How to Soundproof a Wall Cheaply: 5 Useful Tips
Soundproofing walls cheaply is entirely possible, if you do your research and use the right material. You’re in luck, because in this article I did all the research for you.
A wall can be soundproofed cheaply by soundproofing the weak points surrounding the wall first, mainly doors and windows. If the noise persists, consider installing drywall on the wall or mass loaded vinyl on the studs. These materials are affordable and effective at blocking both impact and airborne noise.
Some articles that I found on this topic recommend really cheap products that won’t block the noise at all. But you don’t want to go hermit-style cheap and end up plastering egg cartons on your walls or something ridiculous like that. First of all, it won’t reduce the decibel level of sound coming in or out at all. Secondly it will luck ugly and you’ll be afraid of setting the whole place on fire every time you light a match.
So there has to be some middle ground here between quality, price and – strategy! With that in mind, here are 10 very useful tips you can use to soundproof your walls on a budget.
1. Focus on the weak points
Before you start hanging anything on the walls, take a look at some weak points that might be there. Is there a window or a thin door that is allowing the noise to come in? Focus on soundproofing those 2 areas first. They are smaller areas, which means you don’t need as much material or money to make a difference.
Sealing the gaps between the door and the door frame, and between window and its frame can noticeably reduce noise. All you need is some weatherstripping tape and a door sweep, and it would cost you less than $20. You could also buy noise-blocking curtains for your window(s) which would provide further noise insulation. Those cost around $30.
My point is this; perhaps the noise is not so severe that you have to soundproof the wall. Soundproofing the window and/or door for a fraction of the price is maybe all you need. If you feel that could work for you, check out my full guides on how to soundproof a door and how to soundproof a window for more information.
2. Identify the source of the noise
So you still feel like you need to soundproof your wall? Okay. Before you order any material you must identify the source of the noise. Why? Because that will determine the type of material that can be used to block it.
I repeat this in almost every article I write, but I’ll do it again because it’s so crucial. There are two main types of noise:
AIRBORNE NOISE – mid-to-high frequency sound waves, they’re transmitted only through air
IMPACT NOISE – low frequency sound waves, they pass easily through structures like walls, doors and windows (it’s also called structure-borne noise)
Why is this so damn important? Because some materials block only airborne noise, that’s why! Acoustic foam panels block only airborne noise, and they do almost nothing against impact noise.
So what type of noise are you dealing with? Is it the mid-to-high frequency stuff like traffic noise or neighbors talking loudly, or a baby crying? Or is it vibrational noise produced by a washing machine, drum set or a boiler?
Perhaps you’re dealing with both types of noise? Or maybe you’re just not sure anymore? Don’t worry, I’ll give you tips how you can soundproof a wall in the cheapest way possible for any of these situations.
3. Soundproof a wall against airborne noise
So you’re dealing only with airborne noise? You’re in luck my friend because that’s the easiest and cheapest sound to block by far. All you really need are soundproofing foam panels.
These not only reduce the airborne noise coming from the outside into the room, but they also reduce the echo and improve the acoustics in the room itself. This is why you’ll see them used in so many recording studios, and by Youtubers like Secular Talk and H3H3, just to name a few.
There are many cheap soundproofing foam panels to choose from. But I like to go with the ones that are used by tons of people, including the top Youtubers that I just mentioned. You can check out their price on Amazon by clicking here.
How much will it cost you? It entirely depends on the size of your wall. Those panels cover 12 square feet, so you’ll need to measure your wall and then order enough to cover the entire wall.
I’ve reviewed 3 other acoustic panels and the best way to install them without damaging the wall. So make sure to check out that article.
4. Soundproof a wall against impact noise (and airborne noise)
Blocking impact noise requires stronger material than foam panels. But the great thing about these products is that they block airborne noise as well. So you can solve two problems at once.
The cheapest way to soundproof a wall against impact noise is to install Mass Loaded Vinyl (best price on Amazon) inside or directly on the wall. I recommend this product all the time because it’s so easy to use and it’s so affordable.
It was created in the 1960s by NASA because they needed a flexible but strong material that could block noise made by vibrations in space shuttles. But after a few years, the material was being mass produced by soundproofing companies and used to soundproof car cabins from engine noise. Now there are dozens of different soundproofing products that have some percentage of Mass Loaded Vinyl as the main ingredient and are used for all types of projects.
Leaving that history lesson aside, here’s a short video demonstration on how to install Mass Loaded Vinyl on the wall:
As you can see, the material is pretty large and heavy, so you’ll need at least one more person to install it. Basically, the whole installation process is about covering the entire wall and making sure that the material sticks. If you’re installing it on wall joists (studs), the best way is to use screws or nails. if you’re installing it directly on the wall, you can use that method as well, or a spray-on adhesive like 3M General Purpose Spray Adhesive.
Either way, this is an awesome product that provides much better sound insulation than foam panels. The only problem is that it doesn’t look nice, so if you’re going to install it directly on the wall it could ruin the look of the room. There are a few ways to fix that issue; covering the MLV with wallpaper, placing large furniture in front of it, and/or painting it with a different color (you can use latex paint on MLV).
5. Install drywall
If you don’t have drywall already, that’s another viable option. Installing drywall requires far more work than installing foam panels or MLV on the wall. So you’ll probably have to hire a professional to do it for you. It also takes more space away from the room.
But it can be pretty effective at reducing noise, especially if you cover the wall with MLV before installing drywall. Upgrading the wall with both will definitely take care of any noise you’re experiencing.
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.”
So yeah… the price can add up to $600-$700 for the whole room if you also hire a professional. That doesn’t make it a budget option but drywall is everyday nowadays so I just had to mention it.
Those are really the best tips for soundproofing a wall cheaply that I can think of. And I’ve been soundproofing stuff for over 8 years now!
So here’s a quick recap; it’s important to identify the type of noise that’s bothering you (airborne, impact or both), and then to cover the wall with the right material for that type of noise.
Simple! And before you focus on soundproofing the wall, make sure that you’ve taken care of any weak points like doors and windows because they are very likely letting in more sound than the wall itself.