When it comes to soundproofing a space at home, many people look for the quickest and easiest solution. One option you may have seen when researching is soundproof boards.
While it can be tempting to just jump in and buy the first product you see, this isn’t always the best way to do things. Different soundproof boards work best in different parts of the room, and some products are better than others.
In this article I offer a buyer’s guide to soundproof boards for different areas of the home, such as walls, floors, and so on. First we’ll look at some general information about soundproof boards before we move on to more specific details about each section of the room.
What are soundproof boards?
In short, soundproof boards are simply building materials designed to block sound from entering a space. For example, this could be drywall with added mass loaded vinyl, or it could be dense sound-blocking foam, or a more specialist product. The design of a soundproof board will depend on where it’s going to be used.
The benefits of soundproof boards
- Improves sound insulation within the space without you having to invest in several different products.
- They’re very easy to fix in place and are much easier to work with than MLV on its own. This means you can use them without having major DIY skills.
- Because they’re not very thick you won’t lose too much space in the room, which is a common drawback for many soundproofing materials.
- Combine soundproof boards with some acoustic foam for best results, as this will also help to combat echo within the room.
Soundproof boards for walls
Walls seem like an obvious place to start because they take up the most amount of space in a room, and you’ll probably have the best selection of products too. As a result they should be the easiest to choose, and you can then use this information for selecting boards for other parts of the room.
Getting the best NRC rating
For soundproofing walls, you’ll want a product with a high noise cancellation rating. The technical name for this is Noise Reduction Coefficient (NRC), which will be a number between 0 and 1. A rating of 0 means the surface reflects sound, while a rating of 1 means it absorbs sound.
Soundproof boards should therefore have an NRC as close to 1 as you can find, particularly for a large surface area like walls. Any professional product should include its NRC rating, but this should only be a guideline to narrow your search.
What materials should you look for?
The next thing to address is the materials that make up the board. As mentioned, pay attention to what soundproofing materials are included, but this will usually be mass loaded vinyl or similar. If the product claims to include something else, then I’d probably steer clear.
However, you might also find that many soundproof boards are made from foam or insulation materials. These absorb sound rather than block it, but are just as useful in a soundproofing project.
This moves us on to thickness of the product. Realistically you shouldn’t need anything thicker than an inch, but some may be thinner if they only include one sheet of drywall. If you have a small room then choose a thinner product, as you won’t lose much sound blocking from a single sheet of drywall.
The final thing to look out for is ease of installation. Many products will come with hooks or clips that can be attached to the wall, and then the boards will be hung on these clips. If the soundproof boards you’re looking at don’t come with hooks then this isn’t the end of the world, you’ll just need to devise your own installation method.
Examples of soundproof boards for walls
Although this might sound like quite a few variables to juggle, each one leads fairly logically into the next. This should make it easy for you to narrow down your search. To give you a better idea of what to look for, here is a selection of products to think about:
While this product doesn’t really follow the description above, it does help block sound from entering a room. This is technically acoustic insulation, but is definitely worth looking into along with soundproof boards for your walls.
These wall panels are realistically designed for commercial use but they should give you an idea of what to look for. They’re fairly lightweight and can be fitted to the existing wall with the included clips. They absorb rather than block sound, but have an NRC of 0.7 to 0.9.
Here is a graphical representation of the NRC values of the two variants offered by the company.
Soundproof boards for ceilings
Unsurprisingly, soundproof boards for ceilings work much like those for walls, but with a few minor differences. While you could use soundproof boards for walls on the ceiling, I’d only do this as a last resort because a specific product will definitely be better.
How boards for ceilings differ from boards for walls
The most important difference to consider here is weight. After all, it could be problematic hanging a heavy piece of drywall from the ceiling if the fixings aren’t particularly stable. Although most products won’t generally list their weight, you can work this out quite easily.
The most obvious thing to look out for is simply less material in the product. For example, you could buy a product with only one sheet of drywall, as this will reduce the weight enough for it to be hung on a ceiling.
A simple alternative is to fit some acoustic absorption material (such as acoustic foam) behind the soundproof board. This will result in less noise overall because some will be absorbed by the foam, while the board will block it from entering the space.
When it comes to attaching soundproof boards to the ceiling, I’d recommend using something like resilient channels. These will make it easy to screw the boards in place without having to do too much work to the existing ceiling.
Generally speaking, soundproofing the ceiling will take up more space than on walls because of how you install the panels. You can expect this to take up to 3 inches of space from the room, but this will depend on the thickness of the product and the method of installation.
