Building a Soundproof Wall or Room

Why do you need soundproofing?  You decided that your home is in need of a home theatre.  Your teenage son just bought a second hand Pearl drum set and decided that he’s the next Zildjian superhero.  Your daughter’s Karaoke parties are getting out of hand!  You get the idea.

One of two things happens here… Either you soundproof your bedroom/family/living room on your side to keep the noise OUT or you create a soundproofed room to accommodate all the noise and keep the sound IN that room.

Learn more about Soundproofing Basics in this article.

Soundproofing Wall Assembly

Building a soundproof room from scratch can be easier and cheaper than trying to solve the problem after the walls and flooring have been installed. The good news is that products on the market make it easier to soundproof a room. From specially designed drywall that absorbs and blocks sound, to smart insulation solutions, there are great options for your space.

CHECK THE CONDITION OF THE WALL

Before you can start thinking about how to install the best soundproofing on your walls, you have to see what you’re dealing with. When soundproofing open walls or ones that are already under construction, the wooden frame of the wall (or wall studs) should be visible without tearing anything down.

However, when renovating walls with existing insulation, you’ll need to add several more steps to this task. Take down the old drywall and check the existing insulation. While checking the condition of the wall or walls that need soundproofing, also keep an eye out for possible obstructions. So, take note of the locations of the windows and doors, electrical boxes and wires, water or gas pipes, and other obstructions that might impede your work.

PREPARE THE TOOLS AND SOUNDPROOFING MATERIALS

In order to have the best soundproofing possible, you’ll need to get wall insulation, Mass Loaded Vinyl, resilient channels and drywall of your choosing before you start working. You’ll also need green glue compound and acoustic caulk.

FILL THE EMPTY STUD CAVITIES WITH SOUNDPROOF WALL INSULATION

Fill empty stud cavities with soundproof insulation. The walls should already be stripped to the studs – the wooden frame of the wall. The insulation should remove any air gaps between the wooden boards – which allow sound to travel through walls in the first place.

Work around any of the previously noted obstacles by cutting into the isolation with a serrated edge knife. Making these cutouts might take some practice, but even if some air gaps remain, you can fix them later.

Note: You don’t necessarily need special acoustic insulation. Use regular insulation or the existing one in the walls if it’s still functional. In fact, regular insulation is often cheaper, even though it’s about the same thickness as soundproof insulation.

If you decide against using soundproof insulation, or you still have some air gaps, there are other things that can stop sound from traveling through walls. For example, Mass Loaded Vinyl (MLV) is a great soundproofing material.

INSTALL MASS LOADED VINYL

Mass Loaded Vinyl is basically a miracle material in the world of soundproofing. You can use it pretty much anywhere, as it’s fairly flexible and thin, and extremely long-lasting.  Its heightened mass serves to completely block sound, whereas high-density soundproofing absorbs it.

How to install MLV:

  • First, lay MLV on the floor and measure and cut the desired length with a knife or scissors. Make sure that the individual pieces are bigger than the gaps between the wall studs so that you can nail them to the frame. Ideally, there would be a 2-inch overlap between different pieces of MLV.
  • Having an extra pair of hands to help hold the cut pieces of MLV over the insulation that you pressed between the studs earlier is helpful. Position the straight edges of the material at the top and the bottom of the wall’s frames.
  • Attach MLV with nails, screws or a pneumatic stapler, starting from the top of the frames and working downwards. Starting with the sides is also alright, but starting at the top helps ensure that the edge is flush with the ceiling.
  • While nailing MLV, keep the seams of separate MLV pieces close together so that they don’t peel off. Just like when packing in the insulation, you’ll need to watch out for electrical boxes and other obstacles. Any gaps can be sealed with PVC tape. The application of MLV doesn’t need to be attractive, as it’ll be covered by drywall anyway.

ATTACH RESILIENT CHANNELS

Resilient channels are sheet metal rails that are attached 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 support the drywall so that it’s not directly attached to the studs.

The reason for putting resilient channels is that research has shown that they can bump our experience of sound up to 5 STC levels, or Sound Transmission Classes. When properly installed, they are shock-absorbent, and they actually redistribute noise until it dissipates. That might not sound like much, but it could be the difference between hearing the neighbors fighting through the walls and enjoying complete silence.

PUT UP THE FIRST LAYER OF DRYWALL

Regular drywall would work, and it’s certainly the more budget-friendly option. Soundproof drywall is a combination of gypsum boards and steel layers. Every layer increases mass and density, which are the most important aspects of good soundproofing materials. These can be an excellent choice for wall and ceiling soundproofing. The increase in price might even be worth it, especially for people who need silence, like those with music studios.

Screw the drywall onto the resilient channels, making sure not to touch the studs or joists. Driving the drywall mounting screws into the studs will make the resilient channels useless. So, aim at the channels between the studs.

