I thought it would cost me a fortune to soundproof my bedroom, but I was wrong! I’m on a budget, but I found there are many ways to soundproof a room cheaply.
Some materials are better than others at achieving a silent space — it will surprise you what you can do with simple household objects.
We will show you how you can use a variety of everyday things to soundproof a room cheaply and effectively, like:
- Using creatively arranged rugs to muffle the noise
- Using sewn-together curtains to nullify noise
If you want to create simple soundproof panels, you will also have a chance to put your DIY skills to work!
Stay with us, and we’ll show you exactly how, with a little imagination and ingenuity, you can achieve a soundproof room at almost no expense.
Sourcing the Sound – 3 Key Points
You are bombarded by sound, but you’re not sure exactly where it’s coming from. You need to pinpoint that before you can address the problem.
There are 3 issues you need to look at to define where the soundwaves are going:
1. Source of the Sound
The best way to pinpoint the source of noise is to use both your ears!
Try this simple experiment — with a friend’s help, jangle a bell or set of keys or anything that will make a rattling sound.
Ask your friend to move the object to different spots, above and behind your head and on either side. You should be able to tell the direction the sound is coming from.
You’ll probably notice that it’s easier to find the sound that is horizontal to your ears rather than vertical, simply because our ears are on the same plane.
2. Entry Point
To keep noise out, you need to know how and where it’s getting in. Sound waves travel on air, so where there’s an opening, they will come in together.
Sound waves bounce off every object they come into contact with, which is why sound may be distorted.
If you are sitting at your desk in your study with the windows and door closed, it will be difficult to hear someone calling you from another room.
But if your window is wide open to catch the breeze, you’ll probably hear the kids playing down the road.
Soundwaves penetrate hard surfaces, so a large expanse, like the wall between you and the apartment next door, will be a magnet for sound.
3. Reflection Point
When the sound gets into a space, it reflects back at the same angle.
So, if your source of noise is the young couple across the hallway, install a soundproofing pad on the wall opposite your door.
Sound travels super fast: at sea level, the speed of sound is approximately 761mph or 1100ft per second.
Sound in an empty room, where it can reflect off the flat surfaces of the walls, ceiling, and floor without any interruption, will fill the space immediately.
But the sound in a room full of furniture, or where soundproofing has been installed, will be depleted much quicker.
What Materials are Effective for Cheap Soundproofing?
Now that we know the basics of how sound works, we can look at how to block it.
Soundproofing a room professionally can be an expensive process, but the mechanics of how sound works means you can install cheap soundproofing yourself.
To lessen noise, sound waves need to be absorbed.
You can use a number of household materials, such as:
- Egg cartons
With a little imagination, each of these can be modified or adapted to be more soundproof.
If you have a few dollars to spare, think about buying a few cheap blankets or less expensive packing foam.
You could sew together layers of cheap blankets to make one thick blanket. Ensure there are no gaps, as sound waves love to infiltrate any space.
You could wrap up packing foam in blankets to make wall panels. Add a cheerful and colorful offcut or print as the outer layer.
15 Cheapest Ways to Soundproof a Room that Actually Work
Soundproofing on a budget can be fun with a little imagination.
Neither do you need fancy tools, but you may need the basics such as a glue gun, hammer, staple gun, tape measure, and pencil.
If you have access to power tools such as a power drill or circular saw, you can build something more sturdy but still cost-effective.
But let’s start with some cheap soundproofing ideas that will only cost a few dollars:
Cheap and cheerful rugs are a great way to help with soundproofing. The thicker they are, the more sound they will absorb, as well as keep you warm and cozy.
Visit your local charity shop or bargain shop, where you may find unmatched or slightly damaged rugs on offer.
You could make a wall hanging of a collection of small rugs, which could make a fun and vibrant talking point.
You do not need custom-made blackout curtains to reduce noise.
If you have a sewing machine, simply sew 3 layers of material together. You could start with a thinner layer, then a middle layer of felt, and finish off with a thicker outer layer.
Remember not to make the whole end product too heavy, as you still have to hang them up.
You could make them, so they extend along a wall — no one else needs to know that they don’t cover a window.
The idea is to block sound, not all the light and air as well, so use your own judgment.
3. Upholstered Furniture
Spend a weekend ambling through local markets and see what cheap upholstered pieces of furniture you can pick up.
You don’t want your space cluttered but look for big cushions with absorbent foam inners or pretty throws that can alternate as wall hangings.
Upholstered chairs or couches will go a long way to keeping the noise from the kids’ bedroom in their space.
