Everything you need to know to soundproof your home without breaking the bank
Did you know that you don’t have to live with road noise? Did you know you don’t have to put up with your noisy neighbors keeping you up all night or the sound of your kids playing interrupting your zoom meetings? It’s true. Soundproofing could be the answer to all your problems.
Most people don’t consider soundproofing to be anything more than a trick music studios use to improve sound quality. However, the method has so much to offer us all. You don’t have to settle for a noisy home when DIY soundproofing is so cheap and easy to do.
As many of us will be working from home for the considerable future, soundproofing your home could drastically improve your quality of life. If you want to know more about the process keep reading.
Today, we’ll be talking about how soundproofing works and how you can soundproof your home yourself. Let’s start by looking at what noise is and how sound works.
What Is Noise?
Noise is considered any unwanted sound that is too loud or is unpleasant to take in.
In your daily life, you may use the words noise and sound interchangeably. This is not technically wrong, as the two are physically the same thing. Noise is a loose category of sound that we use to describe sounds that we find annoying or unpleasant – i.e how the brain perceives it.
The difference between what is noise and what is sound is not concrete or universal. What we consider to be sound you may consider as noise and vice versa.
There are two main types of noise – acoustic and electronic. Acoustic noise is a noise that is created and spread naturally. Whereas electronic noise is captured and projected using electronics. Guitars fit these categories perfectly – acoustic guitars spread sounds through natural echoing in the body of the guitar. Whereas electric guitars create sounds through an electronic amp.
There are two ways to measure noise – decibels and hertz. Decibels measure the loudness of a sound – for example, the average human voice is 60 decibels, whereas an average rock concert reaches 120 decibels. Hertz measures the pitch of the noise, the more hertz the higher the noise.
How Does Sound Work?
As we mentioned, sound and noise are technically the same things – but what are they and how do they work?
When we hear a sound, we are hearing our brain’s interpretation of sound waves our ears have absorbed. These sound waves are created by items vibrating. The waves pass through the air and are captured by our ears before being interpreted by our brains.
The way an object vibrates will change the types of sound waves it produces. For example, if a guitar string vibrates faster it will create a higher pitch sound and if it vibrates with more force it will create a louder sound.
Most sounds we hear are made up of multiple types of sound waves. For example, when you are listening to a live band you are listening to sound waves from the drums, the singer, the guitarist, and all the other instruments on stage.
The further the sound waves travel the weaker they get. They will maintain their pitch but they will appear quieter when they reach our ears. The waves lose their energy as they pass through the other molecules in the air.
Certain materials can bounce sound off them without absorbing too much of their energy and create echoes. Rooms, buildings, and outdoor spaces can also be designed to create echoes – Ancient Greek amphitheaters are a great example of this.
What Is Soundproofing?
Soundproofing is a technique that is used to decrease the amount of noise we experience in a location – like our office, studio, or bedroom. This can be done by increasing the distance that sound waves have to travel before they reach us.
This does not mean moving your office to a different part of the house. Instead, different materials (and shapes) are used to increase the amount of space the sound has to travel through without entering your room. These materials may be particularly good at absorbing sound and they will most likely be cut into shapes that force sound waves to interact with the material more times than they traditionally would.
Soundproofing can also be done selectively – it can be used to dampen one type of sound whilst heightening another. This is why it became so popular in music studios.
If you want to see the full effect of soundproofing, you should visit an anechoic chamber. These rooms completely dampen the sound and are some of the quietest rooms you will ever spend time in.
To see the benefit of soundproofing you do not have to go to extremes. By using a few soundproofing techniques you can reduce the amount of noise you are experiencing at home.
The Benefits Of Soundproofing
Having read the first three sections of this guide, you will have probably already come up with a few different ways that soundproofing could improve your life.
Below, you will find four benefits of soundproofing that you may not have considered before.
Are you working on something that you don’t want your neighbors (or family) to know about?
If you are working on something important, secret, and/or private you may want to consider soundproofing your workspace. You may also find that your ability to focus and to be productive when working from home will increase when outside distractions are removed.
Perhaps, you are the kind of person who really values their privacy, and not being able to hear what is going on in the area surrounding your house will make you feel more isolated. Soundproofing can help with this.
