Lets talk about the basics of drywall in your house.
Drywall is your first line of defense in keeping unwanted noise from coming inside. Due to the fact that it’s a solid panel of plaster it gives great reduction to noise and a benefit towards thermal resistance. In most cases drywall between one house from the next will be fairly standard with the chance of thicker drywall being used in which case helps reduce noise even more. Usually however thicker drywall is put up in areas where more privacy is wanted like in an office area or between bathrooms.
The great part of drywall is the noise reduction.
As pointed out in an older post your standard drywall usually has a rating of around 30 STC which is good for stopping noise but could be a lot better. Typically if more noise reduction is wanted the standard drywall which is 1/2″ thick is replaced by a 5/8″ thick drywall. In a few cases this thick drywall can be doubled up but then you have the problem of shrinking your rooms in order to accomplish this, especially if you’re upgrading an existing home. However a lot of people do not know of the possibility of upgrading your house’s drywall to special soundproofing drywall. These types of drywall normally will stay at the 5/8″ thickness but provide significant noise reduction.
The STC rating can almost double which in return in some cases is just like putting up two more layers of noise reduction from just one wall(if not more!). The best of the best which can be up to an STC rating of 80 would make it pretty much impossible for you to hear outside noise through the walls. You could probably be able to put a running lawn mower next to the wall and not hear anything. Perhaps you would hear a very very quiet hum in the background if you listened closely. Imagine never hearing a car on the road while next to a busy intersection or people talking near your house. However these really high end STC rated types of drywall are typically for commercial uses like in hospitals and areas where there is a lot of noise from machinery. Though don’t rule out the lower end version as they can make a world of difference and still be quite affordable.
Costs between different drywall types.
Unfortunately there is no real standard pricing in terms of drywall but the general guideline is something like around $8-10 dollars for a panel. Soundproofing drywall will typically be between 3-4 times that a panel so it is quite the difference in price. But if you want to stop outside noise for good or at least in part of your house that extra expensive will be quite worth it. Always shop around though and get estimates as there’s a good chance you can get a discount between various companies. If you’re a do-it yourselfer, you have even a better chance of saving additional money but it will of course take some time to be properly installed. Installing drywall is something that can’t be rushed as every crack and hole just means less sound reduction and higher heating/cooling costs. Which brings us to the last point that while the costs maybe higher you will save money on heating/cooling costs due to the thickness and special materials used.
Is it worth it for me?
It really depends on how bad of a sound issue you are having. If it’s just a little bit a noise then drywall is probably not the best path to take. Not to mention that if it isn’t a lot a noise your main issue may just be your windows in which case that will probably be typically cheaper to replace/upgrade than an entire room’s drywall. Or just some thick curtains will help resolve the noise. If you’re really unsure though ask around for free estimates and for builders to come out and give you their professional opinions. (Always get a second and third opinion too of course!) Also ask if you could get in contact with any past customers of theirs who had special drywall installed to see their thoughts on if they think it was worth the change.
GSM is for paper!
You may have seen stacks of paper with GSM information on it but a bit surprised to see it listed while shopping for curtains. GSM known as grams per square meter is actually used for not only paper density but fabric density as well. When looking at the GSM listed on curtains the higher the number the more dense it is which in return can help block more sound and possibly more light. Common thin curtains will display a GSM of around 140 which is like the same as a t-shirt. Now if you compare a cotton t-shirt to a wool sweater, one keeps you far more toasty and feels a lot heavier. Wool can have a GSM of up to 550 GSM in some cases so right there you can see what kind of a difference the two numbers have. There are varied amounts of GSM per curtain and there really isn’t a standard GSM on certain fabrics. So while manufacture A has a 300GSM curtain with velvet, manufacture B can have a 200GSM curtain with velvet. If comparing two similar curtains that don’t have GSM listed, look at the weight of the two as it may show quite the difference. A much heavier curtain can mean a much more dense use of the fabric.
Sound, sound, and GSM.
This is a obvious thought in a sense because a higher GSM is going to block more sound in most cases. Curtains with a higher density is much harder for sound to sneak in compare to low density curtains. A quieter night for you with higher GSM curtains!
Will a low GSM curtain let in light?
Not exactly. It can help in some regards to determine if light will go through but you’ll also want to look at the fabric being used and the weave. Every manufacture is different with how they make their curtains with the same fabric. Some may have a different weave, use multiple different fabrics, or have multiple layers compared to the other. If unsure always read reviews listed on the seller’s site to see if anyone’s noticed any issues with light. A much higher GSM though will have a significantly lower chance of letting in light due to the density in general.
