Soundproofing a Terraced House: 6 Effective Tips
Soundproofing a terraced house might seem difficult and expensive. But it really depends on how loud the noise you’re trying to block is.
Is it just someone playing loud music in the house next door? Or are they having comprehensive home renovations and the whole place is buzzing and vibrating?
In the case of regular loud neighbors, you can definitely soundproof a terraced house by yourself and with a pretty small budget.
However, if you’re dealing with the second case with a lot of impact noise (that vibrates on the walls and other surrounding structures) than it would require some serious upgrades to walls, doors and windows.
For the sake of this article, I will mainly address the first case, which is what most people are dealing with anyway.
It’s the loud, obnoxious next door neighbor who doesn’t let you sleep at night or relax in the afternoon. Especially during summer time when they’re performing more activities in their garden.
So let’s see what you can do about that and how to keep your costs at a minimum.
1. Focus on the main entry points
You might be dealing with thin walls, but they’re probably not as thin as standard doors and windows. Your main focus when soundproofing should be doors and windows, along with any gaps and cracks that allow air to pass freely.
2. Soundproof the exterior doors
Soundproofing exterior doors involves two steps:
- sealing the gaps between the door panel and the door frame
- adding thickness to the door
First locate any gaps around the door. The most common ones are found on each side of the door and on the bottom of the door (between it and the floor).
Cover the side gaps with simple weatherstripping foam tape (choose the right thickness) (aff link). The advantage of this method is both sound and thermal insulation.
Next, see if there’s a gap between the door and the floor. To cover it, use a door bottom (also known as a door sweep). There are different door sweeps, but I prefer this simple silicon door sweep (aff link) because it’s self-adhesive and doesn’t require any tools to set up. Except for cutting it to size if it happens to be wider than the door. Attach it to the bottom portion of the door and you’re done!
Once you’ve sealed the gaps, you can use these various products and methods to add thickness to the door:
- Soundproof panels – Don’t waste time with regular foam panels. These soundproof panels (aff link) work much better. Hang them on the door with hanging strips, a spray adhesive or screws/nails.
- Moving blankets – Tack one or two thick moving blankets on the door. Supreme Mover blankets (aff link) are the thickest ones and work best for soundproofing projects.
- Mass loaded vinyl – Screw or nail a sheet of MLV (aff link) on the door. It will look like a large black surface so you may want to cover it with some fabric. But it’s a very effective noise-blocking product.
- Install an extra wooden panel – Adding a thick plywood or an MDF panel to the door is another easy way to improve its thickness. Just make sure that the door hinges can carry the extra weight.
- Change the door – Perhaps the most radical and definitely the most expensive option. But if you have hollow wooden doors, replacing them with thick solid core doors would also make a difference. However, make sure you get the measurements right or hire a professional to do it for you.
Seal the surrounding gaps and use one or two of these door thickening methods. You will definitely notice a difference after doing this.
3. Soundproof the windows
Terraced house windows are equally vulnerable to noise as external doors. Perhaps even more, depending on the thickness of the glass panels. The method here is almost the same.
First seal the gaps around the window and the window frame by using the weatherstripping foam tape. Next, add thickness to the window area.
I highly recommend using thick noise-blocking curtains (aff link) because it’s the most convenient method with simple installation.
If you’re not sure that one curtain would be enough, considering installing a double curtain rod (aff link). This will allow you to hang two curtains to cover the same window, in order to block more noise.
Make sure that the curtains are long and wide enough to cover the entire window area and perhaps a bit more. The more area it covers the better.
I also recommend using noise-blocking curtains for sliding doors, especially sliding glass doors. Why? Because they look great, they actually work and it’s pretty hard to install any soundproofing material directly on a glass surface.
The only other feasible option is to get triple glazed glass panels or something along those lines, which is quite expensive and difficult to install.
A similar alternative to curtains are thick moving blankets, like the ones I mentioned for door soundproofing. You can hang them from a curtain rod as well.
But I don’t see any reason to use blankets instead of curtains, because it won’t look as nice and it won’t provide any extra benefits.
The price is about the same as well so it’s only a reasonable alternative if you have thick moving blankets laying around the house already and are willing to give it a shot. Otherwise, go with the curtains.
