If you’re a musician or just someone who tends to deal with sound a lot, you may be getting serious complaints from your neighbors or even family members. Of course, inconveniencing anyone isn’t the goal. Yet, you need to do what you need to do. Soundproofing the area you work in could be the solution you’re looking for. Through soundproofing, you can both prevent exterior noise from coming in and interior noise from traveling outside. Soundproofing requires an understanding of the way sound travels, as well some basic principles and finally, knowledge of the best methods available. That’s why we’ve outlined those very things for you in this article.
You may be considering soundproofing your walls if your profession or hobby requires you to work with a lot of sound. To understand how to reduce sound from travelling, we have to understand how it travels. When sound is created, energy is transmitted in the form of wave vibrations. These sound waves require a medium to travel through, so the unwanted sound which we call noise is categorized into airborne noise and impact noise. There are two basic principles to soundproofing walls. Firstly, the weakest points determine the overall strength of a wall, which are usually gaps in the connecting points.
Secondly, even though a majority of the weak points are caused by air gaps within the walls, the weak points can be the materials themselves. Since, everyone has a different environment at home, the best ways of both soundproofing existing walls and soundproofing walls that are yet to be built are detailed in this article.
Sound passes through the walls in the form of sound waves and their vibrations. When a sound is created, the vibrations of the waves travel through a medium in order to reach our ears.
Noise is the term used for unwanted sound. Noise is what we wish to stop from traveling. There are two types of noises: airborne noise and impact noise.
Airborne noises travel through the air. Hence, air is the medium in this case. Most sounds we hear are airborne. Examples include conversations and music playing from speakers.
Impact noises are structure-borne. Solid structures are the medium through which the sound travels after an impact is made. Examples include footfalls heard through different levels and knocks on the door.
Understanding the two types of noise will help us with reducing them. As they have different mediums, they require different soundproofing methods. Overall, when soundproofing a wall, the goal is to stop sound from travelling through that structure and from reaching that structure in the first place.
The process of wall soundproofing is rooted in these basic principles:
This point can make it or break it because wave energy will definitely pass through it. The weakest link of all weak links is an air gap. This could be due to poorly sealed windows, doorways or gaps in the floor or switches and electrical outlets. Most people know from mere logic that a hole in the wall can make sound waves travel more easily. However, they don’t realize that this hole does not have to be big. A small, overlooked hole can reduce the effectiveness of your soundproofing by a ton.
The design of the wall will affect its overall effectiveness in keeping sound out. That is why doors and windows are often the weak links of a wall. It might seem like it’d be okay to have just one window but adding any weak material will weaken the overall wall. Remember, the weak links have the power to shape the strength.
Before we begin, it’s important to note that everyone does not have the same home environment. So, you may find yourself having to deal with already existing walls or perhaps you are considering soundproofing a new construction. That’s why we’ve procured the methods and tips for both.
Here they are:
Ways to soundproof an existing wall
Do a sound test before you try any of these methods. As you’re soundproofing an existing wall, keep a consistent noise in the adjacent room through the process. This will help you identify the weak spots in the wall easier. Look out for any gaps along the floor, ceiling and connection point to other walls. Remember, the more gaps there are, the more sound waves will be able to pass through so it’s important to take note of them and fix them up.
Using acoustical caulk, seal the weak spots you find after inspection. Here is a good outline of the things you might have to seal. Start with the electrical outlets or vents first because you simply have to remove the covers and seal any gaps. Replace all old caulk with fresh caulk. If the baseboards are the ones giving you trouble, remove them and seal in the gaps at the point where the wall meets the floor. Then, reattach them. Doors and window frames are often the culprits for air gaps. Caulk is the best way to seal them up.
You can attach mass loaded vinyl into the already existing layer of drywall. This is done by directly nailing the vinyl onto the studs. Then proceed to seal the edges and seems with acoustic caulk. You can go a step further with this by installing a new layer of drywall on top of the vinyl layer or you can leave it exposed.
When installing new drywall, make sure its seams do not line up with the first layer. It is recommended to leave some space between the top and bottom of the wall. Later on, you can seal those edges with acoustical caulk. You can install new drywall in conjunction with green glue sealant. It is a soundproofing caulk that has the ability to absorb sound waves and deflect vibrations. Cover a sheet of drywall with green glue patterns using a standard caulk gun before hanging it up.
Soundproof curtains will give you the least soundproofing effect of the bunch but it is also the least complicated method. This is good if all you need is to cut a few decibels. Hang these curtains over gaps you identified like you would hang any other curtains, especially doors and windows. With soundproof curtains, you cannot effectively eliminate air gaps. To get a bit more out of this method, you can close the seams with reclosable fasteners available on the market.
Ways to build a new soundproofed wall
When you’re thinking of soundproofing a wall before construction, it’s a good idea to think about soundproofing the ceilings as well. This is because the sound waves will inevitably find their way up to the ceiling if it can’t pass the walls. So, equally soundproofing both will leave you with much better results. On that note, consider getting high density materials for the walls and doors from the get go.
When installing stud framing, there is a choice between wood or steel framing. Steel studs offer more isolation than wooden ones. This is because steel is a far denser material than wood. Unfortunately, steel is also harder to work with for many contractors and especially, if you are thinking of installing them yourself. Wood is a fine choice. Steel is simply better.
Acoustic insulation or batting can be used to fill in the cavities in the walls. You can place the material and then hang the drywall. For better results, however, you should use supports in order to attach the insulation or batting to the studs. This will secure the soundproofing material in place. Create small cuts in the material with a utility knife in the shape of obstructions such as pipes or wires. This will minimize gaps as much as possible.
Using isolation chips to ‘float’ the drywall will effectively reduce the transmission of sound. This way the noise will be reduced and your soundproofing will be much improved.
Using green glue damping compound as a decoupler, you can attach a second layer of drywall. This will add mass to the wall, increasing your soundproofing. Make sure the seams of the first and second layer don’t line up. Leave space and seal up edges with acoustical caulk.
Sound travels in the form of waves. These sound waves vibrate through mediums such as air or solid structures. To reduce unwanted sound or noise, we have to consider the weak points within a wall. Keeping the basic principles in mind, there are various methods to soundproof both existing walls and walls that are yet to be built. Consider your home environment to find out which methods will work best for you.