There are many parents or couples living with other people who will benefit from soundproofing their bedrooms. Not only will it make it easier for you to sleep but you will also be able to enjoy your private times without worrying about the whole house hearing it.
Avoiding hearing problems
The World Health Organisation (WHO) estimates that 1.3 billion people suffer from hearing problems. While many of these problems are genetic, in the last 30 years we have seen a rise in the number of people who have developed hearing problems due to their surroundings.
Data from WHO suggests that over 10% of the world is regularly exposed to levels of noise that could damage their hearing. This data includes noise from construction sites, living under air flight routes, living too close to main roads, and living near loud establishments like nightclubs. These types of noises are often referred to as noise pollution.
To limit the amount of ear damaging noise pollution you are exposed to you can soundproof the key rooms in your home. Many of us spend the most time in our living rooms, bedrooms, and home offices. By soundproofing these rooms you could drastically reduce the amount of noise you and your family are exposed to.
Stops noise from getting out of your home
If you are someone who likes to make a lot of noise then soundproofing your home may be a great way to reduce the number of noise complaints that are filed against you.
If you do woodworking as a part-time hobby, play the drums, or one of your children is learning to play the violin – then you may want to consider soundproofing your home for the sake of your neighbors.
Many people don’t take up noisy hobbies because they are worried about upsetting their neighbors. But with the correct soundproofing equipment, you don’t have to compromise and you can keep your neighbors happy in the process.
You may also find that soundproofing the noisiest room in the house improves the overall mood in your home and reduces the tension between the people living there. As soon as our friend soundproofed his drumming room, he and his wife started getting on a lot better.
Soundproofing can really benefit people who live with other adults or who have kids. Soundproofing allows you to have a little more privacy and do your favorite things without disturbing everyone else you live with.
If you want to watch your favorite team play but the match starts after the kids have gone to bed – you can find yourself in a tricky situation. However, if you have their rooms or your man cave soundproofed then you no longer have a problem. They can sleep peacefully and you can cheer on your team at the top of your voice.
Soundproofing your living room can be useful if you share a house and your flatmates have a different schedule compared to you. Anyone can use the living room and have friends around without having to worry about disturbing anyone else.
How to Soundproof Your Home
Now that we have learned about how sound, noise, and soundproofing works, it’s time to move on to the practical part of this article.
In this section, we are going to look at how you can soundproof your home and what tools you are going to need to do it.
Tools & Materials Needed For Soundproofing Your House
Despite popular belief, it is possible to do a good DIY soundproofing job in a room. There are plenty of high quality soundproofing materials available to everyday customers for a good price. You just need to know where to look.
You will also be pleased to hear that if you like to DIY you will probably already own all the tools you need for this job.
We recommend you gather and measure out all your materials before you start the job. You don’t want to get halfway through the job and realize that you don’t have enough drywall.
Here are the three main tools that you need to complete your job:
Caulk guns are designed to make sealant easier to apply. It is possible to get manually powered caulk guns as well as automatic caulk guns. If you are new to using this tool then we recommend that you start with a manual gun. However, automatic caulk guns will provide a more even layer of the product to the wall.
Sealing is one of the most important parts of the soundproofing job so you will want to make sure that you purchase a high quality caulk sealant. These will last for longer and won’t discolor.
When you are installing your soundproofing materials, you are going to have to squeeze into some awkward places. You will benefit from doing this project with a cordless drill with a long-life battery.
Cordless drills are a lot safer than the old fashioned type of drill, you cannot get tangled up in the wire and you also cannot damage the wire during use because there is no wire. There is no need to worry about blowing the fuses of your whole house with your drill anymore.
Cordless drills provide you with a lot more ease of movement and new models can last for hours without needing to be charged.
Handsaws are also known as “panel saws” and you will need them to cut the new wall panels down to size. You can get electric hand saws as well as manual ones. You might find the electric models better if you have shoulder, back, or neck problems. Or you may want to bring someone in to help you out with the project.
We recommend that you use a medium or large handsaw to do this project – depending on your size preference. A small hand saw will be too slow and will waste a lot of energy and time for you.
Here are the three main materials you will need to complete your job:
If you have noisy pipes around your home then PVC piping is about to become your best friend. Small parts of PVC can be attached to loud copper and cast iron pipes and they will quickly reduce the amount of noise they will make.
