Getting the peace and quiet you need can sometimes be a little more difficult than going to another room in your house.
Loud neighbors, noisy machinery, band practices, and busy traffic intersections all make loud noises that can pass through the walls of your home and turn what used to be a quiet space into what feelings like a rock concert.
The best way to reduce noise is to use soundproofing materials.
Soundproofing materials are materials that block out noise completely, preventing it from entering or escaping a certain area.
Some cheap soundproofing materials include soundproof insulation foam, floor underlayments, and mass loaded vinyl rolls.
Choosing the effective soundproof material is key to blocking out all unwanted noise.
In this article, I’ve compiled a list of 10 best materials and 3 simple DIY ideas to soundproof a room in your home that won't break the bank.
How do soundproofing materials work?
Before getting into the different types of soundproofing materials, it’s important to understand how they work and how effective they can be.
But, in order to understand that, you have to understand how sound works.
The sound is a type of energy that travels in waves, just like light does, from one location to the next. A lot like water, sound waves don’t require a specific shape, but can, instead, mold itself around the space in an area.
We can hear because those waves vibrate inside of our ears and we understand that vibration as sound.
What soundproofing materials do is reduce the strength of the sound wave on its way to our ears, preventing us from hearing the noise created by them.
If you again compare sound waves to water, soundproofing is basically a container that holds water so you’re not getting wet! (Or not hearing the noise, more accurately.)
Soundproofing basically breaks down and block sound waves from moving past them.
What’s the difference between soundproof and sound-absorbing materials?
Many people think soundproof and sound-absorbing materials are the same thing.
Using the comparison of water again, some materials are capable of containing water while others absorb water.
In the case of sound waves, the soundproof material contains sound waves whereas sound-absorbing materials absorb it.
This means soundproofing materials are suitable for tasks that sound-absorbing materials are not suitable for (and vise versa).
Soundproofing materials are great for stopping unwanted sound from entering or leaving a space.
They can be used to block out the noise of loud neighbors or prevent others from hearing the noise you create in a space such as music studio or conference room.
On the other hand, sound absorption products absorb extra sound waves which means that they reduce echo and improve the overall quality of sound.
This means that they can be used in the same music studio, but not to block sound from leaving or entering the space. They’re used to make the music being created sound better and clearer by reducing echo.
What’s great about sound absorbing and soundproofing materials is that they can be used together!
Their “talents” complement each other and, if you want a truly noise-controlled area, you should consider using both!
How do we measure the ability of soundproofing materials?
To understand the effectiveness of soundproofing materials, we rate them by a standard known as the Sound Transmission Class.
This may sound fancy, but it really just means we rate them on how much sound they can block.
You’ll see it referred to as the materials’ STC rating.
Generally speaking, the higher the STC rating, the better the soundproofing material is at blocking sound.
Types of soundproofing materials
There are actually a lot of soundproofing materials on the market!
A lot of these examples are referred to “sound-dampening” materials but are actually true soundproofing materials.
1: Floor Underlayment
Floor underlayments are a great option for soundproofing a floor.
Most floor underlayments have adhesive strips on one side that you lay over a subfloor before laying down laminate, hardwood, or engineered wooden floors.
They block the noise coming from spaces down below the area you want to soundproof!
A great product to consider, sold on Amazon, is the Roberts Super Felt Underlayment. It’s made from recycled fibers that are compressed and treated with heat. Plus, its STC rating is 66!
2: Anti-Vibration Pads
Anti-vibration pads reduce the sound associated with running heavy equipment and other large machines.
Most anti-vibration pads work because they are placed below the equipment in use and provide a firm floor that reduces the overall vibration of the machine.
Super Soundproofing Anti Vibration Pads are a great option for those looking to soundproof the equipment in their garage or shop!
They come in many different sizes, are made using high-quality materials, and can withstand up to 50 pounds per square inch, but can be stacked one-on-top-of-the-other for heavier weights.
3: Clear Plastic
Clear vinyl sheeting, otherwise called plastic sheeting, is a quick way to make an area more soundproof than before.
You simply cover the doorways and any other type of opening or gap with the soundproof plastic sheets to help soundproof a space.
This is a great choice for temporary soundproof needs, such as when you’re having band practice at one place one night and another place the next.
Most soundproof plastics can be installed simply. Just use some double-sided clear plastic tape!
4: Sound Clips
Sound clips are a great way to soundproof walls or ceilings!
How? Because they’re basically bars that hold up drywall and ceiling joists (and the drywall itself) to create a “floating” wall or ceiling.
This creates space between the drywall and allows each side of the drywall to vibrate therefore blocking a large portion of the sound waves travelling through the wall from entering or escaping a room.
A great product to consider when buying sound clips for your drywall or ceiling install are Trademark Soundproofing Resilient Sound Clips.
Trademark Soundproofing offers different options for types of sound clips, including Whisper Clips, RSIC Clips, and TMS Silent Clips, that are all readily available on Amazon for purchase.
5: Green Glue
Green Glue products are a popular soundproofing compound used as part of constructing soundproof walls.
To use, you simply apply in between layers of drywall so that it can reduce the amount of noise passing through walls and possibly floors as well.
However, you’ll want to use other products in conjunction with Green Glue sealants. They’re best used in the gaps between other soundproofing features.
Soundproof Building Materials
Many different types of building materials are available in soundproof options - with varying STC ratings.
When soundproofing a room, I personally recommend looking for:
- Soundproof drywall (usually made of gypsum board and steel)
- Soundproof windows
- Soundproof doors
These items are usually a bit more expensive than their non-soundproofed alternatives but are easy ways to help soundproof an area.
