Is the incessant repetition of your neighbor's drumming taking a toll on your nerves? Or maybe it's your son's loud punk garage band that's driving you to an early grave.
Sound and noise of all kinds can be very invasive and difficult to tune out no matter how hard you try. You don't have to suffer in the lack of silence, though. There are ways to reduce noise without causing a rift in the family or creating a neighborhood incident.
Making a room soundproof is about learning how to stop the vibration, because that's what sound is. The nature and location of the sounds you want to control can be important, too.
Soundproofing, after all, is the art of blocking, dampening and absorbing sound waves. There's a difference between muffling the sound of your karaoke night antics and reducing the street noises entering your living room from the front windows.
Here we'll take a look at some materials and targeted methods for stopping the bad vibrations before they become noise pollution.
For those who play musical instruments or work in audio/video production, room soundproofing is an important technique to eliminate unwanted noise and improve overall sound quality. The term is a little bit of a misnomer, since sound cannot be completely eliminated outside of an airless vacuum.
However, there are acoustic treatments that can help cut down on noise pollution and direct sound where you want it to go, including:
This acoustic treatment is great at blocking vibrations and are commonly found in home theaters and music recording studios. They often come with low-profile designs so they don't interfere with the look of the space. However, acoustic tiles have a few disadvantages: They're big, they can be very expensive, and they'll require some drilling in your wall to install properly.
These simple foam pads are the lightweight, budget-friendly alternative to acoustic tiles and they provide a lot of the same advantages. Since it's much lighter, foam tiles can often be attached to the wall using mild adhesive. You can also buy a bunch of foam tiles and arrange them in areas where sound tends to bounce. However, acoustic foam isn't quite as effective as acoustic tile, and not as aesthetically pleasing.
These blankets are portable soundproofing solutions that you often find on movie sets. The thick blanket consists of heavy fabric that stop sound dead in its tracks. In effect, the sound blanket can make a large room "sound smaller." These blankets are great if you have a recording studio in a multi-purpose room where things often need to be moved around, but they can also be quite expensive.
Glass windows are terrible for picking up noise and vibrations, but investing in some soundproof curtains can cut down on some of their noise interference. These are made of thicker fabric that standard drapes, and work very similarly to sound blankets. They can also be installed using standard curtain rods, making for an easy project.
The doors in your home probably have about a half-inch air gap that allows unwanted sounds through. Door sweeps are cheap and easy solutions that you can install in seconds.
Of course not all of these are affordable, especially to existing walls and floors. But they will help absorb sound and provide three major benefits:
Cutting down on outside noise entering your space.
Reducing the amount of noise that leaves the space.
Preventing sound waves from bouncing around inside the room causing unwanted echoes.
But if you need to soundproof an entire room?
If you have an entire room that needs soundproofing, you can add some of the soundproofing material we've already mentioned. But start with a small room because it has less space for sound transmission and sound bouncing around.
One of the quickest ways to soundproof a room is hanging acoustic panels or tiles. These soundproofing panels are designed to absorb sound and prevent it from reflecting back into the space.
Typically, the more sound-absorbing materials there are in your room, the fewer acoustic panels you'll need. They're available for both drop ceiling and wall installation, and tiles are usually rated for noise reduction efficiency. You'll be able to get a good idea of the impact they'll have in your space before you buy.
Another option is to insulate existing walls. The empty spaces inside your walls help block sound, but insulation does an even better job. You can use special viscoelastic sound dampening material, but even standard fiberglass insulation will absorb noise.
Insulation is optimal when before you hang drywall, though. You can also opt to add sound isolation clips that fix the drywall to the wooden studs at the same time. These clips essentially act as tiny shock absorbers and help eliminate micro-vibrations in the wall.
Noise can redouble as it bounces from place to place. It's like the gift that keeps on giving — in a bad way. The more materials in the room, the more they can absorb the sound vibrations. And the more textured the material (think nooks and crannies), the better it will block sound and curtail its ability to jump around.
Soundproofing Walls, Windows and Doors
If you simply can't soundproof an entire room, opt to stop noise — or at least dampen noise — coming in and going out through doors, windows, ceilings and walls. Sound is like water: If it can get in (or out), it will.
Sound travels through cracks and crevices and exits (or enters) through the same spots where air can escape. Blocking spots like window seals, gaps in baseboards and other cracks where sound can penetrate can be cost-effective solutions to minimize sound. Let's look at different room features to discuss some soundproofing options:
If your walls are insulated or made of brick or stone, you already have some soundproofing in place. When you need extra sound blocking, though, you can approach it two ways: from the front or the back.
Wall-mounted acoustical tiles, wall panels, fabrics and vinyl barriers are designed to be applied to the surface of a wall and are relatively easy to install. There are also sound dampening products like blown-in fiberglass insulation, vinyl and lead barriers for installation behind drywall, often in new construction or as part of a retrofit. If you're replacing your drywall, you can also choose from several drywall products that have enhanced soundproofing capability.
To stop the most noise coming in, tackle the existing windows. Soundproof windows or standard triple-paned windows add layers of glass to help deflect sound and block noise. They also have a sound-dispersing air layer sandwiched between the glass panes. If you currently have aluminum frame windows, even upgrading to vinyl will help cut the noise. Making sound-sensitive changes to your windows can help keep outside noises outside.
Like windows, doors are notorious for letting sound waves leak in and out. To create a better sound barrier around doors, swap hollow core doors for MDF (medium density fiber) or solid wood doors, and add closed cell foam tape or weather stripping around door jambs. If you have sliding glass patio doors, upgrade to acoustical soundproof glass doors or hang soundproof curtains.
Soundproofing on a Budget
Professional soundproofing equipment is expensive, but with some creativity you can still soundproof on a budget.
The Closet Method: A walk-in closet is typically the most soundproof environment you will find in your home, thanks to the small size, lack of windows and hanging clothes. If you have to record instruments or voice-over with absolutely zero prep time, use the closet as your best bet. Obviously, you can't do things like record with a drum kit or piano, so this workaround has major drawbacks.
Cover Up the Floor: Hardwood and laminate floors are nightmares when it comes to creating echo. But without installing soundproofing floors, there are things you can do to reduce sound reflection caused by hard floors.Throw down a thick rug to absorb some of that sound. Use a rug pad underneath to further din the sounds coming from the floors.
Fill the Room: The emptier a room, the less conducive it will be to sound treatments. So surround yourself with things like fabric furniture, books and even houseplants to dampen sound vibrations. You can also hang canvas wall art as makeshift acoustic panels; just know the effect just won't be as effective as with pro acoustic tile.
Hang Packing Blankets: Thick blankets, like packing blankets, are very similar in structure to sound blankets. But they're a lot more affordable. Hang them in front of doors and windows to prevent noise leaks, or lay them on hard floors in place of or on top of rugs to stop noise from going out.
If you aren't equipping a sound studio, you don't have to spend a fortune on soundproofing to get results. You'll be able to hear (or not hear) the difference by employing a few of these recommendations. Silence is golden. Once you start dialing back the decibels, you can finally relax in peace.
Now That's Interesting
Most cities and state government have noise ordinances, which are laws that limit the allowable noise level(s) at different times of day. They're usually zoned differently for residential, commercial and industrial areas, and the noise level varies by time of the day, which often makes noise ordinances vague and hard to regulate.