When living in an apartment, people don’t have a lot of options when it comes to soundproofing. Whereas house owners can just tear down the walls, ceilings etc., and get the full effect of modifying their home. The problem is apartment walls are thin and if you’re a musician or your line of work creates a lot of noise, your neighbors will probably not be happy. Usually, only temporary soundproofing solutions can be found for renters. So, people do not want to invest so much money in these in the first place. That is why in this article, we have outlined some cheap ways you can minimize sound from traveling in and out of your apartment.
Apartment dwellers often find themselves in a sticky spot when it comes to noise generation. If you’re building a home studio or trying to keep out the excited shouts of your neighbor’s kids, you may be considering soundproofing your apartment walls. Often, people are renters and they can only get temporary solutions so they are looking for ways that are cheap and fast. The basis of soundproofing lies in the way sound travels, through wave vibrations along a medium, and then minimizing its transmission as much as possible. Common solutions rely on creating barriers for sound with insulating and soft materials. These work to dampen the sound and reduce the echo. With any solution, you have to keep in mind the weak links along your wall, which are typically air spaces in the walls or on the edges of doors and windows. You can identify these through inspection. In this article, you will find 12 cheap and viable ways of soundproofing your apartment walls.
In order to prevent sound from traveling, how it travels needs to be understood. Sound travels in the form of waves, which vibrate with energy when sound is created. Sound waves are longitudinal waves. That means they require a medium to travel through.
Noise is the term we use for unwanted sounds. There are two types of noise: airborne noise, for which the medium is air, and impact noise, for which the medium is a solid structure. Both high and low-pitched noises can be airborne like someone talking or a tea kettle going off. Impact noises tend to be lower-pitched like the sound of footfalls from an apartment above you. Noise can be a mix of these two, such as the sound from a mounted TV on the wall.
In order to soundproof a space, one needs to counter sound from both travelings in and going out. For that, the materials used on the barriers between outside and inside, like floors, ceilings, and walls, need to be chosen carefully. Sound waves travel along the path with the least resistance so, to cut back sound, absorbent and high-density materials are needed. Any weak point, no matter how small, will allow a large percentage of sound to escape.
Before discussing any methods, there are some things to keep in mind when soundproofing.
Firstly, you have to understand what the weak links are. The weakest points in walls are often places with a lot of air space. For example, cavities within the wall and doors and windows. Sometimes, simply replacing the doors and windows with solid wood doors and double glass panel windows can be a gamechanger in soundproofing. However, those are both expensive and a non-viable option for renters.
That is why it’s important to identify the weak links. You can do so by creating a steady noise, like with a vacuum cleaner or washing machine, behind the wall you wish to reduce sound transmission. With the noise as a marker, thoroughly inspect the areas where sound seems to escape through the most. These are the areas you should focus on masking when soundproofing.
Cheap Ways to Soundproof Apartment Walls
If your apartment surfaces are made of hardwood floors like tile or linoleum, then putting carpets down can cut back some of the noise. This is because soft materials are better at absorbing the sound and bad at reflecting the sound waves. The waves get distorted and the sound dissipates. For extra effect, you can use padded carpets and rugs.
Soundproof curtains are lightweight, cheap, and an easy way to cut back a few decibels of noise. They should be hung over the weak points in the house, such as the doors and windows. However, keep in mind this isn’t the most effective solution and might not work on its lonesome.
Drapes are different from curtains in that they tend to be made of thicker material. This is why, although there are curtains providing soundproofing capabilities, drapes are a better option. Materials such as polyester, vinyl, and velvet make for the best sound-reducing drapes.
They’ll absorb the sound and prevent it from traveling. Drapes are also a solution for blocking out light so this could be a double win for you.
Hard surfaces are the enemy when soundproofing. This is because of the echo effect. If you are not familiar with the echo effect, allow me to explain. Echoes are for sound what reflections are for the light. Echoes are simply reflections of sounds. Sound waves reflect best off of hard surfaces because they are the least absorbent. In an empty room, the barriers for sound are at a minimum which is why furnishing your apartment can work to reduce sound. Fill out the empty spaces in your apartment, especially along with the weak links in your walls with soft cushions and couches or the like.
This works for the same furnishing your apartment works. Walls are hard surfaces themselves. Create more barriers for the airborne noises from reaching the other apartments and from impact noises coming in. Try to find decor that is soft and not reflective, like soft wall mats, tapestries, felt, cork, etc. Remember to check with your landlord before hanging anything or drilling hooks.
Once again, the same principle applies. Bookcases are especially useful because you don’t need to alter the state of your walls. By placing a bookcase along with the points where you have identified air gaps will greatly reduce the transmission of sound. Of course, the key is to fill the bookcase as the material of the books will act as sponges for the sound.
Acoustic panels can deaden and dampen sound which is why they’re commonly used in home studios. Generally, they are made of compressed mineral wool or foam and come in many shapes and sizes. They have the ability to absorb sound waves and limit echoing. Full-on acoustic paneling can cost quite a bit but if you get a couple of foams for the weakest parts of your wall or near your work area, it can be a cheap way to get a good amount of noise reduction. They are especially great at insulating airborne noise.
There is a bit of debate regarding whether soundproofing paint actually works or not. And the answer is that it has the potential to help reduce sound, just not a lot. If you or your neighbors are generating a lot of noise, this method probably will not help you. However, if you are just looking to quiet the room a little bit, maybe from some small noises from surrounding apartments or rooms, this is an inexpensive way to do it. Of course, the apartment owner’s permission is required for this step. Soundproofing paint is really thick and if you layer it up, the effect will give you a really good cutoff of low frequencies.
Foam mats are good for the same reason carpets and rugs are good but they offer more sound insulation. They are also a bit more expensive depending on the materials you are looking at. Nowadays, you can find puzzle piece-esque foam mat pieces that are really good for fitting into awkward places. This is another advantage it has over carpets and rugs.
Mass loaded vinyl is one of the best solutions to insulate impact noises, that is often lower frequencies. But they work well at dampening airborne noises as well. You can place them strategically along your walls to insulate sound and get thermal insulation as a bonus. Vinyl mats are thick panels composed of materials with soundproofing capabilities. Check with your landlord before doing this as well.
This is one of the simplest solutions and the cheapest, too. There is usually a lot of air space along the seams and edges of doors and windows. Some select apartment dwellers will know the inconvenience of having doors with space under the bottom. A lot of noise slips in through the cracks. Simply, get some insulating material such as acoustic foam and close the gaps. Make sure you get an okay from the landlord though.
Technically, white noise machines do not ‘soundproof’. In all the methods we’ve seen, the general rule of thumb was to insulate or isolate sound waves. However, this method works by drowning out the background noise. This is not a feasible solution for stopping sound from going out but if your problem is that you cannot concentrate or need some tranquility within the room, the white noise can subconsciously help you ignore the bustle. They are often also used as sleep-inducing machines at night.
Most of these methods work best in combination. Sound waves will keep traveling until it gets dampened, so maximize your results by insulating it as much as possible. Also, consider which types of noise you are countering with what method. That strategic planning will help you get the most out of it.
Soundproofing of apartment walls can be done through various means. If you are not in a position to invest heavily, there are still a number of cheap ways to get satisfactory results. The key aspects are to absorb the sound waves or redirect them from traveling. By reducing space within the apartment and forming barriers with soft materials, you can get a lot of noise reduction. For best overall results, it is advised to use multiple methods that reduce different types of noise.