Here I’ll share the best simple techniques for soundproofing an entire apartment. Any room, the walls, ceiling, windows, doors – I’ll cover everything.
Out of all of the problems we deal with in our day-to-day lives, noise is a wholly modern one. But, it shouldn’t surprise us that that’s the case. After all, congested streets, loudspeakers, obnoxious pets, and thin walls only became widespread problems recently.
A noisy apartment isn’t fun to live in. It doesn’t matter if it’s your neighbors blaring dubstep at one of their all-night parties, a pup who can’t seem to stop barking or even just ambient noises that you’re able to hear a lot better because of a thin wall or door. Noise is noise, and if it bothers you, it doesn’t matter where it comes from.
In my case, I had the worst luck. If the couple upstairs wasn’t bickering loudly, one of their two toddlers was throwing a tantrum. And, if it wasn’t either of those, my downstairs neighbor would be jamming like it’s 1969 and he’s at Woodstock. Sadly, he was no Jimi Hendrix.
After many sleepless nights, I finally solved my dilemma. To help you out, I’ll share a few of the suggestions I came across for how to soundproof an entire apartment. That’s right, any room, the walls, ceiling, windows, doors – everything.
Apartments & Noise
For most of us city dwellers, the noise doesn’t ever end (and rarely does it take a break either). That’s just part of life in an urban sprawl. However, if you live in an apartment like me, you’ve likely noticed that we have it the worst.
A garbage truck squealing outside in the morning, the clickety-clack of high heels above you and the screams of a toddler below you. There is a myriad of places noise can come from. What’s worse, there are often just as many places for noise to sneak in through.
That’s because most apartments have thin walls and flimsy doors. Doors with a hollow core and air trapped inside of it. As we all know, air is a great medium for noise. The walls are almost always made of drywall, which is thin enough for most sounds to pass through. That applies to the ceiling as well.
However, that’s not the end of it – the windows can be culprits too. Most window jambs have gaps that are wide enough for all of those honks, passing airplanes and trains outside to sound through loud and clear. If you’ve ever lived by an El, then you know exactly what I’m talking about.
Without further ado, let’s go over what it is we can do about each of these trouble spots.
Soundproofing Apartment Doors
One of the least expected trouble spots may be the front door. Most of us would probably think that given that doors are solid objects, our front doors should be able to stop noise fairly well.
However, that’s simply not the case with most apartment doors. It shouldn’t come as a surprise if we think about what they’re made of. That is, in most cases, an inside cardboard honeycomb core and a softwood outer frame.
With a hollow core, you inevitably get air inside. And air, as mentioned before, is an excellent medium for noise to travel through. In other words, there just isn’t much in the way. What’s worse, the jambs of most doors have gaps that are wide enough for noise to peer through.
1. Seal the door jamb
The easiest fix for a flimsy front door is to seal the gaps around it. That is, the gaps in the door jamb. We can do that in one of two ways: by putting up weatherstripping tape along the frame, or by installing a door sweep.
• Put up weatherstripping tape
Putting up weatherstripping tape along the door jamb is the most cost-effective method I’ve found for plugging the gaps. It’s also less of a hassle than, say, caulking around the door frame, which you can read more about here.
I recommend to first try weatherstripping tape over acoustic caulk and other means (door gaskets, etc.) That’s because weatherstripping tape costs less and is easier to apply. Not to mention, it’s not nearly as much of a hassle to remove later on. It should, ideally, be your go-to fix.
I prefer rubber, but you can find weatherstripping tape made from foam, felt, vinyl and silicone. Rubber costs less, doesn’t look too obvious and lasts a while, which is why it’s what I chose for my door.
• Install a door sweep
Door sweeps are meant to stop drafts and insects from coming through under the door. But, as it turns out, they can make for nifty noise-blockers as well.
And it’s no surprise that, if bugs can fit through the gap, noise can just as easily. Aside from stopping noise and creepy crawlies, a door sweep can come in handy in other ways too. For example, if the hallways outside your front door are often filled with cigarette smoke, paint fumes or other irritants, a door sweep can keep those at bay.
If you want more information, I recommend you check the article about Best Door Sweeps For Soundproofing.
2. Cover the door
• Tack a rigid foam cover over your door
It’s not a very pretty solution, that’s for sure. But, at the same time, it’s very cheap, and almost anyone can do it. Still, you may want to think carefully about this one before you get started.
The idea here is to install a rigid foam cover over your door. Foam is thick and can do wonders for your noise woes. There’s a video on Youtube that explains how to go about it.
• Cover your door with a soundproof blanket
Admittedly, this fix isn’t the easiest on the eyes either, but soundproof blankets won’t set you back by too much and will work fairly well.
The soundproof blankets I’m talking about are, in fact, moving blankets (read more about moving blankets for soundproofing). Those are the blankets movers like to wrap heavy furniture up in to protect it from scratches and bruises. When you think about it, they have to be reasonably thick. And, luckily, for our purposes, thick and dense fabrics are a boon.
I suggest you look for a blanket with grommets. Grommets are the tiny rings with which we attach curtains to curtain rods. They will make putting the blankets on and taking them off again a lot easier.
