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Noise can be a real problem for anyone who lives in an apartment block, shared housing, or right next to a busy street. The good news is that there are many ways to keep the noise from seeping through your walls.
You can reduce noise through walls by locating the leak, sealing it with acoustic caulk, and mounting acoustic panels around the room. If modifying a room is not an option, adding bookshelves next to the noisy wall may help. If you own the house, try installing soundproofing inside the walls.
Also read: Do You Need To Soundproof the Entire Wall?
How To Reduce Noise Through Walls
While it’s true that you might not be able to do anything about your noisy neighbors, you can take some measures to reduce noise through walls and make life more pleasant for everyone. Here, I share my top tricks for reducing noise through walls.
1. Decide Whether To Reduce the Noise Coming In or Going Out
This may seem obvious at first. But deciding whether to reduce the noise coming in or going out of the room should help you narrow down on the most effective soundproofing solution. Most of these noise reduction methods will be effective depending on what you’re trying to achieve.
How, you might ask? Well, for starters, adding more furniture to the room muffles much of the sound, which may not be enough to keep the external noise where it belongs: outside! You would need to install thicker insulation for that. Thicker means better acoustic insulation.
In simpler language, if you’re trying to reduce the noise coming in, the most effective outdoor noise reduction methods will be ones that block sound from entering your space in the first place.
If you’re trying to reduce the noise going out, it’s best to focus on methods that contain the noise within the room.
These include closing off or redirecting the path of sound, preventing too much wall vibration, preventing doors or windows from transferring noise, and making changes to your floor arrangement.
2. Find the Noise Leak
Noise leaks are often the result of poor construction, leaving gaps around cables and pipes. Sounds simple, right? What you may not realize is that these gaps aren’t always obvious.
A little knocking on the wall should reveal the weaker points that potentially let sound in. To find the leak, you’ll need to inspect your walls carefully, listening for areas that allow sound to pass from one side to the other.
Now, there are different ways to stop the noise from coming out of the wall.
- First, check for holes or cracks in the drywall. Sound travels relatively easily in empty gaps.
- If you don’t see any defects in your drywall, use a decibel meter to detect and measure the noise levels at different points in the room.
- Put your ear close to the wall, and mark that place if you hear any sound. This is a rather old-school method of detecting sound leaks, but on the bright side, you don’t need equipment.
- You can also try putting your hand over the suspected leak and feel for cold/warm air escaping.
As you can see, finding noise leaks is usually not too difficult to do. Not sure where to start? Find the thinnest or least insulated parts of the wall.
Most leaks are likely hidden in these areas. Whenever you hear noise from outside your house, you will find that thinner walls and less insulation allow unwanted sounds to pass through the most.
3. Smear Acoustic Caulk To Cover the Leak
If the noise leak comes from an adjacent wall, you can smear acoustic caulk to cover the leak. Acoustic caulk (noise-proofing sealant) is a specialized caulking compound that attenuates noise and vibration, designed to reduce sound and vibration transmission through structural joints.
Use a flat paintbrush or your finger to apply the caulk, starting at the top and working your way down the wall. If you have a little bit of background in DIY projects, here are a few simple instructions you can follow:
- Place your acoustical sealant in the caulking gun.
- Locate the potential noise leaks in the wall. This may include the wall outlet, large cracks in the baseboard, window casing, or the door frame.
- Press the caulk gun trigger to push the caulk out of its container.
- If you have an unfinished wall, apply a little caulk on the studs before installing the drywall.
- Once the caulk is dry, it will not be as noticeable. You can paint over it if you’d like to make it less noticeable.
Check out this video on how to apply acoustic caulk to a finished and unfinished wall:
Unlike ordinary caulk, acoustic caulk does not dry up or crack for several years. Instead, it becomes rubbery and only dries up after years. As such, you want to inspect the applied caulk at least once a year and reapply when necessary.
Acoustic caulk is great for absorbing vibrations through walls. If you’re trying to reduce high-frequency sounds, consider using a different type of acoustic treatment.
4. Place Acoustic Foam Panels Around the Wall
If you can’t identify the noise leak and the noise is primarily high-frequency sound, you may be able to stop it by placing acoustic foam panels around the wall.
Acoustic foam panels are an excellent sound absorption material that can be used to reduce echo and improve speech intelligibility in any room. They are ideal for use in professional recording studios, home theaters, and other environments where sound quality reigns above all.
Determine the best placement for the panels by listening to where the noise comes from and then placing the panels on the wall facing the noise. Acoustic foam panels can be mounted directly on the wall or placed on the wall with the help of a frame.
