Make Your House Quieter: Soundproofing Tips


Soundproofing a home might not seem like an obvious home improvement, yet, it can boost comfort level. 

Although no area is perfectly quiet, noise can become a significant nuisance if you live near busy streets with traffic or in a neighborhood with much noise. The same goes for areas affected by noise from public transportation like airplanes and railways. 

Soundproofing your home could be a welcome addition, especially if a house is in a busy area. Even if you can’t soundproof your entire home, soundproofing just a few rooms like your bedroom or living room could increase your comfort, give you better sleep and potentially increase your home value.

Why is soundproofing important for older adults?

One in three people over the age of 65 will develop hearing problems, which means Baby Boomers with hearing loss will reach tens of millions. 

As hearing loss sets in, background noise becomes amplified and conversation clarity is compromised. Those with hearing loss struggle to hold conversations in loud spaces and gradually lose the ability to communicate. Depression and loneliness can set in as these individuals are less likely to venture out and socialize. Because hearing loss will be so prevalent, it is important that retirement communities and senior living facilities focus on controlling ambient noise and providing quiet spaces where people can congregate, dine, worship and socialize.

Acoustical sound panels are the ideal noise pollution solution to help capture and convert unwanted echoes. Background noise decreases, and clarity to the original sound is restored.  As new retirement communities are built to address the needs of an aging population, it is critical that we make sound control a top priority in the early planning stages of design.

– Tim Spielman, NetWell Noise Control

How to reduce noise at home

From soundproofing your walls to properly treating your windows and doors, there are many ways to reduce the noise level at home. The main reason your house could have high noise levels is because of glass windows and doors with no soundproof features.

How can you soundproof a home office?

Many of us have had to, either by choice or circumstance, work from home.

The sound intrusion from the rest of the house can be both distracting and intrusive, especially for video meetings.

Here are some things that can be done quickly and a bit more extensively to resolve that.

  • Add door seals. Most interior house doors are not sealed at all. Adding a “Drop Seal” to the bottom and full perimeter seals will help immediately. 
  • Change the door. Most interior doors are ‘hollow core’. Meaning they are very light and won’t stop much sound. Changing them out for a ‘solid core’ door and then adding door seals make a big difference.
  • Add acoustic absorption to the room interior. We have all heard recordings that were made in a very empty room. The echo or boominess of the room makes the audio horrible to listen to both for telephone and video meetings. This can be carpets or acoustic panels for the walls.
  • To take this up one more level you can add another layer of 5/8” drywall to the room interior. Typically just doing the walls is OK. Standard construction is ½” drywall and no insulation which makes for a pretty bad sound transfer. Remove the baseboards before you do this and make sure everything is caulked. Where air can go so does sound. Using a damping compound on the back of the new drywall will also increase the effectiveness.   

– Bill Wilkinson Jr., AcoustiGuard

Different soundproofing techniques 

If you want to make your doors soundproof, all you need to do is to create a seal around the door. You can do it by weatherstripping on the inside of the door frame. 

Window soundproofing is a more complex project, and it could cost you a pretty penny based on how elaborate you want it to be. A technique to soundproof your windows is to add a film between two pieces of glass. Depending on how much soundproofing you need, there are different thicknesses available. 

Types of soundproof insulation

Soundproofing insulation is a specialized type of insulation that offers acoustic benefits and heat insulation. You typically need to add this material to your ceiling and walls to reduce the noise.

You can find various types of soundproof insulation, but the most common types are cotton, fiberglass, and mineral wool.

Areas to soundproof 

The most common areas that require soundproofing are windows, walls, ceilings, and doors. You can also soundproof floors using inexpensive carpeting and rubber mats. 

Walls 

Soundproofing walls happen during construction, but if your home has too much noise, you can add extra insulation to minimize the noise. 

How can walls be made soundproof?

There are a few ways you can go about soundproofing your walls. The easiest way to add extra insulation to your wall is by adding a layer of drywall and more framing.

However, if you want more soundproofing, you would need to cut your walls open to insert more sound-absorbing materials like insulation. 

Windows

Windows ensure your house gets enough light, but unfortunately, they can also be noise sources. If your windows face a busy street, you might want to think about soundproofing them. 

How can windows be made soundproof?

