Windows are typically one of the most vulnerable areas of our homes. Because they’re so structurally unsound, we need to get them to be as airtight as possible. Otherwise, they’re simply not doing their jobs. If you’re not happy with the quality of your windows, you may benefit from installing soundproofing plastic film.
When I’m working on soundproofing windows, there’s a list of things I always watch out for. First, I work on eliminating the air gaps around the perimeter of the window frame. But then, there’s the matter of the glass itself which can be so thin it vibrates! Honestly, every single component of our windows seems to be designed to fail!
Overall, windows don’t really have a good track record of doing what they ought to do: keep heat, cold, and noise out (or in) the house. With the exception of PVC windows, I can’t say that I’ve been really pleased with many window designs.
Now, there’s a special noise-blocking film that should be able to improve the audio quality of any type of window. So let’s talk about this magical product before I tell you about some alternatives you could use.
A New Kind of Sound-Blocking Film for Windows
Well, you’ve probably already seen some people use window film before. However, I can assure you that the invention I’m talking about isn’t your grandma’s stained glass film. Last year, the soundproofing world went abuzz with the news that a Singaporean lab had managed to create a truly sound-blocking film for windows.
The transparent film, which was conceived in Singapore’s Institute of Materials Research and Engineering, seemed to promise what we’ve all been waiting for. Not only would this material block out noise as effectively as noise-canceling headphones but it also lets you keep your windows open. What’s more, the film can even play music, in addition to blocking outside noises.
There are speakers that are built into the film. Now, explaining it would take more engineering knowledge than I possess. However, according to those in the know, this is truly a great achievement, even though the sound quality is nowhere near what we’re used to. Still, it’s definitely a step in the right direction.
Although scientists have been trying to figure out a way to improve the sound-blocking capabilities of windows for decades, they’ve always had to be closed in order to work. However, if this film really does work even with open windows and is transparent and thin on top of that, it may just be the thinnest and the most effective method of soundproofing on the planet. Obviously, that sounds too good to be true — except that it is true, by all accounts.
What Is This Miracle Material, Anyway?
So how does it work? Well, the material itself has a strong, transparent lamination core surrounded by two layers of polymer. The film should hang between two layers of windows and block or let noise in through external and internal openings. Clearly, having a double window with a sound-dampening film in between is more complicated than we want our windows to be.
Most people don’t want to have to deal with a complicated mechanism every time they want to air out their room. In any case, I should say that we’re talking about a very recent development. So you should know that you likely won’t be able to get your hands on this material for years to come. And even when they start selling it, it’ll probably cost an arm and a leg, at least at first.
Still, this invention is a definite step forward as far as I’m concerned. But since none of us will be able to check it out any time soon, let’s talk about the window film alternatives you can get right now.
Plastic Window Films for Soundproofing
Although I poked fun at your grandma’s stained glass window film, she’s actually on the right track. There are, indeed, some plastic window films that are actually great for soundproofing.
However, these products are nothing like the new version the scientists from Singapore have created. Instead, they’re merely sheets of plastic vinyl or environmental PVC. They’re often very easy to apply, usually coming with a clinging attachment method rather than an adhesive one. Because they’re made of plastic, a material that’s known for its soundproofing properties, they should be pretty good at adding both bulk and density to the window pane.
Best of all, these materials are often incredibly easy to apply. Most manufacturers have left adhesives behind in favor of reusable static cling attachment methods. So you should be able to use these things for years and take them off whenever you tire of them.
Still, if your glass is so thin it can benefit from a layer of plastic on top of it, the rest of your window probably isn’t in too great of a shape either. If there are air gaps between the window and the frame or the frame and the wall, you’ll almost certainly want to use some of the other window soundproofing methods with the film.
Benefits of a Noise-Blocking Window Film
So what can a window film that’s sorely missing built-in speakers do for your home? Well, window films generally have several purposes:
- Energy saving and UV blocking. Most of the products I’ve found are primarily focused on not letting hot air escape your home. However, we all know that air and sound might as well be one and the same. The Frost King Window Insulation Shrink Kit isn’t actually a glass film, but one that goes over your whole window. It’s one of the more popular cold weather window films because it’s so good at trapping heat, but it’ll also work for sound too.
