Soundproofing Quick Tip #3
Here’s another quick tip to help soundproof your room or rooms to make it just a tab bit quieter.
When soundproofing windows and curtains you may not be able to do everything you want to help keep your living space as peaceful as possible. Perhaps you rent so you can’t change the windows to soundproof ones and maybe your roommate doesn’t want heavy curtains but silk ones instead. What ever the various reasoning maybe there are still a few options available to you so don’t give up hope just yet!
Furniture and art! You obviously don’t wish to block any windows or exits trying to keep out the sound but various furniture and art will help you out as any sound will get absorbed just at least a little bit in most circumstances when coming into the room.
Lets look at art! While paintings may not seem like they would help due to being so small/flat, sound loves to bounce off very large flat surfaces like a bare wall. A wooden frame around the painting not only helps reflect sound coming from the side but the entire painting creates a small space between itself and the wall which can also help reduce sound. Another popular option is a tall bookshelf as a full bookshelf creates a very solid “wall” that will likely be at least a half a foot thick and will stop sound in its tracks. As like the painting it helps reflect sound coming from the side (in a much bigger way obviously) and is a solid barrier against any sound coming from directly behind it. Just make sure the bookshelf is filled with thick and heavy books or it may not be as helpful as you would hope. The other types of furniture can be anything like a couch or seat will help but usually due to the lower height they won’t help as much as like a bookshelf could.
What about Placement!? Placement location of the furniture is also important because if there is a noisy wall behind you due to neighbors, you should look at what you can place between them and where you’ll be in the room. Placing a few bookshelves behind you with your couch in the middle facing your entertainment center should greatly help keep the neighbor’s party noise out of your room while you’re trying to pay attention to a movie. When filling up the room with furniture and various art you will not only reduce the options for noise to easily bounce off of but will also help absorb it before it gets to your ears. A side benefit to all of this is it also helps prevent sound you’re making from leaving the room and creating a noisy situation for others.
Good luck on decorating your rooms and reducing the noise!
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.
Blackout curtains and soundproofing
A common question asked is if blackout curtains help with soundproofing at all.
In a sense yes all blackout curtains will reduce sound in a way but it will vary greatly between the types of curtains and how they were made. A curtain panel being blackout most of the time means that no or less than 1% of sunlight can come through the curtains. This nicely also means that there is far less room for sound to go through the curtains with no resistance. However if the curtains are quite thin it doesn’t matter if they are soundproof or not as the curtain in general can’t stop any sound. There has to be some sort of layer of fabric to stop the sound. If a curtain lists specifics like foam backing and/or several layers of coating then it will provide at least some soundproofing.
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.