Are you looking for office soundproofing solutions? Do you have a home studio that’s in need of an upgrade? Or are you looking for the best way to dampen unwanted noise in your home or office? Soundproofing materials like soundproofing board and foam will deflect and absorb sound waves reducing the level of reverberation in a room. This means that when you’re trying to focus on work, or just enjoy some peace and quiet, your space will be free of distractions.
Soundproofing is the process of reducing unwanted noise in your space using soundproofing panelling, board, foam, and other materials. This is important for both home offices and businesses alike because working in a noisy environment can negatively impact your productivity and overall mood.
With this ultimate guide, we will show you how soundproofing works and what materials are best for different spaces. We’ll also cover the costs involved in soundproofing and whether this can be done effectively at home. We’ll even share our tips on how to improve the quality of acoustics at home without having to invest vast sums in the latest soundproofing products!
What is soundproofing?
Have you ever been subjected to excessive, bothersome, or unwanted noise, found it difficult to concentrate at the office, or been overheard in a private meeting? If so, you are aware of how vexing unwanted noise can be. Many people just try to ignore annoying noises, such as noisy neighbours or loud music, in the hopes that they will go away. There is, however, another option. Soundproofing could be the solution to your noise problems.
How does sound travel?
To understand how soundproofing works, you need to understand the basic principles of how sound travels through our atmosphere.
Sound moves in invisible waves that pass through gases, liquids, and solids to create noise. One of the reasons why noise can become an issue that impacts other people is its capacity to penetrate through solids. This is how sound travels through walls.
There are two types of noise: airborne noise and impact noise.
Airborne noise is created and transported through the air. This includes music, voices, phones ringing and so on. Any substance can be penetrated by airborne noise.
Impact noise is caused by two solids crashing against each other, as the name implies. Examples include; footsteps, a hammer striking a nail, or a car door slamming and so on. The collision of the two materials causes vibrations in the solids, which manifest as sound.
Soundproofing is a way of preventing sound waves from travelling through solids like walls, ceilings and floors.
Soundproofing a room
The goal of soundproofing is to decrease or eliminate any undesirable noise in your space. Soundproofing a room or structure may be done in a variety of methods; it’s simply a matter of determining how big a noise problem you have to block out and the types of soundproofing materials you want to use.
It goes without saying that if the noise you are hearing is comparable to leaves rustling, you’ll need far less soundproofing than if you live next to a construction site, nightclub, or airport.
It’s also vital to think about how your noise can affect others. If you run a music studio from your spare room where you record your heavy metal hits, then soundproofing will be vital to keep your neighbours onside! Being an inconsiderate neighbour may force others to take prosecutorial action against you, so make sure you always consider the impact you may be having on others nearby.
The type of soundproofing you will need is determined by the type of noise you are seeking to eliminate or reduce. Quieter noise can be reduced by utilising sound absorbers, however more penetrating impact noise may necessitate more radical measures, such as installing stud walls to create a room within a room. Of course, soundproofing does not just apply to walls; it also applies to floors and ceilings.
Why might you use soundproofing?
Audio production and recording
No matter how expensive your recording gear is, there is no hiding from background noise when you are producing professional audio. Music producers use high-quality soundproofing to eliminate unwanted airborne noise and interference in their studios.
Even if you are recording out of your spare room at home, soundproofing your room will help you get the most out of our expensive equipment. Not only will it help improve the quality of your recording by absorbing excessive ambience, but it will also prevent airborne noise from escaping and bothering other people around you.
Improving productivity in the workplace
Workplace and office soundproofing are important to ensure maximum productivity and concentration. Employees need to be able to hear themselves think as well as be able to hear what others have to say. What’s more, studies have shown that people are more productive when they work in a quiet environment.
Office soundproofing, however, presents several challenges, as modern suspended ceilings rarely allow dividers to be taken all the way to the ceiling soffit. As a result, airborne sounds can readily travel through these spaces and over partitions.
Fortunately, with the help of an experienced soundproofing company and installation specialist, there is a wide range of soundproofing solutions that can support your office needs.
Conference rooms, video calls and securing privacy
The importance of soundproofing your workplace or conference room cannot be overstated. If you’ve ever had to take a conference call, you’ll know how frustrating it is when the person on the other end can’t hear you or focus due to background noise in your office.
