In any living space, a peaceful environment makes all the difference in the world.
If you told me heavy traffic by your apartment didn’t irritate you at some point, I’d love to know how you do it.
Earplugs, maybe? A surround sound speaker? Or are you immune to noise in general?
The way I see it, noise can be harmful not just to your ears but to your wellbeing too.
Living in your own home might be easier to reduce sound and blaring noise. But in an apartment building, loud neighbors and car honks are much harder to let go of.
Before we dive into this soundproofing article, know that removing noise sources completely is impossible.
And if that’s the case, then…
Take A Realistic Approach
You can turn down decibels by at least 20 to 30 points, but it’s unwise to think this will solve every noise problem.
Rendering sound completely would mean building a room within your apartment or home. It’s doable, but it’s also a lot of extra expense.
If your apartment is next to a lot of consistent heavy traffic, you could improve the structure to reduce the sound. However, the best solution also involves moving as far away from the source as possible.
And if that doesn’t work, consider changing rooms or even moving to a different location, worst-case scenario.
I don’t want you to feel soundproofing your apartment is a lost cause. It’s not a hopeless case, to be honest.
What you need to remember in soundproofing an apartment is two things:
- Improving the structure helps. Any way to reduce sound in your living space will produce a noticeable effect.
- Invest in tools you can use for yourself that can drown out the noise. (We’ll get into more detail about this later).
So What Can You Do?
To solve your noise issue, there are 4 major things you can do:
1. Re-arrange Your Furniture
I mentioned earlier that you can move away from the source as far as possible. That works. But you know what else also does? Re-arranging furniture.
If you have large bookshelves, placing them wherever the walls are thin can reduce sound by a small notch. You’ll also want to make the most out of upholstered furniture.
Upholstered furniture like suede, microfiber, and corduroy are perfect sound absorbers. Wherever sound is the loudest or can pass through easily is the best place to put furniture in.
Thin walls for example pinned against sofas or couches help greatly. Re-arranging furniture works best against noise passing through walls. Other than that, they’re room decor.
2. STC Improvement
STC or Sound Transmission Class is a rating of how well a partition (wall) reduces any sound transmitted through the air, like music or conversations.
Most of this relates to thin walls, resulting in loud neighbors, music, and parties.
The walls you find in most apartments have low STC ratings because of their construction material.
Walls made of Cinder Block are more likely to let any noise pass through compared to Insulated Concrete Wall Blocks.
Similarly, metal studs are better at soundproofing than wood studs. Distance between the studs can also improve soundproofing. 24 inches should improve the STC rating.
For any apartment with low STC ratings, it’s common to hear a lot of noise complaints. To remedy this, STC improvements involve door, window, and wall soundproofing.
3. IIC Improvement
IIC or Impact Isolation Class tells you how well a floor can absorb impact sound, such as footsteps.
IIC mostly relates to your flooring. Sadly, flooring is the hardest to improve after construction. Tile and hardwood flooring absorb less impact noise compared to underlay flooring.
A shag rug or carpet has high IIC ratings and can reduce sound transmission effectively. You can expect a 50% reduction in noise is you use a carpet with heavy padding.
4. Seal All Small Cracks and Gaps
This is by far the cheapest, realistic solution anyone can do for their apartment. You also won’t have to worry about making drastic changes your landlord may not approve.
You won’t need to break any wall and neither will there be any damage that needs sealing a second time around.
It’s fairly easy to identify cracks and gaps in your windows and even on a wall. Don’t take even the slightest gaps between your floor and baseboard lightly.
Sealing all cracks in your wall, windows, door, and floor can reduce the noise by a few decibels.
The Next Step: 4 Types of Soundproofing For Your Apartment
In this section, we’ll go into greater detail on how to soundproof your wall, door, floor, and windows.
To soundproof a wall, this might take extra labor on your part. If you plan to soundproof every wall in your apartment, that may take some time. Not to mention, professional help as well.
So perhaps, you can start small and focus first on soundproofing a room. Reducing noise transmission is easier for a room.
If your apartment isn’t too big either, a soundproof solution may not be as difficult too. Here are three ways to soundproof a wall.
1. Add an extra layer of drywall
Your walls probably already have drywall installed in them. The first layer; however, may not be as thick following that noise complaints are common in your space.
