One of the more frustrating things to deal with is a party wall that is a little bit too easy to hear sound through. Many rely on a well-constructed party wall to limit sounds as much as possible, making life easier for both sides. When it fails to live up to expectations, people often look for ways to take soundproofing measures into their own hands.
Just how easy is it to soundproof a party wall? There are options to reduce sound, but none of them are going to eliminate sounds completely. It is just one of the downfalls to having to deal with a common wall that acts as a dividing partition.
Defining a Party Wall
Party walls are used very often in both residential and business settings. It is a firewall that helps to divide two adjoining buildings.
Think about setups such as condominiums, row houses, and businesses in a strip mall. Instead of making the places completely separate, they all usually share at least one wall with a neighbor. In some cases, the wall on each side connects with someone else.
Even though these walls are very structurally sound and already kill a lot of sounds, it still might not be sufficient enough for certain owners. This is especially true if one side makes a considerable amount of noise at all hours in the day. A wall without any additional treatment is going to be fairly easy to hear things through it.
What Makes a Party Wall so Noisy?
Part of the reason why so many people are looking for soundproofing solutions with a party wall is that both buildings end up being used at the same time.
If it is a business setting, both businesses tend to be open with the same hours. This causes a decent amount of sound during peak hours that can be distracting. The same goes for homes, as noises at the beginning and end of the day usually turn out to be the most noticeable.
There are different levels of sound people hear through a party wall. If the party wall is a little older and not soundproofed that well, there is a chance of hearing airborne and impact sounds. Airborne sounds really should not be heard too much, but people are dealing with picking up for conversations and even a television speaker through the wall at times.
Impact sounds like musical instruments usually will be heard to some degree through any party wall. Even if added soundproofing material is noticeable, people listening for the music will pick it up. (source)
The Basics of Soundproofing a Party Wall
Just like any other wall out there, soundproofing a party wall involves adding mass and creating some sort of separation. It seems simple enough, but it is important to remember that most people are only going to have the ability to soundproof their side of the wall.
If two businesses work together, they can see additional results, but that may not always be the case. Always assume that there will only be a chance to treat the one side. That might mean adding additional mass, but it is usually worth it.
Since a good amount of people dealing with a party wall do not own, they can’t take apart the wall and add mass in-between existing pieces of drywall. That puts a limit on some of the material available as well. The good news is that there are still options to turn to for results.
This is usually the very first option a person looks to when researching how to soundproof a party wall. Acoustic panels are designed specifically for tasks like this, and it can provide some immediate results.
The best thing about these panels is that they are thin, which comes in handy for people who might have limited space. Instead of adding a ton of mass to the wall and shrinking everything just a little bit more, just a thin layer does the trick.
There are various acoustic panels out there, and most of them will reduce around 40 to 50 decibels of sound when installed properly. Considering these panels are usually very thin, it is pretty remarkable to see this much of an impact.
Another advantage to acoustic panels is that they are easy to install, and easy to remove when needed. This works particularly well for home and business renters who can’t make too many alterations to the wall. These panels can be installed entirely without showing any signs of being there after removal. They go directly onto the wall, and can be customized to fit the style.
Acoustic panels can also be attached to walls that aren’t entirely flat. Think about brick walls, and the trouble they sometimes cause we’re putting a panel over them. Use a plasterboard adhesive, or something similar, to apply to a brick wall and keep it connected. It is vital to get a secure fit when attaching an acoustic panel.
Finally, keep in mind that panels usually come in uniform sheets, but there is an opportunity to cut everything to size if a person really wants. This allows for full coverage of a party wall, regardless of the actual size.
5/8″ Sound Reduction Drywall
The solution works very well, although there are some drawbacks to the process in general. For starters, drywall is going to take up more space and frustrate people who might be a little limited in that department.
The goal of adding a second layer of 5/8″ drywall is to have a little bit of space in between the existing wall to help control the sound. All of a sudden, people are losing some valuable real estate in small areas with the addition.
Another drawback is that this is more expensive, which requires a little more skill to get everything set up. It is still completely doable without professional assistance, but many people will opt to hire someone to install another layer of drywall.
There’s also the case that not everyone will have the ability to add the drywall due to the restrictions in their lease. People who own their building do not have to worry, but renters need to talk with their landlord first.
If a person does go this route, they should expect some excellent soundproofing. There will still be some loud sounds faintly heard in between the two neighbors, but just about everything else is completely eliminated. (source)
Other soundproofing materials that work
Using acoustic mineral wool, or soundproofing mats, curtains, blankets, etc., also work to a certain degree. The overall effect will not be quite as much as the other two options, but it is a
cheap way of handling things if the noise is only slightly distracting. Some people also look at this as a pretty temporary solution if the neighbor is particularly loud for a few days.
It is important to remember that every situation is slightly different. It is not worth putting a lot of money into something if the sound distraction is fairly minimal. Simply rearranging things and not hanging around the party wall might be enough to work as well.
Perhaps putting some furniture up against that wall can act as a barrier as well. There are many different things to tinker with, and it is essential to try what all works.
Talking to owners
There is a way to get a party wall soundproof without cost any money. It might take some sweet-talking, but complaints to the owner of the building might yield some results.
In most new construction, companies try to do a good job of either using Double-Wall or Staggered Stud construction. Both of these work to help with noise reduction, but it was not always required in order buildings.
If this type of construction was not used when the party wall first went up, see if there is a way to push for some type of solution. They might not be able to build a new party wall to help people out, but they might pay for other soundproofing solutions.
If there is a lot of noise passing through the wall, it is something that needs addressing. It helps if both sides put in a request to put some additional pressure on the owner.
Working with a neighbor to handle noise issues
If the noise problem is noticeable, chances are the neighbor also has some issues from time to time as well. This is when the two sides need to work together as much as possible to come up with the best soundproofing solution. They likely do not want to hear conversations in another building either.
It is easy for noise levels to cause a bit of a rift between two parties, but at the end of the day, it is not worth it. A big reason why noise is heard through a party wall is that it is not set up with enough noise reduction qualities. This is not the fault of either person, so unless they are being unreasonably loud, there is no reason to be mad.
By working together, treatment is possible on both sides of the wall. That means that neither side has to add twice the amount of mass to see similar results. By sharing the load, adding mass is kept at a minimum. Space and living conditions are not altered nearly as much.
Making the most out of party wall improvements
Keep in mind that there is no way to eliminate all sounds passing through a party wall. For those people who really can’t deal with any noise whatsoever, the only solution is to move to a different building that does not have a party wall.
For those who just want to make things a little easier, some reliable improvement options really do not cost that much money. In fact, it takes very little time to set up these solutions as well, so instant results are available.
Try to be as cordial as possible with the party on the other side, because they can help reduce the sound as well. Anything from changing their habits to adding soundproofing material to their
side of the wall will make an impact. Whining or complaining about too much noise coming from one side is not going to lead to any positive results whatsoever.