The noise will be diffused by the panels’ material and less likely to enter your home. You can also place thicker acoustic foam panels on the walls inside your living space if the noise is primarily low-frequency sound.
How To Reduce Noise Through Walls: Alternative Ways
If the methods listed above don’t work, you still have a few more tricks up your sleeves. Depending on the layout of your home and the construction of your walls, different solutions will work better than others.
Some methods may not be feasible or practical for your home, but you’ll have to experiment a bit to find out which ones work best for you.
Add an Extra Layer of Drywall to the Noisy Wall
Installing a new layer of drywall on the shared wall may well be the most efficient way to reduce noise through walls.
Adding a layer of drywall will reduce the amount of sound that travels through the wall by adding mass to the wall.
If your shared wall is made of lighter material such as wood or lighter-density drywall, adding a few extra layers of drywall should be enough to reduce the noise traveling through your walls.
As an added benefit, extra drywall will also help reduce the heating and cooling effect from the external environment. Best of all? It doesn’t take too much time, provided that you have intermediate carpentry skills and the right tools.
And, thanks to the internet, you can find detailed instructions on how to add an extra layer of drywall on the shared wall between apartments.
Get Soundproofing Drywall
Soundproofing drywall is an even more effective solution. Soundproofing drywall is a type of drywall specially designed to reduce the amount of sound that passes through it.
Most standard drywall has an STC (Sound Transmission Class) rating of about 35, while soundproofing drywall can easily surpass an STC rating above 50.
The higher the rating, the more effective the drywall is at barring noise from getting in or out. Thicker also means better when it comes to drywall. That’s because the more mass you can add to your wall, the more sound it can block out.
Drywall is one of the most common wall materials used in both commercial and residential construction. It is widely available at most home improvement stores and is relatively easy to install. Soundproofing drywall comes in standard 4×8 sheets that cost about $54 per sheet.
Use Acoustic Tiles
Similar to acoustic wall panels, acoustic tiles are another great option to reduce noise through walls.
Acoustic tiles are a type of wall cladding that can be installed on the walls of any room to improve its acoustic properties. They reduce noise by creating a barrier between the source of the noise and the person on the other side of the wall.
Acoustic tiles are available in many different colors and finishes. You can even order them with patterns, such as classic brick or wood grain.
A 2-square-foot (0.19-square meter) acoustic tile will cost between $10 and $60. For a 16×16 foot wall, you’d need approximately 60-70 tiles (or six boxes of 12 pieces per box) if you intend to cover an entire wall.
Place a Bookshelf Near the Noisy Wall
Another cheap yet effective way to reduce noise through walls is to add more objects between you and the noisy walls. This can be done by placing a bookshelf between the two walls. A bookshelf is large and heavy, but most importantly, resistant to vibrations due to its heavy nature.
Any furniture (seats and tables) will help reduce the noise if you don’t have a bookshelf. The more heavy objects you have near the wall, the harder it will be to transmit the noise.
Install Soundproofing Materials in the Noisy Wall
If you have an unfinished wall, then you’re in luck. Consider installing soundproofing materials in the wall to block incoming noise from adjacent rooms.
For example, you could stuff soundproofing foam in the wall structure (between the studs), basically sandwiching the sound-absorbent material between two dry walls.
What other sound-absorbing materials can be added to the wall, you ask?
- Fiberglass slabs
- Dense particle board
- Mass-loaded vinyl
If you are building a new wall, consider installing the thicker, heavier foam. These will reduce the most noise and be the most effective at blocking noise through the wall. If you are adding soundproofing to an existing wall, consider installing lightweight materials such as soundproofing wallpaper. These are easy to install and will reduce noise through the wall.
Thick Curtains and Windows Shades
All your soundproofing efforts will halt if you can’t eliminate the noise coming in through the windows. If you think about it, a lot of the noise comes in through the window. And since it’s attached to the wall, something ought to be done about it to prevent noise from coming through.
Curtains and shades are inexpensive and easy to reduce the noise coming in through the windows. They can be placed in just about any window, even large windows in the living room or kitchen. However, not just any curtains will do. Look for soundproof curtains.
Soundproofing curtains are much thicker than ordinary curtains. They can boost the sound insulation by up to 8-12 decibels. However, they’re more expensive.
In addition to reducing noise through walls, curtains and window shades can also help keep your home cooler in the summer and warmer in the winter. Curtains and shades are effective at reducing noise from the street below. Curtains and shades can also help reduce noise from neighbors on both sides of the wall.
If you’ve tried everything listed here and you’re still dealing with a noisy wall, the next step would be to discuss the issue with your landlord or apartment manager. They’ll likely be willing to work with you to come up with a solution that works for both you and your neighbors.