A soundproof server rack is a cabinet specially designed to rid you of IT equipment noise.
These noises are sourced from switches, servers and other electronic parts.
For anyone that works from home or any enclosed space with a lot of computer equipment, it is no news how frustrating those sounds can be.
Noise from computer equipment is not only annoying, but it reduces concentration and productivity.
Soundproof 19″ cabinets are the perfect solution to your equipment noise problems. The cost of soundproof server racks make them a not so popular choice for equipment noise solution, but all hope is not lost.
You can build your soundproof server rack from scratch, and the benefit is that you get involved in an exciting construction assignment and spend less to obtain your very own quiet server rack.
In this article, I will be sharing a step by step procedure to help you build a soundproof cabinet.
How to Build a Soundproof Server Rack
It is pertinent to clarify that the word soundproof is often misinterpreted. A cabinet cannot be entirely quiet.
This would mean completely sealing all space and imprisoning your equipment hence making the computer and the cabinet altogether useless.
When building a rack three design features must be considered to create an ideal, useful rack. They are;
- Cable management
- Airflow for cooling
- Soundproofing techniques
Therefore, what we aim to build is a cabinet that will permit airflow to prevent your equipment from overheating, provide ample space for cable management and at the same time reduce noise.
To begin, here are the materials and tools you need to purchase. The total cost of materials would vary depending on your preference for open cabinet or enclosed cabinet.
For an enclosed server rack, you will need
- Four 2x4s of secondary wood
- 4×8 plywood or OSB board
- Wood glue
- Nails or Drywall screws
- Pocket screws
- Circular, Table or Radial saw
- Drill bit
- Pocket hole-jig
The measurements and specifications mentioned are for building a 20U server rack or cabinet with a 19-inch width. ‘U’ represents the depth of the rack.
A 20U server can accommodate enough equipment but can also be too much space for some people.
What you need to do is determine the height of your servers so you can further determine the whole server height you need. Some servers are 1U or 4U; they can also be 3U.
When you purchase the wood sizes, you will need to cut them to size. Probably, you can get it done by someone with expertise in handling wooden materials or using any of the cutting saws mentioned above in the list of tools.
- Four 2×4 of width 19-3/4” x 2 (front and back pieces)
- Four 2×4 of depth 27-5/8” x 2 (side pieces)
- Four 2×4 of 42-1/4” x 2 as uprights
Cut the 2x4s and the wooden board to the following measurements;
- Four pieces of 4×8 plywood, measuring 42-1/8” which will be used as uprights for the 20U height. Of these four pieces, two would measure 19-5/8” of width to be used as the front and back panels. The other two pieces would measure 27-1/2 of depth which will be used as the sides.
- Another separate two pieces, measuring only the width and depth, to be used as bottom and top panels
Also, note that the specification of the front, back and sides is just to make this clearer and the process more organized. You can choose any side to be the back or front when the build is done.
Now that we understand the positions and purpose of each piece, take the bottom panel with the corresponding 2x4s and position them on the borders of the board.
Apply the wood glue to attach the pieces, then, use the nails to strengthen the system (two or three nails per piece should be suitable). Use a sharp chisel to smooth out any rough corners and set the bottom deck aside.
Take your upright pieces of 2x4s and the boards, mark the areas the rails will be positioned on. Use pocket screws to attach adjacent 2x4s uprights to the corresponding width or depth.
Use the wood glue first to attach this frame to the bottom deck, hence forming the side frame. Next use screws with the aid of a clamp to complete the attachment. Add the 2×4 side rails to the structure.
Apply wood glue on the 2×4 cleat, on the side and place the side panels. Strengthen the setup with screws.
After the sides have been attached, attach the top panel using screws. The door can be fixed with the last board piece using hinges, screws, and nails.
Your server rack and cabinet is done, but it is hardly soundproof.
Soundproofing the rack
To soundproof a server rack, various methods can be used. However, it is important to note that the more you try to soundproof the shelf with different materials, the more heat will build up.
So, we solve this problem with the inclusion of cooling fans which we will briefly discuss later. Here are the methods that can be used to soundproof the server rack.
Using Mass Loaded Vinyl (MLV)
It is a soundproofing material with high density and excellent flexibility which is effective at noise reduction for walls, ceiling, and floors.
Originally, mass loaded vinyl was developed as a sound barrier for industrial uses. Hence, it is only natural to find them lined with noisy machines or equipment to reduce noise.