Adding a layer will effectively block noise from passing through. The term for this is also known as double drywall.
I will warn you though. Installing a drywall might be easy for some, but there’s a lot of technical work involved here too.
I recommend seeking professional help to make sure you install this right.
Stub placement, distance, and using the right tools are essential factors. All of which might take time for you. If you have a busy schedule, this also isn’t as easy as a simple DIY method.
The good news is, adding a drywall only costs a few dollars. Soundproofing a wall with this method is inexpensive but it will require additional help.
For a better glimpse, I’ll post a video below. The video is an ultimate guide on doubling your drywall.
Quick note: Before you buy the drywall, make sure you get at least a 5/8 inch thick one. A thicker layer will improve the soundproof effectiveness of your walls.
2. Install a Mass Loaded Vinyl (MLV)
A mass loaded vinyl looks like a huge black plaster. They’re highly effective solutions for soundproofing your walls.
They’re also very heavy and dense materials so, be careful when handling them. The effect an MLV produces in reducing noise from passing through is highly noticeable upon installation.
Here’s how to install one:
- Measure your wall from top to bottom. Make sure you deduct at least 1/8 – 1/4 inch from the total height.
- Unroll your MLV. Cut the MLV with the specifications you measured in Step 1. Use a utility knife when cutting.
- This third step will need two people. Starting at the upper corner of the wall, apply the MLV over the studs. Your MLV sheet must be straight along with the ceiling. The sheet must also be evenly spaced between the floor and ceiling.
- For fastening the MLV, use roofing nails or screws with washers. A pneumatic cap stapler should be fine too. Place fasteners every 8 inches apart side to side, and starting from the bottom to the top.
- You can add a strip of PVC tape on the wall seams.
Soundproofing your walls take more effort than you think. But for the love of a more peaceful apartment, it’s worth it. For safety reasons, make sure you consult professional help.
Also, if you don’t install these properly, MLV sheets can peel off over time. All the more reason to have a professional help you when installing these on your walls.
Just in case, here’s a video on how to install MLV on your walls:
Bonus Tip: Using MLV with an extra drywall is a highly effective soundproof solution. You’ll be able to reduce noise passing through your walls if you combine these two methods.
3. Soundproofing Paint
Using soundproof paint can reduce noise up to 12 decibels. Pretty neat, right? All for applying a coat of paint on your walls.
Standard applications for soundproof paint are three layers. One layer reduces between 2 to 4 decibels of noise. For the best applications on your walls, work on critical areas first.
For example, soundproof rooms are more important than a soundproof living room. Apply the paint on the walls with the highest priority.
Now that we’ve covered all the methods for soundproofing your walls, the next section will cover doors.
Reducing noise for your doors isn’t as labor-intensive as soundproofing a wall.
Most apartment doors are hollow core doors. This translates to easy noise transmission. To check if you have a hollow core door, a knock should produce an echo sound.
Either way, here are 4 ways to reduce sound in your apartment door:
1. Green Glue Sealant
The best way to treat apartment doors with a hollow core material is sealing any door cracks and gaps with Green Glue sealant.
Turn off the lights and notice any areas where light passes through. These areas are what need sealing. Simply apply the sealant to the door and you’ll reduce noise fairly well.
2. Door Sweeps/Automatic Door Bottom
Sealing isn’t enough. To treat bottom gaps in your door, door sweeps are budget options to reduce incoming noise.
Automatic door bottoms are more effective in removing noise at the bottom of the door. Although, they’re much more expensive.
3. Use A Soundproof Blanket
These blankets are dense and heavy enough to block noise. Applying them is also extremely simple and easy thanks to their Velcro material.
They’re quite pricey too but will last you a long time. Use Audimute’s double phased quilted fiberglass blanket for the best results.
4. Install A Solid Core Door
This is the most expensive option but also the most effective in reducing noise. Because of its thick material and layer construction, solid core doors are guaranteed noise blockers.
Since there are fewer windows in your apartment than your walls, reducing noise shouldn’t be as difficult or strenuous.
Windows are also much smaller so you have nothing to worry about. Here are two of the best options for reducing noise:
1. Window Seal Kit
Using a window seal kit allows you to install a window seal track in front of your existing window. This separates the two glass layers, creating a dead space and greatly reduces noise transmission.
