Although the modern urban lifestyle is very convenient in general, it definitely has some significant downsides. One of the most annoying problems everyone faces sooner or later is invasive noise pollution. If you’re wondering how to soundproof a room cheaply, chances are, like many others, you’ve been affected by this problem.
However, do not despair. You don’t need expensive studio equipment to reduce your noise levels. Soundproofing a room for cheap is completely viable, and all you need for that are some common household items. It takes no more than a little creativity to create a large difference in your environment. What’s more, once you know the basics of soundproofing, you can even soundproof a room for free. This list of 10 cheap soundproofing ideas is here to help you get inspired.
But Is It Really Possible?
There are numerous ways in which noise could be ruining your day. If you live in an apartment building with bad sound insulation, it might seem like you’re condemned to live with the noise. You might be living on a busy street, with traffic noise going on into the late night. Noisy neighbors can be just as bad if you’re unlucky enough. Even worse, if they happen to have young children, you’ll be forced to accompany them in the woes of early parenthood against your best interest.
Do not try to make yourself accept high noise levels as just another part of life. This form of pollution is as harmful as any other and, over time, it can impact your health by ruining your sleep and making your stress levels skyrocket. You deserve peace and quiet in your personal space as much as the next person. What’s wrong is to remain passive and do nothing about it, especially when cheap soundproofing ideas are accessible and abundant.
To answer the question – yes, it definitely is possible to soundproof a room for free or cheaply. However, the level of success will depend on many factors, such as your environment and the type of noise you are facing. Knowing how to soundproof a room requires some knowledge and creativity. Let’s get into more detail to help you figure out the perfect solution for your specific needs.
How Soundproofing Works?
Soundproofing, the technical term for which is sound insulation, is a science in its own right. Namely, a soundproof surface is meant to prevent the transmission of sound from the outside atmosphere to your interior.
Once an airborne sound wave hits such a surface, it either passes through, or is reflected back into the atmosphere it came from. If you want to maintain a level of privacy and calm in a bustling environment, you have little choice but to learn how to cleverly implement such soundproof and acoustic elements.
The level of effectiveness of soundproof elements depends on the various acoustic features of these objects. Size, thickness, density, and structure all play important roles in how well these objects block sound.
Professional studios, office buildings and such rely on clever building design and costly soundproof devices and panels to reduce noise levels. Of course, that is not the only way to go, as every physical object has acoustic properties. You can still soundproof your room on a budget, as long as you know what to use. Fortunately, it doesn’t take long to learn the basics.
What to Expect from Cheap DIY Solutions?
You normally cannot expect a 100% noise suppression rate from DIY solutions. Still, chances are you don’t need professional insulation, but rather seek more humane living conditions. That’s why you may benefit from knowing how to soundproof a room cheaply.
The right way to soundproof is mainly by preventing sound leakage by closing up any existing gaps in your environment. It’s important to keep those in mind since high levels of noise can travel even through a tiny leak. Thin barriers can pose a risk as well, which is why you shouldn’t forget windows, doors and even walls and floors in some cases.
Some soundproofing products aren’t too expensive and can be easily found online. However, even if you’re on a very tight budget, you still have ways to do it.
10 Ideas on How to Soundproof a Room for Cheap
Here are the 10 cheap soundproofing ideas for rooms (including answers to some frequently asked questions) which should spark your creativity and get you on your feet. They are ranked from those showing you how to soundproof it for free, to those requiring a small and reasonable investment.
1. Play Around with the Decor
Simply rearranging the furniture with soundproofing in mind is a great way to silence outside noise and prevent sounds from entering your room. The most helpful way to make sure that sounds can’t pass through the walls is to push your wardrobe and bookshelves against them. I’d recommend focusing on any shared walls and the ones that are facing the street.
Another thing you could do to add mass to the walls is to just decorate them with canvas paintings or tapestries. The thicker the fabric, the more sound it will be able to absorb. So if you have a rug that’s just too pretty to walk on, you could just hang it up on the wall and call it a day.
Actually, while we’re on the subject of decor, soundproof wallpaper could also be a helpful way of soundproofing. Something like this white brick pattern wallpaper (link to Amazon) is pretty much a great way to add some mass to your walls. It’s made of a thicker foam material, unlike a regular wallpaper. I imagine it would be especially great for the walls that are still exposed after you’ve pushed all of the bookshelves and wardrobes off to one side.
Also, since softer, cushiony materials are better at absorbing sound, you may want to consider adding a little sitting area to the room. If it’s big enough, you should probably fit a small sofa or an armchair in there. Both of those options will slightly improve the acoustics of a room.
