If you’ve noisy neighbors or if you have thin walls and are afraid that your next-door neighbor can hear your every private conversation, you are in dire need of soundproofing solutions. Suppose you have ventured into exploring various cost-effective solutions to reduce the incoming and outgoing sound in your home. In that case, you might have come across denim insulation and might have wondered how a fashion fabric can contribute to soundproofing.
Here’s the answer to the title’s question. Long answer short, try to walk into your closet containing jeans and other clothes and notice the utter silence inside the closet compared to the rest of the house. This has a huge practical application in soundproofing with the help of denim insulation.
In this article, we will be exploring the concept of denim insulation soundproofing and how it can be a viable alternative to existing solutions like fiberglass and drywall. Once you are finished, you will have an in-depth understanding of the pros and cons of denim insulation and where to use it for maximum efficiency and cost-effectiveness.
What is Denim Insulation?
Denim Insulation is a soundproofing material available in the market which consists of fabric material such as recycled denim and cotton products. The note is that the denim used here is post-industrial and unwanted denim material from retail shops. Other significant constituents like cotton are also collected from scraps and waste products from manufacturers.
These materials are shredded and made into fibers. The fiber is mixed with a small percentage of new fiber of denim. The resulting mixture is processed with boric acid to make the fibers resistant to fungi, molds, mildew, etc. The fibers are then heated and rolled into the preset thickness, and there you have it, a denim insulation roll.
Denim Insulation was made famous in the 80s and is still used extensively for soundproofing performance. Today, it has changed to a major alternative solution available in the market at a reasonable price range.
Is Denim Insulation Good for Soundproofing?
Let’s address the elephant in the room. It is not far-fetched to say that denim insulation is one of the best methods for soundproofing. Even though the price of denim insulation per room may be higher than installing traditional soundproofing materials like fiberglass insulation for the same room, denim insulations for noise reduction are a perfect investment choice, as we’ll be demonstrating here.
Denim insulation has an immense potential to reduce the incoming and outgoing noise and, once deployed, can even completely block a normal conversation from the other side. This can be attributed to a high noise absorption coefficient of the material, and it helps the user block out noises of both high and low frequency from your room.
What’s more is that denim insulation for sound can suppress sound going out of your room and can block washing machine noises, traffic noises, and pretty much every unpleasant monotonous sound. It isn’t limited to rooms and exterior walls. You can cover any shape, and you will see the results instantly. Pipes, cars, and noisy electronic appliances can be lined with denim insulation to reduce echo, bring voice clarity, and reduce noise.
Denim Insulation Soundproofing Properties
There are several factors one should consider while choosing a soundproofing material for their home, including the safety, the physical properties of the materials, and soundproofing characteristics of the material. Denim insulation has a significant advantage in soundproofing and the level of versatility it offers to the user.
The multi-dimensional fibers inside the material are porous and dense. During the manufacture of denim insulation for soundproofing, special care is taken for creating voids inside the panels. Soundwaves of most frequencies enter the denim insulation, and the waves are trapped inside the voids, and the energy is converted to heat and dissipated into the air.
Since the entire structure of denim insulation is multi-dimensional, it is structurally more suited to absorb and dissipate incoming sound waves. In addition to that, the thermal conductivity is very low, and the fire resistance is of the highest rating, making it a suitable choice for the home. The cherry on the top is that the entire structure is made of recycled material without the additional use of toxic chemicals.
Soundproofing Ratings of Insulation Materials
Along with the properties mentioned above, several material properties make denim insulation one of the best available solutions for soundproofing in the market. These are evaluated under specific standards with which we can measure the soundproofing properties of a material. They are:
- Noise Reduction Coefficient (NRC)
- Sound Transmission Class (STC)
Noise Reduction Coefficient (NRC)
The noise reduction coefficient is measured by comparing the decay rate of the sound waves in a standard room with a reverberance in which the material is placed and a room in which it is not. The coefficient indicates how well the material can absorb the energy of the incoming/ outgoing sound waves. The actual NRC value is the arithmetic mean of its effectiveness at different frequencies to provide a valuable data point for the customer to look into and draw conclusions from.
