Are you struggling with noises coming through the wall? Are you afraid that you don’t have enough money to solve the issue and wonder whether you could soundproof that wall cheaply?
Oh, I get it so well; there is nothing worse than hearing pesky neighbors through the wall (or ceiling, for that matter) and feeling afraid that your budget won’t allow doing anything about it.
I’ve been in this situation myself. More than once, actually. Where I live, apartment walls are often so thin that an incredible amount of noise from next door ends up in your place!
And even if you’re lucky enough to have solid concrete walls dividing you from the neighbors, stud walls in your apartment still transmit sound from room to room.
Well, hence this post. I have been battling noise pollution for some time. Some methods I tried have worked better than others, of course. However, overall, I was able to bring more calm to my home (and do it without spending any significant money in the process.)
So, I decided to share what I’ve learned with you. Keep on reading to learn what strategies I’ve found helpful when trying to soundproof a wall cheaply and regain peace and quiet in the house.
We’re going to cover:
- How to analyze your problem and identify the best soundproofing method to use.
- How to use what’s in the room already to reduce the noise.
- The different ways to soundproof the wall cheaply with other stuff you have in the house.
- How to add soundproofing qualities to the wall without spending much money, and finally,
- How to restructure the wall to increase its sound-absorbing qualities further.
Before we get to all that, let me answer your most burning question…
Is it even possible to soundproof a wall cheaply?
Spoiler – Yes, of course.
Naturally, I have to add a “but…” here, but overall, yes, it is possible.
Now, about this “but…“
You see – There are some instances where you’d simply need a soundproofing specialist to come and assess the situation. But similarly, in many situations, you can improve the soundproofing of the room all by yourself and, often, by using nothing but cheap materials.
Let me explain.
So, to begin, tell me – What’s the first thought or image you have when thinking about soundproofing? I guess, like many others, you immediately think of a bunch of professionals in fancy uniforms and with beeping equipment. You see them walking around your house or apartment in silence, measuring, checking, evaluating… Some tap on the wall. Others put their ears against it to hear the noise, and they make notes.
Lots and lots of notes.
(Actually, in my head, these people do seem very much like the Ghostbusters…)
But I digress…
Overall, we typically see soundproofing as something only a professional could do. And something that would cost a lot at that.
And look, sometimes that’s true. Sometimes there is no other way to soundproof a wall than by significantly altering its structure, adding more mass to it, or even rebuilding it. This, of course, depends on the level of noise, its source, and how the wall was built, but it happens.
In these situations, you do need a specialist. You need someone who:
- Knows the different soundproofing solutions available,
- Understands how to apply them in your specific situation, and
- Has the expertise and experience to conduct the work.
But the opposite is true, too – Many cheap soundproofing products and methods allow you to significantly reduce the noise, prevent sound waves from traveling through the wall, absorb the noise, and so on.
- You might just want to reduce the sound of your neighbor’s TV or stereo, after all.
- Or dampen the sound of their already muffled conversations.
- Or maybe the problem isn’t with your neighbors. Maybe you can’t sleep because your kid plays loud music in their room. The pumping bass keeps you awake at night… (I have teenage kids myself, and I struggle with this problem all the time!)
You can eliminate those and many similar issues with cheap soundproofing methods.
(As you’ll shortly see, in some cases, you can even use things that are in the room already to solve the problem. And that really is soundproofing on the cheap, right?)
But of course, if these methods don’t work, then it’s off to the specialist. At that stage, however, you know that you’ve exhausted all the other options.
In short, what I’m trying to say is that you can (and should) start soundproofing the affected wall yourself and turn to specialists only if your efforts bring no desired effect.
What to consider before trying to soundproof a wall by yourself
As you’ll see shortly, there are several methods to soundproof a wall on the cheap. Not all of them work in every situation, though. Similarly, not all of those techniques block or absorb every type of sound.
So, to begin, you need to evaluate three factors of your current situation:
#1. What is the type of sound that’s bothering you
I agree; at first sight, the sound is, well… sound.
There’s nothing unique or different about various noises you hear.
But actually, there is more to sound than this. Although all sounds and noises seem the same, they do have different characteristics. Those characteristics, in turn, dictate how you’re going to block the sound from bothering you.
So, the first thing you need to identify is the nature of the noise that’s causing you problems.
We distinguish sounds by how they’re created and transmitted. Based on this, we categorize them as either airborne noise or impact noise.
- Airborne noise is created when sound travels through the air. A good example of this is the music playing from a stereo. The sound of music basically “floats” in the air until it reaches your ears. That’s how you are able to hear it.
In practice, the sound makes the air vibrate, and sound waves travel through those vibrations. Your ears also pick those vibrations and translate them into the sound you hear.
