done, as well as the material costs.
Instead of simply hanging some curtains and panels in less than an hour or two, you’d have to hire a professional soundproofing company to do the job. It would take at least a few days to replace the current construction, time during which you might need the conference room to be functional.
So while a large project like this one remains an option, it’s one I’d consider worthy of the money and effort only in special cases.
5. Soundproof the conference room floor
This step is only necessary if the floor is leaking a lot of sound.
In that case you can install floor underlay and/or thicken the surface of the floor with carpeting, rubber tiles or a rug. In either case, the logic behind doing any of this is to add mass to the floor.
Floor underlay is typically made from plywood or MDF panels. These thick wooden panels are secured to the joists. They’re covered with the typical floor surface. To further reduce noise, an acoustic sealant like green glue noiseproofing sealant can be used. I’ve covered the whole process with video tutorials in this article.
Whether you’ve installed a floor underlay (also known as subfloor) or not, placing thick and soft material on top of the floor is a good idea. It will not only protect the floor from damage caused by foot traffic, but also reduce the echo in the room and act as an additional sound barrier if it’s thick enough. And it goes without saying that the floor will also be warmer.
There are a lot of options here such as carpeting, rugs and rubber floor tiles. My recommendation is to cover the floor with thick rubber floor tiles. They’re inexpensive, durable and will reduce the noise caused by walking on a hard surface floor. While any thick rubber tiles will do, you want to make sure that they fit in well in terms of appearance.
Summary: Soundproofing a conference room
Glass should be covered with thick curtains or reinforced/replaced with thicker glass. And walls can be soundproofed by placing proper material directly on the surface or inserting it inside the wall.
Floors are soundproofed by covering them with thick, soft material that reduces sound reverberation and acts as an additional sound barrier. Or if you want to take it a step further, by installing a floor subfloor (underlay), which is basically an additional wooden floor surface.
Doors can be reinforced with heavy acoustic panels or in the case of glass doors covered with a noise-blocking curtain. Also make sure to seal the gaps in the frame and under the door if possible.
If there are any windows that require further sound insulation, also make sure to check out my window soundproofing guide.
Hope this helps!