The Complete Guide to Soundproofing a Hotel Room


Guide to Soundproofing Hotel Room

I have several friends who work in the hotel industry, and we often talk about the benefits of soundproofing for hotel rooms. After all, soundproof rooms mean a better night’s sleep, which means happier customers.

While soundproofing a hotel room isn’t vastly different from soundproofing any other room (RELATED ARTICLE), the major difference is in the scale of the project. A home-based soundproofing project will cover maybe one or two rooms, whereas a hotel soundproofing project could cover dozens of rooms.

In this article, I offer a complete guide to soundproofing a hotel room. This involves helpful tips to get you started, along with various options for how to soundproof different areas of the room. Hopefully this will help your guests to have a more peaceful night’s sleep!

Getting started with soundproofing a hotel room

When it comes to any soundproofing project, proper planning is the most important thing. Aside from planning which materials you’ll use, it’s also worth looking at things like the source of noise pollution, and what options you really have for installing soundproofing solutions.

Check out the best soundproofing materials, ones that work and will save you money.

So, before you jump into soundproofing your hotel, consider these following points first:

How easy will the project be?

This point isn’t necessarily meant to put you off soundproofing your hotel rooms, but it’s definitely worth considering. It’s much easier to soundproof a hotel in a new-build, as most of the solutions are installed inside wall and floor cavities.

However, it’s still completely possible to soundproof an existing hotel, but it’s worth bearing in mind that this will be a major construction project. At the very minimum it’ll involve possibly ripping up floors, but you might also end up tearing down plenty of walls too.

That said, you can add soundproofing materials to the exterior of walls, such as inside the hotel room itself, but this leads to a few drawbacks:

  • Any soundproofing materials you add inside the room will take up space. Materials designed to block sound waves do so with mass, and this requires room.
  • On a similar note, also consider that a product half an inch thick might not sound like much, but if you’ve got 4 walls to cover, then you’ve lost 2 inches from the room.
  • The materials you can fit inside a wall cavity are generally more effective than ones you’d install inside the room. More than anything, this is because you’re preventing sound waves from entering the room altogether, rather than dealing with them inside the room.

What are the sources of noise pollution?

It might sound obvious, but identifying the sources of noise pollution within the hotel room will allow you to effectively manage the problem, rather than just adding more mass to the walls because that seems like the logical thing to do.

Sound waves, and the resulting noise pollution, can be divided into 2 broad categories:

  • Airborne noise. This is noise pollution that travels through the air, and while it can still pass through walls, this does reduce noise levels slightly. Common sources are TVs and people talking, both of which happen a lot in hotels.
  • Impact noise. This is generally a bigger problem, and is slightly harder to manage. Impact noise happens when an object hits a surface, which causes vibrations to pass through the surface that then become sound waves. Common sources are footsteps and doors slamming, again both of which are common in hotels.

Airborne noise pollution can also come in the form of street traffic, which is generally heard through windows. While you might think that your hotel rooms suffer from all of these problems, it might be worth only focusing on the major offenders.

For example, traffic noise can be very annoying, but might not be your biggest problem on the 9th floor of a hotel. In this case, it’d be a better use of your time and resources to focus on things like footsteps and loud voices, as there’ll be plenty of them around.

What’s your budget?

Budget is easily one of the most important factors in a soundproofing project, although it’s going to be less important for a hotel. Sure, hotels still work to a tight budget, but this will usually be much larger than someone’s budget for a home theater conversion.

The bottom line is that proper soundproofing is expensive. This is because materials that can be used to block sound are usually specialty products, and are often heavy and difficult to work with. While you can find budget-friendly alternatives, I always find that these end up being a waste of money because they don’t solve the problem.

Usually I recommend that people do as much of their own soundproofing as possible, but for soundproofing a hotel room I’d probably recommend the opposite. The scale of the project is one reason, but another is that a local soundproofing contractor will likely offer a discount on bulk orders of materials, and it shouldn’t be too difficult to work out a deal on labor too.

That said, labor usually ends up being more expensive than the materials. This is because soundproofing a room can be a labor-intensive job, particularly if you have to gut the room first.

