You are super excited to be moving into your new apartment very soon. But when you took your Mom to see it after you’d signed the lease, you noticed how much noise there was coming from outside.
You love the location and the view, but you need to find ways to soundproof your bedroom from outside noise. What can you do? There are many solutions you can try:
- Padding interior doors with towelling, blankets or any thick material.
- Using acoustic caulk to seal any cracks around the windows.
- Making your own foam panels to mount on the walls.
- Laying thick carpets or rugs on the floor to absorb sound.
Stay with us as we show you how you can easily block outside noise with the right materials.
How Can You Identify the Noise You Need to Block Out?
If you live in a city, you will always have to deal with noise coming from somewhere — that is simply a fact of life.
Depending on the hour, you may hear noise from different sources at different times.
Some of the most common and permanent noises you will hear include:
The volume of noise from passing traffic may vary over a few hours. You might hear early morning traffic travelling along the major highway that is three blocks away, but by mid-morning, that should have calmed down.
Then again in the evenings, you’ll hear those same people returning home: some of them will prepare to head out for an evening’s entertainment, or to visit friends, so you may hear cars later at night as well.
Your apartment is conveniently situated close to a college or your office, or you may be working from home, but it is also near the local airport and not far from the flight path of several airlines.
There are regulations on the maximum noise levels that aircraft can emit, as laid down by the Federal Aviation Administration.
An Airbus A321 can produce varying decibel levels:
- pre-takeoff (60-65 dB)
- during flight (80-85 dB)
- on landing (75-80 dB).
The aircraft engines may reach a deafening level of 140 dB on takeoff.
If you live in an area that has been earmarked for renovation and upgrading, you may also find that you are close to a construction site or two.
The noise from jackhammers and drills will penetrate your skull and can cause severe discomfort over a period of time. The upside is that this noise will cease at some point and you will have a modern building with potentially great amenities on your doorstep.
The noise from a construction site will be sporadic and limited, so you know you won’t be hearing massive machinery starting up at 2am.
Depending on your lifestyle and point of view, having a nightclub only a few doors away can either be a boon or a disaster.
You may enjoy being a patron, but if not, or you really need to get your beauty sleep, music and loud partying could be very intrusive and disturbing.
You may not live in the city but in the countryside. You thought that would be quiet and peaceful until you were rudely awakened by dogs barking at the local livestock.
These were making their own noise, bleating or lowing, and the early morning wake-up of the local roosters is definitely not welcome.
What are the Best Solutions to Soundproof Your Room?
Soundproofing a room means stopping all noise from getting in or out.
You may not need to go to such lengths — sound insulation or sound deadening may be adequate. What is the difference, you may ask?
Sound insulation reduces the amount of noise that can penetrate a partition such as a wall or other hard surface.
Sound deadening, on the other hand, is the application of a processor using a material such as foam or thick material that reduces the volume of sound.
We will discuss various methods of how to block outside noise effectively and relatively inexpensively.
8 Actionable Ways to Soundproof a Room from Outside Noise
There are a number of areas you can take action on how to make a room quieter. from outside noise.
It’s easy if you have some DIY experience but there are also simple ways and means to achieve good results.
We know that soundwaves travel on air, so whenever air gets in, the sound will be right alongside making itself comfortable.
Let’s look at where you can implement soundproofing that will make your life more pleasant:
1. Outer Door
The door itself may be the problem, but you’ll also have to consider the gaps under, above and around where it fits into the door frame.
Outer doors are usually solid as they are designed to be more sound- and weather-proof.
You can tell if a door is solid or hollow-core in two quick ways: the weight and the price.
The heavier the door, the more likely it will be that it’s made of solid material like wood.
A solid door will block out noise more effectively than a hollow core door as the soundwaves will be absorbed by the dense material.
You will need to block all the gaps around the door as well — add a tight-fitting weatherstrip and make sure the door fits snugly into the frame.
If you have a hollow-core door, you can inject expanding insulating foam inside it.
2. Inner Door
Interior doors are usually hollow core, as these are lighter and less expensive than solid doors.
There are ways of insulating inner doors: hang a thick blanket on one or both sides of the door, as the material is a good sound absorber.
Attach a rubber strip to the bottom, as this will reduce air and therefore sound getting in.
Foam is an excellent sound insulator so glueing foam strips onto one side of the door will help to soundproof a bedroom from outside noise.
Sound waves love open windows as there is nothing to stop them from getting in.
