There are three main reasons to soundproof a room:
You may want to block out disturbing exterior noises if you’re bothered by sound from outside such as traffic, music, or general activity. Some people require a quiet working space that is suited to silent contemplation such as classrooms, theatres, and museums.
On the other hand musicians, singers, and music-lovers may want to prevent causing a disturbance with their noise levels by preventing sound escaping a room. They may also choose to soundproof in order to protect the quality of their final sound by reducing echo and eliminating outside noises.
There are several main methods for successful soundproofing:
Sound Control Services have been successfully soundproofing businesses for almost 20 years. Here’s our overview of some of the practical steps you can take to effectively soundproof your home or workspace. Alternatively, call us on 01664 431 840 or contact us for free advice or to arrange a visit.
How it works: Furniture adds density, which can help block sound. Heavy objects resist vibration, making it much harder for sound to be transmitted. Bookcases and shelves are ideal for this purpose. By arranging the furniture in your room carefully, you can effectively reduce noise disturbance from adjoining spaces without spending a fortune.
We recommend placing large items of furniture against the wall(s) through which the most noise is heard. The larger the area the item covers, the more noticeable the effect will be. Heavier items of furniture are also more effective due to their density.
Total noise reduction: A normal conversation rests at about 60dB—such as the one you might overhear from your noisy neighbours next door. You can expect to reduce this by an audible amount through the use of furniture.
The plus side: This is an inexpensive solution to a mild noise problem. It’s best suited to those with noisy neighbours or for light sleepers, for example. It will reduce – but not eliminate -bothersome outside sounds.
The downside: Rearranging furniture can make a room seem smaller or not make the best use of available space.
Cost: If you already have the furniture, this solution will cost you nothing. However, if you are making a purchase for this purpose, prices can vary. Lightweight and narrow bookshelves can be bought from as little as £20, while heavyweight and large bookcases can cost into the thousands.
How it works: Sound is transmitted through vibrations; the greater number of vibrations, the louder the sound. Hard objects vibrate harder, creating a louder reverberation of sound. You can reduce this reverberation by replacing hard surfaces with soft ones, thereby making your home quieter, simply by modifying the décor.
We recommend adapting hard surfaces within your home. For example, hard seats may be covered with cushions, benches may be upholstered, and tables might be covered with table cloths. A soft space is a quiet space.
Total noise reduction: This is a small change for a small payoff. You might expect to reduce noises within your home by around 5dB. Imagine, for example, the difference in noise between placing a knife down on a wood surface to placing one down on a cloth. When soft furnishings are placed throughout your home, these small differences add up to a calmer general background noise.
The plus side: This is a very easy solution that takes little effort to implement. It’s a great option for busy households looking to tone down the daily background noise.
The downside: The change in noise level isn’t huge, and soft furnishings aren’t to everyone’s taste. Additionally, soft furnishings are not practical in some environments in which noise reduction is needed. Factories should be kept as clear as possible, for example. Soft furnishings should only be used where they present no hazard to the room’s occupants, such as in homes and offices.
Cost: A project like this can cost as little or as much as you are willing to spend. Throwing a spare cushion on a hard chair or an old tablecloth on the table costs nothing, but reupholstering the woodwork is certainly more of an expense.
How it works: Curtains absorb sounds before they can hit a hard surface. As we know, hard surfaces create a high reverb and a louder noise. Door curtains deaden echo, reducing the volume of sounds in the room. Proper acoustic door curtains are especially thick and dense for this purpose.
To hang a door curtain, you’ll need to measure the space above your door frame and install a suitable curtain rod or use mounting brackets from which you’ll hang your curtain. The curtain should completely cover the door frame with some overlap in order to block the greatest amount of noise.
Total noise reduction: You can expect a noise reduction from incoming sounds of around 7dB, although the reduction for outgoing sounds will be slightly higher.
The plus side: Most people should be able to hang a curtain without the need to hire a specialist so there are no labour costs to this option. Door curtains may also have insulation properties, helping to reduce the cost of heating in your home. They improve the acoustics of a room so are a great option for musicians looking to improve the quality of their recordings.
The downside: Soundproof curtains are much more effective at preventing sounds leaving a room than blocking sounds coming in. For this reason, they are a better option for noise-creators rather than those who are trying to eliminate outside sounds.
Cost: A set of sound insulation curtains costs £60-£130 depending on specifications.
How it works: Acoustic baffles are made from a high density glass fibre pad that is wrapped in decorative acoustic fabric. They are suspended from the ceiling and used to absorb reflected noise from below within large spaces such as halls and auditoriums. They reduce echo and reverb in these areas for a more comfortable ambience and better sound quality. They start at a thickness of around 40mm.
We recommended baffles for use in large offices, gyms, auditoriums, theatres, lecture halls or any other space where echo and reverberation is an issue.
Baffles can also come coated in wipe clean stain-resistant or bacteria-resistant coatings to make them more suitable for certain spaces, such as clinical environments.
Total noise reduction: You can expect a sound insulation value of 6-9dB, although it is an improvement in the quality of sound and intelligibility of speech within the room that is the real appeal of baffles.