2. Use Household Items to Soundproof the Door
If you’re asking where to start soundproofing project, the first answer will always be to pay attention to doors and windows. Doors are especially tricky when it comes to blocking sound. That is because not only are most of them hollow, but the gaps between the door and the frame allow noise to easily get inside.
The efficient, yet expensive solution is getting a high quality, thick, soundproof door. To achieve the same with household items, you would first need to tactically position your furniture in front of the edges of the door.
Secondly, mind the fact that the door bottom can transmit a great deal of noise as well. To prevent that, place a thick rug or similar fabric on the floor next to the door. That will hopefully fill up the gap.
Next, for extra levels of insulation, cover the door with as many layers of thick material as possible, such as heavy blankets. Some of these methods will be discussed in further detail in this article.
Finally, stuff some towels under your door or get a quality door sweep to decrease the amount of noise even further.
3. Soundproof a Room for Free with Blankets
If you’re wondering how to soundproof a room for free by using something you certainly have at home, blankets are your answer. Although stretching blankets over walls and windows may not be the most aesthetically pleasing solution, it is effective for all kinds of emergencies.
For blankets to work as effective noise blockers, they need to be as thick and dense as possible. People have reported success with wool blankets used for this purpose. Make sure the blanket is covering the entire surface of the wall and preferably windows, and feel free to add layers.
A DIY trick rapidly growing in popularity is using heavy moving blankets for soundproofing. These blankets are intended to protect your belongings when moving, which is why they’re very thick. Fortunately, they are also somewhat soundproof, as well as much cheaper than some professional soundproofing equipment.
Whether you’re working with regular blankets or soundproof ones, you can:
- Nail or glue them to the walls.
- Hang them on curtain rods over the doors or windows.
- Toss them over any hard surfaces or pieces of furniture.
For extra style points, you could install curtain railings around the wardrobe or along the walls, and suspend blankets all over the room. And if you’d like to understand the difference between soundproof and moving blankets and get my product recommendations, you may check the linked article.
Now, since I’ve already mentioned curtain railings, there are some more obvious decorative elements one might hang off of those.
4. And for a Stylish Twist — Hang Some Soundproof Curtains
Just like blankets, curtains can be used to soften and absorb sounds before they can hit hard surfaces like drywall, wooden furniture, or glass windows. You could pretty much install curtain railings wherever you want them — along the walls or over doors and windows — and hang the curtains up. However, even heavy soundproof curtains are often considered a less effective alternative to soundproof blankets.
Still, I’d say that curtains are especially good for soundproofing simply because they’re more attractive than blankets. On the whole, soundproof blankets are designed with musicians in mind. Certainly, the look of a blanket wasn’t as important as its efficacy to the designer or the intended consumer. But when we’re talking about areas like bedrooms, we expect to see something that’s a bit more comfortable and presentable.
That’s why, especially if you’re going to be bringing partners over, soundproof curtains might be the way to go. Actually, if you don’t want to invest in soundproof curtains, you could just use any thicker curtains you’ve got. You could even layer curtains on top of each other. I recommend putting lighter curtains closer to the wall or the window, and thicker ones on top.
However, keep in mind that not all curtains are equally soundproof. You should be careful to make the right purchase, given the fact that the market is saturated with all kinds of products. Some of those are, naturally, of dubious quality. Likewise, keep in mind to cover a few inches of the wall next to the window to make sure there is no leakage.
5. Weatherstripping and Sealing Gaps
Aside from covering them with soundproof blankets or curtains, there are a few other easy ways to soundproof a door and even a window:
- Use weatherstripping tape (see on Amazon) or rubber gaskets where the door/window touches the frame. They will ensure that the doors and windows are tightly shut so no air or sound can pass through them.
- Rubber door stoppers are also easy to install and they’ll deal with the gaps between the door and the threshold. They’ll even keep the door from slamming if there’s a draft.
- Actually, even a soft draft blocker (Amazon) would be a great option. It’s a sort of long heavy cushion that you’d slide under the door. And since it’s made of textile, it won’t damage your floor as you open the door.
- Alternatively, you could set up a stationery rubber threshold on the floor itself, rather than having one slide against your floor every time you want to open the door.
6. Do Egg Cartons Absorb Sound?
Egg cartons are one of the most popular word-of-mouth solutions when it comes to cheap soundproofing ideas. If you ever asked anyone how to soundproof a room for free, you probably heard this story in response. So, is their usefulness a mere urban myth, or is there any truth to these claims?
As your reason might be telling you, egg cartons cannot block sound from passing through. And this is true, as they are lightweight, porous, and they do not make enough of a physical barrier. Fortunately, acoustics works in mysterious ways, and you can use egg cartons to reduce echo. The answer to that lies in their structure, which is uneven and undulated.
