A few month ago, not too long after giving birth to my first child, we moved to an apartment that’s slightly larger than the one we previously resided in. We particularly enjoyed having more room, primarily to fit all the things our newborn needed.
However, it didn’t take long for us to experience one major drawback of living in such a confined space: the noise. It began with the next-door-neighbor’s blaring television set. Then, it was the loud stomping noises of the resident of the unit above us. The unit beside us also had children that ran around screaming like banshees.
Whether it was one thing or the other, the noise all around our apartment was getting to us. Worse, it was causing our child to get startled out of his sleep, disturbing his much-needed rest as well as ours.
The problems weren’t just provided by other apartments. Ours was a culprit as well with the noise of the squeaky door and loose floorboards driving us close to insanity!
A major problem with residing in a rent-controlled space is that the adjustments that you can possibly make are pretty much restricted. Whatever modifications you want done need permits, which more often than not, are denied by authorities. And let’s not even get started with the expenses that come with remodelling a space. Where does all these leave you basically? Between a rock and a hard place, we presume.
Between the neighbors who don’t give a hoot about your family’s peace and quiet, your crying newborn and your faulty apartment, what can you do?
Don’t lose hope; we have an option that can help you create a tranquil and restful environment in your home without having to bust open your savings account: soundproofing your wall from the noisy neighbors.
Before you balk and argue that going this route is expensive, let us stop you there and say that it can be when you hire the professionals to do it for you. Fortunately for you, we’re all about helping you get things done with very little or even no cost at all!
And so in this article, we’ll discuss very good reasons why you should consider soundproofing a wall and of course, how to soundproof a wall cheaply. Let’s get started, shall we?
Table of Contents
- Reasons Why You Should Really Consider Soundproofing Your Wall
- How to Soundproof a Wall Without Robbing a Bank
- Other Tips to Help You Soundproof a Wall
- The Bottom Line
Here’s a not-so-fun fact: noise is the second most prevalent complaint made by restaurant goers? Right behind service-related complaints? It’s a fact, according to Zagat.com, a trusted resource for restaurant lovers all over the world.
Unfortunately, as much as restaurateurs invest a lot of their resources in developing a great menu, training staff and creating wonderful décor, they usually neglect to invest in great soundproofing, which results in a lots of comments regarding a guest’s inability to converse with his companion over the din of the noise inside the dining area.
Obviously, homeowners have this problem too as noise travels rather easily through gaps, cracks, and lightweight materials through most homes. The noise could be made by many sources, whether it’s from the outside (horns from cars, loud talk, dogs barking) or even from inside your own abode (from appliances, home theaters, mechanical systems, and more).
How does sound travel? It does in two distinct ways:
- Through air, meaning it travels through holes in a room like outlets, switches, lights, gaps, HVAC ducts, etc.
- And through structures, meaning it vibrates through walls, ceilings, floors, tin ducting, etc.
But why is sound proofing so crucial for homeowners like you?
Here are a few important reasons why:
It Shows Respect for Your Neighbors
If you reside in an apartment or a duplex, or wherever that places you in close proximity with other people, you may need something to keep your newborn from waking up everyone in the complex whenever it cries during the wee hours of the morning. If you do have an apartment or a home that is near to strangers, it kind of goes without saying that reducing your noise as much as possible for the sake of others is just the decent and right thing to do. The comfort of your neighbors (and the prevention of potential arguments and confrontations) is one of the huge reasons why people are willing to invest a little into soundproofing their homes.
Helps You Maintain Privacy
In the same way that you don’t want neighbors hearing your child’s late-night or early-morning tantrums, you also don’t want them hearing what’s going on inside your living quarters. If you are a particularly boisterous, or if you can hear things going on in your neighbor’s residence at all hours of the day, then chances are they can also hear what you’re doing as well. Unnerving as it is, it’s something that a lot of people have to deal with with when they move to older apartments or duplexes.
But you can definitely do your part to reduce the volume of your daily activities, without having to change a lot of things. Installing soundproofing boards that will keep all the noise in that you would rather your neighbors not be the subject of their discussions, can offer you some welcome peace of mind.
