9 Pros and Cons of Soundproof Wallpaper


I’m always on the lookout for new and interesting ways to soundproof a room. After all, decoupling walls or adding mass can be large and expensive products, so it’s understandable people look for easier ways.

One option that’s regularly suggested is soundproof wallpaper. You might have seen it online and wondered whether it would be a good option for your project. However, I feel that to know whether a product is worth using, you have to know its full range of pros and cons.

In this article, I’m going to look at what exactly soundproof wallpaper is, along with its pros and cons. Hopefully this information will help you make a decision about whether it’s useful for your project.

What is soundproof wallpaper?

Before getting into the pros and cons of soundproof wallpaper, it’s worth understanding what the product actually is. As you can probably guess from the name, it’s wallpaper that’s designed to be soundproof.

But how does it do this? Unlike normal wallpaper, which is usually a single thick layer of paper with a design printed on it, soundproof wallpaper is made up of several layers of materials.

Included in these layers will probably be a layer of acoustic foam, or a very similar material. If you know anything about soundproofing, then you’ll already know that acoustic foam isn’t designed to block noise.

So does soundproof wallpaper actually soundproof?

The short answer is no, it doesn’t.

Like many other products used in soundproofing, it’s adopted the name to make it easier to differentiate from normal wallpaper. However, that doesn’t mean soundproof wallpaper isn’t useful in a soundproofing project.

Like acoustic foam, soundproof wallpaper will have an effect on the room’s acoustics, which means it controls echo. However, the density of the materials might make a small difference to noise pollution, but this isn’t its main purpose.

So the bottom line is that while it doesn’t block noise, soundproof wallpaper can be useful for managing acoustics in a room, particularly if you’re looking for a more aesthetically pleasing option than acoustic foam.

The pros and cons of soundproof wallpaper

Now that we know what the product is and what it’s meant to do, we can get a much better understanding of which projects it’ll be useful for. To help you understand soundproof wallpaper in more detail, here are the 9 pros and cons of it:

Pros

1. It’s not too expensive

While soundproof wallpaper will generally be more expensive than normal wallpaper, it’s comparatively cheaper than most other soundproofing materials you could use on your walls. Here I’m thinking of things like drywall or mass loaded vinyl.

Budget is one of the main influencing factors in people’s soundproofing projects. You’ll find your options limited by the amount of money you’re happy to spend, and some of them can suck up almost your entire budget.

Luckily, soundproof wallpaper is one of the least expensive options. This is even more helpful if you’ve got a large space to work on, as a room’s worth of wallpaper will still be a manageable price.

However, like all products, the quality is generally reflected in the price. Considering this is a relatively cheap option, I’d recommend starting with mid-range products and working your way up. There’s little point in going for the budget options because these will do next to nothing for your room.

2. It’s easy to install

Again, other soundproofing solutions can be very difficult to actually install in your room. Insulating a stud wall is a prime example because it involves at minimum taking down one side of the wall.

Soundproof wallpaper, on the other hand, is as easy to put up as normal wallpaper (see the video below). I’ve always been a fan of home decoration, and found it really easy to teach myself how to put up wallpaper.

Compared to something like mass loaded vinyl, wallpaper is a breeze. All you need to do is paste the back and stick it on the wall. The hardest parts are making sure you’ve hung it straight and that patterns line up. Other than that, it’s a relatively straightforward project.

That said, as with any other project it’s worth doing planning first. At the very minimum you should work out the area of the room so you know how much wallpaper to buy. The whole thing shouldn’t take more than a couple of hours, making it a reasonably painless exercise.

3. Plenty of designs available

The market of soundproof wallpaper is always growing, which means manufacturers are constantly adding new designs, many of which match up with the latest fashion trends. This means you won’t be limited to a range of boring designs.

One of the biggest drawbacks of soundproofing materials is that they’re not the nicest to look at. After all, most are designed to be hidden and are intended to be functional, rather than attractive.

When it comes to something like mass loaded vinyl, your options for what you can put over the top are quite limited. Although it’s arguably one of the shallowest points about soundproofing a room, you still want the space to look nice. Therefore, soundproof wallpaper is ideal for a finishing touch to your room that’ll keep a sense of style, while also adding practical benefits.

4. Manages the room’s acoustics

Although I’ve already mentioned it, it’s worth saying again: soundproof wallpaper doesn’t actually soundproof. The best comparison for its purpose is acoustic foam, which treats acoustics within a space. What I mean by this is that it reduces echo, reverberation, and amplification.

Read my article in which I explain how foam works for acoustics.

The extent to which soundproof wallpaper actually helps will depend on the quality of the product and the problem you’re looking to solve. If you find that after soundproofing your room there are issues with sound clarity, then soundproof wallpaper is for you.

What’s more, soundproof wallpaper is arguably more practical than acoustic foam because you don’t need to go through the hassle of finding echo points in your room, or finding ways to disguise the foam.