6: Hanging Baffling
Hanging ceiling sound baffles look like boards that hang from your ceiling.
Typically, they’re made of hardened acoustic fiberglass specially designed to be soundproof.
As a result, they typically work quite well at noise reduction and are a great option for soundproofing your space.
I think they’re especially great in industrial spaces because they’re well-designed to absorb sound in spaces similar to warehouses.
A great option to consider when purchasing hanging baffling is the ATS Acoustic Panel offering by Soundproof Cow.
This product is great for both industrial spaces and at home use because it combines effectiveness with attractiveness.
It comes in over a dozen different colors!
7: Mlv (Mass Loaded Vinyl) Rolls
Mass-loaded vinyl rolls are typically used in the construction of soundproof walls or ceilings.
They’re made of high-density barrier material that reduces noise transmission.
Typically, this barrier material is mostly vinyl and another high mass element or compound. Many products use Barium Sulfate because it’s nontoxic and has a high density.
The higher the density of MLV rolls = the more effective they are at soundproofing an area.
In my opinion, that makes it easy to tell which MLV rolls are the best to use.
The heavier they are = the better they work.
I personally recommend purchasing the Acoustimac Soundlock Mass Loaded Vinyl 1LB Soundproofing Barrier Rolls for 50sqft spaces to begin.
The STC values of this product range from 10 to 45 and it’s easy to use, falling at a great weight for soundproofing without compromising the ease of install.
8: Sound-Deadening Spray and Paint
Sound-deadening spray and paints are typically the liquid version of mass-loaded vinyl sheets.
The sound-deadening sprays, in particular, are great for spraying areas you can’t normally reach.
For example, spraying a can of sound-deadening spray near noisy compartments in your vehicle can help reduce noise.
Sound-proofing paints work in a similar manner and can either be sprayed or painted on.
However, neither of these products usually have a high STC rating. They’re just used for a little bit of help soundproofing an area and most have an average STC rating of around 3-7 STC points.
9: Noise and Sound Isolation Foams
One of the easiest ways to soundproof a space is to use soundproof insulation foams.
Soundproof insulation is applied the same exact way as regular insulation, provides the same level of thermoregulation (temperature control) in a space, and helps to block noise from entering or escaping a space.
Typically, fiberglass foams are the best at blocking out the noise.
A great product to check out is Owens Corning Quietzone EcoTouch PINK Acoustic Soundproofing Unfaced Fiberglass Insulation Batt. It combines insulation with soundproofing without a problem!
Many foam and fiberglass insulations come with soundproofing capabilities so it should be easy to find an option that fits your needs!
10: Sound Barrier Materials
Sound barrier materials are materials that block out noise, there are a variety of materials that can be used for this purpose.
Most sound barriers are made of fabric, foams, or rubber.
Sound barriers can include sound isolation blanket, blanket screens, door seal kits, soundproof foams, and even the other types of soundproofing materials discussed earlier on.
DIY soundproofing materials!
There are many easy ways to soundproof your home as part of a series of do-it-yourself projects.
While I definitely recommend purchasing products that are made for the purpose of being soundproof, you can combine other materials to make your own soundproof materials.
They just may not be as effective as specially designed materials.
Use Extra Drywall
The first easy, do-it-yourself soundproof material is adding multiple layers of drywall to a wall.
Each layer added will help build up a thick, soundproof barrier that will reduce the noise that enters and escapes a space.
The benefit to doing this is that drywall is generally pretty easy to use and the installation should be easy.
Plus, drywall is cheap!
However, you will have to refinish and repaint any drywall that you add to a space and will probably have to extend your electrical outlets and switch boxes for that room.
These are generally pretty cheap projects to do as well, but do add on to the cost. You may also want to add extra caulk between each added layer of drywall.
The caulk will add as another layer to reduce sound transfer and help soundproof your space.
One of the easiest ways to reduce the amount of noise that escapes or enters a room is to get rid of all the open spaces where sound can come in.
Use acoustical caulk to plug holes and gaps on switch boxes, windows, ceiling fixtures, casings, and so on.
You may also want to consider buying a door sealing kit that will help you keep noise from entering or escaping out of the bottom of your door.
Many weather sealing door kits work great for this purpose!
Buy New Furniture
Buying soft furniture, such as shaggy rugs and drapes, will help reduce the strength of the sound waves in a space and, therefore, reduce the noise associated with it.
I also recommend buying potted plants for this purpose! Plants are great for the air quality of the room and also help dampen sound.
Tips & Tricks
1: The best way to choose what soundproofing products to buy is to know the STC rating. The higher the rating, the better the product will perform.
2: Truly soundproofing walls or ceilings require a variety of products. A good bet is to purchase soundproof drywall, soundproof insulation, and buy some sound clips. You may also want to paint your drywall with soundproof paint. Any little bit will help!
3: If you can still hear sounds you shouldn’t, check for any gaps between soundproofing materials and apply soundproof caulk.
Jessica is a Acoustical Engineer, currently based in the San Francisco Bay Area in California. After graduating from her degree in Master of Engineering degree in Acoustics from Solent University in 2014, Jessica worked for a few companies before She will be blogging about her past and current experiences in the studio and sharing her journey as she pursues her career goals. She enjoy the balance of work inside and out of the office, solving practical problems on a daily basis as every project is different and requires a different solution, the variety of work (sound insulation testing, background noise survey, mechanical plant commissioning, external plant assessment, plant room breakout assessments) and the mix of independent and team work.