The plus side: A unique solution for large spaces where the problem is sound quality, ie. echo and reverb, rather than volume. This excess reverberation can be absorbed without sacrificing space through the installation of costly stud walls or stud ceilings. It improves the audibility of conversation within a room.
The downside: These absolutely need to be installed by a professional; there will be labour costs involved. They’re also entirely visible, so you may need to pay extra for the colours and finish you want. They can be used as a visual feature if you’d like, so you want to think about the colour, shape and size as well as the acoustic quality of the materials.
Cost: An average baffle costs around £20-£30 per panel, although prices will vary according to the dimensions of the baffle. To hang baffles throughout a large room represents a significant but effective investment.
How it works: A noise barrier or soundproofing mat works by blocking excess airborne sound or by decoupling studwork at ground level. It can help muffle impact sounds upon the floor, such as those made from walking, music amps or dropped items, which can help prevent sound transmission downwards to lower floors. It can be used on walls, floors or ceilings.
Noise barrier mats are available either with self-adhesive backing or incorporated into foam laminates. Although easy to cut, noise barrier mats may require professional installation to ensure optimum performance.
Total noise reduction: You can expect around 5dB of noise reduction for each layer of mat installed. These results can be higher or lower depending on the thickness and quality of the mat.
The plus side: This is a cost-effective way to improve impact noise on the ground level. It can also be bought in the form of acoustic carpet underlay (CoustiMat), which makes for easy soundproofing when refurbishing a large area without greatly increasing the cost of renovation.
The downside: Some mats can have a strong rubbery smell which can linger if not properly installed with a polythene sealing layer or polythene coat. They are also less effective if gaps have not been properly sealed between floorboards or wall partitions before installations, so make sure to use acoustic caulk in these gaps before installation of a noise barrier mat.
Cost: Cost varies according to the thickness of the mat and the area being covered. The material is usually sold according to weight. Cheaper options start at around £10 per square metre, but higher quality materials can cost much more. You can expect to pay £20-£35 per square metre for decent sound insulation.
How it works: There are several options for closing gaps under doors such as door sweeps, automatic door bottoms or draught excluders. The gap between the bottom of the door and the floor is usually the largest gap around the door through which noise can enter and be emitted.
A door sweep works by closing the gap between the bottom of the door and floor; this adds mass which reduces sound transmission. For a door sweep to work effectively, it should be installed so the bristles will brush against the floor when the door is opened and rest against the floor when the door is closed.
An automatic door bottom takes things a bit further by concealing a soundproof seal within a metal or plastic housing which is attached to the bottom of the door. This seal is released via a plunging mechanism when the door is pushed closed. This is a denser product with a tighter seal, which makes it more effective than a door sweep alone. We recommend this option for those who rely on good acoustics.
Total noise reduction: A decent automatic door bottom can improve volume control by 10dB. A door sweep would be slightly less effective, offering a noise reduction of around 7dB.
The plus side: Installation of these options require only simple hand tools and basic DIY experience, making installation possible for both the novice and professional. They also reduce drafts, so increase energy efficiency of the home or workspace.
The downside: The effectiveness of these measures is limited by other factors. If the door is surrounded by gaps, for example, noise will still enter the room. Door sweeps can also wear out relatively quickly and may need to be replaced more often than other soundproofing options. Buying a high-quality sweep or door bottom can increase the longevity of your purchase.
Cost: The price variation for door sweeps is huge. You can purchase one from as little as £6 or splurge on one that costs as much as £60. When making a purchase, you want to consider the tightness of the seal between the door bottom and your floor and the thickness of the sweep – these two factors will affect the quality of sound insulation more than any others.
Automatic door bottoms have less variation. A basic version will cost around £15 while a top-of-the-range model may cost you up to £50. Again, fit and thickness are the two most important factors to consider.
How it works: Acoustic plasterboard is thicker and more dense than traditional plasterboard and may also be further insulated with material such as fibreglass for even greater soundproofing quality. Or you can opt for non-acoustic plasterboard at a greater thickness than the standard material; to notice soundproofing effects, you’ll be looking for a plasterboard of 15mm or greater thickness.
Plasterboard is fitted to a stud walls in panels. It is an easy material to work with; it can be cut with a Stanley knife and attached to your stud wall with nails or using the adhesive dot-and-dab method.
We recommend entrusting a professional with fitting your plasterboard as proper aesthetic and acoustic effects rely upon proper installation, in which boards are level and well-aligned.
Total noise reduction: A massive 36-46dB – that’s a difference you will notice the second you step into the room.
The plus side: Acoustic plasterboard is hugely effective and can be further enhanced by using noise barrier mat to increase its soundproofing qualities. More than that, thicker plasterboard provides greater thermal insulation, making the room more energy-efficient.
The downside: This is a more labour-intensive soundproofing solution – but it’s worth it for the results. Wrongly installed, you won’t get the full benefits of the product, so unless you’re a DIY professional, we recommend you hire a soundproofing specialist.