In the end.
On the final thoughts of GSM, the unfortunate fact is that not all curtains will list their GSM amounts so trying to compare two similarly made curtains in detail may not work. While typically a higher GSM will block more sound additional factors like the weave and type of fabric being used can make quite the difference.
A common question is how much noise can actually be reduced by soundproof curtains. Before we can answer this however we must look at a term used to rate soundproofing materials like curtains, drywall, and windows. STC or also known as Sound Transmission Class is a rating of how well airborne sound is eliminated by the object in question. In other words, it can approximately tell you how much decibel reduction in noise you will get. We’re going to dive into a bit more detail than we normally would in this post so just be warned it may not make as much sense the first time through.
Quick decibel levels comparison
20dB – Watch Ticking
30dB – Whisper
60dB – Normal Conversation
70dB – Busy Street
90dB – Lawn mower
Drywall, windows, and noises
While in your house a typical layer of drywall with no insulation you’re looking around an STC of 30. This is also known as a paper thin walls because a person on the other side of the wall can hear you talking. So take a normal conversation decibel level of 60dB minus STC of 30 which you’re left with 30dB. Note that different frequencies can affect how much noise is actually reduced. As for windows a single-pane glass window will have an STC of between 20-25 which is doesn’t provide as much sound reduction as one would hope.
The top of the line industrial strength soundproof curtains can have a STC rating of up to 35. Unless you’re looking to really stop the noise and spend the money you unfortunately will have to settle for living room curtains which won’t provide as great of an STC rating. A really good set of curtains will probably have a STC rating of up to 15 while you’re most likely going to get between 5-10. Now this may not seem a lot at first but your perception of increases or decreases in decibel levels can weigh in on how much noise is actually being reduced. Plus of course the more layers of noise reduction materials you setup between you and the problem the decibel levels can only go down.
Looking at a quick example of a noisy street, having 70dB can be reduced on average by 20 by a window and then again by 10 by curtains. You’ve reduced the noise down to almost a whisper which is more enjoyable to sleep to though you can reduce it even more with foam, double-pane windows, and an additional set of curtains.
Here is a listing of various types of curtain materials and fabrics you may come across.
- Acetate - In a sense pretty much like silk except its artificially made and doesn’t fade like silk does.
- Acrylic - This is a lightweight and soft curtain material that is considered warm and strong.
- Bamboo - Very soft and absorbent fabric. Since the fibers of bamboo are quite short the fibers normally go through a process involving chemicals which then it gets the name bamboo rayon. Recently in the last two years there has been a crack down on naming bamboo rayon as natural bamboo fabric as its misleading.
- Calico – Cheap type of cotton that comes in solids or various prints.
- Chenille - A quite thick and soft yarn commonly cotton that is manufactured by placing yarn between two more piece of yarn and then twisting it together.
- Cotton - A common and popular curtain material that woven into many different forms. As a curtain material its soft and breathable.
- Damask – Usually made from silk and has a very unique weave to it. Damask is also very durable.
- Dupion – Silk with a textured surface but can also be artificial silk.
- Grosgrain - Like silk but with a stiff ribbed surface.
- Linen - Flax spun to make a very strong cloth.
- Satin – Silk or synthetic cotton curtain material with a very smooth surface.
- Silk - Material made naturally from silkworms which usually fades in sunlight.
We will keep adding to the listing as time goes on. If you notice any mistakes or suggestions to add one please lets us know in the comments below!
This quick tip is to help you out to determine what you are looking for. Note that in many places people use these two terms synonymously which can be confusing. If however when looking at a product it’s stated for one or the other the company usually knows what they are specifying.
Sound Absorption: With sound absorption you are looking to improve sound quality by removing noise that comes from within or close to the room. Sound likes to go everywhere you don’t want it to go especially while you want clear sound clarity.
Good example of this is while during a meeting you can hear people from the room next door or if while on a call there is complaints of hearing echos over the phone. Studio foam or acoustic panels are commonly used to help with sound absorption. Do note though they still can help while soundproofing a room but not as well as actual soundproofing material like drywall and foam.
Soundproofing: Usually meant for stopping noise coming in or out of an area. Here is where you wish to stop or reduce noise from traffic like roads or railways. At the same time something around you within your house maybe the cause of the noise like an HVAC system or type of loud machinery. Soundproofing with various materials can help block and isolate sound to make living within your home a lot more enjoyable.
There is soundproofing for pretty much everything like walls, doors, pipes, and windows. If looking to really invest in reducing noises coming from outside your house make sure to look at all various soundproofing methods to do everything you can to stop the noise.