How to Soundproof a Room on the Cheap

Moving to the city is definitely one of the most life-changing decisions I have ever had to make. An aspiring chef who was born and raised in Mobile, Alabama, I had to spread my wings and fly away from the coop if I was to make a name for myself in the culinary world.

And so I decided to move to New Orleans, Louisiana and try my luck climbing the totem pole over at Brennan’s, one of the more upscale dining spots in the famed city. I found a small apartment nearby and it didn’t take long (the very first night) for reality to set in that — to borrow a famous line in the Wizard of Oz — I wasn’t in Kansas anymore.

I wasn’t able to get a wink of sleep that very night of my new apartment! Now it may have been the nerves of starting a new job, or the anxiety of moving to the big city, I’m not really sure. What I am most sure of is that the noise that came at me from all sides was overwhelming!

From the pots and pans that were clanging in the kitchen below to the television set that seemingly was turned on all day long to the incessant flow of people running up and down the hallway, it was a nightmare! My lack of sleep showed during my first day at work as I just could not focus enough on the instructions that were being given during the briefing. I was in such a haze that the sous chef might have thought that I wasn’t capable of boiling water, much less work in a Michelin-starred restaurant.

Safe to say, I had to get my act together, which meant I had to soundproof my room in order to get some much-needed rest. But I was already working on a budget so this was going to be a tricky feat to pull off.

Chances are, if you live in an urban environment, you are in the same boat that I was. But do not despair, you don’t need fancy-schmancy equipment to soundproof your space. You can do that with some household items and perhaps, a few items that you can easily buy from any hardware store.

More importantly, once you fully grasp the principle elements of soundproofing, you can mix and match methods and items to create a serene and noise-free environment, that did not cost you an arm and a leg.

In this guide, I’ll share some of the things I did to my own apartment and some ideas that were shared to me by friends and family back home and sound technicians I spoke to while working.

But before we do, let me give you a brief primer on how soundproofing works.

If you want to learn how to soundproof your room without much cost, click here!

Table of Contents

Don’t want to read through our whole guide? You can use our table of content to jump to the part most relevant to you!

  1. Can You Really Soundproof a Room?
  2. How Does Soundproofing Work?
  3. How to Soundproof a Room Without Much Cost
  4. The Bottom Line

Can You Really Soundproof a Room?

Noise can ruin your day or night. If you reside in the kind of raucous apartment that I had the misfortune of living in, you are in for a restless night or two. At times, it’s not just the neighbors; there is the busy street, with vehicles passing by well into the dead of the night. Or worse, it can be road repairs that need to be done when traffic is at a minimum, which is at night! Say goodbye to sleep then, if that’s the case!

My point is: noise pollution should never be a constant in your life. This form of pollution is just as harmful as any and can even affect your health by ruining your sleep and making your stress levels skyrocket. You deserve peace and quiet in your personal space as much as the next person.

But to answer the question posed above – yes, absolutely! It definitely is plausible to soundproof a room without incurring massive costs or even for free. The level of success will rely on numerous elements, such as your location and the kind of noise you are up against. Knowing how to soundproof a room needs some form of some knowledge and ingenuity. Let’s dive into more detail about soundproofing to help you determine the ideal solution for your particular situation.

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How Does Soundproofing Work?

Soundproof a Room

Soundproofing is considered to be essentially a science. In particular, a soundproof surface is meant to keep sound from being transmitted from the outside atmosphere to your interior.

Once an airborne sound wave collides with such a surface, it either passes through or is reflected back into the atmosphere that it came from. If you want to keep a level of privacy and tranquility in an urban setting, you have to know how to apply such soundproof and acoustic principles.

Soundproofing basically means blocking or absorbing sound waves.

The level of usefulness of soundproof elements relies on the number of acoustic features of these items. Size, thickness, density, and structure all have a key role in how well these objects block sound.

Professional studios, office buildings, and facilities of that nature rely on well-planned building design and expensive soundproof devices and panels to somehow diminish noise levels. But since you obviously don’t have the resources that these companies do, you have to make do with what is available to soundproof your space.

Temper Your Expectations When It Comes to DIY Solutions

Let’s be real about what you’re going to get if you go the DIY route. You cannot expect a 100% noise suppression rate. Let’s be clear about that. However, you will notice a vast difference from what your space sounded like after you place in some soundproofing solutions.

