It is helpful to understand how to soundproof walls for both yourself and your neighbors’ peace. This isn’t a difficult process, but there are different methods for applying elements at the stud level or over the existing sheetrock. All the suggested methods require some DIY skills, but some are less invasive than others.
The BBC cites scientific research that suggests the loud noises are not just annoying, they can lead to depression, anxiety, and a feeling of helplessness. Therefore, it benefits us to pay attention to the noise in our own homes and try to mitigate the noise where we can.
Options to Soundproof Walls
There are two broad categories of methods to soundproof walls. One is strategies to use over existing walls without getting down to the level of the studs. The other methods are for walls that are new walls that you are renovating down to the studs.
For existing walls these methods include filling the gaps in the wall, acoustic absorption, and creating more mass along loud walls. If you are building a new wall, you can consider more extensive methods like decoupling and adding acoustic insulation.
Questions to Ask Before Soundproofing Walls
Wall soundproofing can be more or less invasive depending on your needs. Walk through these simple questions to help you consider your project before you begin.
- Budget – How much extra money do I have to direct toward soundproofing my walls?
- Time – Do I have the available time that I need if this is a DIY project?
- Noise – Where is noise coming out of the room? Is the noise high or low frequency? Is the noise temporary? How loud is the noise?
- Tolerance – Does this noise affect my mood?
Noises in the Home
There are two types of noises that echo throughout your house: airborne sound and structure-borne sound. Airborne sounds like hearing your children talking or the TV from the other room float through the air and reach your ear. Structure borne, also called impact noise, is caused when an object strikes a surface and causes vibrations. These are carried through other surfaces in the building until it reaches your ear.
In order to control both of these types of sound, there are two methods of controlling the amount of noise that you hear: absorption and reduction.
- Absorption – Noise control methods in this category seek to absorb the sound so that it is not transferred further. These methods include using acoustic insulation or foam.
- Reduction – These methods reduce the sound that is coming out of the room or into other rooms by the sound waves from exiting one space and entering another. These include strategies like acoustic caulk to block existing holes.
Soundproofing Walls In Place
If you own a home with already existing walls that you do not want to remove, there are certain strategies that you can use to create a more soundproof room.
Look for the Gaps
Noise will come through any open space available. This includes gaps in the wall around the light fixtures, the electrical outlets, on the windows, and gaps around the doors. Use acoustic caulk to seal up any gaps that sound could travel through. One popular option is Green Glue acoustic caulk.
Add weather stripping around the windows and the doors in your walls to close gaps. This will not just stop sound from entering a room, it will also increase energy efficiency in the room.
Hang Acoustic Curtains and Panels on the Walls
Acoustic curtains or panels along the wall to absorb sound along the wall. Acoustic curtains, like those from NICETOWN, are soft and heavy. Hang them to cover the windows in the room to help insulate the glass in the window. Also, you can hang curtains along the wall to absorb sound. The thicker the folds and material of the curtains, the better they will absorb sound.
Manufacturers create acoustic panels using mineral wool insulation that is useful for sound absorption. These panels from Acoustimac have a plywood backing with 4lbs of wool insulation. Next, they wrap them in fabric on the front and sides so that they have a neutral appearance that blends with any room decor.
Increase Mass With Built-Ins
If there is one particular wall that connects to another room that is more sensitive to noise, address this particular wall by adding more mass to it. Adding mass reduces sound transmission. Build a large built-in like a bookcase and add books to it. Extend the bookcase from the floor to the ceiling to have the greatest impact.
You can also add mass by adding another layer of sheetrock to an existing wall. For the most sound-reducing material, use soundproof drywall for the top layer. Fabricators make this drywall that contains gypsum and a viscoelastic polymer to reduce sound transfer. Popular brands of acoustic drywall include CertainTeed and QuietRock.
Increase the sound damping qualities of additional layers further by using acoustic caulk or Mass-loaded vinyl (MLV) between the walls. MLV comes in a roll that you can cut into the right length. You can hang this on the outside of walls, but it is most effective when you use it between the drywall.
Building a Soundproof Wall from Scratch
If you are building a new wall from scratch or are willing to take a wall down to the studs, you have other methods that you can use to soundproof a wall. The important principles for building a soundproof wall from scratch are decoupling, sound absorption, increasing mass, preventing sound leakage, and reducing resonance.
Unless you are a builder, you may not understand decoupling. So, what is decoupling? Decoupling is separating two walls to limit the sound vibrations that come through one to the other. There are a variety of ways that you can decouple two walls.
- Build Double Studs – Studs are the component of the frame that connects the walls together. Building double studs is creating two stud frames with a gap between and attaching drywall to the outside of each stud frame. This is effective, but you lose extra space.
- Staggered Studs – For staggered studs, use a wide sill plate on the bottom of the wall with more narrow studs. Attach one stud on the right side of the sill plate. Leave a gap and then attach another stud to the left side. In this way, each stud will attach to just one sheet of drywall and not reach the other side.
- Resilient Channels – You can also build a regular wall with standard studs and attach resilient channels to one side of the stud frame. These channels flex and absorb the vibrations that come through the drywall.
Acoustic or sound insulation for walls is an effective way to absorb noise coming through the wall. Use specific insulation formulated to absorb more sound like Rockwool products which they craft from molten rock and minerals. Choose between acoustic insulation slabs or rolls depending on your ability to fit it between your studs. You can also use standard fiberglass insulation which also works to absorb noise.
By giving your wall as much mass as you can, you decrease the sound transmission through the wall. You can increase the mass of your walls by using more than one sheet of standard or soundproof drywall. Depending on how soundproof your room needs to be should determine if you should use regular or soundproof drywall.
Standard drywall is not as dense as soundproof drywall, but it is less expensive.
Preventing Sound Leakage
Caulk these with acoustic caulk once you put these fixtures into your new wall. If you are serious about creating soundproof walls, minimize these fixtures like windows and doors in your wall.
Most soundproof walls do not contain glass fixtures as glass conducts sound well. If you do need to include a door, use an option like a solid core flush door to make sure that the seal is solid.
Increase Sound Damping
Reduce the resonance of sound by using an acoustic membrane between the layers of drywall. You can use the above-mentioned Mass-loaded vinyl (MLV) or another acoustic compound like Green Glue Noise Compound spread between the layers of drywall.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)FAQ
What does a soundproof wall cost?
According to HomeAdvisor, it costs between $10-$30 per square foot to soundproof a room. So, for a standard 10×12 foot wall, it would cost between $1,200-$3,600 to soundproof this one wall.
What is the easiest way to soundproof walls in an apartment?
For walls in an apartment, you cannot do anything permanent. The best way to soundproof walls on an apartment would be to hang Mass-loaded vinyl along the wall and acoustic panels. You can also add furniture to the wall like large bookcases to increase the mass along the wall. Other options beside the walls are to add more soft furnishings to the room to absorb sounds like plush rugs with thick mats or rubber matting on the floor.
What is the best way to soundproof interior walls?
The best way to soundproof an interior wall is to add another layer of acoustic drywall with an acoustic membrane between the layers. Also, close any air gaps around fixtures with acoustic caulk.
What is the least expensive way to soundproof a wall?
The least expensive soundproofing options you can try are caulking and using acoustic curtains. Adding acoustic panels is more expensive, but they are effective.
There are various options to soundproof your walls. The most effective strategy is to use multiple methods and layer them to increase mass and sound absorption. There are some less expensive methods, but the most effective options will require a larger budget. It is a significant investment, but if you own your home, it is an investment that will pay off many years into the future.