Keeps Outside Noise From Coming In
But what about the other outside elements that you just can’t do anything about? Like that road maintenance project that entails having people work from early morning until late night? Surely, nobody wants to wake up to the wonderful sound of a power drill, right?
Soundproofing your apartment or duplex or home will help stop noise from making its way inside. If you live in a raucous locale, such as near a commercial complex or the freeway, soundproofing can really be god-sent. So unless you enjoy listening to the sound of truck horns or people loudly arguing out on the curb, soundproofing your wall might just make your day-to-day living situation tolerable.
It Just Makes for a Healthy Living Environment
Unless you’re an android or an alien, you would definitely agree with us when we say that human beings are not made to be around noise for an extended period of time. It’s just not healthy. Those who get up early to work in the morning, but have loud neighbors that like to binge watch on Netflix at midnight, will agree that soundproofing is a healthy a way to help themselves function better, be it at work, at play or in their personal lives.
Are you already convinced that soundproofing a wall can definitely help create a reasonably healthy and peaceful living environment, whether you’re living alone or have a family?
You should be. Now continue reading below and find out how to best soundproof a wall without suffering huge expenses.
1. Carefully Assess the Condition of the Wall
Before you even start the process of soundproofing walls, it would be best if you check what you are up against. When soundproofing open walls or those that have had work done on them, the wooden frame of the wall or the wall studs should be seen without taking anything apart.
But when you are working with walls that already have insulation, there are a few more steps that you need to take, which are to take down the old drywall and evaluate the said insulation. Then and only then will you be able to determine how to go about soundproofing that wall.
While carefully combing over the wall, you also need to check for potential hitches that may derail the project. Be sure to take note of the locations of the windows and doors, electrical boxes and wires, water or gas pipes, and other things that might hinder the work that needs to be done.
If you’re going the DIY way, meaning you’re soundproofing without the assistance or expertise of a professional, you can easily take notes down by yourself. Make sure to get the right measurements, as this will help you get the right amount of materials that is needed.
2. Get All the Materials and Tools Ready
As a general rule, it’s always best to prepare everything that you need for a project in order to make the process seamless and unobstructed. Now the question is, what do you need to have for this soundproofing project?
Glad you asked! To make this happen, you’ll need to get wall insulation, Mass Loaded Vinyl (MLV), resilient channels and a drywall of your choice. You’ll also need green glue compound and acoustic caulk. Don’t worry, we’ll explain later on why you need all these.
As mentioned above, having the correct measurements will help you determine just how much of a certain material you’ll need to purchase. Most importantly, this will help prevent any wastage, in both materials and money.
You will also need a caulking gun – a tool for applying green glue or acoustic sealant. Aside from that, you’ll also need cutting tools for MLV and insulation. Depending on their thickness, prepare a knife or scissors as well. Lastly, have a screw gun that you can use to put up resilient channels and drywall, and a hammer or a pneumatic stapler for the MLV.
3. Fill Up the Empty Stud Cavities with Soundproof Wall Insulation
To start, you should fill up the empty stud cavities with soundproof insulation. The walls should be stripped to the studs – that’s the wooden frame of the wall — and the insulation you have already prepared would adequately fit into the rectangular frames of the walls. That alone should already take away any air gaps between the wooden boards, a common culprit of noise as it allows sound to travel through walls.
If you encounter any obstacles like previously mentioned, work around them by cutting into the isolation with the use of a serrated edge knife. Cutting those out might take some practice to master, but even if some air gaps are still left, you can just fix them later.
You don’t need to use special acoustic insulation for these. Just use regular insulation or the one that is in the walls if it’s still intact. As a matter of fact, regular insulation is cheaper, even though it’s the same thickness as soundproof insulation.
However, if you don’t want to use soundproof insulation, or you still have some air gaps, there are other things that can prevent sound from seeping through walls. A great example is MLV, which is a great soundproofing material. Why is it so? Continue reading below to find out!