Although I say it to everyone, it’s even more relevant here: plan as much as possible. Consider the cost offset of gutting a room against the price of materials you could fit in the room. See how much labor costs and work out which bits you could do yourself (gutting a room is pretty easy after all).

Work with what you’ve got

A good way to reduce the cost of soundproofing is to work with what you’ve got. In fact, plenty of the things found in a hotel room do make a difference to noise pollution levels (I’ll go into this more later).

Similarly, noise pollution might not be an issue in every room. I’d recommend investigating your rooms to figure out which are in most need of soundproofing. For example, street-facing rooms might be a good place to start, and rooms on the top floor can generally be left till last, if they’re done at all.

How to soundproofing the hotel room

hotel room soundproofing

So, now that we’ve got our basic points covered, and you’ve got an effective plan of attack for dealing with noise pollution, it’s time to move onto soundproofing the room. I cover different parts of the room in each section, offering solutions for how to deal with noise pollution.

Some areas are more important than others, and some are much easier to soundproof than others. While there are plenty of soundproofing methods available, I chose these ones because they’re more suitable for a hotel environment.

Walls

Walls are one of the worst offenders for noise pollution, and are affected by both impact noise and airborne noise. However, they’re also one of the easiest areas to soundproof because all that blank space gives you plenty of options.

The first thing to note is whether you’re working with stud walls, which are usually hollow and made of drywall, or brick walls, which are solid and usually have a very small air cavity, if they have one at all.

As you can probably imagine, stud walls are much worse for noise pollution, but are also easier to treat. You can soundproof a brick wall, but you’ll need to fit the soundproofing materials inside the room, rather than in the wall cavity.

Soundproofing a stud wall

The first thing you should do to soundproof a stud wall is to insulate the air cavity. See my simple guide on soundproofing stud walls in homes which can be applied here.

Sound waves transfer through one side of the wall and then reverberate in the air cavity. This causes them to amplify inside the wall, which makes the problem worse. In fact, the air cavity is a breeding ground for sound waves.

Adding insulation, particularly acoustic insulation, into the wall cavity is a reasonably cost-effective way of managing the problem. Dense insulation prevents sound waves from bouncing around inside the wall, meaning they have a harder time transferring into the next room.

Another option is to decouple the stud wall (RELATED ARTICLE). Although this sounds technical, it simply means hanging each side of drywall from separate studs. This means that even if sound waves vibrate through one side of the wall, they’ll be stopped in their tracks.

Decoupling a wall is a pretty big job, and I’d only really recommend it on new-build projects. After all, you can achieve pretty good results by insulating the wall cavity and then adding more mass to the exterior of the wall.

Soundproofing a brick wall

Solid walls generally suffer less from airborne noise, but still have a problem with impact noise. One of the easiest ways to block sound is to add mass to the surface, as this prevents the surface from vibrating, which makes it harder for sound waves to pass through.

Adding mass to a solid wall is your only real option. Similarly, you should also add more mass to a stud wall, as this is pretty flimsy on its own. Also, bear in mind that adding mass to a wall generally manages higher frequency sounds, but low, bass rumbles can still usually pass through.

When it comes to adding mass to a wall, your main options are:

  • Normal drywall can make a huge difference as it is heavy. You can also buy soundproof drywall, which includes an added layer or two of acoustic foam. This still isn’t particularly heavy, but is a manageable way of increasing the thickness of a wall.
  • Mass loaded vinyl (Amazon link) is one of my favorite soundproofing products, mainly because it’s so versatile. It’s limp mass, which means it has no elasticity, so just blocks sound waves in their tracks. It can easily be added to walls, but I’d always cover it with some drywall because it doesn’t look too nice.

mass loaded vinyl

The bottom line with soundproofing walls is that you need to add more mass. This is the simplest and most effective solution, as more mass means it’s harder for sound waves to pass through. Avoid products like acoustic foam (RELATED ARTICLE) and soundproof paint (RELATED ARTICLE), as these aren’t effective for this kind of problem.

Floors

Floors are probably one of the biggest problems when soundproofing a hotel room, as you need to find a solution that manages noise pollution both inside the room and for people in the room below. However, floors are actually relatively easy to soundproof.