That said, if managing acoustics is a serious problem in your room, then acoustic foam might still be the way forward. After all, it’s usually thicker and has a better shape for stopping sound waves. Sound waves bounce of flat surfaces, so the best thing you can do is remove them. Soundproof wallpaper, at the end of the day, is still flat.

5. It’s fire resistant

While fire safety might not be at the front of your mind when soundproofing a room, it’s always worth taking into consideration. This is particularly true if you’re soundproofing a room such as a home theater or recording studio (RELATED ARTICLE), which will be full of electrical equipment.

Almost all types of soundproof wallpaper are designed to meet relevant fire safety standards. The materials used are generally flame retardant, meaning that if a fire did start in the room, at least the wallpaper won’t make it worse.

It’s unlikely that fire safety is what you build your soundproof room around, but if you’re looking for an option that’ll improve fire resistance in your room, then soundproof wallpaper will certainly be an option.

Cons

1. It doesn’t soundproof

The name “soundproof wallpaper” is something of a red herring, as it doesn’t actually soundproof. Effective soundproofing, at the very least, involves adding mass and other sound blocking methods to stop the transfer of noise from one space to another.

For a wall to be soundproof, it’ll need materials that stop vibrations, which are one of the biggest problem areas of sound pollution. This isn’t something soundproof wallpaper can do, as it isn’t made with the right materials.

Also, we have to address the thickness of soundproof wallpaper. Even the thickest products on the market will make little difference to a room’s soundproofing capabilities, much like soundproof paint.

However, soundproof wallpaper isn’t completely useless. It’s still worth considering if you’re wanting to manage acoustics in the room, but don’t expect it to block sound, because that’s not what it’s designed for.

2. It doesn’t work too well on its own

This isn’t necessarily a con of just soundproof wallpaper, but it’s definitely worth mentioning. Soundproof wallpaper isn’t particularly effective when used on its own. Instead, it should be used along with a number of other soundproofing solutions.

For example, you’ll still want to add more mass to the wall, as this is much more effective at actually blocking sound. Similarly, you’ll want to address the problem of vibration, which is something else soundproof wallpaper can’t address.

To get the most out of your soundproof wallpaper, I’d recommend trying to squeeze a layer of mass loaded vinyl underneath it. Doing this will actually add something to block sound waves, while the soundproof wallpaper can then be used to manage acoustics within the room.

3. It isn’t particularly durable

The durability of wallpaper compared to paint is a debate that’s raged in the DIY world for years, and will probably continue for years to come. However, from my personal experience I’ve found that wallpaper really isn’t a particularly durable option for covering your walls.

While this article is specifically about soundproof wallpaper, this is a relevant point to bring up. After all, the purpose of decorating a room, whether for soundproofing or not, is to invest in a style that won’t need replacing for a while.

The durability of soundproof wallpaper will be based both on its quality and how well it’s pasted to the wall. Make sure you don’t leave any corners unstuck, as this is the first place that’ll start peeling.

What’s more, wallpaper won’t necessarily be the best option if you’ve got kids. I’ve always found paint easier to clean if they decide to be artists and draw all over the walls. Also, paint can be repainted if it can’t be cleaned, but wallpaper would need to be stripped and replaced to cover a mark.

If you’re considering soundproof wallpaper for its style benefits over its practicality, I’d definitely consider a different option. It doesn’t add much to the sound treatment in the room, and considering it’s not really possible to clean wallpaper, there will definitely be better options.

4. It isn’t practical for a range of rooms

Again, this issue relates to the practicality of wallpaper in general, but is useful to know about soundproof wallpaper. While manufacturers might claim their wallpaper is waterproof (don’t believe this anyway), you can’t say the same about the adhesive.

Wallpaper paste is water-based, meaning you can’t use it in rooms that’ll be steamy or have a humidity problem.

Sure, you probably don’t want to soundproof your bathroom or kitchen, but you might want to soundproof your basement.

Over time, wallpaper in humid rooms will begin to peel as the paste loses its stickiness, which will happen sooner than you’d think. This isn’t a problem you’ll encounter with products such as mass loaded vinyl, as you’ll be using nails to fix it to the wall.

Basements are a common choice for soundproofing because they’re very often blank slates, meaning you can make structural changes much easier. Read my guide on soundproofing a basement. However, they’re also usually quite humid, so avoid soundproof wallpaper at all costs in this kind of project.

Some final thoughts

As you can see, there are pros and cons for using soundproof wallpaper. However, I feel that the cons outweigh the pros because they’re all a matter of practicality. This is especially true of the applying the product, and how long it’ll be useful for.

For this reason, I’d generally try other methods first, and use soundproof wallpaper as a finishing touch. It does have uses in a soundproofing project, but I’d never use it as your main option. After all, there are plenty of excellent products that are much more worth the investment.

Check out my article on the best soundproofing materials to know what works and what doesn’t.

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