- Impact noises, on the other hand, are created by making objects vibrate. In this case, you don’t hear the vibrations in the air. You hear the actual object making the sound vibrate. When you walk, the floor vibrates with every footstep, and that’s what creates the sound you hear. The same happens when you slam your fist on the table, for example. The force of the impact makes the table vibrate at a specific frequency, and you hear the sound.
What’s important to understand about these two sound types is that not only are they created differently…
… they also travel through your wall in different ways.
- Since airborne sounds travel through the air, they enter the room in the same way as the air enters it. So, you might hear those sounds through the wall because of cracks in its structure, open spaces, even gaps in electrical outlets, etc.
- You hear impact noises, however, because they make the wall vibrate due to impact. That’s why you hear banging and percussive noises from your neighbor. Whatever they’re doing makes impacts your wall, and the sound is created.
By the way, this is the problem I had in a house I used to live in. We shared the kitchen wall with our neighbors. But unfortunately, due to poor build, the wall vibrated every time the neighbor slammed their kitchen cabinet doors.
We heard banging noises every time they were in the kitchen, and these were driving me crazy.
But knowing what types of sounds they were (impact noises) helped me identify potential solutions. I knew that sound-absorbing methods such as adding acoustic panels won’t make any difference in my situation. These methods block airborne sounds, and I was dealing with the wall’s vibration. I knew that I’d have to work with the wall’s structure to reduce the noise.
So, as the first thing, identify what sound is bothering you. Here’s a quick guide to help:
- If it’s your neighbor’s TV, music, or conversations, then you’re dealing with airborne noises.
- But if you’re bothered by banging, slamming, or other “percussive” sounds, then you’ll be soundproofing against impact noises.
#2. How is the sound crossing the wall
This might seem hard to do, but once you know the type of sound you’re dealing with, finding out how it enters the room is easy.
If you’re dealing with airborne sounds (i.e., conversations, TV or music, etc.), then, most likely, the noise enters the room through:
- Cracks in the wall. Even a hairline crack can help the sound to enter your room.
- Air vents.
- Gaps around electric sockets and light switches.
- A chimney, if there’s one in the room.
- Wall lights and wall lamps.
- Gaps between the drywall and the floor or the ceiling
- Gaps in window or door frames.
- A gap between the door and the floor, and more.
Much of your efforts, therefore, will go towards blocking these entry points. Because once you do that, you will stop or at least greatly reduce the sound coming in.
Impact noises enter the room because the wall vibrates, and those vibrations transmit the sound. In this case, your focus will be on either reducing the vibration or absorbing it before it is transformed into the sound you hear.
#3. What is the structure of the wall
Finally, you need to figure out what is the structure of the affected wall. Again, you might need to use certain techniques, depending on whether the wall is solid or a stud.
- Solid walls, for example, carry impact sounds better. These are solid structures, and they have the mass to carry vibrations. But these walls make it harder for airborne sounds to transmit.
- Stud walls, on the other hand, are empty inside. As a result, they provide a way for air (and airborne sounds) to move through.
TIP: Take a look at this phenomenal video explaining the “mechanics” of how sound travels through a wall:
OK, so once you know all three factors, you are ready to start soundproofing the wall.
7 ways to soundproof a wall for cheap
A quick note before we begin – I split the entire process below into several stages.
- First, we’ll look at the cheapest ways to soundproof a wall by using items that might be in the room already.
- We’ll also discuss using other stuff that you might have in the house (or could buy really cheaply.)
- And then, we’ll see what cheap soundproofing materials you could get to increase the wall’s sound-absorbing qualities further.
So, let’s do it.
#1. Move larger furniture closer to the affected wall
Many furniture items can absorb or block sound. This has a lot to do with how sound travels through a room.
As you’ve seen above, the sound travels through the wall and enters your room, disturbing your peace.
Bookshelves, dressers, and heavy closets can place an obstacle in the soundwaves’ path. Place them on the affected wall, and they might greatly reduce the amount of noise you hear.
Also, consider moving any armchairs or sofas away from the affected area. The closer you are to the wall, the more noise you’re going to hear. By moving those furniture items away, you can distance yourself from the source of the sound. Granted, this isn’t an ideal solution in most cases. But I have lived in apartments where only a faint sound from next door was seeping in. Moving away from it reduced its impact, and everyday sounds and noises in my apartment did the rest to cover it up.
(Bookshelves and other heavy furniture can provide an initial resistance against the noise coming through a wall.)
#2. Hang artwork on the wall
Here’s another method that can help you soundproof the wall cheaply and boost the decor in the room.
The logic behind this method is simple – By adding sound-absorbing materials, like canvas prints, to the wall will increase its mass (not to mention that the sound-absorbing aspect will help stop much of the noise in its tracks.)
Artwork, canvas prints, wall art, picture frames, and many other elements can help you boost the wall’s mass (meaning that it will be harder for the sound to travel through).