4. Fit in Mass Loaded Vinyl
Mass Loaded Vinyl is essentially a miracle material when you’re talking about soundproofing. You can use anywhere, as it’s flexible and thin, and extremely durable as well. Its amplified mass functions to wholly block out sound, whereas high-density soundproofing basically absorbs it.
So, how do you use MLV in your wall soundproofing project? Here’s how:
Place MLV on the floor and then, measure and cut it to the preferred length with either a knife or scissors. Ensure that the individual pieces are larger than the gaps between the wall studs so that you can secure them to the frame. Then, place the straight edges of the MLV at the top and at the bottom of the wall’s frames.
Secure the MLV with nails, screws or a pneumatic stapler, beginning at the top of the frames and working your way to the bottom. Doing it this way helps make sure that the edge is flush with the ceiling.
While securing the MLV, keep the seams of separate MLV pieces close tightly together so that they don’t just peel off. Much like when you were packing in the insulation, you need to be aware of electrical boxes and any other obstacles. Any gaps that remain can be sealed with the use of PVC tape. And don’t worry about the application of MLV, it doesn’t need to be pretty as it’ll be covered by drywall later on.
5. Connect the Resilient Channels
If you haven’t done any of this before, you might not know what resilient channels are and that’s fine. Let us give you a quick primer as to what they are.
Basically, resilient channels are sheet metal rails that are connected to the wooden frame of the room. They should be screwed in horizontally across the vertical wall studs and at a 90-degree angle to the ceiling joists. These metal rails are supposed to lay over the insulation and give support to the drywall so that it’s not directly attached to the studs.
Research has shown that placing resilient channels in can boost your experience of sound up to 5 STC levels, or Sound Transmission Classes. When installed the right way, they are shock-absorbent, and they actually help in dispersing noise until it dissipates. That might not sound like a lot, but it could prove to be the difference between having a blow-by-blow account of what your neighbors were arguing about or sleeping soundly.
6. Erect the First Layer Of Drywall
Professional soundproofing can drain the life out of your wallet but you can still get the job done yourself and save a whole lot by using soundproof drywall!
Soundproof drywall is a mix of gypsum boards and steel layers. Every layer increases mass and density, which are the most crucial elements of soundproofing materials. Soundproof drywall can be marvelous choice for wall and ceiling soundproofing.
The installation process goes like this:
When cutting drywall, use the very tip of the utility knife. Then only apply enough pressure to cut into the first layer of the material so as not to completely sever it. After slightly cutting into the drywall, it should snap off cleanly. When that happens, cut through the paper in the back and smooth out any rough edges.
Then, cut out window and door notches from a single drywall sheet. You can use a drywall saw to finish this task. But make sure to take note of the spots before putting up the drywall. You’ll also need a spiral saw to cut around smaller obstructions, such as outlets.
Then secure the drywall onto the resilient channels with screws, making sure not to touch the studs or joists. Pushing the drywall mounting screws into the studs will make the resilient channels become useless so it’s best to target the channels between the studs.
7. Add Green Glue and Another Layer Of Drywall
It’s simple math, really: two drywalls are better than one. Adding another layer of a dense material would substantially reduce the amount of noise that goes in or out of your room.
Before you add another layer of drywall, having an acoustic compound function as an in-between layer would lessen sound even more. Green Glue Compound is an inexpensive soundproofing material that decouples surfaces that spread sound.
It’s identical to resilient channels, as it disperses sound vibrations. Green Glue works only when it is applied between two solid layers at a thickness of at least 0.5 mm.
8. Seal Off the Gaps with the Use of Acoustic Caulk
Here’s the final step: acoustic caulk can help patch up the last few gaps that could wreck all that hard work.
Acoustic caulk, or sealant is a rubber-like material that is geared to plug holes that lets air — and therefore, sound — pass through. Because of its rubbery consistency and durability, it actually remains flexible and won’t snap.
