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Brewing Silence: The Best Soundproofing Insulation for Cafés and Coffee Shops

When we visit neighborhood cafés and coffee shops for inspiring meals or a chat with a friend, one thing none of us want encroaching on those safe spaces is noise. A large part of keeping that noise down relies upon soundproofing and acoustical treatments. You’ve undoubtedly seen environmental noise control products in some of your favorite restaurants and bars too, and for great reason. They improve communication and contribute to a sense of peace.

The best soundproofing insulation products for any space will fit the aesthetic of the room and provide the acoustic results you’re after. There are some great options for improving any space, but what are they and why are they important? We’ll dig into that and a whole lot more.

Why is soundproofing essential for cafés and coffee shops?

Cafés and coffee shops play important roles in our lives. Many of us begin our days in local eateries with a little breakfast and jolt of caffeine. We grab lunch and an afternoon pickup with coworkers in cafés and coffee shops as well. Many of us even use coffee shops to study or get work done, so there is an expectation that the atmosphere of the cafe will be a relatively serene one.

When they don’t provide the atmosphere we’re after, we quickly find a new space to fill that void. To keep your café quiet and your guests coming back, it will take some thoughtful planning and the right materials. Before we look at the best soundproofing insulation for each type of noise, let’s look at some common causes of noise in cafés and coffee shops.

What causes noise in cafés and coffee shops?

The first question you’ll have to ask yourself is, “where is noise pollution the worst?” When dealing with a noisy establishment, there are a few spots that will contribute the bulk of the unwanted noise in the space. Dealing with these areas first will deliver immediate results, and you may not need to go any further. Some of these common sources of unwanted noise include:

Guests: While we wouldn’t want to eliminate all speech from the space, too much of it can create issues when we’re trying to communicate with our friends, family, and server. Keeping conversational sounds under control is essential in creating a quiet and welcoming space. 

Outside noise: Noise originating outside the space can be just as troublesome. Street sounds can sneak in through windows and doors, and adjacent tenants can send noise through the ceilings and floors. No matter where they originate, once they enter your space, they’re your problem to deal with. Stop them before they enter.

Noise from the kitchen: Whether you’ve got an espresso bar or a full service kitchen, food and drink prep makes noise. Finding creative ways to keep these sounds out of your guests’ conversations will ensure they enjoy their stay and keep them coming back.

Best soundproofing insulation for cafés and coffee shops

Utilizing the best soundproofing insulation for each type of noise hotspot will give you a leg up in the fight against excess noise. Each source comes with peculiarities that make them unique from other sources of noise. Understanding them will help you choose the best method for noise reduction.

Soundproofing against guest noise

One of the best soundproofing insulation methods for controlling this type of noise is the wall-mounted acoustic panel. We place the panels so they have the greatest impact in reducing sound wave reflections.

For best soundproofing, panels should be placed on the walls between 3 and 6 feet off the floor. This will help absorb speech sounds and prevent them from returning to the space and causing acoustical issues. Since most guests’ mouths will be in that 3 to 6 foot range, this location is in line with the source and will grab direct reflections to put them to bed. 

Panels are available in a variety of different materials and color options, so you can always find something that works well in your space. The best material for acoustic panels depends on your acoustic and aesthetic needs.

Quieting the Kitchen

A café kitchen without adequate acoustical and soundproofing treatments can contribute a substantial amount of ambient noise. While it would be incredibly difficult to soundproof coffee grinders, pots, and pans individually, creating a dedicated space can help you trap some of the noise they create. 

Hide the kitchen

One option is to hide the kitchen behind a set of swinging doors. Separating the noisy room from the dining room will provide all your guests with a more pleasing atmosphere. If you like the open kitchen concept, you still have some options for reducing noise.

Treat your open kitchen

One way to achieve substantial sound reduction is through rubber floor mats and panels. They’ll make the floors safer while reducing any impact sounds created on them. They’re easy to wash and won’t absorb moisture. This is what you want out of acoustical treatments in the kitchen.

Treat the periphery

You can also treat the area just outside the visible window to your kitchen. Absorbing sounds before they reach the rest of the dining room will substantially reduce the amount of noise guests will have to deal with. Overhead absorption and diffusion products are incredibly helpful for controlling noise here.

Soundproofing against outside noise

Having a great business location often comes with noise caused by street and foot traffic. That bustling block may be great for getting guests in the door, but you’ll want to keep the noise outside if you want to keep them inside. Since much of the sound that passes through doors and windows comes in through gaps on the edges, covering a few outdoor soundproofing materials is a good place to begin.

Seal the gaps

The simplest thing you can do to prevent sound passage through windows and doors is to make sure they are well sealed at the edges. If air or water could pass through, so can sound.

Utilizing acoustical caulk as an outdoor sound dampening product is a great way to block those airways for good. It’s more flexible than standard caulk, and will stand as a formidable barrier through harsh conditions.

Unfortunately, not all outside sounds can be stopped with a bead of caulk. If your doors and windows don’t have enough mass or density, sound will still pass through. You’ve got a couple of options when it comes to making the necessary improvements.

The Door

A lightweight exterior door won’t keep burglars at bay, and it certainly doesn’t provide the best soundproofing insulation against outside noise. You need something more substantial. Choosing a heavier door provides more stopping power. This allows you to both create a more peaceful café atmosphere and protect your investment after hours.

