There are many reasons why you might want to make a space quieter. Maybe you’re starting your own podcast and you need to eliminate nuisance background noise so that you can record in peace. Or maybe you live next to an extremely noisy factory, and you need some peace for your beauty sleep. Or maybe you live in an apartment or condo, and your neighbors are beasts.
Whatever the reasons, there are many ways to soundproof a room. The trick is to realize that that is no one magic bullet—you’ve got to make multiple little changes that will each reduce the noise level a little bit. Some things you do to soundproof a room will deaden high-pitched noises, while others will soften deep rumbles.
In combination, all of these soundproofing materials and techniques will quiet the situation overall. Having a room or home professionally soundproofed can cost thousands of dollars. Luckily, many types of cheap soundproofing material available allow you to do it yourself.
How Do Soundproofing Materials Work?
The cheap soundproofing materials that you find online can generally be divided into two types.
Noise reduction material work by eliminating sound waves at the source.
Sound absorption, sometimes called sound dampening, solutions work by limiting the travel of sound waves.
Soundproof Insulation and Other Soundproofing Materials
Soundproofing a room requires a little bit of scientific knowledge about how sound waves form and propagate.
Like waves in the ocean, sound travels through and around objects. It can also bounce or reflect off hard surfaces.
These reflections can cause echoes in sound recording equipment and add to the overall noise that space creates.
Architects are very aware of this phenomenon. When they design large, open spaces with tile and glass, attention is paid to adding soundproofing materials that help control the amount of noise and how sound waves move.
Sometimes, these materials are built into the walls, ceiling, and floors with soundproof insulation. Other times, acoustic foam or baffles are hung from the roof or walls to help absorb sound.
Soundproofing Versus Sound Absorption
Some materials work by simply keeping unwanted noise out. These are generally thought of as soundproofing material.
You use these in conjunction with what you already have, to prevent outside noises from getting in. Perhaps you install mass-loaded vinyl to create soundproof drywall so that you can’t hear the noisy neighbors next door.
Other products are used as sound deadening.
One example of this is the acoustic foam panels used in recording studios. The purpose of these is to prevent sound waves from bouncing and reflecting off of the walls of a room.
Homes seldom have these sorts of panels, and instead, rely on heavy upholstery and sound-absorbing materials like rugs and curtains.
To properly soundproof a room, a combination of noise reduction, sound insulation, and sound-absorbing materials is needed to get the job done.
Best Ways to Soundproof a Room
Maybe one of the easiest things to implement that can cut a lot of background noise is the addition of some heavy upholstery around your home or apartment. Something as simple as heavy moving blankets can greatly reduce the amount of noise in a space.
Soundproof curtains are beneficial when you need to block out a little bit of traffic or city noise. Finding a cheap way to soundproof windows is tricky, since installing double-pane glass would involve a major renovation.
Curtains work two ways. First of all, they provide an extra physical barrier to a sound weak spot in your room—windows and doors. You can look into how to better seal up the gaps in those later on, but even single-pane glass windows let in more sound than much of the rest of the room.
If you’re interested in learning more about how to use soundproofing drapes or are ready to look for the best ones, check out my article on the best soundproofing draperies and curtains.
Green Glue is a noise-proofing compound used in conjunction with drywall panels. You can get the compound in large tubes for caulking guns or in five-gallon drums.
The compound is spread over new pieces of drywall and then adhered over the top of your old dry way. For new construction, you stager the layers of drywall panels so that you cover all joints with no gaps.
You can also use Green Glue to fill any gaps or cracks in between panels and gaps between wall and ceiling or wall and floor. Remember, every little bit helps reduce sound transmission.
Check out my guide on how to soundproof a ceiling for more tips on using Green Glue and other materials.
Soundproofing Windows with Weather Stripping
Another source of unwanted noise in your room can come from obvious gaps in your windows and doors. You can use soundproof weatherstripping to close the gap.
