No matter where you live, unwanted noise is a problem for all. Whether we are talking about a high-rise apartment complex or a house in a residential zone, you might want to have at least one room in your house or flat where the menace of noise does not bother you. That can be achieved with soundproofing.
Soundproofing a room often takes up a lot of money which is why many people who are on a budget tend to shy away from doing the same to their rooms. The truth is, you can offer soundproofing and other acoustic treatments to your room in a cheap manner without spending an exorbitant amount. This guide will discuss 18 effective ways to soundproof a room cheaply.
Before we delve into the topic at hand, make sure you know where in the concerned room or rooms the sound leak taking place. There are several places in a room from where sounds can enter and leave. There can be a crack in the door, gaps between the windowpane and the panel, any vents in the room, cracks on the floor, etc.
Once you identify the vulnerable spots in the room, you can start by acoustically treating those spots and their immediate vicinity for effective noise reduction.
18 Ways to Soundproof a Room
Here are 18 cheap ways to soundproof a room:
To solve sound leaking problems taking place from gaps or cracks in the doors or windows, a simple and cheap solution can be to used, which is weather stripping.
The primary goal of weatherstripping is to seal off openings in doors and windows from the elements of nature such as rain, sunlight, wind, etc. But it can be used for the purpose of room soundproofing as well.
Weatherstrips consist of a rubber ribbon of sorts that has to be glued between the door or window and its frame.
Weatherstrips are not that costly and you can pick a kit up from your neighborhood hardware store.
The strips are made of high-density foam so they can absorb sound waves really well. If you are a city dweller and live on a busy street then you know exactly how the noisy traffic outside makes it difficult to enjoy a moment of peace and quiet.
Replacing a poorly sealed door or window need not always be necessary when you can just weatherstrip the frame and greatly reduce the noise inside your room.
Thick Soundproof Curtains for the Windows
Most houses these days have glass windows and you will be surprised to know sound waves travel surprisingly fast through the glass. Needless to say, hard walls are at least ten times better at blocking sound waves than glass.
Wooden windows on the other hand are good at absorbing sounds but only up to an extent. Some part of the sound waves is bound to make their way inside or outside the room.
One of the cheapest ways to reduce noise coming from the windows and to soundproof a room is to place thick soundproof curtains in front of the windows.
Sound waves travel in straight lines and are reflected off from hard surfaces like walls and soundproof glass. But when it penetrates a regular glass window and meets a soft fabric instead of a hard surface, the intensity of a sound wave is lost and it gets absorbed by the fabric.
Adding a soundproof curtain is not going to make your room completely quiet but it will surely make the noise coming from outside less intense and muffled.
DIY Window Plug
Another way to deal with sounds that enter your room through the windows is to have a semi-permanent window plug on top of it. A window plug is a removable plug that sits on the inner side of a window. Although the primary use of a window plug is to block out light and darken the room, with the right materials it can also serve as a soundproofing option.
Window plugs help in stopping the sound waves and thus prevent noise from either entering or leaving your room. Some useful and cheap materials for a window plug are MLV and Neoprene Foam Mats.
Use Furniture to Add Mass to the Room Walls
The more hard surfaces that sound waves have to penetrate, the less their intensity is going to be. So if the sound traveling from outside thin walls meets the hard surfaces of polished furniture, it is going to lose its speed and eventually die out.
So if a room is especially in need of acoustic treatment because of next-door noise, then a cheap way to deal with it is to add furniture along the thin shared wall.
The furniture you add should not have hard surfaces and should rather be spongy and soft like an upholstered sofa made of soft fabric. The idea is to make sure that the sound waves are absorbed by the furniture before they can enter or leave the room.
If the noise coming from a shared wall is too loud, even then adding a piece of furniture along that wall will be effective because it will resist the vibration created by the sound and make it much harder for the sound waves to travel through it into the room.
Cover the Floor with a Thick Carpet or a Rug
We have already established the fact that when sound waves come in contact with soft surfaces instead of hard ones, they lose their intensity, speed, and consequently their volume. So what better way to reduce noise coming from the floor other than laying a carpet or a rug on it?
There is a general belief that sound can only come from the walls, door, and windows but soundproofing a room isn’t really complete unless you take care of the floor as well.
If you live in a house and the one living below you isn’t cooperative about the noise they make in their room, then the best course of action that will save the peace in your house is by offering an acoustic treatment on the floor.