The right way to soundproof is by keeping sound leakage away by sealing up any gaps in your space. It’s crucial to bear that in mind since high levels of noise can travel even through the smallest crack. Thin barriers can also be a problem as well, which is why you shouldn’t take for granted windows, doors and even walls and floors.

How to Soundproof a Room Without Much Cost

Here are some inexpensive soundproofing ideas for spaces that should get the ball rolling. As mentioned before, you are sure to find one here that would be best fitted for the noise problem that you currently have.

1. Soundproof your door with common household items

Your doors and windows are the primary and most obvious culprits when it comes to passages of sound. Doors are tricky to soundproof because of their hollow composition and the gaps between the door itself and the frame can let noise inside.

Now an obvious yet highly expensive answer would be to get a thick, soundproof a door. But the additional expense is not something we want to incur right now so the next best thing to do is to strategically position your furniture. Objects such as bookshelves and shoe cabinets can be set up in front of the edges of the door to block a portion of the incoming sound waves.

Another thing is you should mind that the floor can convey a great amount of noise as well. To keep that at a minimum, place a thick rug or an identical fabric on the floor next to the door. That will fill up the gap at the bottom of the doorframe as well.

For more levels of insulation, cover the door with layers of thick fabric like heavy blankets. Finally, place some towels under your door or get a quality door sweep to lessen the amount of noise even more.

Soundproof Curtain

2. Soundproof a room with the use of blankets

As mentioned before, you can soundproof your space with the use of just items you did not think would help, like blankets. Although stretching blankets over walls and windows won’t really wow that girl you brought back to your apartment, it can be a quick fix for your noise concerns.

For blankets to work as noise blockers, they need to be really thick and dense. Wool blankets have been known to work really well in that regard. Make sure the blanket is covering the complete surface of the wall and windows, and you can add more layers if you like.

There are many sound dampening curtains on the market, but the ones I personally recommend are the Yakamok 2 Thick Soundproof Curtains.

Another nifty trick to use is moving blankets, which are blankets made to protect your stuff when moving, which is why they’re very thick. These are also somewhat soundproof, in addition to being a lot cheaper than most soundproofing items.

3. How about egg cartons?

If you ever asked anyone how to soundproof a room without any cost, they might have blurted out egg cartons as an answer. But do they work? The answer is egg cartons cannot block sound from passing through as they are lightweight, spongy, and are too flimsy to become much of a barrier to sound.

You can, however, use egg cartons to lessen echo because of their uneven and undulated structure. To explain it further, when sound waves come into contact with smooth surfaces like walls and windows, they are reverted back to where they came from. This process results in the echo inside your space, which raises the noise levels.

Use free egg crate cartons to absorb some of the echoes in your room. However, do take note that they will not soundproof your room from external noises.

But if you strategically place egg cartons in particular areas, their structure will retain these sound waves and convert them into heat. That can help a little when it comes to reducing or eradicating echo and reverberation. The air gaps inside the cartons also function as an insulating agent.

To be clear, egg cartons are far from a suitable absorption system, but their accessibility makes them a worthy addition to your soundproofing arsenal.

Acoustic Panel

4. Should you look into cheap soundproofing foam?

If you do some research on this item, there are some corners that say that it does not actually block sound. So it is unusable? Can you use it for soundproofing then?

There is a difference in acoustics between blocking sound, or sound insulation, and sound absorption. Soundproof foam doesn’t block the passage of sound waves. Rather, like identical soft materials, it holds the sound waves inside its fibers. That converts the energy of the sound wave into heat and results in diminished echo and reverberation.

The sound absorption you get from foam is a more significant element of any soundproofing method. It may not wholly eradicate noise from your room, but it can make a great difference by lessening echo. More crucial is the fact that soundproof foam products are inexpensive and can be bought at most hardware stores.

The most recommended ones by far are Mybecca Panels and Foamily Panels.