What’s more, soundproofing your conference room is a great way to ensure all your confidential meetings are held in private. It also means that your meetings won’t disturb other employees who are trying to focus on their own work.
Due to the thin partition walls and suspended ceilings used in the design of offices and conference rooms, soundproofing in these locations can be difficult. Thankfully, we are experienced at soundproofing offices and conference rooms at AVC, and we offer market leading equipment to tackle all of your workplace soundproofing and sound-absorption issues.
Blocking out distractions at your home office
More and more people have been forced to work from home as a result of the ongoing pandemic. While many people prefer remote working, others find it very difficult to concentrate working from home, especially in lockdown situations where children are also present in the house during work hours.
Sound proofing your home office is a great way to block out the distractions of daily life at home, to allow you to focus solely on your work. Soundproofing panels are a great way to insulate a room from exterior airborne noise, but if you are worried about installation costs, we have a few other cost effective ways to soundproof a room that we will share with you later in this blog.
Reducing noise levels at home
Many people opt to use soundproofing simply to reduce unwanted or bothersome noise from interfering with their day-to-day. This is a common solution for people living in noisy environments, on busy streets, near train lines, airports or next door to noisy neighbours. Soundproofing foam, panels and boards are typical materials that would be used to dampen airborne sound in these environments.
How soundproofing works
Sound Absorption vs. Sound proofing: What's the Difference?
Before we dive into the best soundproofing materials it’s a good idea to first understand the differences between sound absorption and sound proofing.
It’s a popular misperception that sound absorption and soundproofing are the same. Sound absorption is a component of soundproofing that can be employed in two ways:
Sound absorption material is typically inserted within a structure, such as between the spaces generated in a stud wall, which can echo sound and exacerbate noise problems when acoustic insulation isn’t used.
Secondly, adding sound-absorbing materials to the surface of a wall or ceiling absorbs sound waves, reducing resonance and sound regeneration back into the room.
Acoustic calibration is the process of improving the acoustics of a room.
A noisy restaurant, for example, with harsh surfaces typical of today’s trendy eateries’ industrial-influenced decor, can result in an echo chamber of sound from the clattering silverware and talking guests.
Sound-absorbing panels that equalise and balance the room’s interior acoustics, can be used to calibrate the rooms’ acoustics.
Soundproofing materials on the other hand are denser. The goal of these materials is to prevent airborne noise from escaping or entering a room by acting as an impenetrable barrier.
How to soundproof a room
You could be thinking of obtaining soundproofing but aren’t sure where to begin.
Sound energy can flow through any openings, including doors, windows, the floor, weak walls, and even the ceiling, as we’ve already demonstrated. However, if you want to assess some of the weak spots in the room then take a walk around it and listen out for any airborne noise that is penetrating or leaving the room.
In order to understand how to soundproof a room there are a number of soundproofing principles that ought to be understood;
- Filling Air Gaps
- Sound Absorption
Any structure, such as a wall, floor, or ceiling, should be able to deflect sound to an extent. Sound is blocked by solid, heavy materials that are thick, or rather dense.
Where walls and other barriers are thin, adding mass and thick materials will provide greater bulk for the sound wave to pass through, reducing its energy.
Concrete or dense finishing boards such as ply, OSB, drywall, or plasterboard are great materials to use to increase the mass and density of a wall’s structure.
Deflection with mass and density works well with airborne sounds like voices, music, or tv noise, but not so well with impact noise like footsteps, which are typically linked with more power, pressure, and vibration.
When sound waves strike bulky materials, vibration occurs, passing energy from one side to the other through the stiffness of the materials.
The additional mass packed onto the walls prevents sound waves from vibrating through the walls.
If you are building a property from scratch, these wall soundproofing solutions are something you might want to take into account.
Utilise solid materials to ensure the walls are nice and thick. This will better insulate the rooms and prevent sound transfer.
People living in old flat tenements in the city centres will be familiar with this issue as both sound and heat escape easily from these types of thinly constructed properties.
In order to add mass to an existing room, new structures must be created using materials such as mass-loaded vinyl which is a heavy, sheeting material that can be packed onto walls and ceilings.