Padded rugs are specially used for soundproofing purposes as the dense fabric traps and absorb noise before it can recreate into becoming a loud sound inside your room.
Fluffy rugs with protruding bristles are also an effective soundproofing technique for the floor because the haphazard placing of the bristles will not let the sound waves maintain a straight path, thus reducing their volume.
Fill the Walls with Paintings, Tapestries or Wall-hangings
You can change the acoustics inside a room by adding soft fabric on the walls in the form of paintings, tapestries, and wall hangings. In the quest for a soundproof room, one may often lose sight of the aesthetic parameters. Thus, by adding a painting on the wall that is conducting too much noise from either side, you can easily reduce the decibels by a lot.
This solution may not be as cheap as simply rearranging the furniture along the wall, but it isn’t entirely exorbitantly pricey like standard soundproofing materials such as drywall.
Paintings, wall hangings, and tapestries are all made from cloth or linen and thus is a cheap and effective solution to soundproof your room. It can also reduce echo in a room by blocking the reverberations of the sound waves.
Mass Loaded Vinyl
Mass Loaded Vinyl, commonly known as MLV is a material often used for soundproofing projects. It is a combination of two ingredients, calcium carbonate or barium sulfate and polyvinyl chloride ( vinyl/ PVC). If used correctly, MLV can be your one-stop solution to make your room soundproof. It is a cheap, elastic, and flexible material that can be put to multiple uses.
Usually, in soundproofing projects, MLV is sandwiched between two layers of Drywall, which is then attached to the wall. Installing drywall can get expensive so the alternative is to add an MLV sheet on the wall to make it soundproof, which is also a common practice in such soundproofing projects.
The best part about MLV is its flexibility. It can not only be attached to walls for acoustic treatments but also can be used on floors and ceilings. Using MLV as a carpet underlay can increase the effectiveness of the sound barrier. On the ceiling, MLV mat can be attached to make it soundproof.
MLV can be attached to objects as well. You already know that placing furniture is a good way to stop sound waves from traveling inside and outside the room. Covering the backs of hard furniture such as bookcases and cupboards with MLV increases the blocking effects they have on sound waves.
Acoustic Insulation Pad for the Floor
If the rug or the carpet isn’t effective enough for soundproofing the floor, then you can take it up a notch by covering the floor with Acoustic Insulation Pads. There are two ways in which you can use the pads. Laying them directly on the floor without anything on top is one way and usually works well.
For some, creating a dual-layer of an insulation pad underneath a rug or a carpet will be perfect. These insulation pads don’t block off sound waves but go a great deal in absorbing and reducing them. The surface texture of acoustic insulation pads feels almost like that of a carpet so using it on the floor without a carpet on top of it is no problem at all.
Green Glue Soundproof Sealant
Using green glue is a very cheap way to soundproof a room. Contrary to how it sounds, green glue is not an adhesive but rather a soundproofing compound that is very often used in soundproofing projects. It is water-based and non-toxic which is why it can be handled without professional skills to get a DIY soundproof room.
Green Glue can be used on its own and it can also be used as an adhesive to attach something else to walls, floors, and ceilings. All you have to do is spread enough of the compound on the required surface and wait for it to dry. On floors, you can cover the dried green glue layer with a carpet and on the walls, you can do so with wallpapers.
The usefulness of green glue as a soundproofing compound lies in the fact that it has superior sound dampening properties and thus is ideal to block out the noise coming from noisy neighbors living next door.
It can also help to dampen impact noises so if someone is walking around a lot upstairs, green glue on the ceiling can be helpful.
Plants have many benefits and the ability to reduce noise is one of the less-known ones. Have you ever noticed a line of large-leafed plants along the side of a freeway? Yes, those were not planted just for the place to look good but also to reduce the noise that travels to nearby communities.
The same principle can and should be applied to homes as well. The stems, leaves, branches, and wood, all of them contribute to reducing sound as they act as barriers to the movement of sound waves.
Although plants, in general, absorb sound, the ones with large leaves are especially suited to this purpose because of the large surface area. Placing a bunch of these large-leaved plants near a zone from where a lot of noise enters or leaves can be a good and cheap soundproofing solution.
