When my new neighbor in the apartment building moved in, I discovered the value of thick walls. While she is a lovely lady, her voice was less so! The high-pitched soprano voice that she used to sing along with Pavarotti every evening until 11 was grating on my last brain cell. I began scrolling for solutions to noise pollution and stumbled onto some great DIY soundproofing methods.
What Is Soundproofing?
Soundproofing is when you use a material to prevent sounds from entering or leaving a space. Yet, it can also be when you use materials to absorb extra sound, minimizing a background echo.
In the music industry, special soundproof studios are created to keep the space fully isolated from outside noise the artist doesn’t want to be recorded. Often, this space will also have additional noise-absorbing materials to help minimize echoes and sound distortions.
How does this all apply to your home?
Well, have you ever walked into a large room to find yourself surrounded by unpleasant echoes? It happens in large homes, small homes, and also in apartment buildings where noisy neighbors’ voices echo through your walls.
Materials That Absorb or Block Out Noise
Okay, so soundproofing and sound-blocking materials aren’t the same. For starters, soundproofing materials will deflect noise, keeping the area behind the soundproofing silent. Sound-absorbing materials are substances that absorb the noise frequency or sound waves, lowering the ambient noise levels of a room.
Simply put: A soundproof room will keep outside sounds out, such as being unable to hear the cars honking on the road outside through a brick wall. A noise-absorbing material will keep sounds in, such as walking over a carpeted floor instead of a tile floor, which would echo.
Smooth fabrics will reflect sound while soft and fluffy fabric will absorb noise, muting or muffling it. Woven textiles are great for reducing noise pollution from external sources. After all, we’ve all gone for a thick blackout lining on our street-facing windows, right?
Other materials that absorb noise include upholstery fabrics, upholstery padding, polyester batting, and foam sheets. These materials all absorb the noise, which is a great way to keep your own noise from bothering neighbors.
You probably don’t want to build your own studio dedicated to keeping sounds in or out of your home, so here are some practical ideas on soundproofing your home.
5 DIY Ways to Soundproof Your Home
Let’s start with my noisy neighbor. I wanted to keep her vocal talents outside my apartment. But importantly, I wanted it done quickly and as cost-effectively as possible.
1. Thick Blackout Curtains
This is an old favorite to keep the outside out and the inside in. Hanging thick blackout lining or blackout curtains at your windows will help you reduce the sounds from outside your home. But did you know that you can improve the effectiveness of this nifty trick several times over?
Try these easy blackout lining tips:
- Hang an extra length of blackout for a denser gathering at the window.
- Raise your curtain rails by six to eight inches, and extend the curtain rail past the window edge by six to eight inches on each side for a more complete window coverage.
- Layer your blackout lining with other thicker fabrics to help absorb any remaining noise, such as tapestry or upholstery fabrics that are heavily woven.
- Add a thick sun-proof exterior canvas blind that operates in the window frame to further deflect noise and sound waves.
2. Curtain or Fabric Walls
While brick walls are great at keeping sounds out, drywalling is less reliable at keeping sounds out. When your architect skipped on the insulation material between the layers of drywalling, you will end up with a nasty noise transfer that can drive you mad.
At this point, you should consider whether covering the walls with a soundproof layer may be worth it. There are several ways you can do this:
- Install curtain rails for floor-to-ceiling curtains to wall off the drywalling.
- “Upholster” the walls with upholstery fabric and padding to fully insulate the room.
- Carpet your walls with plush or thickly woven rugs that can insulate the drywall.
3. Plantation Style Beds
One of the places where the noise will bother you most is your bed. If your neighbor is upstairs from you, covering the walls will not help as much. Luckily, you can rely on heavy drapery to further insulate your bed.
Cocoon yourself in thick velvet drapes with layers of sponge or foam to help insulate you from the gremlins upstairs. Hang plush curtains from a four-poster bed, canopy your sleep space, and rest in peace.
4. Mop Up Remaining Noise
While you can reflect noise out, there will be some noise that can penetrate into your home. This last remnant of Luciano’s final ensemble may not be to your liking, so cleaning up the last bit of noise is about absorbing the noise so it won’t reach your ears several decibels later.
There are a few ways in which you can absorb the last bit of noise:
- Cover sofas with textured upholstery
- Layer drapery over furniture that has no padded upholstery
- Add thick occasional cushions with fluffy fringes to absorb more noise
- Plush area rugs will aid in canceling noise and echoes
- Place furniture between you and the source of the noise to deflect and make a physical barrier
- Install an aquarium against the wall where the noise comes from – sound travels slowly through the water, losing intensity.
- Add a thickly padded headboard between your bed and the wall where the noise comes from
- Seal the edges of windows and doors with soundproof sealant or silicone sealant to keep noise pollution out
5. Sound Absorbing Screens
If your room is large, you can add some sound-absorbing screens to help block off the ingress of noise. These can be fairly easy to make, or you can purchase some wooden screen panels and simply add a layer of foam and fabric to help further restrict the sound waves.
Place these screens in a zig-zag fashion to channel the noise away to the nearest window. Woolen fabrics like microfiber, velvet, and brushed polyester can be great choices to keep sound down.
Soundproofing Your Home FAQs
Question: Do soundproof curtains really work?
Answer: Soundproof curtains help reduce the number of sound waves that penetrate your home. By hanging soundproof curtains such as blackout lining at your window, you can reduce the number of echoes that disrupt your calm.
Question: What method, other than curtains, is effective for blocking noise at the window?
Answer: Use fabric or Roman blinds as these have exceptional sound-absorbing and sound-reducing qualities. Match Roman blinds with drapes to seal the edge of the blinds.
Question: Which is better at soundproofing my room: blinds or curtains?
Answer: Curtains cover the window better, making for better soundproofing. While blinds are good for soundproofing, the edges where the blinds stop leave a space where sound may penetrate the room. Combining blinds and curtains provides the best possible soundproofing for windows.
The Final Verdict
While you can pay a contractor to install costly soundproofing to keep your neighbor’s singing talents on her side of the drywall or window, you can also apply any of these DIY soundproofing solutions to save yourself some cash and grief.
Thick blackout curtains can be ordered online, or you can easily buy the fabric in bulk and make a solution “sew” easily. While you’re at the sewing machine, add some thick drapes for your four-poster bed, and wall off your bedroom with curtain walls and a plush headboard.
Finally, use screens, pillows, furniture, and plush carpets to further mop up noise for a peaceful home you won’t be able to wait to return to after a hard day’s work. Learn all about other uses for your curtains in this article on the Kovi Blog.