You finally have your own apartment, but the noise from your neighbors is driving you nuts.
Why didn’t someone warn you that being independent can be hard work? It can be, but it can also be rewarding and fun to put your personal stamp on your own space.
You may be on a budget, but we can show you some easy ways to soundproof a wall cheaply to muffle the racket so you can study in peace and get your beauty sleep!
Stay with us as we’ll give you tips on how you can:
- Add your personal touch by decorating a wall with blankets or wall hangings.
- Seal any cracks to stop those sound waves from taking advantage and sneaking in.
- Coat your room with acoustic paint or wallpaper.
These are just for starters. Stay with us as we delve into more detail about how you can soundproof a wall cheaply.
Why Aren’t Walls Already Soundproof?
You would think a solid structure like a wall would be the best thing to block out sound. However, much to our annoyance and inconvenience, this is generally not the case.
Exterior walls are necessarily stronger, more durable, and weatherproof than interior walls.
The purpose of interior walls is to divide up spaces or hold the weight of a ceiling, so they can be made of lighter materials like plaster or drywall.
This, unfortunately, means they are great sound carriers and amplifiers.
Plaster has been used for thousands of years to construct walls. In very early times, plaster was a mix of clay, sand, and straw which was formed into bricks and left in the sun to dry and harden.
Gypsum is a mineral that is dehydrated and to which chemicals or hardeners such as fiber, lime, or clay are added. The mixture is rehydrated and dries to a solid substance that can be formed into boards, blocks, and tiles, which are then used as drywall.
We can see that although plaster and drywall are strong enough to build with, they are not soundproof: they are neither dense nor thick, allowing sound waves to travel through them easily.
Plasterboard walls are generally constructed by two sheets being nailed onto joists on either side of a wooden frame. This creates a perfect echo chamber in the space between them.
Identifying the Source of the Noise
To eliminate or decrease noise, you first need to identify its source.
Noise can be caused by a number of factors, such as:
We’ve all heard noise from kids playing, music blaring, and domestic appliances running, and we can generally pinpoint where this noise is coming from simply by using our ears.
If there is a new building going up on your corner, it’s easy to identify where noise from hammers, drills, compacting machinery, etc., is coming from.
We’ve all experienced unbearable traffic noise — cars, buses, trucks, and some people who live in the vicinity of railroad tracks or airports have to put up with a constant din from trains and planes.
We measure sound by its frequency or pitch, which may be high or low. We measure the loudness or intensity of sound in decibels (dB).
Without going into the science of hearing, sound travels through the air into our ears before our brain tells us we have heard a noise.
We know which direction sound comes from as it hits the ear that is closest to the source first.
What Do You Need Before Soundproofing a Wall?
Before beginning a DIY soundproofing wall project on a budget, you’ll need to do some preparation.
Raid your cupboards, and ask your Mom and friends to keep any old blankets or rugs for you. They do not need to be in perfect condition, as you can make them into attractive wall panels.
Expanding foam is a great way to fill in gaps between windows and walls, so keep a couple of cans on hand.
Sealant works in the same way as foam: if you can stretch to buying tubes of soundproof caulk, all the better, but any caulk will help.
Make or buy strips to fit around doors and windows. Remember, sound waves travel on air, so wherever air gets in, the sound will be right alongside.
11 Cheapest Ways to Soundproof a Wall
There are numerous ways to soundproof walls cheaply, so let’s discuss a few of them in more detail. A little imagination and ingenuity can have your home almost completely noise-free with a few hours of work.
You can make a wall relatively soundproof by using materials you may already have on hand. If you have pretty wall hangings, they are perfect accessories to hang on a wall.
If they are made of felt, all the better: soft materials absorb sound better than hard substances like wood or glass, so limit the original artwork that you hang on the walls.
If you simply have to show off a particular painting or photo, cut and glue a piece of foam the same size to the back and hang it flush on the wall, which will help to absorb noise.
2. Add Dense Mass to the Wall
We already know that the thicker the material, the better it absorbs sound waves.
Blankets are ideal not just for keeping you cozy but will also block sound waves from bouncing around a room if you hang them on the wall.
It’s easy to nail a few blankets to a wall or hang them on rails attached close to the wall. Sound will get trapped between the material and the hard wall surface.
Hanging carpeting on walls for soundproofing is another excellent method to muffle noise. Go along to your local market, or see if you can get cheap off-cuts from a local merchant.
Mount these on your wall in the same way as described above, and you will have an effective and attractive centerpiece as a sound barrier.
3. Foam Panel
Acoustic foam is first prize, but only if your budget allows it. If not, pick up any packaging foam you can get your hands on.
Remember that this is not designed for soundproofing, so it may not be as effective as the real thing.
Saying that, if you make pads out of layers of foam and wrap these in toweling, a blanket, or thick sheeting, you will have a pretty good solution to reducing noise.
Foam is one of the best materials to absorb sound, especially if it’s designed in shapes that will absorb sound, like pyramids or wedges.
4. Seal the Cracks
Sound waves are very good at getting in and out of any space where there is airflow.
If you are living in an older home and the drywall is no longer at its best, you can discourage sound from escaping or entering by sealing any cracks.
How you seal a crack in drywall depends on where and how deep it is. Cracks are most likely to happen on a seam between two sheets of drywall.
You’ll need to determine how bad the damage is by checking if the crack extends through the drywall paper. If not, simply fill in the gap with compound, then when it’s dry, sand and paint over it.
If the damage is very minor, you can buy an inexpensive tube of silicone caulking and squeeze it into the crack. Make sure the product is still pliable, as once it’s dry in the tube, it becomes unusable.
5. Soundproof Curtains
Curtains can be hung anywhere, not only over windows.