You probably don’t want an old-fashioned overstuffed look as Grandma had, but you don’t want plastic, glass tables, or tubular metal either.
Arrange your furniture so that it helps to block the source of the noise.
Use your bed and chairs as a barrier opposite windows and doorways so that soundwaves hit them before they reach your eardrums.
4. Weather Stripping
We are more used to using weather stripping to keep out the cold, but it can be equally effective at keeping out noise.
It can be installed on doors and windows, but depending on the material used, you may have to replace it fairly regularly.
Even without any DIY experience, you will find the cheaper options easy to install.
Try adhesive-backed foam tape, which will last you between 3-5 years.
Another inexpensive option is peel-and-stick vinyl, but again, this will only last a couple of years.
If you want a longer-lasting solution, you will have to choose a pricier product.
5. Floor Mats
Floor mats are usually made of sturdier materials such as rubber and vinyl or less long-lasting materials such as straw, hemp, and bamboo.
All these materials are easy to clean and maintain, but you may have a limited choice of colors and designs.
You can purchase floor mats that interlock and lay a relatively large surface area.
You could always lay these directly onto your floor with a pretty throw rug on top.
6. Mass Loaded Vinyl (MLV)
MLV is one of the most effective means of soundproofing.
It comprises a type of polyvinyl chloride or PVC, as it is known.
Its properties include being viscoelastic, i.e., it will bend if force is applied to it but will revert to its original shape once the force is removed.
This makes it highly successful at reducing the impact of sound, even ultra-loud noise, such as aircraft or trains.
It is cost-effective as well as easy to apply.
This makes MLV the go-to material for DIY soundproofing.
Blinds in themselves are not the most practical solution for soundproofing but used in conjunction with other materials; they can be effective.
Some blinds are manufactured that utilizes a honeycomb construction that can substantially help in reducing noise.
The design means that air is trapped as it enters space, which means sound waves are also trapped.
Blinds that are made of material rather than aluminum or wood will work better.
Again, the harder the material, the easier sound waves will bounce off it rather than being absorbed.
8. Blocking the Air Vent
Air vents are installed for a reason: to improve airflow.
Unfortunately, this also allows soundwaves in.
So, are there ways to block your air vents against sound without compromising your health?
Yes, there are. You could:
- Install a ‘sound maze’ inside the air vent, which the sound waves would have to travel around before escaping into your room.
- Pack the air vent space with acoustic foam.
- Inject the vent with an expanding sealant
- Block the vents with a hard material such as plywood
- Cover the vent so that there is still airflow, but the sound is reduced
There are a number of ways in which blankets can be used to reduce noise, as well as keep you warm.
If your walls are drywall, try attaching blankets as a wall covering.
You could install curtain rails along the walls and hang blankets instead of drapes.
If you have noisy neighbors, having space between the hard wall and the blanket is a great way to reduce sound.
If the blanket is light and porous, it will not block out noise to any great degree. A heavy blanket is designed to stop heat loss, so it stands to reason that it will also absorb sound.
This is one of the cheapest ways to soundproof a room.
9. Egg Crates
If you ask friends and family what they think is an effective way to reduce sound, invariably, someone will suggest using egg cartons.
However, they are actually not as effective as their reputation.
This is not to say they do not work at all, but their shape is not designed to absorb sound waves.
People have assumed that as the shape is similar to sound-absorbent foam, egg cartons will work in the same way.
They will reduce echoes and sound resonance but will not do much to eliminate sound.
But it’s worth collecting egg cartons – ask your Mom and neighbors to keep theirs for you, or ask your local shopkeeper if he has any to spare: he will probably be glad to get rid of them.
We’ll tell you how you can make good use of them a little later.
10. Homemade Soundproofing Panels
You may need to reduce sound if you have a home theater or recording studio.
If you’re on a budget and have a fair idea of DIY, you can make your own soundproofing panels quite easily.
Basically, you will need to create a wooden frame that contains a soundproofing pad.
You may need some power tools to cut the wood and assemble the frame, but other items, such as the filling, glue, and screws, should be readily available.
Follow the old maxim ‘measure twice, cut once as you don’t want to waste your materials or time.
11. Homemade Window Blockers
A cheap way to make your own DIY soundproofing is to use foam tape.
This self-adhesive tape is easily available at any DIY store that you simply cut to length and apply it between the window and the wall.
Bear in mind that being self-adhesive means that it actually adheres to the surface you apply it to if you need to remove the tape, it may take any paint layer with it.
However, it is effective at blocking the gaps between the wall and the window, thus reducing the noise factor.