Typically the vinyl is impregnated with metal particles to increase its mass and is a common solution for both professional and DIY projects.
A statistic called Sound Transmission Class (STC) is used to determine how efficient materials are in soundproofing. STC values for hard materials like concrete are higher, while STC values for softer materials like insulation are lower.
An STC score of 20-30 is considered low, 30 and 40 is the medium-range while anything between 40-50 would be considered a high value.
Sound Transmission Loss (STL) is another metric used, which some argue is superior because it quantifies isolation in decibels at specific frequency bands.
STC, on the other hand, employs a single value to represent the full frequency spectrum, which might be deceiving in terms of actual performance.
Unfortunately, no matter how much mass is packed onto a wall, you’ll still have to contend with vibration transmissions.
Sound vibrations move through and along wooden frames, and into the drywall. In order to capture the vibrations that already exist within the walls and slow them down a technique called dampening is used.
Constrained layer damping is a method that involves inserting sound-absorbing materials into the space between two hard structures, reducing flanking transmissions from one side to the other.
When used between two hard panels, such as drywall or plasterboard, the damping layer causes the sound to stop and converts its kinetic energy into heat, a process known as thermal conversion.
Damping is a sound absorption technique, critical to effective soundproofing.
If you are constructing a wall from scratch the easiest way to accomplish this is to use specially developed caulk glue to construct the wall frames and install the drywall.
Green Glue is a soundproofing compound often used as a damping agent in construction or restoration projects. This substance is sandwiched between two solid panels, such as drywall, plywood, MDF, or other soundproofing board, to hold these soundproofing materials in place.
When two structures come into close contact, airborne noise, vibration energy and loud music from one can transfer easily into the other, causing the sound to reverberate around a room.
Decoupling is the process of reducing the area of direct mechanical linkage between structures to prevent noise transmission from spreading.
This method interrupts sound energy, noise transmission, and flanking noise from spreading through the structure’s timber joints.
This could be accomplished through a total decoupling of an interior structure, such as a ‘room inside a room’ or simply with counter battening or robust channels.
Placing rubber isolators, like the Auralex U-Boats, along the floor helps to create what is sometimes called a “floating floor”.
The use of acoustic brackets, acoustic hangers, or resilient channels, for example, can help to disconnect drywall from the rest of the construction of the building.
As a result, the acoustic waves’ power is lowered, and their potential passage through the wall is slowed.
The optimal time to decouple is during the construction phase of a building.
To prevent reverberation around the walls when constructing a new building, double walls will help separate the vibrations through an air gap or acoustic insulation slabs. Joist gasket tape is used to isolate studs from the floors, walls, and ceilings.
Any form of resonance that emerges in the room can be restricted to its original source using a combination of these strategies, rather than being amplified by the surrounding surfaces. This is called sound isolation.
Your ability to successfully achieve sound isolation will depend on the kind of budget you have to spend on soundproofing, but in the case of recording audio and music production, this might be a step you are willing to take.
Filling Air Gaps
This wall soundproofing solution is crucial to ensuring all the hard work you’ve put into soundproofing your space is worth it, and all you have to do is fill in any gaps you spot in the room.
A lot of this is already part of the standard construction procedure. You’ve probably already caulked the seams between drywall sheets and the existing wall, but be sure to use acoustic sealant or caulk so that it won’t stiffen.
This ensures that it won’t crack and will remain flexible enough to vibrate and dissipate vibrations as sound tries to move through it. This isn’t the same as the glue mentioned before (it doesn’t have to hold the weight of structural material), but it accomplishes the same goal.
Think carefully about the gaps that may exist in your wall for electrical lines and air conditioning ducts. Gaps exist around those pipes, as well as gaps around your windows, door frames, and A/C vents. These areas should be identified and filled with foam gaskets.
If you really want to ensure that no airborne sounds get in or out, you should try stuffing any additional space with soundproofing foam before closing those gaps back up.
Install an automatic door sweep that fills the space with rubber or acquire a long, horizontal bean cushion to fling at the gap between your closed door and the floor.
Soft materials, such as carpets, pillows, and curtains, can absorb sound. Different types of furniture will absorb sound better than others. A leather sofa, for example, will not absorb sound as well as a fabric sofa.
