So you have moved to the “City That Never Sleeps,” New York City, in search of your piece of the American pie. Things however, are not what you seem, as you have found yourself living in a small apartment complex where sleep and rest appear to be foreign concepts to its inhabitants.
You’re looking for a decent job in the big city but haven’t been able to get so much as a glance from any of the firms you’ve tried your luck at. You’re wondering why? The answer is you can’t possibly expect to get offered a job if you go to an interview looking like you haven’t had a wink of sleep in a week!
But the reality that your potential employers don’t know is that you really have not gotten a good night’s worth of rest ever since you moved here. Between the upstairs resident who sounds like he’s starting a fight club to the downstairs neighbor who thinks he’s the next Jon Bon Jovi (he’s terribly deluded if he believes that) all the way to the non-stop ruckus outside, you just haven’t been afforded the right amount of rest and preparation in order to be present the best version of yourself to potential employers.
And with resources dwindling, you are near out of luck if you can’t find a reasonable way to soundproof your apartment. And by reasonable, you most definitely mean cheap but effective. Well, your luck is about to change as they certainly don’t get any cheaper with soundproof foam!
If you are looking to buy and set up some foam panels, there is a chance you may feel overwhelmed at first but not to worry as that’s why were are here to lend a hand with this article.
Aside from taking a look at the best soundproof foam panels in the market today, we’ll also take a deep dive into what soundproof foam is, what they are, how they work and how to properly install them. Let’s get started; the sooner you can install these, the better your chances of getting a job in New York City will be!
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!
- What are Soundproof Foam Panels?
- How Does Soundproof Foam Work?
- What to Consider When Looking for Soundproof Foam Panels?
- How to Set Up Soundproof Foam?
- Other Options You Might Want to Consider
- Best Soundproof Foam Panels for You
- The Bottom Line
What are Soundproof Foam Panels?
Soundproof foam panels are distinct types of soundproofing foams that are often open-celled. Most of the time, they are made from polyether, polyester or extruded melamine.
The purpose of these soundproof foam is to diminish the amplitude of sound waves by raising the air resistance. This is what makes them especially efficient when the task calls for soundproofing.
Some panels are composed of fiberglass. Fiberglass is a remarkable material for soundproofing as well. This is because of the friction between the fibers and air result in the loss of a lot of sound energy. Because these panels are composed of soundproofing materials that feature some chemicals, first-time users may smell a powerful chemical odor. However, you need not to worry about the odor. It is not harmful and goes away after some time.
How Does Soundproof Foam Work?
Trying to learn how acoustic foam works often leads to a seemingly endless salvo of jargon, science, and misinformation, that needs a minimum entry requirement of a Ph.D. in physics and an unhealthy interest in manufacturing processes.
But fortunately for you, we’re going to cut through all the noise and tell you exactly what you need to know about acoustic foam.
What is Soundproof Foam Commonly Used For?
Soundproof foam can be used to block out sounds from the outside world or to absorb sounds inside a room to lessen reverberations. Both have their place, so it’s crucial to be aware of what goal you are trying to achieve before you go out and purchase a whole bunch of foam.
In this day and age of incessant noise, some form of soundproofing is needed, be it in residences or working spaces. Whether you’re in a restaurant, school, open-plan office, gymnasium, church or hospital, they will probably either be designed to control the acoustics architecturally, or they will have acoustic foam set up to diminish background noise and block outside sounds.
According to Julian Treasure, who is the author of the book Sound Business, open-plan offices can actually make employees 66% less productive? This is because of distractions and your innate need to quite literally hear yourself think. Whether you want to boost the sound quality for music production, manage acoustics in large open-plan buildings, insulate against noise from heavy industry, or simply reduce noise from traffic, soundproof foam is probably the most inexpensive solution to your noise issues.
Foams That Absorb Sound
If you want to absorb sound inside a room then you need to soften the hard surfaces. If you’ve ever wondered why the insides of structures like churches and gymnasiums echo when you clap your hands, it’s because the sound is bouncing off of the walls and ceiling and is then being amplified by the shape of the room.
One common approach to soaking up sound inside large rooms is to install soundproof foam that is cut to size and installed to the largest surface areas such as floors and ceilings, as well as linking areas such as pathways and corridors. This approach is especially efficient at dampening “airborne sounds” but (you guessed it) there’s more than one type of noise.
Foams That Block Out Sound
Noise is noise, but various noises travel in various ways. If your problem is sound seeping through the walls and ceilings from connecting parts of the building, then you definitely need to soundproof the room. This project needs materials with the contrasting elements from the soft and lightweight foam that you’re likely to see in places like recording studios.
