Hearing Almost Everything Outside? 10 Soundproofing Tips
The world is a noisy place, isn’t it? Roommates arguing downstairs, construction happening outside, neighbors mowing next door, the kid upstairs practicing his saxophone. Will it ever end?
Regardless of why you want to soundproof your space, you’ve come to the right place.
According to a London soundproofing company, “Did you know that it is possible to soundproof a room so that those inside can only hear 30 decibels of noise—even when a helicopter is hovering 50 feet above the space?” For a little perspective, 30 decibels is the equivalent of whispering. It’s like living in the country without any neighbors.
Sound good? We know some ways you can help make this happen. Let’s get started. Here are—
10 Simple Soundproofing Tips For Peace & Quiet
1. Add bookshelves.
Believe it or not, books and bookshelves make great sound barriers. Especially if you share one wall of your apartment or condo with a neighbor, adding a bookshelf loaded with thick books can make a great sound absorber. (Maybe all those old textbooks you’ve held onto can come in handy!)
But make sure you load your shelves with books for maximum soundproofing. Empty shelves make look cute, but they don’t do much to absorb unwanted noise.
Note: The higher to the ceiling the bookshelf goes, the better, since sound moves like water and finds available ways to get in. And if you’re on a budget, you don’t need fancy shelving. Simple wooden bookshelves will work just fine.
2. Apply mass-loaded vinyl.
Mass-loaded vinyl can be an affordable, effective, and flexible soundproofing solution. People have used it to soundproof studios, theaters, and others rooms in homes or apartments that bear the brunt of unwanted noise.
It is a heavy but flexible material that typically comes in rolls 4 feet wide. You can hang the vinyl on walls or lay it out on floors. Another useful strategy is to place it between the layers of your drywall—if possible—to limit the transmission of sound through the walls and stop it before it gets into your room.
3. Create layers.
If you have even a minimal interest in interior design or decorating, this item might be the most fun on this list. Although it may not be the kindest to your wallet.
Sound is actually just vibration, so limiting (or deadening) vibrations is the way to ultimately limit noise and create the soundproofing you need. One way to accomplish this goal is to add layers of soft items to your room or space. These can include any combination of carpets, drapes, plants or rugs.
Go all in! Get the pillows you’ve always wanted! Become a plant parent. This is your opportunity.
Padding the walls in subtle, creative ways can actually make a tremendous difference. Sound loves to reflect off of bare walls. (Think back to a time you toured an empty house or apartment. Remember how much louder it was?) So the more you can pad your walls and floors, the more sound you’ll absorb.
Fun fact: Mattress foam on the walls is actually an amazing soundproofing solution, but maybe not so amazing for your aesthetics.
4. Hang soundproofing curtains or panels.
If you have permission to drill or hammer holes in the wall, consider installing wall panels. A surprisingly affordable option, wall panels can be very effective at limiting unwanted noise. If, however, you have a landlady that frowns on adding holes to the wall, take heart. You can always hang soundproof curtains, which can still help in a pinch.
Quick note: You can certainly cover your windows with soundproofing curtains, but you can also hang soundproofing curtains on any wall to limit the noise outside. And with so many cute curtain options, you can actually work it into the design of your space so it looks intentional in every way.
5. Increase drywall.
If you own your space or are allowed to make big changes, adding a layer of drywall is one of the most effective strategies on this list for soundproofing. Basically, adding thick, sound-absorbent drywall to your space will almost certainly eliminate any unwanted noise.
Soundproof drywall is a high-performance type of drywall that is specifically engineered with noise-reducing properties in order to help you soundproof your most interior walls.
Note: Using soundproof drywall doesn’t mean you have to add layers of drywall to all your walls. Simply add drywall to your shared walls or the walls where you’re hearing the most unwanted sound.
6. Lay some rugs.
Regardless of your space or budget, this may be another good option for you.
Just as sound waves love bare walls, they love to bounce off uncarpeted floors. So if you live in a place with floors that currently aren’t carpeted, lay some rugs. Instead of reflecting sound, the rugs will actually absorb it.
Note: If your neighbors upstairs are creating lots of unwanted noise for you, ask your landlord about the 80% floor covering rule. While it isn’t a law, it is typically considered good etiquette (enforceable in some states) for leases and co-ops to include a clause stipulating that residents cover at least 80% of their floors with some form of rugs or carpeting. This is because sound waves love bare floors, and landlords can help cut down on unwanted noise.
7. Replace doors.
Doors are actually one of the most easily overlooked yet most responsible culprit for noise pollution. Look at your door. See those tiny gaps at the top, bottom, and/or sides? Those gaps may be responsible for far more noise than you can imagine. But the good news is, the solution isn’t far away. And it isn’t necessarily something you need to hire a professional to help you fix.
If your doors are currently hollow-core doors, they are doing relatively nothing (or next to nothing) to help soundproof your space. On the other hand, a solid core door can help you absorb sound better and cut down on the noise.
If replacing your door isn’t a current option, consider purchasing an acoustic door seal kit. By using door seals and sweeps, you may be able to cut down considerably on the sound.
8. Try white noise.
This may seem like a super simple solution, and in many ways, it is. But it has helped many people cut down on their noise problems.
While adding white noise to a room (using a fan or sound machine, for example) doesn’t actually soundproof the space, it does give the impression of soundproofing. The hum of a fan, for example, can actually drown out other unwanted sounds. It’s not one of the most dramatic options on the list, but it is one of the least expensive.
Think of it this way: If white noise does the trick, you could be happier by supper time.
9. Use foam insulation tape.
Do a walkthrough of the space you want to soundproof. Look for gaps in the walls or vents where sound can get in. (You may be surprised how many ways noise is getting into your room or house.)
Any time you identify a space where the unwanted sound may be leaking into your place, apply 1/16th-inch foam insulation tape. Renters have used this trick for years to eliminate unwanted sound. And the tape isn’t a permanent change, so if it doesn’t work long-term or if you need to “return the apartment to its original condition,” removing the tape will be all it takes.
10. Utilize foam.
Because sound is caused by vibrations, it is possible to cut down on sound by limiting vibrations.
If you know of a specific reason for unwanted noise—maybe you live next to the laundry room in your facility, for instance—you can actually add a piece of foam below or behind the object causing the noise to try and cut down on the vibrations. Reducing vibrations should—theoretically—make things quieter for you.
While the noise outside can be frustrating—even downright exasperating at times—the solution may not be far out of your reach. Our recommendation: Try the easier, budget-friendly solutions first and work up to the more expensive, space-changing tricks. If you exhaust your efforts and still don’t have the peace and quiet you want or need, reach out to a professional to help fix the problem.
Best of luck on a quieter future!