Here’s a video to help you:
2. Soundproof Curtains
These are cost-effective solutions at dampening noise in your apartment. You can easily hang them on your window. It’s practically a hassle-free solution.
If you want to reduce any echo and want an effective sound deadening product, these curtains won’t disappoint.
Go for brands like Nicetown or Best Home Fashion.
Floors are the hardest to reduce noise in an apartment. This is because of workmanship issues. Initial floor construction usually uses underperforming IIC rating materials.
Take note that using acoustic panels and anti-vibration pads are not good options for sound reduction. They also won’t protect your floor.
The best materials to use are foam and sponge. Because of their porous nature, they are perfect for reducing sound in your floors.
Here is a list of options to use:
1. Tredaire Colors Red Underlay
Tredaire provides the best underlay if you have a carpet in your apartment and want to reduce noise.
The material is thick enough to reduce noise from high foot traffic and any apartment with heavy furniture.
Tredaire comes at a steep price though, so for a budget option go for Carpenter Deep Step.
2. Super Gold Underlay
For laminated and engineered wood flooring, Super Gold underlay is the best option.
It’s perfect for reducing sound and protecting your floor at the same time.
Why Should I Use Underlay?
Using underlay protects the floor in your apartment. They also contain foam and sponge materials.
These make excellent sound reducers thanks to their tiny little holes and protect your floor or carpet too.
Extra Advice: Quick & Affordable Ways For A Good Night’s Rest
But wait, there’s more! Damn, right there is.
We’ve covered the realistic approaches and the technical methods to soundproof your apartment.
So here are some extra, practical ways you can do:
1. Use earplugs
Earplugs are lifesavers. They don’t reduce sound in your apartment, but they’re perfect for getting a good night’s rest.
They’re also the cheapest solution unless you’re serious about moving to a different location.
You’ll need to be a little selective of which earplugs to use though. Not every earplug works well for you. Above all, you want an earplug that provides the best comfort to your ears.
Make sure you check the Noise Reduction Rating (NRR) of the earplug you choose. The higher the NRR, the more effective the earplug. Currently, the highest NRR for earplugs is 33.
Flents Quiet Earplugs are the perfect balance of NRR rating and comfort. With an NRR rating of 29 decibels, these effectively reduce noise to a high degree. The material used is also malleable and expandable so they’ll fit nicely into most ear canal sizes.
2. Talk to your neighbors politely
Well, there’s always the civil option, right? You can politely ask your neighbors to lower their voices. Or whatever privacy preferences you have for keeping the noise down.
This might be easier to do if you were living with someone. A best friend, perhaps? This method doesn’t always work, but it’s worth a try out of respect.
If that doesn’t work, talking to your landlord might be more effective. Although, I’ve heard many experiences of this not going so well for both parties.
Unless your neighbors are mature and respectful enough, this shouldn’t be a huge problem.
If you hit a dead-end, you can go for earplugs and well, the third option.
3. Invest in a white-noise machine
These are the best distractions to any other noise source around you. You can use this even while you aren’t asleep. Although a majority of people use this mostly when falling asleep.
How this works is diverting your attention through the white noise the machine makes. White noise uses ambient soundscapes like a crackling campfire, for example.
This is more pleasant than a car honk or shouting next door. Other sounds include chirping crickets, ocean/waves, rain, jungle, etc.
I recommend going for LectroFan or Marpac Dohm if you plan on buying one. Or better yet, give them a go through Spotify Music and connect it to your Bluetooth speaker! Spotify has a ton of white noise to put you soundly asleep.
Soundproofing an apartment can be an overwhelming task. If you are someone with a busy schedule on your hands, you might want to rely on quick fixes first.
Any technical alterations to your apartment structure might be better alongside a professional.
This will help you save a lot of time and just enough for completing it during the weekend. If you have the time and patience, feel free to go all hands-on deck.
Just remember there is no such thing as a perfect noise-free environment. Unless you take drastic measures. Like a room within another. A small home office, for example inside a home, is a doable noise-free project.
Ultimately, using all the methods mentioned here and the quick fixes can exceptionally reduce noise.