This product is easy to use and solves a lot more problems than just soundproofing. Sealing the gaps keeps warm air in in the winter and cold air in during the summer, saving on your heating and cooling costs. It also forms a physical barrier to keep dirt, pollen, and bugs out of your home.
Windows are a major source of noise that you should address. While this type of weather sealing is good for fixing big gaps, you can also use foam seals to ensure that even small gaps are completely sealed. You can also cover the windows with drapes or soundproof panels.
Mass Loaded Vinyl
As a general rule, heavy or dense materials absorb more sound than lightweight ones. When shopping for soundproof draperies, the heaviest ones are the most effective.
Mass-loaded vinyl, or MLV, is a heavy sheet of material that you can add to walls to add mass. The best ones weigh as much as one pound per square foot—meaning they can get pretty heavy when you’re looking at large pieces. The 1/8-inch thick versions have an STC rating of 27.
You can find mass-loaded vinyl of various weights and sizes. You can use the stuff in many ways, but common things folks do is to use it underneath carpets, on walls, and around noisy equipment.
You can use it under a room’s drywall panels to create an impressively effective sound barrier, or you can use it above the ceiling.
If you have the specific problem that something is vibrating and creating a racket, you can use an anti-vibration pad to stop the noise. The premise is simple—these foam pads are placed under things that move, and the pad absorbs the motion and reduces the noise in most circumstances.
These pads are best used when there’s an appliance in question that you want to quiet down, like dishwashers or clothes washers and dryers.
You can also cut these pads with scissors, which means you can make them conform to any shape to line boxes or nooks.
Floors can be a significant source of noise too, in two ways.
If you live on the upper floor, you can sometimes get noise from the levels below.
If you live on the ground floor, the floor can resonate with sound from neighboring rooms or the ground outside.
The best way to solve floor noise issues is with a floor underlayment. This is a layer of sound-dampening materials that is placed under the normal flooring material.
Check out my article on DIY acoustic floor underlayment for more information.
Soundproof Foam Panels
You might notice in photos of radio or recording studios that the walls are covered in textured foam panels. You can get those acoustic panels yourself, and they’re one of the best ways to absorb sound inside the room.
The purpose of these panels is to cut down on noise by not allowing it to reflect or reverberate off the local walls and floor. Sound dissipates into these panels and disappears.
They’re great in recording studios since they remove echoes and unwanted refractions that can get picked up by sensitive microphones.
The important thing to realize is that these panels don’t necessarily block unwanted noises, but they instead absorb them.
You can pick from different sized panels of different thicknesses. If you’d like to learn more about which panels are best for your application, check out our guide on the best soundproof foam panels.
Metal Resilient Channels
Decoupling walls is a great way to get better soundproofing. Decoupling them means getting them away from the building’s structure with an air gap—not mounted directly to the frames and studs in the wall.
When they are directly attached, all of the sounds and vibrations felt by the structure will be transmitted to the drywall like the skin on a huge drum.
But if you detach the drywall using metal resilient channels and resilient sound clips, sound waves are effectively stopped in their tracks.
This isn’t an easy solution, since it involves remounting your drywall. But it does provide a good method of eliminating the sound transmission between rooms, and it provides the opportunity to use mineral wool or fiberglass insulation and mass-loaded vinyl, too.
Ceiling Sound Baffles
Acoustic ceiling baffles are vertical panels that hang down from the ceiling. They take some planning to make correctly. But once you get the look right, they can add a visually appealing architectural element to the room.
They absorb noise and are most commonly used in large spaces that have distracting reflective acoustics without them.
Take a look at how I built this DIY generator baffle box to get an idea of how ceiling sound baffles might work for you. You can make them out of many materials, but they are usually wood frames with a sound-absorbent foam panel and possibly carpeting.
You can also cover your baffles, ceilings, and walls with soundproof paint. Acousti-Coat, made by Hy-Tech Thermal Solutions, is heavy ceramic-laden latex paint. It is used for a sound deadening layer on walls and ceilings.