Namely, when sound waves reach smooth surfaces such as walls and windows, they are simply reverted back to where they came from. This continuous process results in echo inside your room, which makes up a great portion of overall noise levels.
However, if you tactically place egg cartons in sensitive locations, their structure will retain these sound waves and transform them into heat. That can help a little when it comes to eliminating echo and reverberation. The air gaps inside the cartons also act as an insulating agent.
Egg cartons are far from a proper absorption system, but their accessibility makes them worth trying out.
7. Should You Use Cheap Soundproof Foam?
If you look into soundproof foam online, you might come across information that it does not actually block sound. Does that mean it is unusable? Can you really use it for soundproofing? The reality is, of course, a bit more complicated than that.
Namely, there is a difference in acoustics between blocking sound, or sound insulation, and sound absorption. Soundproof foam doesn’t prevent the passage of sound waves. Instead, like similar soft materials, it traps the sound waves inside its fibers. That transforms the energy of the sound wave into heat and results in reduced echo and reverberation.
The sound absorption you get from foam is an important part of any soundproofing process. It may not completely eliminate noise from your room, but it can make a great difference by reducing echo. Most importantly, soundproof foam products are cheap and easy to find.
I’ve made my product recommendations in the previous article I’ve written on this subject. But as for the use of foam products in rooms like a bedroom or living room, honestly, I’m of two minds.
On the one hand, foam tiles could add a nice texture to your walls. On the other, having professional soundproofing equipment hanging on the walls may seem like a bit of an overkill. It might actually be best to keep the soundproofing methods subtle. You could compensate for flimsier surface soundproofing techniques by implementing some more serious methods underneath.
8. DIY Soundproofing Panels
Would you like to know how to soundproof a room cheaply and effectively? If you are ready to put in a little effort, you can save money by making your own soundproofing panels.
- First, you will need a soundproof material which you will stash inside the panel. You can pick acoustic foam, mineral wool, or anything else that’s available. Most of these are cheap and accessible.
- Next, you will need to construct a wooden frame which will contain the soundproof material. The size of the panel should match the size of the surface you want to cover. The most practical solution is using standard wood glue and applying spray adhesive over the entire insulation perimeter.
- Finally, once you place the soundproof material inside the frame, you need to wrap the construction up in a fabric. This fabric should be aesthetically pleasing since this is the visible part. Besides that, make sure the fabric is not soundproof, because you want the sound waves to reach the core of the panel.
Watch this short video for more detailed instructions:
9. DIY Soundproof Window Plugs
Don’t forget to pay attention to windows! As mentioned before, a great deal of noise inside your room is entering through them. If you are in no position to purchase new soundproof windows, you can always create a DIY soundproof window plug with the same effect.
These plugs will also block light, so if you are installing them in living areas, you will want to make them removable. If you are putting them up in a bedroom, however, you can attach them permanently for even greater effect.
Constructing a window plug is easy – all you need for that is a soundproofing mat, a thin wooden board, and an adhesive or caulk. Apart from soundproofing a room cheaply, window plugs will also provide you with thermal insulation during cold seasons.
10. Can Carpets Soundproof the Floor?
Indeed, carpets aren’t there just for aesthetic reasons or making your floor warmer and softer. Another important role of carpets is noise reduction.
Many people are tempted to think that thick and hard surfaces are the best at blocking sound. However, in reality, wooden and concrete floors actually transmit a great deal of noise. That especially applies when it comes to impact noise, such as the sound of heavy footsteps, or objects falling to the floor.
In contrast to that, thanks to their soft acoustic structure, carpets can absorb these impacts, i.e. reduce the vibrations that are transferred into the building structure. For example, laying a carpet onto the main floor is a cheap way to block impact noise from travelling through the basement ceiling.
Also, carpets can absorb reverberation and echo by trapping the sound waves in their fibers. The best solution is to have them of appropriate thickness, covering the entire floor surface.
What’s more, you can enhance the effectiveness of your carpet by installing cheap acoustic underlay beneath it. It will not only cushion the impact of footsteps but will also make your room that much cozier.
I’ve also been experimenting with ceiling soundproofing. As I have previously mentioned, any rugs that are too pretty to walk over can be hung up on walls. However, I’ve recently become aware that some people also hang rugs from the ceiling.
This is a pretty tough look to pull off, but if any room could do it, I’d say it would be a bedroom. Of course, this would certainly be a more difficult undertaking than if you were to nail the rug to a wall. But I’d say it might be worth it, especially if you’re going for an eccentric Bohemian sort of vibe for your bedroom.
Essentially, carpets won’t block any incoming noise, but they can improve the quality of sound inside the room. Although far from a perfect solution, it still makes some difference.