To learn about different ways you can soundproof your apartment door, follow the link.
Soundproofing Apartment Windows
1. Put up weatherstripping tape
Weatherstripping tape isn’t just meant for doors. It’s often used to cover the seams of windows to stop the draft and for heat insulation in cold weather, but it can just as easily block out noise.
Like with doors, it’s important that you choose a durable tape. In fact, it’s even more important here than it is with doors as the tape, in this case, will be exposed to varying weather and more friction than a door normally would.
That doesn’t mean you have to pay a premium for a roll of high-grade vinyl tape, though. You can simply use the quality rubber tape that was recommended for the door.
2. Build a removable window plug
A window plug is another low-cost solution for soundproofing apartment windows. It asks for your time and a bit of know-how, but if you’re fond of do-it-yourself (DIY) projects, then it shouldn’t give you too much trouble. It can even be fun if you’re in the mood for a project like this.
In short, a soundproof window plug is a layer of foam and a soundproof mat glued to a wooden board (preferably one that has handles). One of the benefits of choosing a window plug is that all of the parts can be bought for cheap on Amazon and elsewhere. Assuming you make yours a snug fit, window plugs are one of the most effective noise-blockers out there.
However, they’re not for everyone. Their main cons are that they block out all light and that they look, frankly, a little ugly. But, if you can get past that, they’re very good at what they do.
3. Hang soundproof curtains
While soundproof curtains (read more) aren’t as effective as window plugs, they can complement other methods quite nicely.
Of course, they have the edge on window plugs looks-wise. They may even add to your room’s aesthetic by making it look a little cozier inside. The other key benefits of soundproof curtains are that they will reduce echo and light peering in from outside.
Sadly, they aren’t as good at blocking out noise as window plugs, but if your noise problem isn’t as severe or if you’re mixing and matching a few different methods, then soundproof curtains may turn out to be a good buy.
Go here for more info on how you can soundproof your windows.
How to Soundproof Thin Apartment Walls
1. Rearrange the furniture & add wall decor
The key to stopping or at least reducing noise is to, well, just put a big enough object in the way. Without special materials that absorb sound, that’s the most we can do. And, what are the biggest objects in most apartments? Why, furniture, of course!
Couches, sofas, beds, wardrobes – anything you can think of that’s big. If positioned the right way, the layout of the furniture in your apartment room can really affect how well noise is able to travel.
Of course, this fix isn’t ideal. How well this method will work depends a lot on the size of the room and other factors. Putting a couch in front of a door doesn’t make a lot of sense, so if a piece of furniture clearly doesn’t belong somewhere, don’t put it there!
You can also try and add some decor to your wall. That way, you kill off two birds with one stone by dampening the noise that’s leaking through the wall and sprucing up your abode, all at once!
2. Install another layer of drywall with MLV in between
The best (but costlier) way to soundproof an apartment wall is to put up another layer of drywall and to install a layer of mass loaded vinyl (MLV).
By putting up another layer of drywall, you’re making the wall thicker. The thicker the wall, the harder it is for noise to travel through it. But, why not go the extra mile? I suggest soundproof drywall as a pricier, but far more effective material.
Soundproof drywall is a mix of gypsum, ceramics and viscoelastic materials. That’s proven to be a very potent team. I’ve read that one layer of soundproof drywall is as effective as eight layers of regular drywall when it comes to reducing noise. And, even if those exact numbers aren’t true, it’s surely a step-up from regular drywall.
The drawback is that, of course, soundproof drywall costs more, as much as four times the price of regular drywall per sheet.
Mass loaded vinyl (full review of MLV material) is another option. In this case, the idea is to install a layer of MLV between two layers of drywall. MLV is ideal for soundproofing, as it’s thick, heavy and often mixed with metal (the “mass loaded” part of its name) to make it even more so.
Again, the trade-off is that MLV isn’t very cheap. But, it’s very effective, that’s for sure.
3. Seal the gaps in the drywall with acoustic caulk
If you’ve noticed cracks or gaps in your apartment wall (for example, between the layers/sheets of drywall), then the first step to soundproofing it is to seal those gaps. Even barely noticeable ones matter.
Acoustic caulk (or sealant) is perfect for the job. It’s a rubber-like material that’s both flexible and durable. A key benefit of acoustic caulk is that it will stay flexible and won’t crack, unlike regular caulk.
Granted, you will need a caulking gun, but acoustic caulk is fairly cheap.
4. Reduce the echo in your room with acoustic panels
Lastly, if it’s one wall in particular that’s giving you a lot of trouble, try soundproof foam. This fix is a bit of a last resort, but if it works, it works.
Soundproof foam is made from acoustic foam, a mix of polyurethane-derived materials (polyether, polyester, etc.) These materials allow open cells (which trap noise) to form across the surface of the foam and inside of it.
If this foam appears too light or thin to block noise, that’s because it isn’t meant to. It is a sound absorbing material that is meant to deaden the noise and reduce echo. That’s why almost all studios have these panels.