It probably goes without saying, but avoid hard floors. These make impact noises more obvious, and make it easier for vibrations to travel through the floor into the building. This results in noise in the room below, and possibly on the same floor too.

Carpets are actually a very effective place to start when soundproofing a floor. The woven structure of a carpet not only dampens impact noise, but offers a reduction of echo within the room too. However, there’s more to soundproofing a floor than just laying carpet. Consider these following tips too:

  • The underlay is more important than the carpet. Get a thick underlay, as this will add more mass to the floor. You can buy acoustic underlays for soundproofing, but any thermal insulation underlay will do pretty much the same job. Read my article on the most cost effective soundproof underlay.
  • A thicker carpet will do a better job of dampening impact noise than a thin one. Try to find the thickest carpet possible, and I’d recommend making room in your budget to do so. This is one of the easiest ways to manage noise pollution through floors.
  • Focus on heavy traffic areas within the room. In fact, I’d recommend adding a rug over the carpet in these areas, just for another layer of mass on the floor.

If you’re going for a more in-depth soundproofing project, then rip up the floor and start again. Much as with walls, your best soundproofing solutions can be installed in the cavity between floors and ceilings. If this is something you’re able to do, then you’ve got a few options.

Insulate the floor cavity

Adding insulation to the floor cavity will make it harder for sound waves to echo and amplify within the space. This will reduce the amount of noise that transfers into the room below, but won’t completely solve the problem.

This is because insulation, even acoustic insulation, largely dampens sound waves rather than blocking them. Impact vibrations will still travel through the structure, such as from the floor, into the joists, and then into the room below.

Floating floor

A floating floor is the same principle as a decoupled wall. Adding rubber inserts under the floor joists means that the floor is isolated from the rest of the structure, so any vibrations stop at the joists.

As I’ve said before, this kind of solution will be much easier in a new-build hotel than an existing one, but is still possible in either. It sounds more complex than it is, and the hardest part of the job is ripping everything up.

All you need to do is install some rubber “floaters” under the floor joists. These look like hockey pucks, and basically absorb any vibrations passing through the floor. Combining this with a sound deadening mat, such as Dynamat (see it on Amazon), will do an excellent job of preventing sound transfer through floors.

Regardless of which methods you choose, I’d recommend focusing the majority of your efforts on soundproofing the floor of a hotel room. While this might not directly benefit the people in the room, one of the most common noise complaints in a hotel is noisy people in the room above.

Doors

soundproof hotel doorDoors are arguably one of the worst areas for noise pollution, and one of the hardest to solve. After all, the very principle of a door is that it still needs to open and shut, and the gaps around a door are a surprising source of noise pollution.

However, the issue of soundproofing a door in a hotel room is going to be much more manageable than doing so in a residential property. For starters, hotel room doors are more similar to external home doors, as they have to offer a greater level of security.

When it comes to hotel room doors, several things should already be working in your favor:

  • Fire safety regulations generally state that hotel room doors have to be mostly fireproof. If nothing else, this often means that the door’s edges have some kind of insulation around them, making the doors a much tighter fit in their frame.
  • The greater need for security means that most hotel room doors are solid rather than hollow, but if that’s not the case in your hotel then switch over to solid doors. This is one of the easiest ways to manage sound transfer through a door.
  • Many of the principles of soundproofing cross over with thermal insulation and fireproofing. For this reason, you’re probably most of the way there already.
  • A common problem with doors is them slamming, which causes vibrations to pass through a building, and these can travel a surprising distance. Many hotel room doors have self-closing hinges, many of which close slowly. If your doors have these, great, if not, consider switching over to them.

Soundproofing a door is pretty difficult because it’s challenging to add mass to this kind of structure. The easiest way to do this is to ensure all doors are solid or solid core because this is easier than trying to add mass to the exterior of a door. I have described these types of doors in my article on soundproofing doors.

Aside from that, the best thing you can do is to use some kind of self-closing hinge. This should remove the biggest issue of noise pollution from the door, and using cushioned close hinges means the doors will be impossible to slam shut.