The Windows

Upgrading your windows is equally important. You could choose very thick glass, like the kind you see convenience store employees sitting behind, but that won’t do anything for the ambiance. The preferred solution is windows with multiple panes, separated by air or gas gaps. Those added panes and gaps will provide the best soundproofing insulation for your windows without sacrificing your beautiful view. With proper windows, guests won’t hear outside noise, feel cold drafts, or smell exhaust from the cars on the street. 

If you’d prefer to keep your vintage glass, window inserts are a wonderful workaround. They come in a wide range of standard sizes and can be cut into custom sizes. That means there’s a solution for any shape or size of bespoke window you’re working with. They’ll provide the same benefits as multi-paned windows, but they won’t break the bank or those beautiful vintage windows.

Combating noisy neighbors

Anything that’s coming through the floors or walls can usually be attributed to noisy neighbors. Here’s how to handle some of the more common issues.

Noise coming through the walls

If you hear rumbling bass or mumbling noises coming through the walls, you’ve got a few simple ways to tackle them. Decoupling the materials in your wall will deliver huge results, but that can be a big undertaking if you don’t own the building. That said, these simple products can add mass and damp vibrations without involving substantial construction projects.

Mass loaded vinyl

MLV, or mass loaded vinyl, is a high density material that’s available for purchase in rolls. Simply roll out MLV on your current drywall and cover it with an additional layer of drywall. It’s an easy way to add substantial mass and will keep the next door neighbors quiet. If you’re looking for a simple way to soundproof thin walls, this product works wonders.

Be sure your studs can handle the added weight before going this route. If you have any questions, the safest route is to consult with qualified professionals.

Green glue and soundproofing tape

Another simple way to increase your wall’s sound blocking ability is to utilize green glue or soundproofing tape where structural elements meet. Running a bead of green glue or strip of soundproofing tape up and down studs before putting up the drywall is highly effective. 

If that’s not an option, you can spread it across the current drywall and add a second drywall layer like you would with MLV. This will help prevent vibrations from making it to the other side. Green glue and soundproofing tape work equally well on both ceiling and wall structures.

Noise coming through the ceiling

If you’ve got upstairs neighbors, the sound of footfalls and sliding chairs can vibrate right down into your space. If you own the upstairs space, installing a soundproof underlayment under the flooring will help a lot. If you don’t own the building, there are things you can do in your own unit to reduce noise.

Acoustical insulation between joists

Much of the noise you hear from upstairs is amplified by the empty spaces below the subfloor upstairs. Utilizing acoustical insulation to fill those voids will reduce reverberation, and lead to less noise making it into your space. It’s one of the best soundproofing insulation solutions and a great first line of defense.

Drop ceilings and ceiling clouds

For the sound that does make it into the space, suspended acoustical panels will absorb much of it before it reaches your ears. Common ways of accomplishing this include ceiling clouds and drop ceilings with acoustical panels. Both options introduce acoustic sound barriers between the source of the noise and your ears and are popular solutions for soundproofing a ceiling from impact noise.

DIY Tips and Tricks

In addition to targeting noise hotspots, there are some general decorating tips you can follow to help reduce the amount of noise in your establishment. In general, each of these tips incorporates softer, more absorbent material into the space. 

Decorating with acoustical curtains

One of the most versatile decorating materials you can use is the acoustical curtain. The construction of this attractive, sound reducing fabric allows them to provide a host of benefits while keeping aesthetics top of mind. They block both sound and light equally well. Many coffee shops with meeting rooms utilize them for solutions to light, sound, and privacy issues.

It isn’t all about absorption

When creating a pleasant, natural sound, it isn’t all about absorption. If we prevent all reflections, the space sounds dead and uncomfortable. In order to retain some reflections without the ensuing acoustical issues, we use diffusers to scatter them throughout the space.

Diffusers allow us to spread reflections out, preventing reflections from bouncing back and forth endlessly. This reduces troublesome reverberation that makes communication and concentration more difficult than they should be.

Mix in carpeting or rubber flooring

While carpeting isn’t the ideal flooring material in most kitchens and dining rooms, using softer flooring materials sporadically throughout a café or coffee shop can provide big benefits.

Since footfalls are a common source of impact noise in eating establishments, utilizing rugs or runners in areas that see heavy foot traffic can deliver a quieting effect. This includes entrances, server stations, and the path to the bathrooms. 

Utilize ceiling clouds for outstanding acoustics and aesthetics

One of the best soundproofing insulation products when it comes to aesthetics is the ceiling cloud. These suspended ceiling tiles are built just like the acoustical panels we utilize on our walls, but suspending them from the ceiling allows them to provide additional benefits.

Ceiling clouds sit right in the sweet spot for absorbing overhead sounds and keeping speech sounds from traveling across the space. If you’ve got noisy upstairs neighbors or mechanical, electrical, and plumbing (MEP) systems, ceiling clouds are a great solution. They also create a focal point that will help define your café or coffee shop.

They’re available in an incredibly wide variety of shapes and colors, and can be arranged in any way you like. Want to play with patterns, angles, or height? No problem. Make some simple tweaks and you can get the exact look you’re after.

Work with professionals

However you begin your project, make sure you’re working with acoustical services professionals. We know the ins and outs of soundproofing and acoustical treatments, and can point you to the best soundproofing insulation products for your specific space. 

We carry everything you need for your project, and have experience in all types of projects, from industrial noise control to noise pollution mapping to soundproofing stairs. If you’d like to learn more about our offerings and how we can help you achieve the perfect ambiance for your cafe, reach out for a consultation.