12. Strategic Furniture Placement
You may not be able to afford much in the way of professional soundproofing, but clever placement of your furniture will certainly help reduce noise.
Because sound waves travel in a direct line from the source, you need to interrupt them.
If you place your bed or couch directly in line with the door or window where most of the noise comes from, this will make the sound waves deviate and be absorbed or reflected by the solid shape of the furniture.
The softer the material of the furniture, the more it will absorb sound waves.
You don’t want to clutter your living space, but arrange what you have to your greatest advantage.
13. Hang Paintings
Framed or unframed, hanging solid paintings or photographs on your walls will not be effective as noise barriers.
Hanging softer wall hangings will be much more effective.
These can be just as attractive as conventional art — you could even try your hand at making your own wall hangings with fabric paint.
You could create something to match your decor or arrange your color scheme around the piece.
Either way, wall hangings will be better at deflecting sound than any Picasso.
14. DIY Draft Stopper
Draft stoppers are designed to keep out the cold air rather than sound, but we know that the two go together.
You may find that spending an afternoon creating your own draft stopper will be an effective barrier against your teenagers’ music coming right into the living room.
You could make one for their door and yours, doubling the sound barrier.
The material that you use as fill will be the important element.
Sand is highly effective as a sound barrier and is perfect to use as a fill as it is both solid and dense.
Other fill materials you could use include cat litter, rice, or dried beans.
How to Soundproof Your Room – Step by Step
There are a few ways you can use your DIY skills for affordable soundproofing.
1. Egg Cartons
- Cut all the egg boxes open so they lie flat, then spread them out into flat sheets.
- Glue these together and fill in any holes with offcuts.
- Cut open cardboard cartons and lay these flat.
- Glue them together and trim them to the same size as the egg cartoon sheet.
- Glue the egg carton sheet and cardboard together.
- Once dry, it is ready to hang on your wall.
Towelling material is a good way to reduce noise.
It’s designed to be water-absorbent but works just as well for sound.
We already know that thicker material works best for keeping sound out, so raid your Mom’s linen cupboard for her old towels.
You may also be able to pick up cheap offcuts from your local haberdashery.
Make your own soundproofing panel by sewing together as many layers as you want.
You could make a series of frames — the more you have, the less sound you will hear.
If you have basic DIY experience, you’ll find it easy to put together a basic wooden frame.
Simply make sure the opposite sides are the same lengths, then glue and screw them together, so the structure doesn’t wobble.
Insert the pad, so it fits snugly, cover the whole thing with an attractive piece of material and hang it up.
3. Wooden Frame
For a more professional version of a wooden frame, you will need power tools, including a power drill and circular saw, as well as a screwdriver, wood screws, wood glue, staple gun, tape measure, and a pencil.
- Measure your wood and cut two long pieces and two shorter pieces to make a basic frame.
- Cut and fit two more short pieces to brace the frame.
- Glue and screw together on opposite sides as you go.
- Measure a length of thick, strong fabric.
- Trim the material to fit and wrap it around the frame, pulling it tight.
- Staple the corners of the fabric to the frame.
- And voila, you have a strong, functional soundproofing frame to hang on your wall.
What Absorbs Sound Best?
Porous material such as cloth is a much better sound absorbent than harder materials such as wood or metal.
The softer and thicker the material, the fewer chance soundwaves have of escaping and bouncing around off walls and other solid surfaces.
Combinations of materials such as curtains, rugs, wall hangings, and door stops will make a cozy and relatively quiet environment.
Can a Room be Completely Soundproof?
Making a room completely soundproof will take much more than we have discussed here.
You will need to install suspended ceilings, floors, and hung walls — the space between the two layers will trap soundwaves and stop them from escaping into the room.
You would need blackout curtains as well as caulking any gaps between the walls and windows.
A soundproof door and weather stop would also be necessary.
So yes, it is possible to completely soundproof a room, but not without major effort and expense.
There are ways of soundproofing a room on a budget, but not all methods are as effective as each other.
The level of soundproofing that you want to achieve will depend on the source of the sound and how badly it affects your day-to-day comfort.
Living near an airport will be much less comfortable than hearing kids playing in a schoolyard or your neighbor practicing on the piano.
Your budget will also largely dictate what you can do to minimize noise, but with some thought and clever tricks, you can achieve a good degree of noise-free living.
Robert is an electronic engineer with more than five years of experience with a solid affinity for helping people reduce noise. He writes about these silent home appliances and easy soundproofing measures to help everyone avoid the negative effect of extended exposure to high noise levels.