The ability to absorb sound is improved by adding cushions and throws to leather sofas. Sound absorption devices, such as soundproofing foam can be used for soundproofing offices, schools, public buildings, private businesses and so on.
Not only do these types of absorptive materials provide absorption, but by filling a hollow, they also eliminate the possibility of extra resonance, reverberation, or amplification of sound waves that could occur if the space were left fully empty.
Soundproofing foam is great for the absorption of sound but because it is porous it doesn’t prevent sound from escaping a room. For that soundproofing boards or rubber panels would do a better job.
What soundproofing materials are best?
There is a large selection of soundproofing materials to choose from.
Each of these materials has a particular best-use scenario and uses one or more of the soundproofing concepts listed above.
Let’s take a closer look at some of these soundproofing materials, what is good about them as well as how and when they should be used:
Resilient Channels for decoupling
There are several different types of resilient channels, ranging from simple wood battens to aluminum metal rails that are specifically designed to lay atop soundproofing insulation once put across wall studs or ceiling joists.
Acoustic Hangers for decoupling
These are isolation mounts that mechanically attach to the main structure and function as a gasket between it and the resilient channel/cross batten.
This material is used to minimize noise transmission by decoupling the main floor surface from the subfloor.
Acoustiblok, rubber-based crumb, cork, and felt are examples of common acoustic flooring materials. Even carpeting and rugs will help to absorb sound in the room.
Decoupling is also used for soundproofing windows. This limits the amount of sound that enters or leaves a room where they are installed.
Thick glass panes and a layer of air trapped between each layer are common features of these windows. If your home or office building, benefits from double glazed windows then less airborne noise will penetrate your property.
Another form of architectural soundproofing is the soundproof door.
Soundproof doors, like soundproof windows, are designed to minimise sound transmission by increasing depth and bulk, and employing decoupling techniques. Heavy fire doors are often good at preventing sound from escaping and entering rooms as they are so dense and heavy.
These soundproofing panels, also known as acoustic panels, are always positioned on or near the surface of ceilings and walls to absorb sound.
These are primarily used to equalise and calibrate interior acoustics.
When properly positioned, they are reasonably useful in covering large surface areas while also being aesthetically beautiful.
Soundproofing panels come in a variety of colours, shapes, and designs, and are used as a decorative alternative to soundproofing foam.
Acoustic fabrics are made from very thick fabric that helps equalize acoustics in large rooms or halls.
This material is commonly used to create theatre curtains, blackout curtains, and studio blankets. They’re also used as a wall lining in venues like theatres.
How to soundproof a room with foam.
Acoustic foam, also known as Studio Foam, or soundproofing foam, is a type of wall-mounted foam panel that can be flat or cut and contoured into visually appealing shapes that protrude from the walls.
They primarily aid in the enhancement of audio quality in studios and music rooms.
Acoustic foam operates on the idea of sound absorption and re-calibration of interior acoustics and is therefore not so good at blocking out sound as other materials.
They should improve indoor acoustics and audibility, but if you’re searching for a soundproofing solution, there are many better options.
It’s worth noting that the thickness and density of these foams can vary, which, when combined with proper location, has a big impact on their usefulness and performance.
We recommend using foams that are impregnated with metal particles which will make them denser and therefore more effective in blocking out sound.
You should also consider the type and size of the surface area to be covered.
Acoustic Mineral Wool
Mineral, rock, or stone wool insulation, like QuietFibre, is essentially an open cell insulation material that absorbs acoustic and thermal energy incredibly effectivly.
This acoustic insulation is generally used to fill cavities such as stud walls, and comes in a variety of thicknesses. This type of acoustic insulation can be employed in both residential and commercial constructions due to its affordability.
It is not only good at absorbing acoustic and thermal radiation, but it is also, if not more importantly, incredibly useful for filling voids. Acoustic insulation keeps the cavity from becoming an open and resonant ‘cave’-like hole, which might lead to acoustic energy amplification.
Despite its rigidity, this low-cost, natural material is simple to cut and is also fire and moisture resistant.
To be effective all on its own, the material must be very thick. Be careful when cutting as slivers of the material can lodge in the skin or can be breathed causing irritation to the lungs. Make sure you, therefore, wear protective breathing gear and gloves.
