With millions of Americans living next door to noisy neighbors, you might be wondering of ways to soundproof a wall. Soundproofing a wall in your home doesn’t have to be expensive or complicated. Here is a guide to soundproof a wall in your home, apartment, or office.
In this guide, I will not only talk about how to soundproof a wall without removing the drywall but will also explain ways to do it by removing the drywall and building something for better noise blocking.
If you are doing the job on your own, please do your research extensively as well as comprehend the items and soundproofing fundamentals. After that, by following these steps on the most effective way to soundproof a wall, as well as using recommended soundproofing products, you can accomplish the desired outcome without blowing your budget.
Soundproofing a Wall – 6 Basic Concepts
In preparing to soundproof a wall, there are six basic concepts of soundproofing: mass, absorption, transmission, mechanical decoupling, and also vibration. Continue reading for a short summary of each concept and also how to address it.
- Mass; This is quite simple. Extra density = more noise absorption. The point is, you require it to be REALLY thick to make a huge difference, so merely adding a layer of drywall to an existing wall will only provide you a minor reduction in sound transmission. To resolve this concept, I used two layers of the thickest drywall readily available (5/8″) vs. the even more common 1/2″ density.
- Absorption; Any type of insulation between walls will help soak up some sound, although it will not trap any kind of low frequencies. This is most effective when the walls are decoupled. As if studs are linking both walls, the impact of the insulation will certainly be marginal. Still, placing something in the wall is much better than absolutely nothing, so It is common for homes to be insulated with R-13 fiberglass insulation.
- Sound Transmission; This is the transmission of sound with the vibration of solid things attached to each other. Transmission is an extremely efficient way to transfer sound, and also thus any kind of wall surface that has drywall straight linked to the studs on either side will undoubtedly be more difficult to stop the noise. Sound will certainly travel indirectly mostly through conduction; this is also called flanking noise. In many instances, we can do little to resolve this issue, as the hollow core door around my wall would certainly be an excellent conductor of noise and the weakest link between the two rooms.
- Mechanical Decoupling/Isolation; This is among the most effective ways to deal with conduction, as well as is why one of the most effective soundproof wall surfaces are totally decoupled, so there is no direct path for the sound to travel through. If not paired with various other soundproofing concepts, decoupling a wall surface will help with the transmission of mid-high frequency sound, however, will raise resonance and audio transmission at reduced frequencies, so it should be performed in a mix with other soundproofing methods to increase the soundproof effectiveness of the wall.
- Resonance: Regardless of your soundproofing methods on all of the above concepts, the sound will still reverberate a well insulated, decoupled wall surface if you’re dealing with really high frequencies. This isn’t common in high frequencies, yet is a challenge for lower frequencies (imagine just how deep bass from a subwoofer vibrates a room). As a result, a decoupled wall surface will vibrate x2 when the ideal frequency is hit for the mass of the wall. This is offset in two ways, however. Decreasing the resonant frequency of the wall: one can reduce the frequency at which the wall wishes to resonate by making sure there is a lot of mass in each wall (harder to vibrate), and by adding insulation/ a lot of air in between (absorption). This can help push the resonance factor low enough that just the deepest frequencies will make the wall vibrate. Unfortunately, this is why your speaker will generally annoy the next-door neighbors, as these approaches can only press the powerful frequency so low.
- Damping: this describes any kind of methods of minimizing vibration entirely by absorbing or rerouting sound, and can go a long way to fight resonance as well as conduction. Without a doubt, one of the most reliable damping agents out there is from the soundproofing company green glue, and from all the specs I have actually seen it’s likely the single most reliable soundproofing material of a soundproof wall. I often make use of green glue noise proofing compound when attaching an extra layer of drywall over an existing layer. I also use green glue noise proofing sealant around the window casing, to fill in the crack left between the wall and the electrical outlet (take the cover off) and between the floor and baseboards. The sealant will remain pliable and will not crack over time.
What You Need to Soundproof a Wall
These items are crucial when soundproofing a wall to ensure you do the job like a pro. You can hire someone to soundproof a wall in your home, but with minimal building skills, you will most likely be able to get this done the DIY way!
