Are you looking for the best ways on how to soundproof thin apartment walls? Well, you have come to the right place since I was in your exact position just a few years ago.
My wife and I along with our three-year old son had just moved into our new apartment in downtown Dallas. Born and raised in the small town of Sedona, Arizona, moving to the big city was quite the big leap for my small family and I. Nevertheless, we were bubbling with excitement — new jobs, new surroundings, and new places to explore!
That excitement not long after turned to annoyance then irritation and then eventually, horror, as we soon came to terms with how thin our apartment walls were! If we could hear what our neighbors were talking about, they sure as heck could also hear how our conversations went.
The worst part was our son’s bedroom as occupants on the other side of one wall were — let’s just say they were fond of doing bedroom calisthenics and were really loud about it too! What a nightmare it was!
We checked in with the building administrator who was actually very nice and accommodating enough to share with us several methods that we can consider using to remedy our noisy situation.
Upon dealing with this matter, it dawned upon us that thin, shared walls could be one of the most difficult things to remedy when soundproofing your apartment. With apartment buildings these days, more often than not, apparently being constructed of the weakest materials, sound just easily passes through, making for a raucous and unfriendly living space. And since no one should have to put up with overly loud neighbors, I’ve decided to share with you, all of the ways to soundproof a thin wall between apartments.
Another significant reason why you might want to guarantee that the thin wall dividing you and your neighbors is soundproof is to protect your own privacy!
You might be living next to people who like to host all-nighters on a Monday. Or married couples that loudly bicker and make up even louder. Or you might have a student who wants to play video games on full blast.
When we welcomed our second child, we had already moved but ended up living next to a family who owned a Golden Retriever that incessantly barked, even in the middle of the night, and we were left to wake up from the noises of loud barking. Worse was our child, after getting startled out of her sleep so many times, began to get petrified of the barking sound.
I had to find a solution to the problem and I tried a lot of methods. Some worked, and some just ended up costing us money. But fear not as in this article, I will be sharing with you the ones I found effective and sustainable for a tranquil and healthier abode.
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!
- Before You Start Soundproofing Thin Apartment Walls
- How to Soundproof a Thin Wall Without Extensive Work
- Making a Thicker Wall Between Apartments
- The Bottom Line
Before You Start Soundproofing Thin Apartment Walls
Before embarking on any sort of acoustic operation, you should always begin by gaining a solid understanding of the kind of noise you’re within earshot of. Your thin walls are not only letting in airborne noise but also reverberating from impact noises that are going through your apartment building. Long story short, I’ll simply say that your thin walls aren’t doing much in the way of protecting you and your loved ones from any kind of noise.
A lot of Americans these days face this dilemma. Our walls just seem to be thinner on the whole, particularly when we’re talking about prefabricated buildings.
Prefab buildings are basically made in factories and assembled on location. Therein lies its appeal to most as these kinds of buildings substantially reduces the time it takes to essentially build the structure. These kinds of homes are also often very cheap to make, which makes it pretty affordable to rent as well. But because to the fact that this method usually makes use of the thinnest materials because are easy to transport and what we’re left with is less than ideal when it comes to soundproofing.
That’s not to say that some manner of insulation does not go into these walls — that could not be farther from the truth! If anything, insulating thin walls is a much more difficult process, since insulation also functions to make the building tougher and a lot stronger. As it is, shared walls inside of the structure are usually less inspected, leaving them weak. And naturally, there are some apartment buildings that were made with thin walls, even though they weren’t of the prefabricated kind.
Some Materials That You Might Need for This Project
At this point, you now have a fair grasp why you’re hearing the noise through the walls, and you may be now getting antsy to get cracking. But before you do, it’s best that you have everything prepared and ready for use to make the process seamless and without a lot of hitches. Here are some of the things that you may need:
- Soundproof blankets and curtains
- Mass−Loaded Vinyl or other rubber materials
- Soundproof acoustic panels
- Sawn timber
- Soundproof insulation
So there you go! All those can easily be purchased at popular stores and you need those for the recommendations that we have in mind for your walls.
How to Soundproof a Thin Wall Without Extensive Work
Concentrate on Your Apartment Wall’s Weak Points
We’re all aware of how thin walls can be in apartments (I mean why else would you be reading this article, right?), you should look for the weakest parts of your wall when it comes to noise.