If you want to disperse noise then you will certainly need to set up soundproofing foam inside the wall construction. These are often thick, dense and heavy panels that are geared to “decouple” the wall between rooms to prevent sounds from traveling through materials.
So, What Else Should You Know About Acoustic Foam?
There are always intriguing developments coming out from acoustic labs from all across the globe. A clear example is that scientists at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich are making use of theories from quantum mechanics to make a new material that insulates vibrations rather than allowing them to pass through the foam.
Called “super quiet sound proofing,” this new type of material (if successful and is made available to the public) could significantly lessen the amount of material needed to soundproof a room. The most stirring characteristic about this kind of foam is that it could allow noise to pass in just one direction – which comes in handy for homeowners looking to get back their sanity from the ruckus caused by noisy neighbors.
What to Consider When Looking for Soundproof Foam Panels?
As previously earlier in this article, if you are looking for cheap and inexpensive means to soundproof your space, you need not to look any further than soundproof foam.
So, you have decided to use acoustic wall panels to soundproof a certain room in your house. How do you know what foam panels to choose?
There are so many kinds of soundproofing wall panels out in the market today. If you simply decide to go shopping without establishing what you need and what you need it for, you may end up perplexed and buy for panels that don’t provide you with the answer to your noise problem. To lend you a hand, we have prepared a list of things to really evaluate when shopping for the best soundproof foam panels:
Patterns on the Surface
Usually, foam wall panels will come with a specific pattern on the surface. The most common acoustic foam patterns are pyramids and wedges. While there are plain acoustic foam panels, the patterned ones are just more visually appealing for my taste. Sit down first and decide on what pattern would go best with your current space or the space that you eventually would want to have before you go out to buy them.
When installing these panels, you can actually try and experiment with the patterns and get one huge pattern on either your wall or ceiling. After all, the visual patterns do not really have an impact on the performance of the foam wall panels. However, panels that have wedges tend to gather dust in between the wedges. You will have to schedule the cleaning time for these kinds of panels.
You can actually select from soundproof foam panels that offer varying degrees of thickness. And it goes without saying that the thicker the soundproof foam panels are, the better they will be in absorbing unwanted sounds.
When you are looking for the best acoustic foam for soundproofing, it is especially crucial to assess the thickness of the panels. Thicker panels will be able to deliver more soundproofing as compared to thinner panels. This is because thicker panels are able to absorb low-frequency sound that thinner panels may not be equipped to.
However, before settling on the thickness of the foam panels that you want set up inside the desired space, take into consideration where the panels will be utilized. For example, thicker foam panels will be great for your home office but may not work as well as you’d like when it comes to a recording studio.
The Noise Reduction Rating (NRC)
Soundproof panels have an NRC or Noise Reduction Rating on each one.
If you go through the product descriptions of the acoustic panels, you will notice the NRC rating on each one of them. The NRC rating essentially indicates how much sound the panels can soften. Panels with higher NRC ratings will normally dull more sound compared to those that have lower ratings.
Pick acoustic foam panels with NRC ratings depending on the amount or volume of sound you don’t want to hear.
Dimensions and Number of Panels
You can purchase soundproof foam panels in packs. The number of panels in each pack depends on the brand that you chose.
Most of the time, the packs will have 6,12 or 24 panels. Each panel will either be 1ft², 2ft² or have dimensions of 2ft by 4ft. Although the dimensions of a single panel do not matter, this is a crucial element to take it into consideration as it will impact the overall effect that you want to soundproof.
So before going out to buy the panels, we strongly recommend taking measurements of the wall, ceiling or room that you will be working on. This will give you a better idea of the number and dimensions of panels that you will be bringing home to set up. Speaking of which, we’ll be discussing how to install sound pro
How to Set Up Soundproof Foam
Now that you have brought home the soundproof foam panels that you need, it’s time to get down and dirty with how to put them up!
When setting these panels up, you should get the panels up on the walls or ceiling without causing any damage to your house. If you have not done this sort of thing before, then you are better off asking someone else to do it or you could incur more costs if ever you end up causing irreparable or extensive damage to your walls.
Making use of spray adhesive, nails or staples to attach the panels to the wall will almost assuredly cause some amount of damage. You’re already short on money and you certainly don’t want to add any more to your financial woes! Here’s how a few sound steps that you can take! You will have the soundproof wall foam installed quickly and you won’t damage the walls of your abode. Here is how:
1. Decide on where the panels will be placed and how they will be arranged
It was established earlier that acoustic foam panels have different patterns on them. You could arrange these in a way that you get an overall design on your wall.
The common mistake that most homeowners make when installing the panels is that they do so without a clear picture of the look they want their room to have. As a result, they end up wasting a lot of time and in worst case scenarios, you could install the sound insulating foam panels in a particular way only for you to realize that you would have wanted to take a different method.
