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.
While looking into soundproofing a room you may want to investigate how the noise is coming in. In this quick tip we’ll go over a very common overlooked issue of holes and cracks. Not only can spending 30 minutes fixing these issues help reduce outside noise but also reduce heating and cooling costs.
Around windows look for cracks or various small holes that could either lead to the outside. Even the small crack could make a difference as it maybe much bigger further in where you can’t see it. Make sure that the window or windows close properly to create a tight seal. If you can feel air coming in see where and do what you can to stop it but if it’s really bad you may want to invest some money in some new windows.
If you are a handyman(or woman) and are able to easily take off/put back on the trim around your window you can do a further investigation. Some spare materials you may need is insulation and caulk. Builders tend to shim to make your windows level and also square. Now unless the builder decided to spend additional time covering everything that was going to be covered by the trim you may come across several gaps. Usually if the builder knows these gaps will be covered by the trim later so they will not bother trying to cover anything behind them. If however you find holes or cracks you can fill these gaps with some insulation and then cover it up with some caulk. If living in an older house check to make sure there is no rotten wood as this may degrade later if left alone.
Overall not only will doing this help eliminate noise but reduce heating and cooling costs. Remember that where there’s airflow sound has a much easier time entering your home.
Here is a soundproofing quick tip dealing with acoustics.
When talking about acoustic soundproofing or acoustic treatment of a room you are looking to improve the quality of sound within the room itself. This is done by breaking up the sound waves and so there is less reflections/bouncing of sound which in return helps eliminates things like echo. Common types of materials that can do this are various foams, certain types of ceiling tiles, and even egg boxes. However just because you are able to put up foam or egg boxes doesn’t necessarily mean that noise from the outside will be blocked. This is a very common misconception that putting up acoustic related items will have the same effect as soundproofing materials.
If you are looking to help stop noise from within the room itself foam and egg boxes can help greatly. You may also want to look at removing various objects in the room that have just a flat surface as sound loves to bounce of these. But if you are looking to stop noise from the outside world coming in, lining your ceilings and walls with egg boxes won’t be able to do what you need. It may reduce it slightly but most likely it won’t be enough if soundproofing is what you’re looking to accomplish. A good sturdy set of curtains will help a lot more against a single-pane window than egg box city. You may also want to invest in soundproof drywall if sound coming in is a huge issue.
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!