Although you can’t control what goes on outside your windows, you can equip them to avoid unwanted sounds. One of the most effective ways to soundproof your windows is window inserts, but it’s also one of the most expensive ones, as it can cost up to $800 per insert. 

Another way to reduce the noise level is to install double-pane windows. This is a more considerable investment that could set you back $1,000. If you are on a budget, consider easier fixes to seal window gaps. Some of these treatments can cost as low as $10-$20.

What are the best soundproof windows for houses on busy streets?

The best soundproof windows are units that come with a high STC (sound transmission class) rating. Such windows are usually double or triple-glazed, the latter being an incredibly efficient option to reduce noise pollution. 

However, if you want maximum noise reduction, experts recommend installing windows with the SSP glass package. It is basically double glazing with LoE coating and Argon gas between the spacers. All these components boost the STC of the window. The higher the STC, the better the material is at reducing sound.

– Roman, Ecoline Windows

Floors

While we often get busy soundproofing obvious elements like windows and doors, we often forget that floors could also be leaking sound. If you live above someone else, soundproofing your floors is a great way to mitigate unwanted noise.

How floors can be made soundproof

Soundproofing your floor isn’t any different from soundproofing your windows, walls, or doors. Essentially, you need to add a layer of material that will absorb the sound from below. For example, you could lay down rubber mats, rugs, and carpets and install soundproof floor underlayment. 

Squeaky floors

Common causes of squeaky floors are varied.

Time is usually the reason for a squeaking floor. The squeaking is usually due to an old subfloor. The fix is usually pretty costly because we need to remove the floor to change out the subfloor. In rare cases, we can simply shoot finish nails into the floor itself to secure it to the subfloor. The worst-case scenario would be a project for a framing or foundation company. They inspect beneath the home’s raised foundation to fix the problem from the bottom up. I mention “raised foundation” homes because they are usually the ones that have a wood subfloor. Homes on a concrete foundation shouldn’t have a problem with squeaking unless the installation was faulty.
– Sarah, Sequoia Flooring

Squeaky floor repair methods 

Squeaky floors can be a nuisance, and the easiest way to fix the problem is to pay for a thick carpet on top of your floor. Another option is to replace the type of floor you have; however, it’s a more costly project which could have a price tag of a few thousand dollars dispensing on the size of your room.

When to DIY a squeaky floor repair

Squeaky floors have two primary causes: the wood planks & joists have naturally shrunk over time or the nails securing the planks to the subfloor have come loose. It’s recommended to consult with a flooring expert before trying DIY solutions. It’s possible to repair squeaky floors by fastening the floors from below or nailing the boards from the top down. That said, it is easy to permanently damage the planks – especially via the latter method. While it can be expensive to hire a professional for repairs, it’s even more expensive to replace a portion of your floor.

At the end of the day, choosing between DIY maintenance and professional contractors comes down to experience. If you feel confident locating the loose boards & joists to fasten them to, then the job is certainly doable. Alternatively, if you feel hesitant about your qualifications, then it might be best to leave it to the experts. A safer option could be to add a shim to the gap that is causing your floor to creak. Similar to screw repairs, this requires you to access the floor from the bottom. Be sure to be safe when getting down (or up) in there, and call a professional for help if you feel like you are in over your head.

Lastly, you should always consult with your floor’s manufacturer before starting any major repairs. Some of these techniques could void your floor’s warranty. 
– Andrew Johnston, Ambient Building Products

Rooms

To make your rooms less prone to noise, you need to add materials that can absorb excessive sound. You can do it by adding acoustic materials like foam and panels on walls, hanging blankets over entrances, and putting your furniture in a way that can help to reduce the sound.

General advice on soundproofing a room

If you consider soundproofing your room, you can go as fancy or as cheap as you want. One of the easiest ways to soundproof your room is to add furniture, decor items, and fixtures that could help absorb the sound. Empty rooms are more susceptible to noise as they bounce off the empty hard surfaces. 

What is the best solution for soundproofing ceilings?

Most sound moves with air through openings, so you need to try and seal any air leaks or openings. Caulk or foam-seal any openings around plumbing, electrical, and heating ducts. Also, put energy gaskets on the electrical outlets. A ceiling light fixture could be the source of air and sound movement, so seal around and inside the electrical box.