Depending on the surface pattern on the panels you bought, decide on the best arrangement pattern that you want to achieve. Should you need to, measure out the panels and stack them in the way that you want. You could even mark off the wall using some tape, just to be doubly sure.
2. Mount the panels on cardboard
If you are going to be setting up single panels, then you do not have to mount them on cardboard. However, for panels that are going to be put up in bunches, using cardboard is the most ideal way to go about it.
Seeing as it is the cardboard that you are going to mount on the wall, it is safe to go ahead and use adhesive. Put on some adhesive at the back of the panels and mount them on the cardboard. If you do not have any, you might want to try this spray adhesive.
Once the adhesive dries up, cut off any excess cardboard for a better aesthetic look.
3. Attach the cardboard with the use of command strips
The last and final step would be connecting the cardboard onto your wall. For this, you can try command strips to make sure you do not cause any kind of damage to your walls.
Although single panels are not often heavy nor are they cumbersome to lug around, a group of about four panels will be substantially heavier and can cause some strain on the small command strips. I suggest trying the heavy-duty command strips for this kind of endeavor.
Using these command strips is simple and fuss-free. All you have to do is remove the adhesive at the back of the strips and apply some pressure so that it can hold. Place the strips on the back of the cardboard and once you are done, place the whole cardboard on the wall and apply pressure so that it sticks to the wall.
A benefit that you will enjoy when it comes to using command strips is that you can easily remove the cardboard and place it somewhere else in case you place it the wrong way.
If you are placing the foam panels each on its own, then small and medium-sized command strips should do the trick just fine. In case the foam panels keep coming off, just keep adding the command strips until you get it right.
Soundproof foam panels can be used to soundproof the ceiling as well. If this is your situation, then you have to make sure you place enough command strips on each panel, preferably at the top and the bottom, so that they do not fall off and land on someone.
4. Placing The Acoustic Foam Panels
An advantage of using the acoustic foam panels for soundproofing is that you can use them on virtually any surface; whether it is doors, windows, walls, and ceilings.
Ultimately, where you set up the foam panels depends on how you want to use the room. As an example, if you are going to use the room as a recording studio, you will have to install the foam panels at particular points. For this, you will have to find out the points at which sound bounces off and place the foam panels there.
If you are only looking to diminish the amount of sound that gets into your room, you can place the foam panels on your door. This will dull the sound that comes from outside the room. Placing some panels on your walls as well will also help a great deal.
You can place the panels on the ceiling if you are looking to reduce the sound that comes from the room above.
Making use of acoustic foam panels for soundproofing will be, at times, feel like it’s an experiment that involves trial and error. You will have to try placing the panels in different positions before you eventually come to a conclusion which ones work best. The good thing is that with command strips, the task becomes significantly easier to handle.
Other Options You Might Want to Consider
In studying what options you have when it comes to soundproofing, you will assuredly have come across fiberglass insulation, which got you thinking if this route is better than putting up soundproof foam panels.
So to get your mind right, let us be clear: Fiberglass is better than soundproof foam panels. However, hold your horses; before you go out and purchase fiberglass to use instead of the panels, there are particular factors that you need to be made aware of.
Number one, using foam panels is so much easier than fiberglass, unless you have the fiberglass set up during the construction phase of your space or house. With the foam panels, you can easily set them up on your walls after construction. They are also way cheaper.
Making use of fiberglass insulation will also need the assistance of a professional or someone who is well-versed with the information needed to set these things up. On the other hand, when it comes to installing foam panels, you can easily set them up yourself in a matter of a few minutes
Soundproof Foam Spray
You might also want to try out acoustic spray foam. But be aware that this option is not too high — it barely makes my list — on my list of items that you can try. Let me tell you why.
Although acoustic foam can be awesome for sound dampening, using it restricts you. This is because you can only spray the foam during construction or during major house renovations.
You can spray the foam just about anywhere. But it will look dreadful and will even leave a huge mess. If you are planning to use it during construction, then you can be sure it will come out just fine, especially when sprayed between floors. If this is not your situation, then I suggest staying away from this and sticking to using the foam panels.
Make Your Own Soundproofing Foam Panels
Whether you are a picky homeowner or just someone who takes pleasure in creating things from nothing, then perhaps a DIY project involving foam panels is the one for you.
If you decide to make your own soundproofing panels, you need to prepare yourself sufficiently before embarking on this. This DIY option will be more expensive and needs more of your resourcefulness and energy. If you are fine with this, then you can go ahead read on the rest of this section of the article.
