If you want to block sounds going in or out of your room, soundproofing is the ultimate solution. Instead of being annoyed all the time or annoying others, use these affordable and effective methods to soundproof your room correctly.
How to soundproof a room? Add thick and dense material to doors and windows. Primarily noise blocking curtains, heavy moving blankets and soundproofing panels. Improve the internal sound insulation of walls and ceiling with mass loaded vinyl, rockwool panels or drywall. Install flooring underlayment and place thick carpeting or rugs on the floor.
Those are some of the most popular methods. Obviously, there are differences in price, appearance and installation difficulty that need to be taken into account when deciding between using one or the other. There is also the difference in how effective some materials and installation methods are at blocking impact and airborne sound.
In order to block both vibration (impact) and airborne sounds install dense and heavy materials like mass loaded vinyl, fiberglass and soundproofing glue internally. Attach resilient channels to the studs. For blocking just airborne noise, thinner and less heavy materials like sound deadening curtains, acoustic panels and moving blankets can also be effective.
Where to Begin
Direction: Analyze the sound based on the direction it’s coming from. For example, if you’re bothered by sounds passing through a wall which is connected to your neighbors home, you might have to soundproof only that wall. Focus on soundproofing the wall/doors/windows/ceiling/floor on that side. This will make your project cheaper and easier to accomplish.
Find the leak: Find the weakest areas in the structure sound-insulation wise, the barriers that are the thinnest or even allow free air flow. This can be a hollow wooden door or a thin glass window. It could also be an air vent or a doggie door. Also a part of a barrier that isn’t properly sealed, like a crack or a gap. If the air can flow freely, so can the sound. Once you’ve identified the most important areas to soundproof, deal with them first. Then move on to the more sound-resistant parts of the room if necessary.
Take measures: Measure the walls, doors, windows and any other objects you wish to soundproof. Knowing these measures, you will know how much soundproofing material to buy.
Purchase the right material: As I mentioned previously, it’s best to start with the weakest sound barriers. This is especially true if you’re on a tight budget. Focus on those leaky doors and windows before getting serious about the much larger wall. Anything is better than nothing, and you will be pleasantly surprised at how much of a difference just covering those little gaps around the door can make.
How to Soundproof a Door
To soundproof a door seal the gaps between the door and the frame with weatherstrip or foam tape. Attach a door sweep to the bottom of the door. Install soundproofing panels, moving blankets or mass loaded vinyl on the door.
Another option is to hang a sound deadening curtain in front of the door. Use a double curtain rod to hang two long curtains that extend to the floor for improved sound reduction.
If you’re dealing with impact noise instead of just airborne noise, then the door itself is vibrating. If it’s a hollow core wooden door, this will require making the door itself heavier to prevent the impact noise.
In that case, replace the hollow core with solid wood. Alternatively, fill up the hollow core with mass loaded vinyl, which is a pretty heavy and dense material that is easy to attach with nails, screws or superglue.
Also make sure to seal any cracks on the door itself or the frame with an acoustic sealant/caulk.
Read more: Ultimate Door Soundproofing Guide
How to Soundproof a Window
To soundproof a window seal the gaps on the window frame with weatherstrip or foam tape. Use acoustic caulk to seal any gaps around the window frame. Cover the window with heavy sound deadening curtains. Install plastic noise blocking window film on the window.
How to pick the right soundproofing curtains: Generally speaking, heavier curtains are better at blocking noise. Those that are larger in dimensions cover a larger area, which also adds to noise reduction. Hang curtains that extend beyond the window frame width and length wise so that they capture as much noise as possible. The same logic applies to moving blankets as well.
To temporarily soundproof a window make a window plug with a piece of wood and acoustic foam. It should be measured and cut to the right size in order to fit inside the window frame without leaving a gap.
As an additional measure, thick shrubbery can be planet in front of the window to soak up some of the noise before it can even reach the window.
How to Soundproof a Wall
Wall soundproofing requires installing soundproofing materials externally or internally. For external application install soundproofing panels, mass loaded vinyl or moving blankets directly on the wall’s surface. For internal application install mass loaded vinyl on the studs and/or fill up the space between the studs with rockwool batts.
Installing materials inside the wall, if done correctly and sufficiently, provides better overall sound insulation. Internal application is also better for reducing impact noise since it makes the wall structurally stronger and separates hard surfaces so they can’t vibrate against one another.
On the other hand, external application is easier and more convenient as it doesn’t require breaking the wall in order to reach the studs. If thick and dense fiberglass panels are used it can be a great solution against airborne noise. It can also provide improved acoustics by reducing sound reverberation in the room (sound bouncing off on hard surfaces).
Another useful material is drywall, especially soundproof drywall. Installing it however is more difficult and expensive, often requiring professionals to do the work.
For the cost of installing drywall, here’s a quote from Home Advisor:
“The cost to install drywall is about $1.50 per square foot. After material and labor are added in, the cost per panel can range from around $40.00 to $60.00. A typical 12×12 room, for example, will use 12 panels.”
How to Soundproof a Floor
To soundproof a floor place thick rugs or carpeting on the floor. For more serious noise, especially impact noise, install a subfloor (floor underlay). This is an additional wooden layer below the surface and above the joists.
Here is the ultimate guide for soundproofing a floor:
- Place floor floaters underneath the joists for extra support in order to prevent impact/vibration noise.
- Fill up the space between joists with mineral wool batts.
- Before installing the subfloor on the joists, consider covering the top of the joists with soundproofing tape. The tape will fill up any space between the joists and the subfloor and prevent squeaking noises commonly caused by movement on the floor. (optional but very effective)
- Once the floor underlayment is in place, spread green glue on top of it. Green glue is a soundproofing glue that will prevent any noise from passing between the subfloor and the floor surface layer of panels.
