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Living in New York City comes with a wide range of benefits, and many who live there couldn’t think of living anywhere else. However, as nice as it can be to watch the city skyline from your apartment windows, they definitely let in a lot of noise pollution.
There are several things you can try to soundproof windows in an NYC apartment, however, bear in mind that some of these can be quite invasive construction projects. There are some less invasive options, but these won’t be as effective. Read on to find out how to soundproof windows in an NYC apartment.
What are the Sources of Noise Pollution for Windows?
If you’ve ever tried a soundproofing project before, you’ll know that windows are the hardest part to soundproof completely. This is because windows are often designed to allow air in to some extent, and where air can enter, so can sound.
The biggest sources of noise pollution for windows are:
- The frame. If the building has settled since construction, there’s every chance that the windows no longer sit flush. This means there could be tiny gaps that will let in sound.
- The glass. Normal windows aren’t ever going to be soundproof because glass does let sound in. For the most part, there’s not much you can do about this.
- The seal. Windows will be sealed into the space using some kind of sealant, which over time can dry out and perish. Once this happens, you can be sure that sound will be coming in.
As you can see, there’s plenty to tackle when it comes to soundproofing windows, and this is a particular issue somewhere like New York City just because of the amount of noise happening outside. So if you’re sick of waking up to the sound of morning traffic, try one of these solutions.
How to Soundproof Windows in an NYC Apartment
There are 6 ways you can soundproof windows in an NYC apartment and they are as follows:
- Replace the windows completely
- Add another layer of glass
- Seal all gaps in your NYC apartment
- Fit some weatherstripping
- Build a window plug
- Fit soundproof or heavy drapes
Now let us take a look at each method in detail. BTW, I suggest you read my article on soundproofing windows (in general).
1. Replace the windows completely
This is obviously going to be the most expensive option, but will at least be effective in eliminating outside noise pollution. You can even buy soundproof windows now, but these are significantly more expensive than normal windows.
If you live in an older property, it’s fair to assume that any new windows will be a big upgrade on the existing ones. Double-glazed windows do a really good job of reducing noise pollution because they usually have a vacuum gap between the two panes. Sound can’t travel through a vacuum, so this is already moving in the right direction.
While soundproof windows will do a good job at cutting out general ambient street noise, they’re not very effective at stopping high- and low-pitched sounds, such as sirens and construction equipment. However, if you’re just looking to reduce overall noise, these will be your best bet.
2. Add another layer of glass
One technique used by soundproofing companies in NYC is to add an extra pane of glass to the inside of the window. This is usually done with thick, laminated glass, and a void is left between the existing window and the new pane.
This helps to create “dead air” in which the sound waves can get trapped. The advantage of using thick, laminated glass is that it’s much more effective at blocking sound than normal glass.
When it comes to a solution like this, your best bet will be to use a professional company, as they’ll have the right tools and resources, and it’s likely to be a very fiddly job. However, if you’re confident in your glass cutting and installing ability, then go ahead.
There are a few downsides to this solution, though. The biggest is the fact that this new pane of glass is installed specifically to cut out noise, and so won’t open. This means you’ll lose all functionality for the window apart from being able to look out of it. This shouldn’t be too much of a problem if you’ve got a HVAC system, but don’t cut off your only access to fresh air.
The other major downside is that this is another expensive solution. Laminated glass doesn’t come cheap, and if you hire a professional to install it then you can expect to add on another couple of hundred for labor. If you’re willing to spend money, just get the whole window replaced instead.
3. Sealing gaps
If you can’t do much about the actual windows, address the gaps instead. The seal around a window is a surprising source of noise pollution, and so should definitely be tackled as part of a soundproofing project.
Before starting, get a feel for the condition of the current sealant. It would be best if you could remove as much as possible (without sacrificing the integrity of the window, of course), as this will allow you to do a better job of filling the gaps.
The best product to use is acoustic sealant, such as Green Glue sealant (see it on amazon).
Unlike normal sealant, acoustic sealant retains some level of elasticity, so along with blocking and absorbing noise, it’ll move if the window moves and won’t crack. Considering one of the major inlets of noise pollution is cracked sealant, this is very helpful in this situation.
The only real downside of this option is that it doesn’t address the issue of the window itself. However, if combined with other soundproofing methods, replacing the sealant will be very helpful. In fact, this should be something you look to do regardless of whether you’re keeping the existing windows or replacing them.
4. Fit some weatherstripping
Weatherstripping tape is a product designed to fit in the gaps of windows and doors in order to improve heat retention in the home. However, one of the good things about soundproofing is that it relies on many of the same principles as heat insulation.
Weatherstripping goes into the gaps around the part of the window that opens in order to make the gap smaller, and as close to non-existent as possible. This will definitely help with noise reduction, but should be used in combination with several other methods in order to improve effectiveness.
The main advantage of this method is that the product is so cheap and easily available. You can find it online and in hardware stores for next to nothing, and it’s incredibly easy to install. All you need to do is remove the adhesive backing and stick down. Another advantage is that it’ll improve your heat insulation too!
The downside of this method is that it doesn’t do an amazing job, and most definitely shouldn’t be the only thing you do. However, combining it with acoustic sealant and some other options will be a great and non-invasive way to reduce noise levels in your NYC apartment.
5. Build a window plug
If you’re handy and are looking for a new project, this could be the option for you. A window plug is exactly what it sounds like: a plug to fit over the window that’ll reduce noise levels. It’s a cheap and effective solution, but is definitely more temporary.
Here’s how to build one. However, if you want a detailed guide, check out my article:
- Measure the size of your window and then cut a piece of wood to fit. It’s useful to note the window’s depth so you know how thick the window plug can be. The thicker it is, the more soundproofing you can pack in there.
- Next, cover the inside of the board with a soundproof mat, or some mass loaded vinyl.
- Cover this will acoustic foam, as this will help with reverberation and echo. Stick everything down with glue and seal the edges with acoustic sealant.
- Add some handles to the opposite side so you can lift it in and out of the window frame.
- Finally, fit into the window frame with the sound blocking products facing the window.
The most obvious disadvantage of this method is that it’ll completely block out all light in your apartment, so isn’t ideal for using during the day. However, if your issue is noise pollution overnight, then this will be fine. What’s more, they make pretty effective blackout curtains!
6. Fit soundproof or heavy drapes
The final, and probably least effective option is to fit some heavy drapes. These can either be specific soundproof drapes (which can be quite expensive) or heavy drapes made from something like velvet.
Of course, this won’t do loads, but will reduce the overall level of noise that makes it into your apartment. What’s more, velvet drapes can be pretty cheap, particularly if you buy them secondhand and re-purpose. If you choose to do this, sew several together so they’re much thicker.
If you consider this option, I highly recommend you check out my soundproof curtains buying guide so that you can make an informed decision before buying.
As you can see, there are several options to soundproof windows in an NYC apartment. Short of removing the windows entirely, installing new ones (or an extra pane of glass) will be your best option. However, this isn’t cheap and can take a while.
If you want something less invasive, simply combine several of the other methods and do everything possible to block out sound. Just bear in mind that you’ll never get truly soundproof windows, but you can greatly reduce noise pollution levels.
Also read: how to soundproof jalousie windows