Making the soundproofing panels yourself will give you an opportunity to get imaginative and make decisions on what patterns, colors, and designs you want to achieve.
For this endeavor, you will need to buy a mineral wood board or a fiberglass board. Some screws, adhesive and fabric cover will also be needed to complete this task. For the fabric cover, you can mess around with designs and colors to come up with something that is to your exact liking.
Check out this video to learn how to go about making your very own, customized soundproof foam panels.
Best Soundproof Foam Panels for You
1. 12 pack 12″ by 12″ Wedges
These are the traditional soundproofing sound panels that have a wedge or ridge design. This can look really lovely, especially when arranged in a creative pattern involving vertical and horizontal lines. Each panel is one square foot and one inch thick.
These are also some of the most inexpensive foam panels you’ll find. If you are working with a tight budget and still want decent soundproofing, these are a great choice. They will do an adequate job at reducing echo by dampening sound waves and minimizing reverberation.
The wedge design helps trap noise that lessens flutter echo and slap back. With some soundproofing foam, you can go too far and you’ll get distorted or muffled sound. These panels lessen noise and echo but don’t warp the sound at all. This makes them really awesome when used for recording and playing music. Unfortunately, they won’t be very effective for low-frequency sounds but that is the case for most soundproofing foam solutions.
The biggest downside to these is that they are not as long lasting as they could be. Because they are thin and flimsy, they rip easily and you might accidentally mess them up during the installation process.
2. Egg Crate Foam 48″ X 24″ Panels
There are two primary design options for soundproof foam panels and the egg crate look is one. This is a go-to choice for recording studios and some people believe the egg crate design does a fine job at dampening or absorbing sound.
These panels are extra thick, measured at 2.5 inches. This helps them to have a very high noise reduction coefficient level. These foam panels are also much larger than others options on the market by, at 4 feet by 2 feet. This means you won’t have to buy as many of them. It also means that installation will be a lot less hassle.
These panels are versatile and they actually have other uses apart from just soundproofing. For example, they’re ideal for lining a gun case or for protecting breakable valuables when moving. If you do need to cut the big panels to a smaller size, you can use the smaller pieces for these kinds of alternate uses.
You can also use them for creating a small soundproofing box to put around a microphone. This would let you get the same soundproofing effects to record great audio without having to put them all over on the walls.
3. Bicolor Wedges Foam Panels
Most people overlook the fact that some panels can actually make a fire burn more intensely, hence this is something you should definitely consider when choosing one. But with these panels, you have nothing to worry about as these will actually act as a fire retardant. They have a Class A Fire Rating. If safety is a top priority for you, these might be the ones for you.
The deep ridge design also opens the possibility for some really nice patterns to be had. The panels are thick at 2 inches and they have a density of 1.2 lbs. per cubic foot. This will do an excellent job of absorbing and reducing sound.
These panels also stand out for being nearly perfect with clean, squared edges on each panel. This helps you line up your panels perfectly and helps you create a nice design.
These USA-made sound-proofing panels should stand the test of time without the risk of crumbling or hardening as you’ll see with some panels. Like most foam panels, they can be dust magnets but you can take care of that with occasional vacuuming.
4. MuteX Soundproof Material
A roll of Mutex soundproofing material is worth looking at if you are in the market for something that looks different. This material is only 1/4-inch thick but it’s surprisingly efficient at deadening sound. It’s also extremely lightweight.
This unique material is made from a mixture of polymute resin and intertwining carbonweave. The polymute resin prevents noise from seeping through while the carbonweave absorbs sound.
This is effective at reducing the sound of vibrating surfaces like with dishwashers, air conditioners, ductwork, doors, walls, ceilings, floors, and piping. It’s also an option to consider when it comes to industrial or commercial situations. It will work really well in a garage as well.
A lot of soundproofing foam will compress over a period of time but this material will definitely not. That means that this is a one-time purchase. For best results, you need to apply this behind the drywall. That means this will be easiest to use when you are building or renovating. It might be a bit of hassle to install it on finished construction. It is possible to put it on the outside of the wall but it will not be as effective as putting it behind the drywall.
The Bottom line
Acoustic foam panels are among the cheapest methods you can employ to soundproof a room. However, it bears repeating that they only work to diminish the bouncing of sound and echoes within the room.
If you are looking to prevent out the sound from outside the room altogether, then you are better off looking into other methods of soundproofing the room.
Making your own soundproofing panels will take so much of your money, time and energy but it can be a worthwhile project to work on with a member of your family, whether it’s your son, daughter or even your partner. What’s more, you have complete control over how the room turns out.
Now that we’re done, go out and install the best soundproof foam panel that is suitable for you and go enjoy your sleep in the city that almost never does!