Different parts of the walls are at times thinner than others. Other sections meanwhile, have a lot of pipes. It goes without saying that those parts need soundproofing the most.
For this, you can use some soundproof blankets. Soundproofing blankets are often used in studios or recording rooms. They really do well in absorbing sound fighters, as they are made of soundproofing substance. These are blankets with special noise-reducing material that will lessen the noise up to 40%. They are also massive and really heavy.
There is one hint that can help you a lot with acoustic blankets: always look for those with grommets or eyelets, as they will help ease up the entire installation process.
Look for Possible Holes and Plug Them
So you might be asking, how can there be holes in the walls? If you moved into the apartment that’s been around for a while, then you might find some cables going through walls, and things of that sort.
Can those little holes discharge noise? Well, they sure can. Even the most minute of openings can release a great volume of noise which you won’t even identify that’s coming from those particular holes.
You need to plug and seal those! There are a lot of substances capable of this job but I would recommend you use green glue. Green Glue is a gypsum-like substance that will not only seal the hole but soundproof it also.
Place Foam Mats
This is one of the easiest soundproofing materials to set up! If money is kinda tight for you right now, this is an option you should seriously consider taking up as foam mats are really affordable.
The great thing about foam mats is their insulating power. Not only that you can use them for soundproofing purposes, but as thermal loss reducing material as well.
Since foam mats are mostly made from rubber foam, they are very resistant to oil and petrol. Furthermore, foam mats are odorless and lightweight. In addition, they most likely have the adhesive on the back side and you will be able to easily install them on the walls between apartments.
Paint Walls with Soundproofing Paint
How can soundproofing paint fight the noise? Essentially, soundproofing paint actually works but it all depends on how much noise is seeping through. You will be able to diminish the noise in half if there is not much noise. But on the other hand, if there are hooligans living next door making a ruckus then I’m afraid that soundproofing paint can’t do much.
This paint is really thick and when applied several times with numerous layers, it can really be massive. The result of that will be really good insulation of low frequencies.
Therefore, if you just started hearing some smaller noise through your apartment walls, and you also need some décor, then, maybe is a time for a bit of rearranging and painting.
Stack the Furniture Against the Wall
I realize that it’s a peculiar tip but trust me when I say that it is actually one of the most effective things you can do to soundproof your room. Why? Simple: since your walls are so thin, adding a row of wardrobes, closets, and bookshelves against the wall will by and large, thicken it up.
It’s as easy as that. As long as the pieces of furniture are huge and don’t touch the wall behind them, they’ll absorb the sound without passing it over through the wall. As a matter of fact, you can place thick blankets or foam in between the wall and the furniture. That should augment more mass to the wall and absorb even more sounds before they can reach your neighbors. This is just a solution that works wonderfully since you don’t even have to ask permission to put nails in your walls.
Conceal the Walls With Blankets or Curtains
Blankets are pretty much a no-frills solution for soundproofing all sorts of spaces around the apartment. As a matter of fact, soundproofing with the use of blankets can also be cheap and easy if you want it to be. Here’s what you do:
- Collect all of your blankets, preferably thick ones.
- Get some mounting putty — this Tombow Extreme package can hold up to 13 pounds.
- Put the putty along the edges of the blanket, and place it in the middle of the wall.
- Add more blankets, working toward the corners of the room.
If you’re not at all worried about damaging the walls, you can also nail the blankets onto it. You can also try to put them up using curtain rails. Or you can simply use thick curtains in the first place.
Additionally, apart from using any old blankets or curtains you find hanging in a closet somewhere in your abode, you can also purchase soundproofing ones if your budget allows for it.
Basically, these products are thicker and a heavier version of common, run-of-the-mill blankets and curtains, which will supplement the mass on your walls. If you want to get the most out of these materials, make sure to leave that air gap between them and the wall. Why? The air gap is going to allow the sound to disperse.
Make Use of Acoustic Foam Panels
Let’s be clear about this: acoustic sound panels are not good at blocking sound. In fact, they’re way better at bolstering the acoustic qualities of the inside of a room. However, what they can be used for is to keep some of the noise you’re making from going through the thin walls.