Soundproof curtains usually come in three layers: a thicker inner layer and a thinner decorative outer layer which encloses a third layer such as felt.
Any thick curtaining will do, as it’s the volume of material that matters. It may be easier to hang one layer of thick curtaining rather than three.
Soundproofing curtains tend to also block out air and light, so you’ll have to decide if reducing sound is worth losing these.
6. Heavy Moving Blanket
Moving blankets are designed to protect your precious possessions in transit rather than as sound blockers.
But if you’re on a budget, these will help to deaden annoying sounds coming in.
They will not be the most attractive option to hang on your wall, but they will help to lessen reverberations and echoes.
If you can hang them, so they are pleated – the greater the surface area, the more sound will be absorbed.
Moving blankets are usually made of a polyester mesh and cotton mix, which makes them strong and durable. At least one large company uses recycled denim for their moving business — any heavy-duty fabric will be effective.
7. Sealing holes
Sound will not hesitate to come through your door, especially if it’s hollow.
To slow this down, you could hang a blanket on the back of the door or inject the inside of the door with expanding insulation foam.
It will help if you seal any cracks around the doorframe and install a weatherstrip.
If you have sound leaking into your room from gaps around the window, there’s a cheap solution.
Simply use polyurethane foam to seal any crevices between the wall and window. Make sure you go around the whole frame and don’t leave any cracks that will allow air and therefore sound in.
Another way sound can get in is through the air vent.
You could seal air vents off by filling them with expanding insulation foam or fitting a piece of plywood into the frame.
Be aware that sealing your air vents will not only reduce sound but fresh air.
8. Foam Mats
Foam mats or tiles are an inexpensive way to soundproof a wall. They can be made of EVA foam, designed for sound and heat absorption.
Many foam mats are made so they can be interlocked to cover an area as large or as small as you require.
Different designs and finishes are available, such as wood grain or colorful kids’ play mats.
Use your imagination and hang up a pattern of mats on your wall that will not only reduce noise but will be visually appealing.
Foam mats also come in rolls that you can have cut to your desired length, that you can hang in one continuous piece.
9. Soundproofing Sealant
A product known as green glue is not the cheapest method of soundproofing a space, but it is effective.
Other acoustic sealants are available on the market, but they all work on the same principle.
They can be used as an inner layer painted onto the inside of drywall and are a practical solution for keeping out noise.
The products are environmentally friendly, as they are water-based, have almost no odor, are non-flammable, and can be painted over once dry.
It takes about a month before it’s fully cured for the best performance.
10. Additional drywall
If you want to make drywall doubly soundproof, try installing two sheets, one on top of the other.
A good trick to remember is to hang them at 900 to each other, i.e., one layer is vertical, and the second layer is horizontal.
This will ensure the seams do not line up, therefore reducing any potential for sound to escape.
You can do this on ceilings as well as walls if you want to make a room even more soundproof.
Make sure no gaps are left: carefully cut out any apertures for light switches or fittings with no extra space.
If you are doing the job yourself, make sure you have long nails that will go through both layers of drywall.
11. Change the Door
If you are desperate and you’ve tried a dozen methods of soundproofing, but you can still hear every sound from across the hallway, you may want to replace your door.
Most pre-installed internal doors comprise two sheets of light wood fixed to a frame. The space in between is either left hollow or filled with a light material, such as cardboard.
This does absolutely nothing to block out sound, as the waves simply travel straight through.
A soundproof door, on the other hand, is made of solid wood or at least has a solid core like wood fiber and polyurethane and resin composite filling.
You could also consider a fire door: made of sturdy materials such as solid wood, steel, and aluminum. Being designed to stop flames and smoke means they will also be very good at keeping sound out.
Bear in mind that solid doors, whatever they are made of, will be much heavier than normal hollow doors, so your frame and hinges may need to be reinforced.
Tips for Soundproofing an Existing Wall
There are a number of ways to soundproof an existing wall apart from the methods discussed above, such as:
This comprises low-density insulation like recycled newsprint, which is literally blown into the wall cavity.
Holes are drilled into the exterior wall, and a long flexible hose is inserted. The material is then pumped in, and the holes are re-sealed.
The texture of the fill makes it easy to fill any nooks and crannies, therefore making the entire wall soundproof.
Sealing cracks and spaces around outlets with acoustic caulk is a cheap and useful way to stop sound waves in their tracks.
Make sure you don’t miss any, though, as sound will be sure to find any spots you have overlooked.
Be thorough and careful the first time, so you don’t have to go back and re-do the job.
Painting your walls with soundproofing paint will not drown out all the noise, but it will dampen it to a large degree.
You could apply multiple layers — each layer of paint will add another layer of protection against noise.
Acoustic wallpaper is a relatively new innovation in soundproofing. It may look like regular wallpaper on the outside, but it contains layers of latex or acoustic foam to absorb sound.
This is an elegant solution to soundproofing, as it’s both visually appealing and practical.
Is Hanging Carpets on Walls an Effective Soundproofing Solution?
Any thick textured material will be effective at absorbing sound waves.
You may choose to hang carpets or rugs on your walls to achieve this.
These will not only be visually attractive but may solve any problems of storage space at the same time.
You would probably not want to damage a quality carpet by nailing it to the wall, but you could hang it from rails attached to the ceiling — make sure the ceiling can bear the weight, or you will have a bigger problem than noise!
The cheapest ways to soundproof a wall may be effective to some degree, but as with most things in life, you get what you pay for.
That is not to say that hanging blankets or foam panels on a wall don’t work as soundproofing on a wall — they do and can also be very attractive.
Get together with your friends and family and brainstorm ideas on what would be the most helpful solutions in your individual circumstances.
Have fun and be creative!
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.