Common issues that are faced during installation include:
As the above issues show, plasterboard, although easy to work with, is fragile and if it is damaged during installation, you can end up with a finish that looks bad and doesn’t effectively reduce noise.
Cost: Standard plasterboard at 15mm can be purchased from £12 a board, but the higher the quality, the higher the price. For even better soundproofing, you can opt for board that is even thicker at a higher cost point.
How it works: Acoustic sealant, acoustic filler or acoustic caulk is used to close gaps around fittings and fixtures to prevent as much sound transfer as possible between rooms.
Acoustic caulk is different from regular caulk in that it is designed not to shrink or crack with time. It remains flexible so the seal remains intact in the long-term and continues to provide effective sound insulation.
Acoustic caulk can be applied by anyone if care is taken. It should be applied between joints and seams, such as in the space between plasterboards or around door frames. It can also be used around windows and doors to prevent exterior noise from entering the room.
Total noise reduction: 7-10dB.
The plus side: A cheap solution to small sound irritations. This is a very useful tool for ensuring other efforts you’ve made pay off. The last thing you want is for a newly installed double-stud wall to be rendered ineffective by gaps in the boards letting sound pass through.
The downside: This is not a comprehensive solution, but rather a finishing touch to other works that have been done.
Cost: A tube of acoustic caulk starts at around £2 but can rise to £20+ for specialist brands.
How it works: The thickness of a wall improves sound reduction, but so does leaving gaps between walls, plasterboards or acoustic panels, ie. a double stud wall. This requires a change in how the walls are installed. Instead of using standard wood studs to separate layers, it’s more effective to use decoupling mounts, which prevents sound transfer across the space and through the wall.
The technique of decoupling can also be used on machinery to reduce the overall noise levels within a busy manufacturing environment.
Total noise reduction: For decoupling on machinery, you can expect to achieve sound insulation of 8-10dB. For decoupling a double stud wall, you can expect up to 50dB of sound insulation.
The plus side: Incredible results. A properly installed and decoupled stud wall can reduce noise by up to 50dB – outside noises will be virtually inaudible from within the room.
The downside: To double stud walls, you’re making a sacrifice of space within a room – up to ten inches in some cases. You also limit yourself to how the wall can be used without extra work being done; for example, plasterboard cannot support the weight of a radiator or certain wall fixings.
It’s also a slightly more expensive option to create double-stud walls with the possible addition of insulation and damping compound as well. However, the results are to a superior standard – a worthwhile investment for professional musicians and to improve the acoustics of public settings.
Cost: This depends on the size of the room and the quality of the materials used. For a 125mm plasterboard stud partition, filled with acoustic insulation with tapered joints and emulsion painted both sides, you’re looking at £87-100 per m2. Decoupling mounts go for upwards of £5 apiece.
How it works: Damping compound is a treatment used in any area of a room that is affected by constant vibration. In manufacturing, it can be used to reduce noise between mechanical components, for example. In terms of interior soundproofing, it can be used wherever vibrations are causing noise, such as on metal roofs which vibrate when it rains. It is also commonly used between cladding panels and studio walls.
It works by transforming sound energy into heat.
Depending on its application and location, we would advise hiring a soundproofing specialist to apply. Damping compound is often administered during the process of other soundproofing installations which usually require a professional.
Total noise reduction: Damping compound can improve noise reduction by around 15dB.
The plus side: This is a powerful form of sound insulation that is relatively easy to apply. It can be administered in any pattern.
The downside: Damping compound should not be mistaken for an adhesive. Materials must still be screwed down or otherwise fixed into position.
Cost: A single tube of damping compound retails at around £25.
How it works: A cavity will exist in your ceiling between the joints and the plasterboards which can be filled with acoustic insulation. Acoustic insulation in the ceiling can prevent impact noises from activity above travelling to rooms downstairs.
This type of soundproofing is especially effective in buildings of multiple occupation or of multiple capacities. For example, if you have upstairs neighbours, or in a shared commercial space where there is a gym situated above an office.
Thermal insulation will not absorb sounds the way specialist acoustic insulation will. The thickness and density of the material is what provides sound reduction.
Many people will opt to build over their ceiling as a method easier than tearing down their existing one. In these instances, a second ceiling framework will be built beneath the existing one, with the cavity between the original and new ceilings being filled with acoustic insulation.
Total noise reduction: 20-50dB, depending on whether you are measuring airborne noise or impact sound. This type of soundproofing is far more effective at reducing impact noise from activity on floors above.
The plus side: This is an incredibly effective method of reducing impact noise; probably the best of the methods listed here.
The downside: Creating a new ceiling means losing height within the room. Alternative solutions would involve soundproofing the floor of the room above – but this is only possible if you have access, which may not be the case in a building of shared occupancy.
Cost: Average costs are around £70 per m2, but this will depend on the quality and thickness of your insulation as well as other contributing factors.
As this article shows, there are many types of soundproofing options available that vary in cost and effectiveness. So how to choose which solution is right for you?
Our soundproofing specialists are available to offer free advice and will conduct a free site survey for business’s with reverberation problems.
If you’re still not sure, why not simply get in touch today for some free and impartial advice?