4. Insulate the walls
Walls are trickier to soundproof and it can be expensive depending on the material you use and the size of the area. I recommend narrowing down the most important areas.
If the noise bothers you from the east, soundproof the east side. If it bothers you from the west, soundproof the west side.
You get the drill; focus on the side that’s bringing in most of the noise into your house first, and deal with the other side later if you’re not fully satisfied with the results.
There are 3 different approaches wall soundproofing approaches:
Install extra drywall (regular or soundproof)
Installing drywall can be a bit expensive, especially if you go with the soundproof type, which is somewhat thicker and absorbs more impact noise.
If you’re not a handyman talent, you might also have to pay professionals to install it, which can amp up the price even further.
But it’s a pretty clean and long-lasting way to reduce noise and if you install it by yourself it can be worth the trouble.
Add sound insulation material INSIDE the wall
Most commonly added materials are mass loaded vinyl (nailed or screwed directly on the studs) and rockwool batts (stuffed between the studs in order to cover all of that empty space).
The upside of this method is that it’s really effective and it’s relatively affordable. It’s also straightforward and you don’t have to hire a professional.
The downside is that you have to actually reach the studs, which means tearing away the surface layers of the wall and then reconstructing them.
This is why it’s best to add this product while you’re in the building process or along with some other home improvement project.
Install soundproofing materials on the outside of the wall
Products like soundproof panels, moving blankets and even mass loaded vinyl are hung directly on the wall to improve noise reduction and acoustics in the room.
This is less effective than the first two methods, but it can still be pretty effective if you use the right products. The panels and blankets that I mentioned for doors can be used for this project as well to get decent results.
The upside of this method is pretty obvious; easy installation. As opposed to reconstructing the wall or hiring professionals to the drywall for you. It can also be pretty affordable if you go with the blankets or mass loaded vinyl.
Mass loaded vinyl is definitely the most effective of all the materials on this list because it can block both airborne and impact noise. However, for blocking impact noise it works best when installed directly on the studs.
These wall soundproofing methods can be used to soundproof the ceiling as well. The only difference is that it’s harder to install the materials due to gravity.
5. Soundproof the floors
Soundproofing the floors can also be done in different ways, depending on the severity of the noise. Sometimes simply placing thick rugs or rug pads on the floors can absorb enough noise.
For more serious noise, you’d have to install floor underlay, which is usually plywood panels placed under the surface of the floor in order to add thickness.
Sometimes a layer of green glue acoustic sealant is used in between the underlay and the surface panels in order to absorb impact noise.
Floaters can also be placed on the studs to reduce the noise from footsteps and other impact (vibration) noise as well.
Check out my floor soundproofing guide to learn more about these methods including video tutorials.
6. Other ways to deal with the noise:
Get a white noise machine (sound dohm)
A sound dohm is a small machine that produces relaxing white noise. This white noise is used in nurseries, offices and bedrooms and it helps override the annoying sounds coming from the outside.
It has a relaxing effect on most people. I personally use it for meditation and sometimes if I need help to get to sleep. While you can play white noise on your computer or smartphone, the best quality is produced by sound dohms.
It’s also the most practical and cost effective since it is designed to produce sounds for longer periods of time and won’t waste energy.
The best and most popular device of this kind is Marcap dohm (aff link) which allows you to set up different frequencies and is quite affordable (under $50 at the moment of writing).
Also consider using noise-cancelling headphones if the noise is bothering you while you’re studying or doing other activities.
Talk to your neighbors
Perhaps you’ve tried talking sense into your neighbors and failed. In that case there’s nothing more you can do except put some of this soundproofing advice to good use. But if you haven’t talked to your neighbors, give it a try.
Be polite, but let them know to what extent the noise is bothering you, what type of noise it is, and ask them kindly to pay attention to this issue in the future.
Perhaps you could talk to the neighbors on the other side and see if they’re bothered as well. Ask them to come along as you explain the problem to the noisy neighbor. This will provide more weight to your claim.
In other words, don’t be afraid to confront the source of the noise directly, because if they’re willing to lower down the noise, perhaps you won’t need to do any soundproofing at all.
If talking to your neighbors fails to deliver good results or you’re simply not keen on having any sort of confrontation, what next?
Well, I hope this article has showed you some solid soundproofing methods that are affordable and easy to implement. So I hope you’ll use them to your advantage!