Aside from this, the best thing you can do is add weather stripping to the edges of the door. Weather stripping is designed for exterior doors, and is meant for thermal insulation, but also does the job here.

Weather stripping essentially just fills the gap between the door and the frame, and so makes it harder for sound waves to seep through. However, this kind of thing is usually covered by fireproofing, so if you’ve had fire safety doors installed then this shouldn’t be a problem.

Aside from that, the best thing you can do is to check there are no gaps around the door frame, and fill them in if there are. This will usually only be a problem in older buildings, as frames can move if the building settles over time.

Use an acoustic sealant (the best one on Amazon) to do this, as these contain silicone and so will flex with the building, along with reflecting or absorbing sound waves.

Windows

Windows are another big problem in soundproofing projects, for a number of reasons. Firstly, glass isn’t the most soundproof material, and secondly, open windows make it easier for sound waves to enter the room.

However, there are a number of ways to manage this issue that are much easier for a hotel room. For starters, it’s more common to have windows that can’t be opened, whether this is because the room is air-conditioned, or for safety reasons in high-rise buildings.

Either way, I’d recommend having windows that can’t be opened, as this solves half the problem. However, if this isn’t possible in your hotel then at the very minimum have double-glazing. Along with the two panes of glass, the small air cavity between them does help to reduce noise pollution slightly.

Another alternative is to install windows made of noise-reducing materials, such as Plexiglass (RELATED ARTICLE). However, to get the full benefit, you’ll need a piece of Plexiglass around an inch thick. That said, the best option is two pieces with around a foot of air space between them. This is enough to stop all but the deepest sound waves from entering the room.

Failing that, using heavy drapes or curtains in the room will offer a small reduction in noise levels, but this isn’t as effective as replacing the windows. Curtains have a number of drawbacks, including the fact that they can’t be very dense, and still allow sound waves to creep through the gaps.

Check out my guide on soundproofing curtains.

Also, as with doors, address any gaps with acoustic sealant and weather stripping. Not only are these gaps bad for heat loss, but they also let sound waves through. Even though this might seem like a minor issue, addressing this could make a surprising difference.

The room

Along with working on the actual structure of the hotel room and building, there are plenty of things you can do within the room to help manage noise pollution. While these aren’t necessarily aimed at blocking sound transfer, they should help to reduce the amount of noise pollution that escapes into other rooms. Pay attention to these things to make an acoustically sound room:

Furniture

Furniture does a surprisingly good job at absorbing sound waves and preventing them from bouncing around a room. We’ve probably all noticed how easily sound echoes in an empty room, and while it’s very unlikely that a hotel room will be empty, it’s worth paying attention to what’s in it.

Soft furnishings are the best for this job, with heavy items being better still. So, a hotel room containing a bed and chairs is a good start, and even furniture such as desks and wardrobes will help manage the issue.

This is because sound waves reflect much easier off hard, flat surfaces. Adding furniture to a room not only fills up space, but it also adds more surfaces to break up the flat room. However, this shouldn’t be your only method of soundproofing because it doesn’t actually block sound waves.

Wall coverings

Pay attention to what’s actually covering the walls in your hotel room. For example, a flocked or textured wallpaper will be slightly better at treating acoustics than, say, a tiled wall. However, the difference isn’t amazing, so it might be better to action other solutions first. Also, stay away from soundproof wallpaper because it’s largely pointless.

Acoustic foam is another good option for treating acoustics because it reduces echo and reverberation. Again, this doesn’t block sound transfer, but preventing the sound waves from bouncing around a room indirectly affects the amount of sound waves that will transfer through a wall.

While acoustic foam isn’t the most attractive product you can buy, there are plenty of “artistic” versions designed for places like restaurants. These allow you to hide it behind art, so it shouldn’t look too out of place in a hotel room. Hanging this sort of thing on interior and adjoining walls will help to manage sound transfer.

Some final thoughts

As you can see, soundproofing a hotel room can be quite a big project. However, as I’ve mentioned, proper planning can make a massive difference when tackling a project of this size. Also, any changes you make will definitely be worth it, if only because it results in a better night’s sleep for your guests. And, as we all know, well-rested guests are happy guests!

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