Mass loaded vinyl like the one from Trademark Soundproofing available on Amazon can be loaded on your rack walls or server floor to reduce those annoying sounds. For some equipment, it is possible to line them with this sound barrier but it might do more harm than good.
The versatile and flexible nature of this material makes it possible to cut into any shape and create a thin but effective sound barrier.
Use a suitable adhesive material or glue to keep the material in place. While you do this ensure there are no air gaps as they will leak sound.
Also, take special care when mounting the equipment to avoid tears in the material. A torn piece is almost impossible to redeem. The material is also resistant to heat which is a plus compared to other soundproofing materials.
Sound Deadening Mats
Sound deadening mats come in different forms for various purposes. They are used when high-performance soundproofing is needed.
They are a variation of mass loaded vinyl and were developed as sound deadening mats for cars because of their excellence, for homes, studios and so on.
The mats used in cars can be used on the floors of the rack, glued to the walls or the back of the cabinet. They make a significant difference in deadening sound, and you can double them for maximum effect.
Read my article on sound deadening mats and my top recommendations.
This is a very versatile choice. A simple spray will give you a paintable, sound reducing, waterproof, anti-corrosive and protective surface.
Rubberized undercoating serves two purposes; it protects from rust and adds mass to dampen sound. This option is ideal for metal racks. It is widely used in cars, walls, sinks and various surfaces. It is also waterproof.
It works by absorbing sound vibrations and deadening sounds. Its rubbery nature makes it flexible.
However, when using this spray, be prepared for the harsh smell and delayed drying time. You will be unable to use the cabinet for a few days.
Another thing to know about rubberized undercoating is its insulating property. Heat becomes a concern when using this soundproofing option, but as we mentioned earlier, a soundproof cabinet will require fans to dissipate heat.
It also allows you to get creative and beautify your rack if you prefer to, with its paintable surface.
A Dedicated Server Room
If you would rather not go through the chore of soundproofing the cabinet itself, you can choose to have a dedicated server room.
A dedicated server room will contain mostly your IT equipment, computers and servers. The cables are run across the floor or through the ceiling to their required points.
However, a room packed with such equipment will be noisy indeed. Therefore, you will need to soundproof the room.
Having a separate server room or enclosure room makes things much easier because to soundproof this space instead of the cabinet itself allows you view more options and avoid the consequence of cabinet heat.
To do this, you can combine any number of soundproofing methods such as; soundproofing the walls, floors, and ceiling.
A combination of the earlier mentioned techniques can be employed on the walls and floor along with others.
Other methods for soundproofing a room include; using damping compound, adding mass and decoupling. In fact, having this server room makes you more efficient, organized and professional.
Acoustic Foam or Composite Foam
They can be used to line the rack to muffle sound. They make a notable difference when used but are hardly useful alone.
They are favorable in that they do not cause heat or rust. They are easily purchased and are ideal for noises not so audible or loud humming sounds.
Damping is most feasible for a wooden rack. You will need to double the plywood or panels to apply damping compound.
Compounds such as the famous Green Glue noise proofing compound can stop sounds dead in their tracks when applied.
For a simple server rack, this option could be all you need. It has no adverse effects on your servers, in fact, both parties are never in contact.
More about damping compounds here.
How to Install a Cooling Fan
The procedure is quite simple. You will need a suitable cooling fan, drill, half inch drill bit, measuring tape, jigsaw, screwdriver and masking tape.
Determine the position of the fan. Mark out where you need to place the fan and this should be parallel to where your equipment is located. Mark out the spot with the masking tape.
Position the fan on the marked spot and map out the outline. Use a sharp tool to cut out a hole for the fan on the place.
Insert a drill bit and drill two diagonal holes in the corners of the outlined shape.
Saw the traced lines from above using the drilled holes as starting points. When the outline is wholly sawed, and the fan fits in perfectly, clean the cabinet and assemble the fan.
Read the manufacturer’s instruction to assemble the fan correctly and attach it using the drill and screwdriver.
In comparison, a DIY soundproof cabinet might not be a 100% efficient as one designed by a company. However, it is cost effective and beneficial for its price.
To get a great deal on the materials, you can compare prices of different products on eBay and Amazon. Always ensure that your materials are of good quality so your cabinet can last a lot longer.
Rest assured that it is all wood and squares, not rocket science. Projects are always fun when you take your time and involve family or friends.
A soundproof server rack is ideal for everyone. With the magnitude of noise present everywhere it is only fair that we try to obtain some level of peace and quietness in our workspaces and homes.
Thanks for reading! Before you go, take a minute out and check out my top recommendations for soundproofing products.