Are you hearing neighbors talking through the wall? Looking for advice on how to soundproof walls to stop being bothered by their conversations and other loud sounds they make?
You’re in the right place, then.
In this guide, we’ll cover all the methods to soundproof walls to stop hearing neighbors next door without having to file a complaint about them or calling the police.
We’ll discuss the different types of sounds, and how they are transmitted. We’ll cover the most common noise levels, and then, discuss how to soundproof walls, windows, and doors so that you don’t have to put up with your neighbor’s conversations anymore.
Before that, though, let’s get some perspective on the problem.
You know – It’s quite a scary situation. According to research conducted in the UK, for example, as many as 5 million of the country’s residents report having to put up with noisy neighbors regularly.
The thing is – That number is, most likely, only a small percentage of people who face issues associated with noises from next door. I’m sure there are also countless of those who silently put up with loud music, sounds of conversations, and other unwanted noises affecting their living space.
The good news is that if you experience similar problems, not only you’re not alone. You also don’t have to put up with those noises. There are ways to soundproof walls dividing you from noisy neighbors and reduce the sound coming through.
In this guide, I’m going to show you exactly how to do it. After reading this guide, you’ll be able to understand the types of noises that bother you. You’ll also learn the different methods to use to reduce or eliminate those noises permanently.
I know, it’s a lot to cover. So, let’s get right to it.
Why You Can Hear Neighbors Talking Through a Wall
Before we get into the good stuff – the different methods to soundproof a wall from noisy neighbors – we need to discuss why you hear them in the first place. Specifically, we need to cover the noises you hear and the type of the wall, and how they affect why you’re hearing neighbors through the wall.
The reason for that is simple – You need to implement different soundproofing solutions depending on the types of noises that you want to reduce or eliminate and the wall that you want to soundproof.
Here are the three factors that you must consider to soundproof a wall from neighbors:
#1. What types of sounds do your neighbors make?
In general, we distinguish between two types of sounds:
- Airborne sounds are created by noise traveling through the air.
- Impact noises are created when an object impacts another object, creating sound vibrations.
The most common examples of airborne sounds that you might experience from neighbors include:
- Sound of their music system or TV,
- Kids crying or shouting,
- Shouting, screaming, and other similar noises.
(Sound waves of a conversation can easily travel through not soundproofed walls.)
Examples of impact noises that might be bothering you from next door might include:
- Banging on the walls or other surfaces,
- Low music sounds like bass, which makes the wall vibrate,
- Drums and other percussive sounds
- Hammering and other banging noises, and more.
(DIY projects often result in unwanted impact noises through a wall.)
What’s important for you to remember is that because each of those sound types works differently, you also use different soundproofing methods to stop them.
As you’ll see shortly, you need to use different materials to block conversations and percussive noises, for example.
But the difference in sound is only the first factor that affects how you soundproof a wall from noisy neighbors.
#2. The type of wall that divides you
Another factor is the type of wall that divides you from your neighbors.
There are two main types of walls that you find in modern houses and apartments:
- A standard, solid, party brick or block wall. Often builders finish these walls with standard plasterboard applied directly to bricks or blocks.
- A stud wall is typically built on a timber frame, insulated with plasterboards or either side. The most common use for stud walls is as partitions to separate rooms. However, I have seen them used to separate apartments or houses as well. In fact, your neighbors might not live in separate apartments. I often hear horror stories from people sharing the same property with noisy tenants.
(A typical stud wall timber frame) (image source)
#3. Level of the noise that’s bothering you
The final factor you’ll need to consider is the intensity of the noise that you want to block. Again, it’s something that will affect the choice of a solution. Naturally, you’ll use less severe methods to block a barely noticeable hum from next-door neighbors. But you’ll, most likely, have to use stronger materials to absorb the sound of them practicing drums or other musical instruments.
So, how to evaluate the intensity of noise? Here’s a handy chart showing different levels of noise, and their corresponding values in decibels (dB).
This last element is particularly important. Most soundproofing materials will feature guidelines as to how many decibels they can reduce or block.
So, based on the chart above, I can quickly estimate that the conversations I hear through the wall happen at around 60db. However, the loud music my neighbors play is at around 110dB.
Knowing even roughly the dB value of the noise you want to tackle will help you select the most suitable solution.
This may be jumping ahead a little but let me give you an example.
