If you have a hard time figuring out how to soundproof existing walls, worry not! In this article, I explain 9 cheap techniques you can apply yourself.
Living in an apartment has its upsides, but it also has its downsides. One particular drawback is the amount of noise you have to deal with. In fact, renting an apartment requires quite a lot of tolerance on your part. Whether it’s noisy next door neighbors, slamming doors, overactive children stamping around on the floor above you, the noise can sometimes be overwhelming.
But, even for those of us who are blessed with having quiet, considerate neighbors, there’s still quite a lot of noise we have to deal with. A squeaky front door, loose floorboards in the apartment above, or even a leaky faucet in your own apartment can drive you crazy!
The problem with living in a rent-controlled apartment is that you can’t really do anything without requesting a permit. Furthermore, most permits are denied. Also, let’s not forget that remodeling can cost quite a pretty penny. The fact is – what you see is what you get. So, what should you do now?
Luckily, there are plenty of ways you can create a quiet environment in your home without spending too much money or waiting for months to see whether your permit has been approved. For this reason, I’ve made a list of the best ways to soundproof an existing wall cheaply or even for free. So, if you desperately crave peace and quiet, and you are asking yourself how to get them, this will definitely interest you.
9 Easy and Cheap Ways to Soundproof Existing Walls
1. Switch Things up by Rearranging the Furniture
If you don’t want to spend any money, you can stop some noise passing through the walls by simply rearranging your furniture. Especially, if you like to switch things up in your home every now and then, this won’t be a problem. Let’s take a look at what you can do.
- Add as many bookshelves, closets, or other furniture as you can. Place them on the critical walls(i.e., on the walls that separate your apartment from the hallway, and the walls that separate you from the street).
- Also, the emptier the room, the more echo it will pick up. Another reason to add more furniture.
- If you have placed your armchairs or sofas against a noisy wall, move them away. Instead put them in the middle of the room, or even better, on the other side of the room. If they are against the shared wall, you’ll be able to hear everything that’s going on next door.
- See what is on the other side of the wall. If there are noisy TVs or other appliances up against the wall, move them if you can.
2. Soundproof While You Decorate Your Walls
Another way to save money is to combine decorating and soundproofing plans for your walls. The logic is simple, any item you can attach to your walls that gives them more mass has the potential to help.
Of course, you can’t expect a wall art to make a world of difference in term of noise reduction, but if you already have it in your plans, then this is the perfect time to go ahead and get one on your wall. Here are some ideas to start with:
- If you don’t have any artwork hanging from your walls, you can try and create one yourself, or you can go out and buy some paintings to put up. You can find some pretty fabric paintings or large canvas art prints to hang.
- Thick and tightly-woven decorative quilts provide great sound insulation for any room. Also, they’ll make it look cozy and homely.
- Thick wallpaper is a good choice if you don’t like hanging anything on your walls.
Note that the thicker and denser the material is, and the more wall it covers, the better. So, wallpapers and painting can help a bit, but quilts or similar items are even better.
3. Soundproof like a Pro with Soundproof Foam Panels
If you are looking for a more professional solution, then take a look at soundproof foam panels. They look expensive and difficult to install, but trust me – they’re not.
You have many different soundproof panels to choose from, and they all come in an assortment of colors and patterns, so you don’t have to worry about them being too bland. In fact, installing panels is an excellent idea if you don’t want to cover your walls with wallpaper, but you still want to have a beautiful wall design. Here are some suggestions:
The proper positioning of panels depends on where the sound reflection points are. You can figure this out through tests and experimentation. That is why it is best to use velcro strips or other non-permanents adhesive. For more information, read Soundproof Foam Panels for Better Acoustics.
4. Acoustic Fabric Panels for Walls
Compared to foam panels, fabric wall panels cost a little more but are still really cheap. They consist of a solid wood frame and fabric that is wrapped over it – a composition that gives these panels great sound absorbing properties.
Acoustics Wall Panels by ATS Acoustics have a particularly high NRC rating that makes them the best in their class. The good thing is they will only cost you around $50 a piece, including all the hardware that you’ll need, plus detailed instructions for installation.
