Everyone who has thought of soundproofing does have this question at some point in time? If I soundproof my room, does it offer soundproofing to both sides, like keeping the voices inside and blocking the noise from outside?
To answer the question, we must be able to go deep into the principle behind soundproofing. Soundproofing requires mass. The material used to soundproof has a lot of mass, and hence sound entering or exiting the room will have to pass the mass of material we placed and consequently gets attenuated to an extent. This is what happens in theory. Soundproofing does and should work effectively for both sides, but this is not often the case.
For effective soundproofing, acoustic management should be followed, and many features need to be installed, which only work one way. In this article, we will explore whether soundproofing works both ways and discuss some of the most effective methods for soundproofing both ways.
Does soundproofing work both ways?
Technically, almost all soundproofing material does work both ways. This is because most soundproofing materials depend upon the property of the material used, and the sound has to cross the soundproofing material to move in and out of the room. But, there are exceptions which we will see later in the article.
A point to keep in mind is that there is no such thing as perfect soundproofing. There will and always will be an extent to which we can soundproof a room. However, one can achieve near-perfect soundproofing if they consider things like air gaps. One of the most important factors in soundproofing, air gaps can be present in all kinds of places, including walls, doors, windows, etc.
There are multiple principles one must be aware of to be able to soundproof your room effectively. You must know what works both ways and what not to have maximum cost-effectiveness in your project. Combining these methods will have outstanding effects on your room.
Walls can have air cavities in them, and sometimes, they can be considerable. This reduces the wall’s density and won’t absorb noise and other vibrations, enabling them to pass through the walls and disturb you.
Not only noises passing through the walls, but them reflecting off of the walls can also be a problem, if not contained. Damping the noise or sound can decrease the reflection of the waves and absorb more sound waves. This can be done by adding more mass, which we explore in detail in the next session.
Decoupling can be very effective in soundproofing. This is the process where the walls and floors are separated. If such partitions are separated from one another, it means that the vibrations and the noise can’t reach and get through the second set of walls/floors.
This has been mentioned before. Adding additional mass to the walls can result in absorbing more sound waves. This effect is seen in the application of drywall and mass-loaded vinyl (MLVs). Adding more mass can go a long way in decreasing the resonance of sound waves.
These principles are of utmost importance to make a room soundproof. It works both ways since the sound has to pass through them to reach the other side. Soundproofing that works on both sides mainly works on the principle of isolating sounds from the other side. This means that a barrier should be built between both walls.
However, this cannot be the case for all soundproofing solutions. Many soundproofing solutions reflect the sound wave to prevent it from going outside rather than absorbing it. Hence, it won’t work both ways with the same effectiveness because such materials have a smooth side and a rough side, out of which the soft side is responsible for most of the reflecting.
So, it can be safely assumed that, to an extent, soundproofing solutions should work both ways. Decoupling isolates the wall from the outside. Absorption can result in absorbing the sound from both sides, and adding mass has similar results. But, some soundproofing solutions have more efficiency on one side than the other.
What’s the most effective method for soundproofing both ways?
One can opt for many soundproofing options, and some solutions may be more effective than others in terms of efficiency and cost-effectiveness. If you want to soundproof your room in a way that works both ways rather than keeping the noise out, let’s explore some of the best options available in the market that are efficient and economical at the same time.
A point to remember is that there are always limitations to soundproofing and its limit also depends on the room next to the one you intend to soundproof. If you want to soundproof a shared wall, you can’t go about and decouple the wall because it should be on mutual consent from both parties.
Decoupling can be one of your best bets in soundproofing a room. Since it separates both rooms physically, there is a decreased chance of vibrations passing through along with other noise. But, the limitation of decoupling is that it is capital intensive and requires professional craftsmanship. If you want to soundproof a shared wall, it is not only your decision, but your neighbour’s also.
If you are opting for decoupling, the best strategy is to build separate stud walls. You can add insulation on top of them but should remember to leave an air cavity between the walls to stop sound waves from passing through. This is a pretty efficient solution but will be pretty expensive and a big project.
You can also opt to have a single cavity in the wall and use insulation between them to soundproof your room, but keep in mind that the effectiveness will drastically reduce compared to the double studded walls.
However, decoupling does have some downsides. There is a phenomenon called acoustic resonance, where the wave’s amplitude can be increased when frequencies are matched. Decoupling can have resonance problems, especially with bass. But, this can be easily tackled. Adding more mass to the wall can cause the vibrations to attenuate much faster and prevents vibrations from passing through.
You can’t go barging in your neighbour’s home if you want to soundproof your shared wall. A simple solution is to add more mass to the walls and floor on your side of the wall. Adding more mass means that the walls get thicker, and it is that much harder for sound waves to pass through. So, it would help if you thought of some other less invasive options.
Drywalls are a viable option when it comes to adding mass. Drywalls add bulk to your existing walls. This is a boon and a bane at the same time. While you gain more soundproofing, you lose the precious space of your room. You can also try mass-loaded vinyl. MLVs are versatile soundproofing solutions that can be used anywhere and are available in different forms and sizes. You can even paint over them to match the aesthetics of your home and yet not lose their soundproofing properties.
You can try stuffing or filling the cavities of your wall with soundproofing materials. Some of the famous soundproofing materials available on a budget include fiberglass and denim insulation. These are easy to handle, maintain and can provide upto 52 STC in soundproofing rating.
Are you tired of hearing your neighbor’s stomping? Opt for ceiling insulation and add a barrier against vibrations and noise from your upstairs neighbor. You can add a layer of soundproofing material for your ceiling using any of the materials mentioned above to obtain high levels of soundproofing in the downstairs space.
Just like ceiling insulation, floor and crawl space insulation can make quite a difference to add more silence and peace to your room from the apartments below. You can try on different solutions for creating floor insulations. You can even opt to place heavy rugs on your floor, which have the added advantage of looking fabulous in your room and providing soundproofing.
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It will be beneficial now that you know that most soundproofing solutions tend to work with similar efficiency both ways. This can save you a lot of time selecting materials to soundproof your room.
You can always mix things up and try different solutions according to your facilities and living conditions for better results. You have to identify what material or method works best in your environment, be it adding mass or decoupling.
Remember, acoustic panels are based on the principles of sound reflection and control the echo of the sound produced. These often work effectively only on keeping the sounds in the room they are placed in.
Finally, it always comes down to what your need is. If you want to keep the noisy neighbors out, you don’t have to go all in and opt for soundproofing both ways, but if you’re going to build a home theater, you can opt for the methods mentioned above to soundproof both ways.