You’ll need a caulking gun to use this sealant everywhere air could possibly get through. That means the seams between drywall sheets and the spaces between the drywall and the windows and doors. Additionally, remember to apply it generously where the wall meets the ceiling and floor.
We’re leaving no stone unturned when it comes to helping you create a noise-proof environment. Here a few more helpers for you to consider doing:
Identify Where the Weak Points of Your Walls Are
Take a moment and scan your room. Is there a window, a door or a wall that you could possibly soundproof?
Always remember that these are the most likely weak points when it comes to noise leaking. And being that they are small, you don’t have to spend all that much to cover these up but they have a huge difference when it comes to keeping unwanted sound away.
Pay attention to sealing all the gaps that you can find between your doors and door frames. The same goes for windows and window frames.
An inexpensive thing you can use is called a weatherstrip tape that you can find at most stores. Weatherstrip tape is a plastic, silicon or steel piece of material that you would simply put on the bottom of your door to cover some holes. It serves as some kind of energy loss redactor, bug protector, and of course, the sound insulator.
Another thing that you can try, if your budget permits, on your windows are soundproof curtains that contain a layer of soundproof material which will significantly reduce noise coming from the outside.
Locate Where the Noise is Originating
Before you start soundproofing, you first need to determine what materials you’ll be use. But in order for you to decide on the right things, you first need to locate the noise’s origin.
Be aware that there are different types of noise and two primary ones are airborne noise and impact noise. Airborne noise is spread through air only and these sound waves have middle to high frequencies.
Sound waves of impact noise on the other hand, have low frequencies and they can pass through walls, windows, and doors.
So what kind of noise do you have? Is it the television or the hum of your electric fan? Is it the vacuum cleaner, or are those high-frequencies coming from the street?
Depending on what type of noise you are dealing with, here’s what you can do:
Airborne noise — This is the easier one to block. All you will need are a few acoustic foam panels. They are small adhesive blocks that you place on the wall to block the noise. That material you often see in recording studios? That’s it.
Impact noise — Impact noise is more of a challenge to insulate. You will need to use materials that are much stronger insulators than acoustic panels. However, materials that you will be using would also work with insulating airborne noise so that’s hitting two birds with one stone. The most cost-efficient way would be erecting vinyl mats on our walls.
Vinyl mats are thick soundproofing panels that can be put up against the walls in order to diminish the low-frequency bass and overall noise.
Reduce Empty Spaces in Your Room
If you have a large room that’s almost bare, bearing very little furniture and you feel that it’s not as comfortable as you would like it to be, try reducing the echo of the room by filling the room up with some nice furniture. Essentially, the emptier the room, the more echo it will pick up. Another reason to add more furniture. Closets and bookshelves are huge and cover a large area so these will work as good insulators.
One other thing that you can try is to cover your walls is some interesting wall art. Thick and tightly-woven decorative quilts offer great sound insulation for any room. Also, they’ll make it look cozy and homely. Thick wallpaper is also a good choice if you don’t like hanging anything on your walls.
If you have placed your armchairs or sofas against a noisy wall, move them away from that said wall and put them in the middle of the room, or better yet, on the other side of the room. If they are against the shared wall, you’ll be able to hear everything that’s going on next door.
Also, check what is on the other side of the wall. If there are noisy TVs or other appliances up against the wall, move them if you possibly can.
You should not expect some remarkable results but these are the basics to lessening echo.
Buy Some Draft Stoppers for Your Doors
Draft stoppers are not just great for keeping out cold air, but also for lessening the amount of noise coming from the other side.
Add Small Rugs in the Trouble Areas
Adding soft rugs to rooms will help lower vibrations and ambient noise. So, even if your rooms are already carpeted, it won’t hurt to add some soft padding under carpets or smaller rugs on top of them. Just make sure the color and the design of the rugs match your carpet. If you like, you can even hang a decorative rug on your wall.
Following these steps will have allowed you to finally be able to hear your own thoughts again, no matter how fierce your neighbors’ arguments get. Hopefully, these suggestions will help you finally get the peace and quiet that you and your loved ones need.