5. Make your own Soundproofing Panels

If you have the time and the energy, you actually can soundproof a room by making your own soundproofing panels. Here’s how:

  • First, you will need a soundproof material which you will stash inside the panel. You can pick acoustic foam, mineral wool, or anything else that’s available. Most of these are cheap and accessible.
  • Next, you will need to construct a wooden frame which will contain the soundproof material. The size of the panel should match the size of the surface you want to cover. The most practical solution is using standard wood glue and applying spray adhesive over the entire insulation perimeter.
  • Finally, once you place the soundproof material inside the frame, you need to wrap the construction up in a piece of fabric. This fabric should be aesthetically pleasing since this is the visible part. Besides that, make sure the fabric is not soundproof, because you want the sound waves to reach the core of the panel.

6. You can even make your very own Soundproof Window Plugs

Apart from doors, windows are huge passageways for sound or noise to pass through. If soundproof windows are totally out of the question, you can make your very own soundproof window plug to attain virtually the same effect.

These plugs will also block light, so if you are setting them up in living spaces, you might want to make them detachable. If you are installing them in a bedroom, however, you can put them up permanently for a much better effect.

Making a window plug is easy – all you need is a soundproofing mat, a thin wooden board, as well as an adhesive or caulk. Apart from soundproofing a room modestly, window plugs will provide you with thermal insulation during the cold, winter months.

Acoustic Underlay

7. Use carpets to reduce noise

Carpets don’t just earn you style points or make the floor you step on softer. They can help with noise reduction.

A lot of people are led to believe that thick and hard surfaces are the best at blocking out the sound. However, wooden and concrete floors actually convey a huge amount of noise. That much is true especially when it comes to impact noise, like the sound of heavy footsteps, or objects crashing to the floor.

Thanks to their soft acoustic structure, carpets can absorb these impacts. For example, putting a carpet onto the main floor is an inexpensive way to block impact noise from traveling through the basement ceiling.

Also, carpets can absorb reverberation and echo by trapping the sound waves in their fibers. The best solution is to have them of just the right thickness, covering the entire floor surface. In addition, you can augment the effectiveness of your carpet by setting up cheap acoustic underlay right underneath it.

In essence, carpets won’t block any incoming noise, but they can boost the quality of sound inside the room. Although far from an ideal solution, a little difference goes a long way when it comes to noise reduction.

Blackout Curtain

8. Will curtains work in blocking out noise?

Curtains can really make a huge difference when talking about the noise levels inside your space. Since windows are specific weak points of any room when it comes to lessening noise, soundproof curtains can function as your first line of defense.

However, take note that not all curtains are equally soundproof. You should do your due diligence when it comes to these kinds of curtains especially since the market is now filled with all kinds of dubious products.

What you need is a set of heavy-weight, tightly woven curtains like these ones from Nicetown, which has extra layers of added insulation. Likewise, bear in mind to cover a few inches of the wall next to the window with curtains to make sure that there is no leakage.

Caulking Sealant

9. Seal Doors With Caulk

Although you need to do a little more work, caulking is another economical way to soundproof your room. Gaps between the wall and the door or window frame are target areas when it comes to soundproofing.

Airborne sound can be transmitted through the smallest gap into the atmosphere of your room. That’s what makes permanently sealing up those gaps a sound idea.

What you manage by using acoustic caulk is making a layer of mass that blocks sound from passing through. And so, it’s crucial to make this layer as thick as possible, while also making sure the door remains functional. You can try this Sashco brand, which has become very recommended of late.

10. Access to Soundproofing Materials

Materials for soundproofing a room cheaply are easily accessible from a huge number of sources, be it online or physical stores. In case you need a quick fix, you can always turn to egg cartons or blankets for some temporary reprieve from noise. Well-placed furniture can also help as well.

In most situations, anything soft and fibrous should help you lessen echo, while heavy, dense and thick materials should help you block out the sound.

However, if you really want to take it to the next level, you can use materials designed specifically for soundproofing like acoustic fiberglass, soundproof foam, plastic, vinyl and polyester in the shape of panels, curtains, tiles, absorbers, etc.

The Bottom Line: Can You Soundproof a Room on the Cheap?

So there you go; those are plenty of nifty ideas that you can use to minimize the noise levels inside your space. With some more research, you might have even figured out how to soundproof a room without incurring any cost at all.

But again, as mentioned before, the success of these ideas for soundproofing your room depends on your particular circumstances. That’s why you should start with a little trial and error until you see what really works for you! That’s what I did before using a bunch from this list to afford me some peace and quiet. And yes, I’m up to peeling potatoes now so I guess I’m moving up!

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