You can choose between two fabrics:
5. Don’t Forget to Seal the Cracks in Drywall
Another cheap way to soundproof a wall is by sealing all the cracks and gaps in drywall. Don’t worry – it’s not as difficult as you may think. There are plenty of materials you can use to seal the cracks efficiently, but the best one is acoustic caulk, and here’s why:
- It’s designed to stay flexible
- It doesn’t shrink or crack over time
- It’s a permanent solution
Acoustic caulk is a “rubbery” material that’s easy to apply and doesn’t change shape over time. Here are the top acoustic caulks on the market:
- Big Stretch Sashco caulk
- St. Gobain Green Glue Noiseproofing Sealant
- Franklin International Sound Sealant
No matter which caulk you choose to buy, they are all easy to apply. Here is a brief guide to get you started:
- Step 1: Protect yourselfMake sure you are working in a well-ventilated area. The smell can be overpowering, and you don’t want to cause any damage to your health.
- Step 2: Clean the surface – You should wipe away any dirt, debris or dust from the area so that it doesn’t interfere with the elasticity.
- Step 3: Use a caulking gun to apply the caulk – Once you’ve made a hole in the tube nozzle, it’s time to start applying the caulk. Apply a generous amount of caulk on the trouble area.
- Step 4: Smooth out the caulk – Finally, you can use a caulking toolkit to smooth over the surface for a nice-looking finish. If you don’t feel like buying a toolkit, you can use your fingers instead.
In case you want more details, you can read this article: Acoustic Caulk vs. Regular Caulk (Best Soundproofing Sealants).
6. Hang Some Soundproof Curtains Along Your Walls
As I mentioned above, soundproof curtains are great for soundproofing in any area. The obvious place to hang them would be in front of your windows, and even above your doors. But, have you considered hanging them along the wall.
However, I should mention that there is one thing you should bear in mind before purchasing soundproof curtains; you will have to install a rod. If that’s something you don’t want to do, then skip this suggestion entirely.
Also, you can use large room divider curtains that will effectively muffle any noise coming from next door. These curtains are actually pretty great. I should know since I’ve already installed them in my bedroom. And, I bought beautiful burgundy ones that add a touch of sophistication to the decor. All in all, I’m more than satisfied with how they cancel out the noise.
7. Try Heavy Moving Blankets
Moving blankets are mainly used to protect furniture while moving houses, however, because of their heavy and dense structure, they are also great at preventing sound from passing through; hence they are also called “soundproof” blankets.
When talking about soundproofing, they are mostly used to soundproof doors and windows, but they can also be attached to walls. To make things simple, look for blankets that have grommets as they make it so much easier to hung up a blanket on a rod or tack it to the wall. You can find best soundproof blankets in the link.
To sum up, soundproof blankets are a great inexpensive way to soundproof any room, and you can take them down and put them back up as many times as you want.
8. Easy-To-Install Soundproof Materials for Walls
Soundproof mats are incredibly efficient sound barriers because they are made out of high-density materials that effectively block sound and any noise.
They are pretty easy to install, either under the drywall or over it. The TMS mass loaded vinyl 4′ X 10′ (40 sf) 1 Lb MLV soundproofing barrier mat is one of the best ones out there. It’s thin and flexible, but it still has a high STC (Sound Transmission Class).
However, I should mention that it only comes in one color: black. So, if you aren’t a big fan of the color black, this mat isn’t for you. Also, it’s a bit on the expensive side, so that’s another thing you should factor into your decision. If you would like to learn more about MLV, then read this article: Mass Loaded Vinyl (Full Guide).
9. Take Care of “Big Holes” in Walls
If you want to save time and soundproof your wall cheaply, it is vital to recognize weak spots in your walls and take care of them first. Obviously, the weakest spots in every wall are the windows, doors and air vents.
First of all, the windows are often thin and allow all the outside noise to spill into the room. Car horns, people yelling, dogs barking – you name it, I’ve heard it.