I admit that the wall in this picture looks busy. Beautiful, too, but certainly busy. But imagine how much sound all these frames and prints can stop!
TIP: You don’t actually have to buy any new wall art to use this method. With a little effort, you could create it yourself and not only soundproof the wall on the cheap but also show off your skills to any guests and visitors!
TIP 2: If you want to add even more mass to the wall while boosting the decor, consider applying soundproofing wallpaper before you hang the wall art.
#3. Cover the wall with soundproof foam panels
Soundproof foam panels (also called acoustic foam panels) use polyurethane acoustic absorption foam to, as the name suggests, soundproof and absorb the sound.
You often see these panels decorating the walls of recording studios and podcast rooms. I use them in my home studio, for example. But they will work equally well in a standard room. And because they’re relatively cheap, you can use them to soundproof any wall without having to spend much money.
Soundproofing foam works best at controlling medium to high frequencies and reflections. Because of that, it is primarily used to help remove echo and control reverberation in a room (and that’s why I use it in my home studio, by the way.)
However, polyurethane acoustic absorption foam can also absorb some sound waves. Applying it to the wall might help reduce the sound coming to your room from next door.
PRO TIP: To get the most out of soundproofing foam panels, your best bet is to use them in conjunction with other methods that focus on adding mass to the wall.
Adding mass to the wall, as you’ll see shortly, is the most effective way to soundproof a wall. However, when sound hits a wall, it turns into energy. To stop that energy, you need to increase the sound absorption qualities of the wall.
And that’s where soundproofing foam panels come in.
DID YOU KNOW? You can save money on soundproofing panels by … making them yourself. The process isn’t complicated, and you can even add a creative spin to the end result. Here’s a wonderful tutorial showing exactly how to do it.
#4. Seal cracks in the wall
Remember how airborne sound gets into the room?
No? OK, scroll up and read that section again. Don’t worry, I’ll wait.
Well, then, you know that even a hairline crack can let air (and sound) come through the wall.
Luckily, that’s quite easy to fix with a dedicated acoustic sealant like the Green Glue.
Green Glue works like any other sealant. You apply it to the wall with a caulking gun, just like you would do with any other sealant.
The difference, however, is that Green Glue has soundproofing qualities. As a result, it offers extra protection against noises seeping in through cracks in the wall.
TIP: You can also use Green Glue between layers of drywall or plywood to reduce decibels and add 9 STC points to walls and ceilings. Or you can use it over any existing wall, floor, or ceiling by simply adding another layer of material to reduce sound transfer.
#5. Seal windows, doors, and air vents
Sadly, windows aren’t the best obstacles for the sound to get in.
Windows are often thin and allow much of the outside noise – car horns, dogs barking, etc. – to seep into the room.
Luckily, there are ways to improve their soundproofing qualities.
Firstly, if there’s a window on the wall, you can seal any cracks around it with weatherstrip tape.
Weatherstrip tape is a plastic, silicon, or sometimes steel piece of material that you can put on the bottom of your door or around the window frame to cover gaps and cracks there.
Its primary function is to stop drafts and air from getting in. But, as you know, doing so can also reduce the amount of airborne noise coming into your room.
Secondly, use Green Glue to fill in any gaps between the window frame and the wall.
Finally, use soundproofing curtains to stop any sound that might have gotten in through the window in its tracks.
Air vents offer another way air can get into the room. That’s their primary function, after all. But unfortunately, vents also provide a means for the sound to get in.
One way to soundproof them is by creating a maze inside the air vent. The maze will cause the sound to bounce from wall to wall and lose much of its energy in the process.
This is what it looks like:
#6. Use thick blankets to add sound-absorbing qualities to the wall
Here’s another super-simple method to soundproof a wall cheaply:
Hang thick blankets on the affected wall.
You can use using tacks, finishing nails, or screws, depending on the weight of your blankets. The key thing is to hang them on the entire wall and, of course, to use the thickest blankets you can find.
Blankets work in much the same way as soundproofing curtains or bookshelves. They absorb the sound and prevent it from going any further.
TIP: If you have some budget for this, then instead of using blankets, hang mass-loaded vinyl on your wall.
Mass-loaded vinyl has incredible sound-blocking qualities and is flexible enough to allow hang it on a wall, much like you would with blankets.
#7. Add drywall to the wall
If everything else fails, this is the method to use. It’s not the cheapest, I’m afraid (that’s why I first covered all these other ways to soundproof the wall on the cheap!)
But it’s highly effective.
In this method, you add mass to the wall by applying an extra layer of drywall to it. You can even go further and add acoustic foam insulation behind it, too, to add even more mass to the wall but also create another barrier for the sound to get through.
And that’s it…
Now you know the seven methods to soundproof the wall cheaply. All that’s left is to start experimenting with them to see which one works for you.