Advanced Room Soundproofing Methods
Now we’re talking about methods that are more likely to make a dent in your wallet. They’ll also be more effective than most DIY tips I have for you. As always, it’s best to start by plugging any obvious air gaps.
Start Where You’re Vulnerable: Windows and Doors
If weatherstripping tape didn’t manage to remove most of the outside noise, your windows and doors may have more gaps. Get a caulking gun and some acoustic caulk and go to town. Check around the window and door frames, looking for any cracks where air could get in, and plug them with a sealant.
If you can still hear sounds through your door even with the door stopper and after you’ve plugged the air gaps, you may need to look into buying a new door. You could just look for thicker and denser doors — or you could go straight for the heavy-duty soundproof doors they use for music studios. They’re often made of quality materials and filled with foam or other insulation, so don’t expect them to be cheap.
Windows present a different problem. Even after you’ve plugged the air gaps with caulk, the glass itself could be letting sound through. There are a few fixes for this as well:
- Install window inserts to soundproof and prevent the heat from escaping through thin glass. This is especially helpful if you have single-pane windows.
- Make your own window plug as described above — which will also prevent the light from coming through to your bedroom.
- Buy new PVC windows and monitor their installation to avoid air gaps. They come with their own weatherstripping tape and double-pane glass, which is ideal for preventing outside noises from reaching you. And on top of that, you can install fabric blinds, which will also prevent sound from bouncing off of hard glass.
Soundproofing the Walls
I’ve already gone through the best way to soundproof a wall in a previous article. Basically, it involves stripping the walls down to the studs and installing:
- Thick soundproof insulation,
- Mass-Loaded Vinyl,
- Resilient channels,
- Two layers of soundproof drywall with Green Glue in between, and
- Copious amounts of acoustic caulk to plug the remaining gaps.
All of these elements combine to bring you the most effective soundproofing you could possibly get, but they also come at a price. Soundproof insulation and drywall are more expensive than regular ones, for example. But if you read the linked article, you’ll see that you don’t necessarily have to use each of the products I’ve recommended.
In fact, if you need to decide upon a single solution, I’d recommend installing resilient channels. They will separate the inner layers of drywall from the wall studs, making even impact noise disperse before reaching your room.
If you prefer, you can do a similar thing without stripping the existing walls. Just put up new studs on top of the walls and do all or some of these steps on top of that. The room will get smaller, though, and you’ll need to work around the power lines and air ducts.
Speaking of which, since air ducts are pretty much big holes in the walls, you’ll need to plug them too. You can deal with them by completely covering them or installing a sound maze inside the vent, to prevent sound from traveling through the ventilation system.
Working on the Floor and Ceiling
Lastly, if installing foam products or rugs didn’t quite get rid of the sound of your upstairs neighbors, you can pretty much follow the wall soundproofing tips to lower your ceiling and decouple it from the floor above.
As for the floor, the simplest way to soundproof it would be to:
- Cover as much of the floor as possible with thick and dense carpets.
- Put rubber floor mats, MLV, or both under the carpet.
- Use foam carpet underlay under thinner carpets.
And if your floor is letting sound pass even through the rubber mat, MLV, and thick carpet underlay, you’ll have to do some work on it too. Basically, you’ll lift the floor until you reach the subfloor. Then, you’ll lay down underlayment and a Green Glue and plywood sandwich, and return the hardwood floors. I’ve explained this process in more detail and have recommended a few products in my article about floor soundproofing.
Final Soundproofing Tips for a Quiet Home
So, that’s about all I know about soundproofing a room. Some of these are tried and true tricks I have developed during my own years of switching sleeping arrangements, while others are ones I’ve recently learned.
Still, I have a few final words of wisdom I’d like to share with you.
If none of these techniques work, or if for some reason you can’t apply them, you may want to invest in other noise-canceling products instead. Fortunately, I’ve written reviews on quite a few useful ones:
- You could use a white noise machine or a fan. These are pretty cheap and effective at disguising all sorts of noises, and they don’t require you to install anything.
- If you’re looking for something more, air purifiers can also act as white noise machines at higher speeds. And they’ll even allow you to breathe easier.
- Also, consider getting noise canceling headphones or earmuffs. If all you’re having to deal with is loud roommates or neighbors (or kids playing video games till the crack of dawn), these products will serve you well.
That’s all, folks! Now you know everything I do about soundproofing. Ultimately, whichever one of these methods you end up going with should effectively soundproof any room. And if you’re doing it right, it’ll also make it a bit more stylish as well.
Please tell about your experiences in the comment section. That way, you will help everyone learn more about it and perhaps come up with new ideas.