PVC pipes can also be used as support when building new soundproofing structures. The pipes can be attached to walls then panels can be attached to the pipes and the space in between can be filled with insulation, drywall, or any other type of sound absorbing material.
They are long-lasting and won’t rust like metal pipes. However, they do crack more easily.
Drywall or another type of insulation
Drywall is going to be one of the most important materials in your soundproofing process. Drywall is traditionally made from calcium sulfate. It looks like slabs of concrete or plasterboard but is much lighter than both. This makes it easier to install but it can be very fragile and easy to break.
If you may find a wall installation foam easier to work with. These types of foam can be sprayed into an empty area. The foam will then expand to fill the area. While these foam are designed for insulation, they are also useful for soundproofing projects.
Caulk is an essential part of soundproofing as we mentioned earlier.
When you are filling gaps and cracks, caulk is the material you want to use. You can also use it to reseal windows and other parts on the outside of your home.
One of the best things about caulk is that it has a whole range of uses, so if you don’t use up the whole tube on your soundproofing project, you will be able to find a use for it elsewhere in your home.
Now that you have gathered the materials and tools you need to complete your job, it is time to start the work.
How To Soundproof Your House
Now, we have arrived at the practical section of this guide and we are now going to look at what you can do to soundproof your home. We are going to talk about 9 different things that you can do to control the noise coming into or out of your home. Some of these tips you can do yourself while others will need to be done by experts.
1. Determine the noise you want to control
The first thing you need to do is pinpoint the types of noises that you want to control. Do you want to stop noise from coming into your house? Or do you want to stop noise from going out of your house? Maybe there is one room that you want to prevent sound from coming out of?
Once you know exactly what noise you want to control, you can pick and choose from the 8 options below to suit your needs. Not everyone will need to go through all 9 of these tips.
2. Fix any cracks and holes in your walls
This is something you should be doing whether you want to stop sounding, getting into, or leaving your house, as it will help with both. It will also help to keep your heating bills down.
Sound can escape out of even the tiniest gaps, so be diligent when you are looking for them. The time you spend on this step will pay off tenfold in the future.
When sealing gaps around windows and doors you should be using your polyurethane caulk and caulk gun. You should use plaster or pack putty when filling in cracks in your walls. You may also want to consider putting a cap on your chimney.
3. Seal your front doors or replace your front door
You should pay extra attention to your doors when doing Step 2. Metal and wood doors will shrink and grow depending on the temperature and how much rain there is. This can cause pressure on the doorframe and the brickwork or woodwork around it.
If your door has plastic or glass see-through sections then you should also make sure that these are correctly sealed. A good way to tell if the sealing isn’t up to scratch is to check for drafts. If wind can get in then sound can too.
You may want to consider hanging a new door, especially if your current door is old and drafty. Wooden front doors are a great option if you are trying to keep the noise of the outside world outside.
4. Replace your windows
This is the most expensive job on this list and is one that you will need to bring professionals in to do. However, if you don’t have well-sealed windows with double glazing – then this will make a huge difference to how soundproof your house will be. It will also help you to save money on your heating bills.
5. Install soundproofing panels on the ceiling
If you want to keep the noise inside one room, then you should consider installing soundproof panels on the ceiling of that room, as well as installing soundproof panels on the walls (see tip 7).
As well as stopping the sound from traveling to the rooms above, soundproofing the ceiling will prevent the sound from reverberating around the room. This means that the sound won’t travel as far and is less likely to be heard outside the room.
You will probably find it easiest to attach acoustic foam tiles to your ceiling rather than applying full panels.
6. Insulate your walls
If your home is not fully insulated then you should consider having the major walls of your house insulated. This procedure was designed to prevent heat from escaping houses, but it unintentionally does a great job at soundproofing too.
There are many different ways to insulate a home. You can use an expanding insulation foam. You can fill your walls with loose fiberglass. Or you can use wood wool to pack inside your walls. All of these can be done yourself, or you can hire someone to do it for you.
Whatever method you choose, you will notice the difference almost immediately.