Examples of soundproof boards for ceilings
These are simply the ceiling version of the wall panels listed above, and again are designed for commercial spaces. However, it’s worth noting that their lightness is a desirable feature here because they can simply be hung from the ceiling with little other installation.
This website might be British, but it gives a really clear and comprehensive look at the type of products available for soundproofing a ceiling. Their ceiling systems are fairly easy to replicate with a range of other soundproofing products that are easy to find online.
Soundproof boards for doors
When it comes to soundproof boards for doors, you’ll probably find it slightly harder to buy ready-made products. Although doors are one of the weakest areas in a room when it comes to soundproofing, there’s a surprising lack of custom products to address the issue.
Options instead of soundproof boards for doors
Your first option when looking for this kind of product is to simply buy a soundproof door. These usually have the same construction as soundproof boards, but with the materials hidden inside the door. This saves you having to fit a board in place every time you enter the room.
Almost all internal doors are hollow, which is partly why they’re so bad at letting noise through. However, a soundproof door has this cavity filled with dense mass and / or acoustic foam. Although a soundproof door will cost a bit more money, I feel it’s worth it for convenience.
Just bear in mind that soundproof doors will be much heavier than their standard versions. Most hotels install soundproof doors, so it’s likely you’ve come across one in the past.
Choosing a DIY options
An alternative option is to build your own soundproof board to fit in the doorframe. This option will generally be cheaper, but comes with a range of downsides. The biggest one is that you’ll have to move the panel every time you want to open the door, which isn’t the most convenient thing.
Alternatively, take a look at the products listed below for some ideas on soundproof doors. I’d recommend these if you’re serious about soundproofing a space because they don’t always come cheap.
Examples of soundproof doors
These doors are a perfect example of what to expect from a soundproof door: they’re heavy, come with a range of products to fill gaps in the door jamb, and have an STC rating of 56.
These are another great example of what to look for in a soundproof door. This company’s main line of production is commercial doors, but they have plenty of residential models too. Also, the company supplies all the necessary extras, such as frame, hinges, and so on.
Soundproofing America offer a product that’s comparable with commercial versions but with a price tag you can afford. They’re designed to fit into a standard door frame, but the product comes with all the necessary components for installation.
Soundproof boards for windows
As many of you may know by now, soundproofing windows is another problematic task. Much like doors, their nature and use within a room makes them problematic for letting in sound.
Generally speaking, there isn’t much of a market for soundproof boards for windows. Fitting a board over the window might block out sound, but this obviously renders the window useless at its primary task. While this might not matter too much in a home theater, not everyone can sacrifice a window.
Alternatives for soundproofing windows
However, there are a few ways round this problem if you’d like to still have windows in your room. For example, you could replace them with soundproof windows, although this obviously requires quite a bit of work.
Another alternative is to build your own soundproof window board, which isn’t as much work as you’d expect. While these can be inconvenient for a door, they’re not much different than drawing curtains over a window.
You can make a window plug by basically following the construction of a soundproof board for a wall. You simply need to make a wooden frame, attach some mass loaded vinyl and some acoustic foam, and then fix it in place.
One option I’d definitely recommend avoiding is soundproof curtains. It should be fairly obvious that fabric (even fairly heavy stuff) won’t do a good job of blocking sound. If anything, soundproof curtains will treat acoustics, much like acoustic foam does, but you can’t expect it to block much sound.
In fact, if you were considering buying soundproof curtains, then switch to normal, heavy drapes. This is all soundproof curtains really are, but with a premium price tag attached because they’re “soundproof.”
Check out my top recommendations for soundproof curtains.
Examples of soundproof windows
So if you’re looking to soundproof your windows, here are some products to give you an idea of what to look for.
These windows are designed to block out unwanted external noise, which they do using insulated glass panels. The window frames are telescopic, meaning they can be installed in walls up to 16 inches thick. If you’ve got the money then they’re a great choice for home theaters or recording studios.
A less invasive option than completely replacing the window is to use an insert like this one. They’re simply fitted over your existing windows, in this case externally, and help to block excess noise pollution. They do a surprisingly good job and are much easier to work with.
Some final thoughts
Finding soundproof boards for the different areas of a room can prove surprisingly difficult considering how popular the act of soundproofing is. However, this guide is designed to give you some tips on what to look for so you can narrow down your search.
You don’t have to choose the products I’ve listed here; they’re more intended as guidance to get you started. However, it’s definitely worth looking them up and reading about them to get a better understanding of what to look for in your own products.