1) Look at what is around you
The closeness of residential flats and houses to the pub itself is a key place to start. That will answer a few questions straight away.
We recently worked on a pub in east London, which involved a number of terraced houses literally backing on to the patio doors of the pub itself, which went straight on to the dance floor that had live music at weekends. Straight away then you identify problems that are quite obvious.
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2) Add windows and doors
Windows and doors are the weakest point. Before sound goes through walls, it’ll go through windows and doors more easily. You look at secondary glazing or secondary doors. You can absorb a lot more noise through having two sets of doors or two sets of windows.
Adding another door is more effective. You’ll notice in pubs and clubs that that is what they do. If you go to the toilet in a Wetherspoons you won’t walk through one door from the dancefloor or bar to the toilet, you’ll walk through an entrance porch and then another door.
It’s the same with the outside. You go into any chain and you walk through a door and it leads you into an entrance porchway before another set of double doors.
Before you look at anything a lot more serious, like soundproofing the actual pub itself, you identify the biggest problems, which would tend to be doors and windows. You’d address those more standard issues first. Once you’ve ticked off that box, you gradually work your way down the list, but many times you won’t need to go further than the doors and windows.
We try and keep the design in keeping with what they’ve got. Sometimes you’ve got to keep to regulations in that it might be a listed pub. We’ve just done a pub where we’ve had to fit and restore the original shutters because it was a listed building. It caused us problems because we were restoring shutters that weren’t up to standard for absorbing noise, but sometimes you’ve got to find the balance between what you can do and what you’ve got to do.
The pub in east London had two sets of UPVC doors finished in oak. We basically found and fitted another two doors in front of the existing door. The existing doors open outwards and then our doors open inwards.
3) Look at the walls and roof
You’d look at the construction of the building. If it’s built out of stone, generally stone walls will be two foot thick and you shouldn’t have a problem with noise escaping. Stone is so dense and heavy, nothing will transmit through those walls.
But noise could be escaping through a roof because it’s thatched, slate or tile.
You want to know the construction of the building and to have a good understanding of what makes up that building and what makes up the weakest areas. If you identify a weakness in the build and it adds up to where the complaints are coming from, you can gauge whether you’re looking at the right point or not.
4) Lower the ceilings
I’ve had pubs on one floor and a restaurant or flats on the floor above. Then you’re looking at the floor or ceiling.
We would look at soundproofing the ceiling from below, rather than the floor from above, because you need to lose space to absorb sound and it’s easier to lower a ceiling than raise up a floor. If I try to raise your floor by four inches it’s never going to be possible, but if I have to lower your ceiling by the same four inches, nine times out of 10, I can do that.
We’ll put the materials in the new ceiling we build. It’d be a combination of materials. Acoustic quilts, sound block boards and high-mass vinyl, which is called mass-loaded vinyl.
The biggest factor is the amount of separation involved because the bigger the separation, the more you allow the sound to travel in that space.
When you’re looking for the best type of material, you’re looking at weight and density. If you’re using a board you’ll want the thickest and heaviest; the same with the acoustic installation. You want the densest material and we use Rockwool. There’s probably three different grades and we use the heaviest, which is RW5. That gives you the best performance.
5) Ultimately accept that it is impossible to keep all sound in
The only other thing you can do is have limiters on the sound equipment. That can stop the bass or the music being turned up too much, if it really comes to it.
You’re never going to make it 100%, so people need to be realistic.