- Green Glue Noise Proofing Compound; Green Glue Noiseproofing Compound is a unique damping product that works best for new construction and when remodeling or renovating your home. As one of the most cost-effective soundproofing material on the market today, the Green Glue noise proofing compound has distinctive properties that will dissipate the vibrations caused by sound waves as they travel through ceilings, walls, and floors. To soundproof a wall, this compound shall be placed between one existing piece of drywall and a new piece of drywall.
- Green Glue Noise Proofing Sealant; Green Glue Noiseproofing Sealant is applied to fill in the gaps and joints where the wall joins the floor or ceiling, and also where two walls join. You can also use this product around electrical outlets and switch boxes. This sealant is very easy to use and is also paintable after it dries completely (I would give it at least 48 hours for best results).
- 5/8″ Drywall; In most homes these days you will find 1/2″ drywall throughout but by spending a bit more money, 5/8″ drywall will give you much better noise blocking and will also look better after it’s finished.
- Rockwool Acoustic Mineral Wool Insulation; This stuff works remarkably well. I use it for noise control and deadening in many building and soundproofing projects that I have had in the past and will continue to use this product. One thing is true; this stuff will add value to any home you are insulating. It doesn’t only control noise; it also controls heat/cold and is fire resistant. It is ridged and makes it very easy to work with and install, be careful not to manipulate it too much because it can begin to separate. Lastly, this material is also weather resistant. This means it will hold up against microscopic spores and mold if it becomes moist or wet from flooding.
- Weather stripping; Nothing too complicated here. If there’s a window or door on the wall, you’re attempting to soundproof you will need weatherstripping to block the noise coming in from gaps or cracks around aging windows.
- Resilient Channel; Resilient channel is a thin metal channel that is expertly designed to considerably enhance the sound insulation of drywall, sheetrock, plasterboard walls, and ceilings. The channel efficiently separates drywall from the framing stud work, which results in the weakening of sound waves considerably.
- Mass Loaded Vinyl; Mass Loaded Vinyl or MVL (Full article) is a sound barrier blocking material, also known as a “Limp Mass Barrier.” This type of product is comprised of two active ingredients: vinyl — to provide the MLV flexibility, and, a commonly occurring, high mass component. Commonly Barium Sulfate is used because of its unique characteristics – it is non-toxic and has a very high density. This latter quality of high density is why Mass Loaded Vinyl is so effective in blocking sound.
How to Soundproof a Wall
So now that you have a few soundproofing products to work with, it is time to soundproof a wall in your home, apartment or office. To quiet household noise, you’ll need to minimize vibrations, fill in sound leaks, and absorb sounds.
1. Fill In the Holes and Gap’s
I figured I would begin with the easiest and cheapest method to soundproof a wall without having to break down walls. You can use this method if you live in an apartment where you’re unable to alter the walls.
Of course, you would need to crack fill around the window frame if you see any types of separation. Green Glue noise proofing sealant is what I recommend because it not only blocks sound very well but it is also very pliable so it won’t crack as it ages letting noise through.
If you’re soundproofing a wall with no windows or doors, then you might think that you could skip this step, well think again. One place a lot of people wouldn’t think of noise coming into a room is electrical outlets. Unscrew the cover of the electrical outlet, and you will most likely see a significant gap between the box and the wall. All you need to do is fill in this gap with the noise proofing sealant, and you’re done!
Of course, if you’re soundproofing an unfinished wall, then the best way to soundproof the electrical box is by completely wrapping it with a product called putty pad. Most people, however, will be soundproofing an existing wall, so the Green Glue is the cheap and easy way to go!
You can also use the noise proofing sealant between the floor and baseboards if you see any sort of gap that is. Most of the time you won’t see a significant gap but it only takes a minute to caulk this section of the wall and could decrease the noise transfer from the other room by a couple of decibels.
2. Double Up the Drywall Using 5/8″
A popular way to soundproof an existing wall is by adding an extra layer of drywall over top of the existing drywall. One crucial detail most people forget to mention is not to use the same type of drywall that is already there. Use a thicker 5/8″ sheet of drywall for your second layer.
5/8″ drywall will do a much better job at blocking the noise coming from the other side of the wall, plus it only cost a few dollars more making this well worth the investment.