Soundproof fibreglass is available in boards rather than rolls and can be deployed in a variety of settings, including home studios, theatres, and commercial structures.
This soundproofing material works well to reduce noise that enters or leaves a room while also improving internal acoustics.
There is a range of options to pick from, each with varying thicknesses, densities, and strengths.
703 boards, for example, are ideal for decreasing high-frequency disturbances, whilst 705 boards are better for lowering low-frequency bass noises. Make sure you do your research or consult with a specialist before making any purchases.
This material is an irritant, however, so be cautious when working with it. Perhaps it would be better to hire professionals to install these sound insulation materials if you are not familiar with it.
Soundproof drywall is a specialised type of drywall that can be found in most DIY stores.
Due to its enhanced density and bulk, this drywall comes in a variety of thicknesses and promotes a higher sound transmission class (STC) than other types of ordinary drywall.
Soundproof drywall is often made up of numerous layers of gypsum boards and steel, with the goal of increasing density and mass to effectively block sound.
Having said that, any form of drywall can be used to soundproof a room as long as decoupling is considered.
It is critical to use thick drywall in conjunction with other wall soundproofing solutions, such as Acoustiblok Isolation Membrane, sealants, tapes, and caulks, to produce optimal soundproofing results.
This material is highly effective and can be used in any structure or room, however, it can be more expensive than other alternatives and we recommend that you have this material professionally installed. If you are determined to do it yourself, try watching some explainer videos first, before attempting it on your own.
Soundproofing board (OSB, Plywood, Particle Board, FireBoard)
Oriented Strand Board (OSB) is a flexible and long-lasting building material.
What makes OSB a good soundproofing material is its high density and mass. OSB can be used to block out sound from one room to another, especially when used in combination with other soundproofing materials such as glass wool or acoustic mineral wool.
Plywood is another useful option because it is made up of multiple layers of opposing-oriented wood fibres that provide rigidity and strength while increasing mass and density.
These are fairly inexpensive materials and are commonly used in construction.
Soundproof floor underlay
Installing acoustic floor insulation is an excellent technique to prevent sound transfer between engineered and hardwood floors.
There are many different types of soundproof floor underlay but felt underlayment is one of the most common solutions for laminate, hardwood, and engineered wood floors.
They’re typically formed from compacted fibres that have been heated to make a dense sound-absorbing acoustic floor insulation.
Acoustic Underlay, which comes in rolls works best when used with Acoustiblok Isolation Membranes. This material is suitable for most types of wood or engineered flooring in both home and business settings.
It is reasonably priced, simple to install, long-lasting, and good at absorbing both sound and moisture.
Soundproof floor mats
Another interesting alternative for reducing impact sound and vibration that leads to structural airborne noise is soundproof floor mats.
Certain appliances and devices are well recognized for producing a lot of vibration and noise. Humming sounds and vibrations are reduced by anti-vibration soundproof mats.
These mats are good at decreasing noise, and because they prevent vibration, they’re also great for soundproofing cars.
These are particularly useful if you are trying to dampen noise that is coming from a specific machine or appliance. To limit the transmission of noise and vibrations, place it beneath or behind appliances or equipment.
Other than this its application is fairly limited so for optimal effectiveness, it should be used in conjunction with other soundproofing measures.
Soundproofing made simple: Improving quality of life at home
If you are suffering from inconsiderate noisy neighbours, or you plan on making a lot of noise yourself then you might be looking for some easy ways to soundproof your home.
Here are some easy tips, tricks, and upgrades you can make at home to create better acoustics and prevent unwanted noise from escaping and entering.
Weatherstrip your doors
Weatherstripping isn’t usually found on interior doors, but placing some around the outside of the entryway can help reduce noise. Peel-and-stick rubber weatherstripping is inexpensive and simple to apply, and it produces a very tight seal.
Felt is one of the oldest types of weather-stripping; it comes in rolls with or without adhesive backing. It is fairly inexpensive and is surprisingly effective in reducing noise.
Alternatively, you can use a door sweep or an under-door draught stopper to close the gap along the floor, and the bottom of the door.
Carpeted floor and rugs
If you want to reduce sound vibrations in a room, consider adding a rug or switching out your hardwood floor or tiles for carpet.