Look at the heating and return ducts. They may be shared between the rooms. They can be a source of air and sound movement. While you can’t eliminate these ducts, it may be possible to use some type of baffle to make air move around them (where the sound is absorbed).

If you look have funds for construction, consider adding an additional drywall ceiling supported by special clips to the framing. The clips are designed to isolate vibration and sound moving through a material. Blowing insulation into the cavities between the floors will also help restrict sound movement.

Don’t ignore wall outlets and openings in the walls – seal them. Sound can also move into the walls and the bypass the floor/ceiling. Finally, consider carpeting for the upper-level floor. Carpeting will dampen and adsorbed sound compared to a vinyl or wood floor finish.

– Thomas Feiza, How To Operate Your Home.com

What is the best way to soundproof a room from inside noise?

Noise transmission issues are defined as sound leaving the room and disturbing others. The flip side of that is the sound of others entering the room and disturbing you. There is no such thing as soundproofing. Nothing with noise is absolute or “proofed.” Noise levels must be managed to fall below nuisance levels for room usage. 

To mitigate noise transmission from a source to a receiver, you build a barrier. The barrier is built based on the frequency and amplitude of the noise. There is no one size barrier that fits all noise issues.

Noise leaving and entering a room must be measured over 7 days to determine what day is the loudest. You can measure noise using a cell phone app. Once the seven-day noise time study is completed, the barrier can be designed based on the specific noise numbers taken.

Guessing with noise is foolish. If you guess about the barrier design without making noise numbers and it doesn’t work which 90% of the time it won’t, you will have to tear it out and start all over again.

Dennis Foley, Acoustic Fields

What is the best way to soundproof a room on a budget?

The best way to soundproof a room on a budget would be to add additional mass such as Mass Loaded Vinyl or Soundproof Sheetrock to the existing walls. The density of these materials substantially reduces frequencies between 200hz – 20khz. 

Consider adding a new neoprene gasket to your door. Weatherstripping is a very cost-effective way to eliminate unwanted noise from neighbors. By adding a door sweep on both sides of the door, we can further eliminate sound coming from the hallway. Rule of thumb: if you can see light, you can hear sound.

Furniture and curtains are great at reducing the amplified reflection within the room. Adding bookshelves, a gallery art wall, hanging plants… These objects absorb and deflect sound in different directions, which helps reduce the overall volume in the room. You can create an amazing-sounding space by just simply decorating a little. 


– Ned Shatzer, Hush SoundProofing

Home insulation inspection 

Home inspectors check the insulation to ensure the property is properly insulated. However, you can also conduct DIY tests to check if a property has enough insulation. 

The quickest way to examine insulation is by patting the interior floors and walls. There is insufficient insulation if the drywall and paneling feel damp or cold. On the other side, the outside wall should be cold because the proper insulation should keep the warm air inside. 

What do inspectors check for?

Home inspectors can check only visible insulation. While they can open your attic and crawlspace, they can’t open walls and other closed spaces with insulation. A home inspector can use home inspection tools like a moisture meter to check the moisture level in a house and pat down walls to check if they are cold or warm.

Poor insulation can result in noise entering the house

Insulation is a barrier that helps to dampen the sound. Poorly insulated ceilings, walls, and windows can transmit much sound from outside and reduce the feeling of privacy. Proper insulation is a key to making a home comfortable, and many homes contain only a minimum amount of insulation to pass the city inspection.

What sustainable material can be used for noise insulation?

Anyone who has upstairs neighbors might well be aware of the sound-dampening properties of carpet fibers. One simple way to keep sound from moving between floors is by laying rugs. Carpet fibers have been proven to absorb airborne sound efficiently.

CarpetCycle was founded with the simple purpose of keeping carpet out of landfills. That is no easy task, since carpet is durable and contains many elements from the fiber, to the backing, to the glue which is used during installation. Subsequently while carpet is manufactured to last, it frequently goes out of style or gets dirty and needs to be replaced.

CarpetCycle came up with Quiet-Tech insulation, created through a process that reclaims and cleans carpet fibers and turns them into insulation that is both non-toxic and user-friendly to install.

– Carl Trezza, CarpetCycle

Most people think insulation is a way to control the temperature inside their homes. However, insulation also helps to control the sound. Poorly insulated walls, windows with cracks and spaces, and doors without insulation often require adjustment to keep a house quiet and comfortable.