ADD GREEN GLUE AND ANOTHER LAYER OF DRYWALL

Two drywall layers are better than one. Adding another layer of a dense material will significantly lower the amount of noise that enters or exits the room.  Before adding another layer of drywall, though, having an acoustic compound as an in-between layer would reduce sound even more. Green Glue Compound is a cheap soundproofing material that decouples surfaces that transmit sounds.

It’s similar to resilient channels, as it too dissipates sound vibrations. Green Glue only works when applied between two firm layers at a thickness of at least 0.5 mm.

SEAL THE GAPS WITH ACOUSTIC CAULK

Lastly, acoustic caulk can help patch up the last few gaps that could ruin all of the hard work you just did.  Acoustic caulk, or sealant, is a rubber-like material meant to plug holes that would let air pass through – and therefore, sound. Due to its rubbery consistency and durability, it’ll stay flexible and won’t crack.

Apply this sealant everywhere air could possibly get through. That means the seams between drywall sheets (the corners of the room), as well as the spaces between the drywall and the windows and doors. Also, apply it generously where the wall meets the ceiling and floor.

Acoustic caulk will adhere to any building material and adapt to its properties because of its flexibility.

FLOORS 

Now that the walls are quieted, it’s time to tackle the floor.

Float the Floors

Floating floors are not nailed into the subfloor like typical flooring. Instead, they are installed using special adhesive. Without the use of nails in a floor joist, floating floors can eliminate creaks and will help prevent sound from traveling between levels of your house. There are several ways to achieve a “floating floor,” most involve using a vibration absorbing material sandwiched between pieces of flooring.

Joist Tape – If squeaking floors are ruining an otherwise perfect room, joist tape can fix the problem and reduces noise traveling through the floor. While you can use joist tape in an existing room, like most sound reduction products it’s best to use this before installing the walls and flooring, or else you will have to remove part of the wall/floor to use the tape.

Noise between floors can also be buffered by laying insulation between the floor joists. Similar to when insulating to hinder sound transfer between rooms, make sure the cavity is filled completely.

What if my room has a Window?

The following cost effective solutions for your windows will help keep your room soundproofed

ACOUSTIC CAULK

Has it ever crossed your mind that the outside noise can force its way into your home through those tiny gaps between the wall and the borders of the window? You need to block these small pathways and prevent the sounds from pushing through.

As noted above, that’s when acoustic caulk comes in handy! It will give you great effects, and you won’t have to redo it for at least three, or even four, years. It’s a quick fix with a high level of durability.

WEATHERSTRIPPING

Weatherstripping tape can be bought in various forms, and it can be made out of many materials. Some of the materials used for these tapes are foam, rubber and silicone, but the list doesn’t end there.

You can determine which materials best suits your needs by taking into consideration the amount of friction your window will receive, the exposure to weather and the overall look of your window with it.

All in all, the weather-stripping sealers will serve as powerful gap blockers. It will take you just 30 minutes or less to cover your whole window.

HANG THICK SOUNDPROOF CURTAINS

Another solution is to get thick soundproof curtains. This method won’t block the noise entirely. However, it can be useful as a complement to other methods.  What these curtains will do is help reduce the echo. Also, from the aesthetic point of view, the large, thick curtains that cover the entire window will be a great addition to your home decor.

MAKE A SIMPLE DIY WINDOW PLUG

If you need a simple DIY project that’s going to keep you busy, try and build a soundproof window plug. These plugs are a great solution as they’ll save you from messing with the window. What’s more, they are extremely affordable, and you’ll be amazed at how well they will block the sound leakage!

You only need to plug them in a window opening when you need some peace and quiet. Afterward, simply remove them.  A highly effective method that lets you completely control the level of noise in your home environment.

USE PROFESSIONAL ACOUSTIC PANELS

Acoustic panels are way thicker and bulkier! And, the greater the mass, the lesser the noise will be. These panels are made out of quilted fiberglass, which acts as a sound barrier. Hence, this material actually works as a sound stopper and doesn’t let the sound waves pass through! In addition, thanks to their uneven surface, they will significantly reduce the echoes and absorb the sounds on both sides of the panel.  These panels are not entirely visually appealing. However, they are very effective, and they will block the noise effectively.

Do Soundproof Windows exist? 

Yes, Soundproof Windows exist and can reduce the current noise levels by 95% or by 75%, and both statements will be true: one is the instrument measurement, while the other is the perceived noise reduction. Additionally, depending on actual noise levels, the noise reduction may be perceived as 100%.

Soundproof windows do significantly more for significantly less cost.

window noise reduction

Replacing Your Windows May Not Be Your Best Option

You can get virtually ALL the benefits of replacing your windows PLUS reduce noise levels by 300% more than replacement windows AND avoid the headaches of double pane windows — for about the same price!

Here is a chart to compare installing a Soundproof Window versus replacing your windows with double pane windows.

chart