- Then screw or nail the surface layer of the floor and you’re done.
Here is a more detailed guide on floor soundproofing based on these 5 steps. It includes installation tutorial videos and best product recommendations.
How to Soundproof a Ceiling
A ceiling can be soundproofed like any other wall in the room. Cover it with soundproofing panels or thick moving blankets. For a more serious soundproofing project, place rockwool batts between the ceiling studs and install mass loaded vinyl directly on the studs. Caulk any cracks in the ceiling.
The only real difference between soundproofing a ceiling and a wall that is vertically positioned to the floor is gravity. So it can be a bit more difficult to install some of these materials because you have to use a ladder to reach the ceiling. For installing materials of a larger dimension like MLV, you will probably need assistance of at least one more person. Also check that the ceiling construction is strong enough to hold the extra weight in place.
If you have access to the floor above, you could also soundproof the floor, or add materials on both sides to varying degrees. For example, add soundproofing panels on the ceiling and carpeting on the floor above.
But if you are mostly annoyed by squeaking noise from footsteps, then the best option is to add floor floaters underneath the joists so that they don’t squeak. Soundproofing tape between the joists and the subfloor and green glue between the subfloor and the top layer of wooden panels is the ultimate solution for a squeaky floor.
How to Soundproof a Room Cheaply
Focus on the areas with weakest sound insulation: usually doors, windows, air vents, cracks and gaps. Seal the areas with free air flow by using weatherstrip tape or acoustic sealant. Cover the doors and windows with sound deadening curtains or moving blankets. If the noise persists, add extra layers of material on the same area and/or soundproof the walls using the same method.
As explained throughout this article, soundproofing is a word used loosely here. There are degrees to soundproofing, depending on the volume and type of noise.
High frequency (airborne noise) can be blocked significantly by external application of materials. Low frequency (impact noise) however often requires installing heavier materials internally to prevent vibrations from happening.
It’s obvious that blocking high frequency and lower volume sound is easier and it can be done with materials that are cheaper. So evaluate the strength of the noise and get the right material for the job.
Instead of getting worse materials to save money, focus your soundproofing efforts on the weakest parts of the room first so you will need less material. Also be on the lookout for discounts and buy a larger quantity of the same product if it’s cheaper overall.
How Much Soundproofing do I Need?
It depends on two factors:
- size of the area you want to soundproof: how much soundproofing material is needed to cover the area
- strength of the noise: what type of material to get and how thick and dense it needs to be
How to Soundproof a Room With Foam
Foam is not the best option for soundproofing a room. Foam panels are lightweight and lack density needed in order to block stronger sounds. Foam spray is used for filling up smaller nooks and crannies inside structures, not as a primary soundproofing method.
So I don’t recommend most foam panels for soundproofing purposes. Foam panels can reduce the noise to an extent, but any serious sound will still be able to pass through. Foam is simply not dense enough to block the sound and most panels are too thin. That’s why their primary purpose is improving acoustic and why these panels are called acoustic panels in the first place.
However, when people want to soundproof with foam it’s usually because they want to install panels on the wall, which is in truth easy and convenient. For better results, use heavier soundproofing panels. These panels are typically made from fiberglass or a similar material and covered with a nice fabric.
Product recommendation: These ultra-dense panels by Burton Acoustix (Amazon link) are the best soundproofing panels. Heavy and dense, so they’re able to block some serious noise.
It’s true that acoustic panels are usually cheaper, but soundproofing panels provide much better soundproofing and in addition to that they also improve acoustics.
Soundproofing foam spray is better than foam panels for blocking sound, but it’s only real application is under the surface of a barrier such as a wall or inside a hollow core door. It would look really ugly if you decided to apply it on the surface.
The main purpose of sprayed foam is to fill up smaller or weirdly shaped gaps where installing materials like MLV (mass loaded vinyl) or rockwool batts is not convenient. For example, between power sockets, pipes etc. This is why foam spray is more often used for soundproofing cars and other vehicles that have many nooks and crannies.
The Difference Between Impact and Airborne Noise
If the structure of your room is shaking and that is causing the noise, you’re dealing with impact or vibrational sound. It will require greater effort to soundproof your room from these low frequency sounds. It’s not enough to just put something on the outside of the wall, door or window because the sound is coming from a physical vibration which impacts a structure internally. Some situations when impact noise can be a problem:
- railroads nearby
- construction site
- music practice room
- music played with strong bass
- workout spaces (jumping)
In comparison, airborne sound is higher frequency and doesn’t cause vibration of a structure. Instead, sound passes through the barrier without noticeable vibration. Examples of airborne noise:
- regular street traffic
- neighbors yelling
- TV with high volume
In these cases, it’s often enough to add thickness externally to the barrier in the form of soundproofing panels, thick moving blankets, curtains, even large bookshelves filled with your favorite books or a heavy closet packed with clothing.
The general wisdom when blocking airborne noise is that the more dense, thick and heavy obstacles you can place between yourself and the source of the noise, the better.
To learn more about the difference of these sounds, see this video.
Final Word: How to Soundproof a Room
In order to soundproof a room increase the sound insulation of walls, doors and windows with soundproofing materials.
The best materials and products are soundproofing panels, mass loaded vinyl, mineral wool batts, resilient channels, thick moving blankets, noise-blocking curtains, soundproofing glue.
For sealing gaps and cracks use weatherstrip foam tape, acoustic caulk and a door sweep for the gap between the door and the floor.
I’m sure this article has provided you with many ideas. It’s up to you to follow this advice to the best of your possibilities. Doing so, you will transform your noisy room into a peaceful sanctuary.