One of the common ways of soundproofing a stud wall is by adding acoustic panels or plasterboards to the wall. It’s not an overly complex process, and we’ll go through it shortly. However, these panels, typically, achieve noise reduction at around 60dB level.
As a result, they would be perfect for reducing the noise of conversions. However, they wouldn’t reduce loud banging noises by much.
With all three factors out of the way, let’s go straight for the good stuff – The different ways you can use to block or reduce those awful noises your neighbors make.
4 Ways to Soundproof a Wall from Noisy Neighbors
A quick note before we begin – I’m going to discuss those methods in order from the least to the most severe. And so, ideas early on the list will help you reduce less severe noises, wheres later in the guide, I’ll show you how to tackle serious noise from next door.
So, let’s do it.
#1. Use furniture and decor to dampen the impact of the sound
Sounds easy, right? Well, it is. Let me explain.
Some of the noises you face might not be that disturbing- Like the sound of clinking dishes, an alarm clock on a shelf on the other side of the partition wall, or very low, muffled music.
Many of these sounds are airborne, meaning that they travel through the air. Putting various types of furniture and house decor along their travel path will help damp the sound, basically.
What’s more, you have many options here. Here are just some ideas:
- Stack books on the affected wall. Books absorb and muffle the sound. Sure, a couple of books on a shelf won’t make much difference. However, if you have an extensive library, move it to the affected wall and you should notice a difference.
- Rearrange furniture to move away from the source of the noise. Of course, this method won’t work every time. However, if you work from home, and are bothered by light noises from next door, moving the desk to the other side of the room might eliminate the problem.
- Install sound-reducing curtains. These might help block or muffle noises seeping in from the outside.
- Use a white noise machine. White noise can mask quite a number of other noises. White noise machines aren’t expensive, and you can even use a white noise app on your phone or computer.
- If you have large furniture in the room, move it closer to the affected wall. Just like with books, large furniture will become an obstacle on the noise’s path.
- Put foam at the back of large furniture like wardrobes. No one will see it or know that it’s even there. And yet, it will help to reduce the echoing noise.
#2. Seal gaps in the walls with acoustic sealants
When soundproofing airborne noises, your biggest enemy is any entry point by which air (and sound) can enter through the wall.
So, as the first step, check the wall for any gaps, cracks, or holes. You can easily fill them with a sound-absorbing acoustic sealant, and stop the noise from entering your room.
Acoustic sealants work just like any other caulk you, most likely, have used before. The only difference is that these materials offer greater soundproofing qualities.
Here’s a quick video showing how to apply an acoustic sealant to existing drywall:
#3. Increase the wall’s ability to absorb sound
When dealing with impact noises, you need to improve the wall’s ability to absorb the vibration that transmits the sound. You can achieve this by installing different acoustic foams and layers of drywall panels. Another method is to add materials like fiberglass inside the stud wall to help dampen the sound.
But what if you’re renting and can’t modify the wall? Well, there are other ways to increase the wall’s ability to absorb sound.
You could hang large canvas paintings on the wall. Canvas absorbs the sound, greatly reducing its impact. Or you could hang soundproof curtains. Not only these will dampen the sound, but they may also help make the room look better and more original.
For example, here’s a short test showcasing how soundproofing curtains reduce the sound.
#4. Add mass to the wall
I admit, by far and away, this is the most difficult method to soundproof a wall from noisy neighbors. Unfortunately, it is also the most effective, particularly if you’re dealing with a high level of noise.
You see – sound travels better through thinner materials. By adding mass to the wall, you put more resistance for the sound to go through, and ultimately, reduce its impact.
You achieve this by adding drywall over your existing walls to increase the thickness of the wall. Drywall will also block a lot of that sound from getting in.
What if you’re bothered by upstairs neighbors instead?
If you’re living in an apartment, you might experience noises from upstairs neighbors too.
In this case, you need to soundproof the ceiling, and there is also a simple method to do it – Install an acoustic drop ceiling to your existing ceiling.
Acoustic drop ceilings soundproof the room in one of two ways. One is to absorb sound waves and prevent the sound from bouncing around the room. The other – to block sound waves from traveling.
In the end, they can help you block sounds from upstairs neighbors and regain the peace of your home.
Now you know exactly how to soundproof a wall from noisy neighbors.
What’s left to do is to consider the three factors I mentioned above, and select the method that you’d like to use to soundproof the room.