Of course, you won’t be able to do this in every room, we certainly wouldn’t recommend installing carpet in your kitchen or bathroom, but if you want to better absorb sounds in a particular room, adding a rug can go a long way to helping you achieve this.
Again, thick carpets are preferable to thin rugs. Additionally, for added sound protection, choose an extra-thick rug pad.
If you are set hardwood floors, installing acoustic floor insulation underneath the floorboards is a great way to minimise sound energy vibrations.
Wall soundproofing solutions
While sound vibration energy is reflected and amplified by hard surfaces such as drywall, plaster, and tile, soft surfaces absorb that sound, making spaces much quieter. Soft wall hangings absorb sound in the same way that rugs do on hardwood floors.
Thick blankets, tapestries, quilts, and other material wall hangings can be used to soundproof walls. Any soft material will do, though thicker fabrics will absorb more sound energy than thinner ones.
You can fasten sound-absorbing panels to the walls and, if necessary, the ceiling if you don’t mind the space taking on an industrial look. Soft foam rubber, dense polyester fibre, and cork are among the wall soundproofing solutions used in these acoustic panels.
Switch to soft furnishings
Adding or switching to soft furnishings in a room, as opposed to leather, plastic and other solid materials will also help to absorb some of the noise reverberating around your living space. Add a comfy chair, swap out your leather sofa for a soft fabric one and chuck in some cushions and decorative throws.
Window treatments and double glazing
Windows aren’t particularly effective at keeping out noise problems, especially if those windows are old, single-glazed windows. Covering windows with large blankets or heavy-duty curtains is the simplest approach to reduce window noise. Acoustic fabric is highly effective.
Consider installing other sound insulation materials such as noise-reducing drapes for a better, more appealing alternative. These thick, hefty drapes are precisely designed to block out sounds while simultaneously acting as blackout curtains.
If your budget allows, upgrading to window inserts can drastically minimise window noise. These clear-glass panels are custom-made to fit inside existing windows and provide great noise reduction.
If you are looking to replace your windows entirely we recommend opting for double or triple glazing. Not only will this keep out unwanted noise, but it will also help keep your rooms insulated through the winter.
Install a bookcase
If there is one wall, in particular, that is letting in a lot of noise, for example, a shared wall in your house where a family member or noisy neighbour is known to blast music or make a lot of noise, you could install a bookcase along that wall to provide a thick barrier that will prevent sound vibration from passing through it.
This is a fun and creative way to soundproof a wall. It doesn’t look out of place in your living space, or office and will help reduce airborne noise from penetrating your wall. When the shelves are filled with books this adds to the mass which will absorb sound waves.
If you are building the bookcase yourself, be sure to measure it out just so, extending its length from floor to ceiling and along the length of the entire wall. You’ll also need to ensure that you have enough books to keep the shelves fully stocked. This acts as your second layer, blocking sound and packing on more mass for sound absorption.
You can use green glue, acoustic sealant or other wall soundproofing solutions to attach the bookcase to your wall or leave it freestanding but if you really want to ensure the noise is absorbed, try placing rubber wall coverings or other soundproof materials behind the bookcase where they won’t be visible.
How much does soundproofing cost?
The cost of soundproofing will depend on the size of the room, the intensity of the noise, and the range of materials you use to get the job done. We recommend hiring a professional team to do this job for you, especially if you are looking for business, studio or office soundproofing or other.
On average, and depending on the scope of the project, you can expect to spend anything between £1,000 and £5000 for an airtight soundproofing solution.
Why should I use a soundproofing store to handle the job?
A soundproofing store, or AV company like ours, will have access to all the best soundproofing material and equipment, as well as the knowledge and expertise to carry out the job to an exceptionally high standard.
Regardless of your space, soundproofing is incredibly difficult and involves utilising a range of effective sound insulation best practices and installation techniques that even the most experienced DIY fanatic might not be familiar with.
A professional soundproofing store or AV company will be able to survey your space and provide you with specialist advice and solutions to ensure that your room, home, office, or property is a peaceful place to work, play and live.
AVC Immedia offers a range of specialist soundproofing services, to turn your noisy office, conference room, or studio into a quiet environment, with little opportunity to be disturbed and distracted. To receive a quote, or speak to one of our experienced team, contact us today.