7. Mount soundproof panels on your walls
You can make soundproof panels by sandwiching acoustic foam tiles in between two wooden panels. You can then upholder the panels with a thick fabric like velvet or a few layers of something thinner. You can then mount these panels to the wall.
To get the maximum performance out of your panels you should have the panels overlapping with each other. This will dramatically improve the performance of your panels.
If you do not always need to have the room soundproofed you can fix a rail to the top of your wall and hang your panels from it. These can then be removed and returned whenever you need them.
8. Fit thick carpets
We will cover this in more detail later, but fabric is one of your best friends if you need to do some small-scale soundproofing. Replacing hard floors with carpets will make a big difference to the amount of sound that leaves a room.
Just like our ceilings, our floors will cause sound to reverberate and sound can often pass through our floors. Installing a thick carpet can make it a lot more difficult for sound to echo around your room or for the sound to pass through your floors into the rooms below.
9. Soundproof old pipes
If you want to prevent old pipes from making so much noise then we have a tip for you. Find some PVC pipes that are wider than your current pipes.
In sections along your pipes, for the PVC pipes around the existing pipe. Then fill that PVC pipe with expanding foam. Doing this will stop the pipes from rattling around. You should make sure that all the fittings that attach your pipes to the wall are tight enough.
If you do this and your pipes are still too loud, it might be time to start considering replacing them.
Top Tips To Handle Noise
Before we go, we want to leave you with three more tips that will help to beat the noise in rooms that you cannot fully soundproof or to take your soundproofing up another level in rooms you have worked on.
We have talked you through how to stop noise coming in through your doors, how to stop noise from passing through your ceilings and floors, and we have talked about how to stop noise from getting into your house.
Here are three more tips to help you out.
Consider putting up heavy curtains
When you are trying to absorb sound, thick fabrics are a tool that you shouldn’t underestimate. Heavy curtains are particularly useful – especially if you cannot afford to have your windows replaced.
Our windows tend to be the weakest point in our soundproofing systems and the only way to truly make them soundproof is to remove them. The glass is much thinner than our walls, especially once you have soundproofed your walls.
However, you can do two things to improve your windows without removing them – have double glazing installed and/or hang heavy curtains. Installing new windows can be expensive, but a good pair of thick curtains can cost less than $30.
By hanging heavy curtains, you can prevent sound from traveling through your windows. They can also double as blackout curtains.
If you are looking for better soundproofing in a room, you should avoid rolling down blinds. Wooden slats do a fairly good job of soundproofing, but heavy curtains are best. They are also the easiest to fit.
Look for soft, sound absorbing materials
Remember when it comes to soundproofing our homes, we want to work smarter and not harder. By thinking carefully about how you furnish a room you can do a lot to reduce how much sound amplifies and echoes around the room.
You can start by laying rugs on hard floors and by putting up wall hangings. Having upholstered armchairs and sofas in the room will also help to absorb more sound. Large cushions on chairs and hanging plants from the ceiling will also help.
Search sound absorbing acoustic tiles for walls
If you don’t want to permanently soundproof a room, or you just want to experiment with soundproofing then you should try out sound absorption acoustic tiles.
These tiles are made of the same soundproofing foams that are used in most recording studios. They are traditionally made from acoustic foam that is put into patterns that make it harder for sound to pass through.
Acoustic foam is made from open celled polyurethane foam. The foam attenuates the soundwaves in the air and prevents them from being able to amplify. They are useful when dealing with mid and high frequency noises, however, they are not thick enough to cope with low frequency noises. Wood or metal panels must be used for this.
They come in many different colors and densities, each with a unique use. So, you will have no problem finding a type of acoustic tile to suit your needs.
Soundproofing isn’t just for music studios anymore. There are many different reasons why someone may want to soundproof part of their home.
Soundproofing makes it easier to share spaces with other adults and even with children. It makes it easier to work on confidential projects or to get your everyday work done. It can even improve yourself if you live in a noisy neighborhood.
Many people avoid getting soundproofing done on their homes because they think it is an invasive and expensive process. But it doesn’t have to be. It is a process that you can do yourself and you probably already have all the tools you need to do the job.
So, if you feel like soundproofing is something that can improve your life then you are reading the right article. Above you will find a complete guide to soundproofing your house. What are you waiting for? It’s time to get out those drywall panels.