New technology means there are innovative ways you can soundproof windows.
You can mount window inserts into existing window frames, which sit on top of existing window panes.
This is perfect for muffling noise, as the sound waves are trapped between the two layers.
If your budget does not allow for this method, you can simply fill gaps between the window and the wall with commercially available acoustic caulk.
Hanging thick drapes or soundproofing curtains will go a long way to reducing exterior noise.
Sound waves rebound off hard surfaces much more easily than soft surfaces.
Soundproofing walls can be fun: you can use your imagination and DIY skills to make foam panels attach to walls, which are effective at dampening sound.
Simply make a wooden frame and tightly fill it with insulation such as towelling or foam.
You can either cover the whole box including the frame with a pretty outer cover or leave the frame exposed, which you could paint or varnish.
Another way to absorb sound from bouncing off walls is to mount rails at ceiling height and use a collection of wall hangings or vibrant blankets to cover the walls.
It’s better if these are not directly attached to the wall surface, as noise is trapped in the gap between the wall and the soft material.
Floors are notorious for spreading sound waves.
If you’ve ever lived in an apartment below someone who has tile floors, you know you can hear their every move.
The noise loves to reverberate off the hard floor, onto the walls, and then expand into your living space.
To cover tile or wooden floors, spend some time browsing through your local markets for thick floor rugs. Spread these out in layers on the floor — the thicker the better.
Alternatively, ask a local merchant if he has offcuts of a large carpet that you can lay down in one piece.
Remember to put down anti-slip material: this will add an additional layer as well as make sure you don’t trip over an uneven mat.
Interlocking mats are a useful way to deaden sound on floors. They are made of foam or rubber and come in a variety of attractive finishes, even a wood grain.
The noisy kids or teens in the apartment above yours are driving you nuts with their noise, either playing games or endless loud music.
You need to soundproof your ceiling, which may not be as daunting as it sounds.
You probably can’t remove the existing ceiling, so the best way is to install a false ceiling.
This will entail some work, which you can either attempt yourself or get a professional in.
The plan entails adding a whole second layer, with joists and drywall or ceiling tiles.
The two layers will immediately help to reduce noise.
Alternatively, you can drape pretty but thick material from the ceiling, which will swallow most noise coming from above.
Make sure your ceiling can bear the additional weight before you try either of these methods, or you may not have a ceiling at all if it collapses!
If you have holes or cracks in the walls that shouldn’t be there, it’s best to fill them if you want a quiet environment.
If the holes were made by previous occupants, such as nail holes, these are easy and cheap to fill.
Simply buy a commercial spackling or compound and fill the holes. Once the area is dry, sand and paint over the patch.
Larger holes must have additional reinforcing such as fibreglass mesh attached first, and then finish off as above. You may need to do two or three layers, depending on the dimensions of the hole.
Really large holes that go through drywall, will require a replacement section of cut-to-size drywall to be inserted on both sides of the gap.
Glue and screw this into place and apply a couple of layers of joint compound around the edges. Let each layer dry, sand smooth, then paint over to match the existing wall.
8. Traffic Noise
If you live at floor level and have access to a garden, you can easily put Mother Nature to work to help reduce traffic noise.
Plant large shrubs against your exterior wall, or for a longer-term solution, plant a hedge along the perimeter of the property.
You could build a wall if you can’t wait for nature to take its course: make sure it’s solid and high enough that soundwaves have to work hard to get through or over the top.
If you can’t install a high wall, have it made of stone, concrete or even wood which can deflect soundwaves.
Does Installing a White Noise Machine Block Outside Noise?
White noise machines can be a perfect solution for drowning out outside noise.
They come in a variety of makes and models, and emit different sounds from a soothing whirring noise to nature sounds like waves at the seashore or wind in the trees.
White noise machines are often used to get your baby to sleep, but they are equally effective for adults.
White noise machines also come in a variety of price ranges — expect to get what you pay for.
The background noise does help you relax as it drowns out noise such as traffic sounds, but it will not block you from hearing loud, sharp noises.
White noise is helpful as a short-term solution, but it is not recommended for use over extended periods.
Soundproofing a room from outside noise can be achieved with minimum effort and cost.
You can easily use items you already have around your home, like rugs and towels to make padding, and with a little more expense you can create sound deadening foam panels for your walls and doors.
Intrusive noise can affect our health, so it’s better to take steps to eliminate as much noise as possible than living with the stress and physical side effects a noisy environment can bring.
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.