Next, the doors probably don’t cancel out all the noise from the hallway. So, you can most likely hear what your neighbors are discussing out in the hall. Unless of course, they’re whispering, which is highly unlikely. So, unless you like listening to the neighbor’s gossip about the married couple that just moved into the building, you’ll have to do something about your front door.
However, the front door isn’t the only door you’ll need to soundproof. If you have children, let’s not forget about the fact that they also make plenty of noise inside your apartment. If you want to relax after work with a glass of wine in one hand and a good book in the other, you’re going to need some peace. Let’s face it – you can close every door in the apartment, but you’ll probably still hear them jumping and screaming in the other room.
Finally, air vents allow air and noise to flow in and out of every room, so definitely don’t forget to soundproof them as well (they are literally massive holes in walls).
Now, let’s begin with a few simple and cheap ways to fix each of these areas.
First of all, a lot of doors are mostly hollow and worn-out. Also, let’s not forget the fact that the gaps between the door and the doorframe make it easy for the noise to get inside. But, since we’re exploring cheap ways to cancel out the noise, thick soundproof doors are out of the question. Luckily, you can reduce the amount of noise that enters your apartment by placing objects such as bookshelves, shoe cabinets, and armoires in front of the edges of your doors.
Another effective way to block out the noise is to place thick soundproof blankets on your doors. Now, I know hanging blankets on a door isn’t aesthetically pleasing, but hear me out. If you put thick blankets on your door, you’ll practically have a similar effect as you would with a soundproof door. You can pick a pretty design that will complement the color of your walls. Additionally, in the wintertime, these blankets will keep all the warmth inside your apartment.
As for the windows – soundproof curtains will also do just fine. Just make sure to buy tightly woven heavyweight curtains, with as many layers as possible. Also, don’t forget to cover a few inches of the walls on both sides of the windows for the best results. You can get more info here: Cheap Ways To Soundproof A Window.
Air vents let cool or warm air in, so it’s obvious that they also allow plenty of sounds to come through in the process. Luckily, if you have an above-door air vent, all you have to do is buy a long enough blanket or soundproof curtain and hang it above the air vent and the door.
However, the most effective way to soundproof an air vent is to block it entirely. For example, you can place a bookshelf or something similar in front of the vent.
Additional Tips for Soundproofing on Low Budget
All of these suggestions are guaranteed to help reduce the amount of outside noise leaking into your room. However, if you’ve done everything on the list and you’re still not satisfied, I can offer you a few more cheap tips that have helped me quite a lot.
- Tip #1: Buy some draft stoppers for your doors – Draft stoppers are not only great for keeping out the cold air, but also for reducing the amount of noise coming from the other side. My favorite option is the Evelots Magnetic Clip On Draft Stopper, which you can use both on the interior and exterior doors.
- Tip #2: Add plenty of small rugs in the trouble areas – By adding soft rugs to rooms, you will help reduce vibrations and ambient noise. So, even if our rooms are already carpeted, it won’t hurt to add some soft padding under existing carpets or smaller rugs on top of them. Just make sure the color and the design of the rugs match your carpet. Also, if you’re up to it, you can even hang a decorative rug on your wall.
- Tip #3: Install window inserts – Window inserts are great for blocking outside noise. And, they won’t block the view from your window since they are clear panes of glass. You install them over your existing windows, and they help reduce outside noise by up to 50%. If you also add soundproof curtains to the mix, you’ll practically cancel out any noise from outside.
- Tip #4: For more cheap product ideas and tips, read these two articles: Examples of Sound Absorbing Materials, and Best Soundproofing Materials.
On Soundproofing Walls for Cheap
All in all, whatever method you choose to follow, you should always double-check your work. Sometimes, when you’re soundproofing a room, you forget to check whether you’ve covered up every hole or crack in the walls, and it may seem like you’ve put in all that effort for nothing.
Just remember to check your progress as you finish each room, and don’t move on to the next one until you’re completely satisfied.
Hopefully, these suggestions will help you finally get some much-needed peace and quiet.