How to Soundproof a Room Cheap
A bit of a disclaimer. The term “Soundproof” is often a bit misunderstood. When people ask about how to soundproof a room, what they often mean is “noise control.” Soundproofing is all about completely blocking noises from entering or escaping a room. “Great!” You might be thinking. What’s not so great is the cost and amount of work involved. Soundproofing is an extremely invasive procedure. Walls need to be demolished and completely rebuilt using special materials. So, for the purpose of this article, let’s just assume soundproofing = a mixture of soundproofing and sound treatment. For a deeper understanding of soundproofing vs sound treatment, check out Eric’s site on acoustics here.
Let’s go back to junior-high science for a second. Sound is simply energy traveling in waves. Just like waves in water, sound waves behave in much the same way. In fact, when you’re looking to block or reduce noise, it’s useful to think of sound as if it were water. Say you wanted to build a fish tank. You wouldn’t use cardboard, would you? In order to keep your fish alive, you need something watertight like glass. Similarly, airtight materials are key when soundproofing. You stop the air, you stop ( most of ) the sound . But, again, actual soundproofing is expensive and labor intensive. Soundproofing might conjure up images of old cardboard egg trays on the wall. This is not soundproofing, but sound treatment. Just as we know that cardboard doesn’t make a great fish tank, it isn’t great at affecting sound either. The idea is right. It’s just that the material is lacking. To absorb or deflect sound waves, you need heavy, dense obstacles. Egg trays won’t cut it.
The guaranteed cheapest way to start making your room quieter is with furniture. One of the best sound dampening objects in a room is your bed. Think about it. Your bed is covered in soft fabrics in the form of comforters, blankets, and pillows that are great for absorbing sound waves. Heavy mattresses provide the density to absorb a lot of sound also. Bedroom aside, couches and armchairs with plush fabrics are also great absorbers of sound. Like to read? A full bookcase provides a dense wall that can absorb and dampen noise within a room. Stacked books also create little peaks and valleys for sound waves to scatter against.
So, we know that if air can enter, sound can enter along with it. Next to windows, doors are the other weak point for unwanted noise leaking in. Look at your doors in and around the house and you’ll find that there’s a lot of space for air to enter. To top it off, many doors are hollow and simply don’t absorb a lot of sound at all. If you can’t afford to replace your doors with something heavier and more solid, plugging some of the gaps around the door will cut noise levels also. A cheap way to do this is to use a simple door snake, but an even better way is to install a door sweep. A door sweep seals the gap at the bottom of the door and is very effective at blocking noise and cold drafts from entering a room. Door sweeps are easy to install and are fairly inexpensive at around $30 to $50.
Windows are by far the biggest source of unwanted noise entering a home. So it makes sense to soundproof them. Obviously, double glazing is a very effective solution, but it’s expensive. So, the next best thing is soundproof curtains. When it comes to sound absorbing curtains, heavier is better. Equally important is to choose curtains 1.5 to 2 times wider than your window. The reason for this is pleats. You’ve probably noticed the curtains in a movie theater. Apart from being very heavy and dense, they’re pleated and wavy. This wavy surface creates spaces for sound waves to travel into and weaken. Specially designed acoustic curtains can cost hundreds of dollars, but these days there are plenty of cheaper curtains that are designed to both absorb sound and look good in the home.
You might be thinking, “Art to soundproof a room?” It’s not as strange a concept as it sounds. Sure, hanging up your favorite picture won’t do much to quieten your room, but it is actually possible to buy specially designed sound absorbing wall panels that double as art for your walls. These won’t necessarily block noise coming into your room, but they will do a good job of dampening sound already in it. They look a heck of a lot better than sticking egg cartons on the wall too.
When soundproofing a room it’s easy to overlook one of the largest spaces – the floor. Hardwood floors can look stylish, but they cause a lot of echo and reverb too. If you can afford to underlay and carpet your floors, that’s great. If not, look for thickly piled rugs instead. Rugs are affordable and portable. If you don’t like where your rug is, just pick it up and move it. There are even rugs for walls too. Wall rugs are especially good at absorbing and dampening sound.
Tags: Art, Curtains, Door Sweep, Doors, Furniture, Room, Rugs, Sound, Soundproof