Bookshelves filled with books along the noisy wall
Despite their overall hardiness, books are quite good when it comes to absorbing sound waves. This is why bookshelves filled with books are a good way to reduce the intensity of sounds that try to enter the room through structural transmission in walls.
Bookcases are often used to add mass near thin walls so that sound cannot travel outside. Vibrations that are generated within the room will be absorbed by the books and noise that tries to enter through the walls will be blocked by the bookshelves.
If you have lived in a place for a long time then it is normal for the walls of that house or flat to start showing cracks. These cracks in time grow and become fissures that eventually start leaking sound and make your room noisy.
It will be impractical to soundproof the entire wall when blocking out those fissures will do the trick. In such a situation, acoustic caulking comes handy.
Sealing off those holes using acoustic caulks does not take any professional skills and you can do it yourself during a weekend when you have enough time on your hands.
All you have to do is get hold of a caulking gun and some acoustic sealant like green glue. You have to load the gun with the sealant and fill the cracks with the sealant. The nozzle of an acoustic gun is thin and thus can be used to fill out small cracks very easily.
Hang Room Divider Curtains
The purpose of soundproofing is not just to block and redirect sounds but also to stop echoes inside a room. Echoes usually take place when a room is large and is relatively empty so that sounds can travel freely between the walls without meeting any barrier, such as a piece of furniture.
Not wanting to fill the room with furniture but you have to do something about the echoing.
A cheap and effective way to do that is to divide the room into two by hanging a divider curtain in the middle of the room. What happens when you do so is that sounds traveling from either side of the curtain meet a soft barrier and lose their speed and volume. This is especially true in cases of those divider curtains that are made of two to three layers of fabric. The thickness of the material makes it easier for sound absorption.
From a practical point of view, room divider curtains can also act as a great tool to preserve your privacy in a room by hiding the part of the room you don’t want people to see.
Acoustic Foam Panels
If you wish to use your room as a recording studio for music, podcasts, or any such purposes then having an acoustic paneled wall is a necessity to bring about that vacuum effect we love to hear in songs and audio stories. The most effective way to do it is to install acoustic foam panels on the walls of the room.
Acoustic foam is a dedicated material that is very commonly used for soundproofing projects even though its main functionality lies in absorbing the sounds instead of blocking them.
Acoustic foam comes with a grooved surface that makes it difficult for the sound to reflect uniformly and is dissipated in different directions. The lack of uniformity in the sound waves makes them lose their volume and eventually die out.
The grooves on the surface of acoustic foam are not made randomly as differently shaped grooves can render different acoustic effects inside a room. This is why almost all sound recording booths have acoustic foam panels attached to their walls.
Drywall is another very common material used to make a room soundproof. Given that it is a bit expensive when compared with the other options on this list, you can choose it if one wall with not much surface area needs to be soundproofed in your room. Drywall costs so much because people buy it for all their walls and the cost adds up.
Drywalling is a very good way to stop the sounds traveling through the walls, which means that drywall is good at dealing with the structural transmission of sound.
Often two layers of Drywall are used on a single wall with MLV in between. It can be attached to a wall using a green glue soundproofing compound to make the soundproofing more effective.
Just as the name suggests, sound dampening paint or sound-absorbing paint is made from components that give it the properties of reducing the volume of sound.
That said, it is just a paint and should not be the sole soundproofing option you have in your mind. Couple this option with others such as maybe an MLV layer to get the best results.
What sets this kind of wallpaper apart from regular ones is its thickness. These are made out of several layers of material which sometimes include acoustic foam too, given how much money you are willing to spend.
A soundproof wallpaper does not offer a complete soundproofing solution to your room and is better at absorbing outside sounds that try to enter the room through the walls. Using it above a layer of MLV greatly increases its effectiveness.
Install a Door Sweep
If you notice closely enough, there is a tiny gap between some doors and the floor. That gap is probably the reason why despite all your efforts to soundproof your room, it is still noisy.
This problem can be addressed in a simple and effective way – installing a door sweep along the bottom of the door.
Door sweeps are made of both metal and wood. You should go for the one that is sturdy and resilient and has no chances of snapping apart due to the constant opening and closing of the door.
Soundproofing need not always be an expensive and ambitious project of renovating whole walls and floors to install this and that material. It can be achieved on a limited budget as well.
These are the cheapest fixes you will find and the fact that almost all of these can be done on your own makes it all the better.