So, it isn’t a fix-it-all solution, but combined with a few of my previous suggestions, you can get great results with acoustic foam.
Soundproofing Apartment Ceilings
1. Add another layer of drywall
Just like with the walls, we can add thickness and density to the apartment ceiling by putting up another layer of drywall over it.
Two layers of drywall ought to be enough for a good “soundproofing job.” However, to ensure the best results, you have to use resilient channels or a good dampening compound between each layer. I recommend green glue compound, which I’ve always found works for me, but you can use any other compound you prefer. For more info on Green Glue, give this article a read.
2. Create a Drop Ceiling
Now we’ve surely entered the “How will I pay for that?” zone. Don’t worry – I don’t expect a drop ceiling to be your go-to solution for reducing noise.
However, it is one of the most effective ways to soundproof an existing ceiling. In case you’ve never heard of it, a drop ceiling is, for all intents and purposes, a second ceiling underneath your first. There is a gap between the two, but the air in that gap is highly pressurized, which can stop noise instead of allowing it to propagate.
Drop ceilings are made from acoustic tiles/panels. They can be rather pricey, and I frankly wouldn’t call this fix “DIY,” unless you’re very adventurous. However, I thought it deserved to be mentioned, if just for how effective it is.
How to Soundproof The Floor
1. Lay some thick carpets
I’ll admit, this method won’t do a whole lot for the noise your downstairs neighbors may be making. But, if you’ve noticed that your footsteps are a shade too heavy, it can help a lot with that.
Don’t just get yourself any old rugs, though. A tightly-woven carpet is the most effective for reducing noise. The thicker and denser the fabric, the better. Plus, thick carpets can add a lot to your home’s aesthetic.
2. Use some other type of padding (like rubber or foam floor mats)
If carpets don’t do the trick, you can always try rubber or foam floor mats.
Ideally, you should place these mats underneath the carpets. Not only will you hide the mats this way, but you will get better results because of the extra padding.
My favorite mats are the ones from Rubber-Cal, which are made of recycled rubber. They absorb impact noises (such as footsteps, dropped items, etc.) very well and don’t slip. In fact, you can even appropriate them as gym mats and get a little exercise done at home.
Reducing the Noise From Vents
They’re often overlooked, but air vents are ripe for noise leaks.
If your apartment or house has vents, then you have to tread carefully. Reducing noise from the vents will also reduce air flow. Of course, to block noise leaks entirely, you must seal the vents, which isn’t an ideal fix.
However, there are a few ways you can reduce the noise leaks coming through your vents without harming the air flow too badly. A lot of it depends on the characteristics of your vent system – duct shape, wall type, materials, etc.
Here is a more thorough guide to soundproofing your air vents.
Alternative Ideas for Quiet Apartment Life
1. Ask your neighbor, or whoever is causing the noise, to stop
I’ve noticed that I, like most people, will overlook the easiest, most obvious solutions to the problems in my life. I can’t say exactly why that is, but it seems to be a habit a lot of us share.
To be fair, asking your neighbors to quiet down isn’t always the easiest route. Neighbors can be rude and uncaring, at which point you can only complain about them to the police, and that’s no fun task. And, of course, neighbors with toddlers or infants usually don’t do much about the crying or tantrum-throwing (in that case, show them this article: How to Soundproof a Nursery).
Still, it’s entirely possible that your neighbors just don’t know how noisy they’re being. So, I would suggest that, before you go and build your own version of the Fortress of Solitude, you talk to your problematic neighbors first and ask them (nicely, of course!) if they can quiet down.
If it works, it works, if it doesn’t… well, that’s what you have the rest of this article for!
2. Get a white noise machine to neutralize the noise in the room
White noise is a very interesting phenomenon. Just like white light is made up of all of the colors we can see, white noise is made up of all of the different frequencies of sound we can hear.
What’s more interesting is that a lot of people find white noise very relaxing. If you are one of them, then white noise may be the fix you’ve been looking for. Because it’s made up of all of the different tones we can hear, white noise drowns out all other noise.
A white noise machine is great for that, of course, but you can also find mounds of hours-long YouTube videos of nothing but white noise. Lastly, you can use a white noise fan for this purpose as well.
3. Get yourself a pair of earmuffs or headphones
Another fairly simple solution is to buy yourself a pair of earmuffs or noise-canceling headphones. These can range from low-cost to fairly pricey, but all it takes is a bit of bargain-hunting.
Not all earmuffs are meant for sleeping in, mind you. For example, factory workers and musicians wear earmuffs to protect their hearing, but those just aren’t comfy enough to wear to bed. Similar applies to noise-canceling heaphones, too. Earplugs are another option, but I’ve never found a pair that’s comfortable enough for me. Still, if it works for you, it works.
To Wrap Up
There you have it – a very exhaustive article on soundproofing a whole apartment!
To be honest, unless you plan on setting up a studio in your apartment, you most likely won’t need all of these suggestions. But, if you’re struggling with noisy neighbors, live on a noisy street, or, you just can’t tolerate any noise, then chances are you will find at least a few of them useful.
With the links I included in this article, you can find more details, as well as instructions and product recommendations.