- Sound dampening. Obviously, my primary goal with any of the products I talk about here is to keep the noise at a minimum. Whether you go for a product like the one I just mentioned or a film that goes onto the window pane, you’ll definitely be able to hear a difference. The film is softer than the glass, so the inside sounds won’t bounce as harshly. On top of that, the vinyl film will also strengthen any tiny cracks that are leaking sound from the outside.
- Keeping your privacy. Plenty of window films are opaque or colored in order to shield you from view. These are especially helpful if you live on the ground floor or if your windows are directly across from another building.
- Decorative. Plastic window films come with all sorts of patterns that would work for various spaces. For example, this frosted tulip pattern would look great in living rooms or bedrooms, while this geometric design would be great for an office space. And some patterns, like this crazy 3D rainbow glass one, defy all attempts at categorization.
Alternatives to Window Soundproofing Film
As I’ve already mentioned, if you’re attempting to soundproof your windows, simply sticking vinyl film onto the window pane probably won’t cut it. So let’s start with another noise-blocking film alternative.
If you’ve read my article on Mass-Loaded Vinyl, you’ve seen how useful it can be for soundproofing. Well, it doesn’t only come in black, you know. If you want to make absolutely sure that your window film is as effective as it can be, you might as well use professional equipment. After all, the primary purpose of the products I’ve linked to above is to make your home more energy efficient, not less noisy.
You can use tape to attach the transparent MLV to your window panes. However, this is possibly the less convenient and budget-friendly option than simply buying a window film.
Although window plugs aren’t as convenient as a clear window cover, they’re certainly more effective. After all, they’re just layers of wood, soundproof mats, and acoustic foam that go over your whole window. So you can say goodbye to sunlight.
Still, there’s no better solution for places like music studios or other areas where you need utter silence. And I’ve even written about how you can make your own window plugs!
Weatherstripping Tape and a Draft Stopper
If you end up using a window film, you’ll want to make sure the rest of your window is taken care of. Pay special attention to the gaps between your window and the window frame. This is where most of the air is likely coming from, and if there’s air, there’s sound.
However, that’s easy enough to take care of. Just get some weatherstripping tape and peel off the protective layer. Then stick it on where the window touches the window frame. That should take care of the gap and, therefore, the sound.
Since winter is upon us, I’ve also made little draft stoppers for some of my windows. They actually ought to slide under your doors to stop airflow and increase energy efficiency. However, they’re also perfect for windows that have a larger gap at the bottom for some reason. I’ve explained how to make them easily in another article.
Naturally, once you deal with the gaps in the window frame itself, you’ll have to deal with the gaps around the frame. If the windows weren’t installed properly, you’ll still feel a draft, even with the weatherstripping tape there. Fortunately, nothing is easier than caulking around the whole frame. The results will be instantaneous, and even better if you’re using acoustic caulk.
After all of that work, you might not even need another layer of soundproof materials. Your room should be blissfully silent already, at least as far as the windows are concerned. However, if you still hear noise coming from the outside, you can cover everything up with soundproof curtains, and call it a day.
Soundproof curtains will not only prevent your window from letting noise in, but they’ll also improve the internal audio quality. And of course, they also have decorative value as well.
So Are These Window Films Worth It?
Ultimately, window soundproofing films are a great category of products. More importantly, they’re a category we’re still developing and researching, which is always exciting. With any luck, I’ll have a whole new batch of soundproof materials to talk about in a couple of years. But as it is, we’ll have to settle for the ones I’ve talked about in this article.
Overall, plastic window films are a great idea. Like soundproof curtains, they’ll at least add a great stylistic element to your home. In fact, they’ll probably provide a much greater comfort — silence. But, as I’ve already mentioned, that’s only if you use them in combination with some other soundproofing materials.
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