Alone, it won’t do everything you need. But if you’re building baffles or hanging new drywall to completely soundproof a wall, every little bit helps. Why not incorporate some soundproofing into the painting process, too?
Cheap Soundproofing Material FAQ
What is the Cheapest Way to Soundproof a Room?
There are lots of methods you can use to reduce the amount of noise in a room. The key is to properly identify exactly what the source of the unwanted sound is and why it’s so bothersome.
When most people think about a soundproofing project, they are doing so because there’s some outside noise they want to hear less of.
Perhaps you’re under the approach path of the local airport, or maybe you just have loud neighbors.
In all of these cases, it’s a matter of keeping the sound out. Start with the windows and doors, and see if there’s an easy way of blocking sound.
Making soundproof walls takes a little more effort.
If you’re willing to hang new soundproof drywall, there are a few things you can do to increase its effectiveness. You can start by adding a layer of sound insulation, like mass-loaded vinyl. You can also use a product like green glue to help soundproof walls.
Inside the walls, regular fiberglass insulation is one of the best solutions. It is preferred over mineral wool insulation, which isn’t quite as effective at soundproofing.
What Materials Can Block Sound?
Nearly anything can be used to effect some amount of cheap soundproofing of sound-absorbing. The key is to get full coverage, with no gaps, and to remember that two layers are better than one.
Many specialty acoustic products are easy to install and cheap. Even blankets hung on the wall or over a window, can successfully reduce noise levels.
Professional soundproof materials can be integrated into the wall, like thermal insulation which can also reduce noise.
What is the Cheapest Way to Soundproof a Wall?
A great cheap way to reduce the noise coming from a wall is to hang blankets or other heavy upholstery items. Sound blocking curtains work great too, along with tapestries or even acoustic sheets made especially to absorb noise.
None of these techniques will fully address the issue alone, and for severe noise problems, you might have to rehang the drywall to add in a mass-loaded vinyl barrier or use green glue to make a second layer of drywall more soundproof.
How Do Soundproofing Materials Work?
All of the materials and techniques used in a soundproofing project work by either preventing sound from entering a room, or by preventing it from bouncing off the walls inside the room.
When taken together, both types of material reduce the overall sound and make your room quieter.
What’s The Difference Between Soundproofing Materials And Sound Absorbing Materials?
Acoustic materials work by modifying the properties of the sound waves traveling around your room.
Soundproofing stops sound waves in their tracks. It’s best used near windows or doors where outside noise is the problem. If you want to keep the noise of a busy street or nearby railroad tracks out of your home, look to these solutions to make the biggest improvements.
In a room that has a lot of reflective surfaces, like smooth walls and tile floors, adding sound dampening materials like blankets and foam can help a lot. This is because they absorb the sound waves when hit instead of reflecting them onto the other surfaces of the room.
What Different Types of Soundproofing Materials Make Effective Soundproofing?
Everything you come in contact with within daily life has different acoustic qualities. Some things allow sound waves to transmit freely, while others aren’t very good for sound propagation.
In general, materials made of heavy fabric or foam are the best acoustic sound insulators you can get. Very dense materials are also sometimes used for sound blocking.
No matter what sort of soundproofing project you’ve got in mind, there is plenty of cheap DIY soundproofing and sound absorbing options on the market.
You can get creative and use everyday items around your house to block noises and dampen them. But with a little research, you’ll find many great solutions online.
The best thing is that these soundproofing products do not require expert handyman skills to install. Most things you can do offer small improvements with a modest gain. How hard is it to hang heavier curtains?
While many of these materials may seem too simple, you’ll never know how great an effect they can have until you try them. Everyone’s noise problems are different, so it’s impossible to say what will create the biggest improvement in your room.
The best results are found simply by trying as many little things as possible. If the cumulative effect of those sound blocking techniques fails to work, then you can move on to bigger and more expensive solutions. Every little bit helps!