If a material has a noise reduction coefficient (NRC) of 0, it means that the material doesn’t attenuate mid-frequency sounds and can’t be used for soundproofing purposes. If the material has an NRC of 1, it means that the sound energy that should have reverberated in the room has been absorbed by the material and dissipated in the form of heat energy.
A material can score above 1 NRC. At this point, the reverberance and the actual sound will be absorbed to an extent where it has brought down the sound.
Now, since you understand what a Noise Reduction Coefficient (NRC) is, let’s see the NRC of denim insulation. The denim insulation of the 3.5-inch thickness has an NRC of about 1.15. Denim insulation is very efficient even by the standards of other soundproofing materials for soundproofing.
Sound Transmission Class (STC)
Another standard for measuring soundproofing properties of a material, Sound Transmission Class, actually rates the level of decibel reduction offered by the material under inspection. STC is a coefficient that determines the sound protection level your home has. The higher the STC, the higher is the level of decibel reduction, and the better is the material at soundproofing.
It is important to note that in many major cities like New York and Boston, certain levels of STC standard should be met by apartments such that the inner walls must have an STC rating of at least 52 and the exterior walls/shared walls should have a rating of at least 60.
Below is the table containing some of the important STC ratings and what level of sound protection each rating will offer for the customer.
Level of Sound Protection
Cost per Square foot to achieve the level of STC rating (in dollars)
No protection whatsoever
Speeches at average loudness can be heard and understood.
Loud speeches can be heard and understood, whereas average speeches can be heard.
Loud Speeches can only be heard but not understood clearly.
$0.50 – $1.50
Fiberglass (blow in variation)
$0.50 – $3.00
The levels below this can be classified as “private” due to the level of sound protection it provides
Closed-cell spray foam
$1.20 – $4.00
Even loud speeches can be interpreted as whispers.
Loud speech can’t be heard. The listener won’t be disturbed by noise.
$1.60 – $2.60
Musical instruments can be heard only feebly. Other sounds are mostly blocked
$1.30 – $2.60
open-cell spray foam
Musical instruments can be heard only feebly. Other sounds are mostly blocked.
$1.30 – $2.00
60 and 60+
Almost all sounds are inaudible.
From the table, it is clear that denim insulation is ranked high at STC rating and is considered very efficient in blocking out sounds and providing privacy by reducing decibels across walls. It is also to be noted that denim insulation soundproofing lies almost at the higher end of the rating table and hence is an excellent choice for soundproofing.
Pros & Cons
Now that we have seen the properties of denim insulation and what it can provide, let’s understand the pros and cons of the material from a customer’s point of view to facilitate smart buying decisions. We’ve curated the most important factors into a consolidated list of deciding factors on denim insulation.
Eco-friendly, non-carcinogenic, low wastage
May need trimming to meet standards
Have soundproofing properties at the higher end of the commonly used materials
The initial investment can be high
Low thermal conductivity, high fire resistance
The material can get very heavy if exposed to water
Resistant to fungi, bacteria, mold, etc.
Availability is scarce compared to other soundproofing materials.
Improves air quality and decrease dust content
It does not cause itching or irritation of any kind to the user.
Denim insulation is a very environment-friendly solution to soundproofing and can be used as a green alternative to most commercially available materials. We’ve seen that denim insulation soundproofing ranks high at both standards of Noise Reduction Coefficient (NRC) and Sound Transmission Class (STC) ratings. It can be drawn conclusively that denim insulation is a very good investment as it has a high return on investment in terms of noise reduction and soundproofing.
Moreover, in physical characteristics, denim insulation has high fire resistance and thermal conductivity. Also, denim insulation can be done on almost any surface due to its rollable nature.
Since denim insulation for noise is an environment-friendly solution, there are fewer health issues than synthetic insulations. It is a very sustainable option compared to the synthetic soundproofing materials available today. If you can afford denim insulation, it is better to opt for such quality material, which will provide much more soundproofing in every aspect.