I’m not recommending that you use regular foam panels like the ones often seen in a music studio. Acoustic panels with wooden frames may be the more sound idea in this situation.
These ATS panels, which measure 24×36 inches and are 2 inches thick are suitable ones. But if you like to make your own to custom-fit your space, here are the things that you would need:
- Wooden boards to make the frame
- Some type of soundproof padding such as this Rockwool mineral wool insulation.
- Any kind of fabric, preferably one you’d enjoy looking at, to wrap the whole thing up.
If you are ready to put in a little effort, you can save money by making your own soundproofing panels. Here’s how:
1. First, you need a soundproof material, which you will store inside the panel. You can choose acoustic foam, mineral wool, or whatever else that’s accessible to you. Most of these are actually inexpensive.
2. Then, you will need to make a wooden frame, which will hold the soundproof material. The size of the panel should be equivalent to the size of the surface you want to cover. The easiest solution is to use a standard wood glue and applying spray adhesive over the entire insulation perimeter.
3. Lastly, once you place the soundproof material inside the frame, you need to wrap the construction up in a fabric. This fabric should be visually appealing since this is the part that is visible to everyone. Besides that, make sure the fabric is not soundproof, because you want the sound waves to reach the core of the panel.
Add a Layer or Possibly More of Drywall
Another method that you can employ to make your walls a little bit thicker without doing too much is to add a layer or two of drywall. You could even make it soundproof drywall, which is made of gypsum, ceramics, and viscoelastics, if your wallet can take the hit. However, even if you aren’t working with soundproof drywall, you could make any drywall denser by simply layering it up.
Simply put: two drywalls are better than one. Adding another layer of a dense material will substantially reduce the amount of noise that penetrates or leaves the room.
However, before you add another layer of drywall, having an acoustic compound as an in-between layer would lessen sound substantially. Green Glue Compound is an inexpensive soundproofing material that decouples surfaces that convey sounds.
It’s quite identical to resilient channels, as it too disperses sound vibrations. Take note though that Green Glue only functions when applied between two firm layers at a thickness of at least 0.5 mm.
So you can put Green Glue on your existing drywall and put another layer of drywall on top. In fact, you could layer one more layer on top of that if you’d like.
Of course, you should do this in addition to the other steps I’ve already discussed, if you want the best results. Stacking furniture against the wall really remains one of the best if not cost-free options.
Mass Loaded Vinyl
You can also try putting up mass loaded vinyl or some other rubber−based material over your walls. As a matter of fact, if you want to really raise your chances of attaining some semblance of privacy in an apartment that has paper thin walls, you can use MLV with any of the other tips I’ve mentioned.
- Have MLV on the wall and foam between the wall and bulky furniture
- Attach it to the wall and cover it with blankets or carpets
- Put up MLV and hang curtains along the wall
- Use it under acoustic foam products
- Place MLV under the Green Glue drywall sandwich
Making a Thicker Wall Between Apartments
A lot of the recommendations seen above are comprised of making the wall thicker. So pretty much the most applicable method to apply is by making an extension of the wall on top of it.
You could begin by nailing a wooden frame, or studs, on top of your current wall. If the wall is thin enough to start, it may not have studs that are considerable enough to keep everything they need to hold. So you can just build them. Here’s how:
- Get some sawn timber boards and screw or nail them along the ceiling, the floor, and along the sides of the wall.
- Add vertical boards about as wide apart as your insulation is — and you can also add horizontal boards for extra support, though they’re not necessary.
- Stuff them with soundproof insulation like the Rockwool one I’ve previously mentioned
- You can put MLV over it, although it’s not necessary
- Top everything off with drywall or the Green Glue and drywall sandwich
- Use acoustic caulk to plug the gaps between sheets of drywall
Even if you go for most simplistic route, it should help a great deal. At the end of it all, your wall should now be about 2−3 inches thicker and packed of soundproof insulation. However, going the extra mile in using MLV, Green Glue, and soundproof drywall will only add even more protection that you and your family will appreciate.
The Bottom line
There are many ways to sound dampen a shared wall between apartments and these are my best effective ways to do it.
I hope you learned something from this article and feel free to ask me if you have any questions related to soundproofing walls.