Another essential tip when doubling up the drywall is to use Green Glue noise proofing compound between the two layers of drywall. All you need to do is spread the noise proofing compound liberally in a random pattern, so you’re getting some all over the sheet of drywall. This is not actually glued, it’s a compound that is specially made to help absorb and block sound waves from passing through the wall.
Ok, let’s be clear here, Green Glue noise proofing compound is not a miracle noise blocker. It will, however, help reduce a few decibels of noise from passing through the wall. For the cost of a couple of tubes, it is well worth the investment.
3. Mass Loaded Vinyl Sandwich
Another way to soundproof a wall is by using Mass Loaded Vinyl. Mass loaded vinyl comes in a role usually measuring four feet long. This material is very heavy and dense but is also relatively thin.
What you can do to make your wall even more soundproofed when adding an extra layer of drywall and some Green Glue noise proofing compound is by adding a layer of mass loading vinyl on top of that, well, in between I should say.
All you need to do is cut a layer of MLV the size of the wall you want to insulate and attach it on your existing wall before adding the second layer of drywall. You will see a significant decrease in sound coming from the other side of the wall.
4. Resilient Channel Sandwich
Another great way to soundproof a wall is by using what is called a resilient channel. Most of the time I would install this in a basement ceiling to eliminate footstep noise coming from above, but this can be added to a wall to improve soundproofing.
Make sure that you install the resilient channel as suggested by the manufacturer to achieve the desired effect. Continue reading to familiarize with resilient channel installation in or on top (between two layers of drywall) of your existing drywall.
Firstly you will need to remove the drywall. Then, apply the sound clips inside the joints and studs. Then screw the channel in the clips using drywall screws. Make sure that the screws only enter the corrugated web of the resilient channel and does not come into contact with the resilient channel base support. Do not over tighten the screws as they may tear through the metal channel.
Now, attach the second layer of drywall using proper longer screws.
After that, you can coat the new 5/8″ drywall using Green Glue noise proofing compound to dampen sound waves. Make in a random pattern, so you get some all over the drywall.
Watch the video below for a better tutorial on how to soundproof a wall using a resilient channel.
5. Sound Dampening Paint
Yes, there is such a thing as sound dampening paint. Sound dampening paint or soundproofing paint is gaining popularity in the soundproofing industry due to its effectiveness vs. cost and application.
This paint is certainly not a miracle sound blocker, but it will decrease the noise coming through the wall by a few decibels.
Make sure to apply three coats for best results. I have two articles going more in-depth on one particular brand of noise dampening paint and also another article talking about the effectiveness of this type of paint. Make sure to take a closer look at those articles to know if this is the right course of action for you.
6. Book Shelf
Let’s say that you need extra storage on top of soundproofing a wall in your home or office. Let’s also say that you don’t want to tear down the wall or add an extra layer of drywall. You could use a little known soundproofing hack by adding a bookshelf the entire length and height of the wall.
By adding a bookshelf and then filling it up with books, you will be adding mass. This mass will do wonders in soundproofing the wall because you will be gaining an ample amount of storage at the same time.
You can also add some cupboard doors if you don’t have enough books to fill up the shelves. At least that way, you won’t be leaving any gaps where noise could get through a thin wall.
7. Soundproof Blankets or Moving Blankets
If you live in an apartment and are unable to alter the walls, hanging soundproof blankets could be an option.
Of course, soundproofing blankets can be quite expensive because they are typically made in the shape of a doorway to use to soundproof a door. You would need to buy several of them to be able to soundproof an entire wall.
A cheaper option would be to buy a bundle of moving blankets. Moving blankets are made of dense material and would help block noise. It won’t be as good as an actual soundproof blanket, but it would cost you a fraction of the price so it would certainly be something to look at.
Whether you’re soundproofing an existing wall or during construction, this guide should help you decide which way to go.
If you’re soundproofing a wall that has either a door or window then don’t forget to check out my article “How to soundproof a window” and “How to soundproof a door“. The two articles also have a Youtube video tutorial so make sure to check those out if you need to add more soundproofing on a wall.
Let us know in the comment section how you managed to get it done and if you found other ways to make it work! We would love to hear from you!