I admit it – If you’re struggling with noise, the soundproofing wallpaper seems like a dream come true. It’s easy to install, looks amazing (and certainly so much better than many other soundproofing materials), and promises to keep unwanted sounds away.
But does soundproofing wallpaper really work? Could it really stop noise from getting into the room?
Well, that’s what we’ll cover in this post. Specifically, we’ll discuss what soundproof wallpapers are, how they work, and whether they’re worth using to block sound.
So, let’s get to it.
What is soundproofing wallpaper?
At first glance, a soundproof or acoustic wallpaper (the two terms refer to the same thing, by the way) seems just like any other wallpaper. The two look exactly the same, even when you buy them. They come in long rolls which end up on your wall. And both look amazing and can add style to your room.
So, what’s different about soundproof wallpapers, then?
Well, it’s all down to what they’re made of, actually.
A traditional wallpaper may be made of solid paper, paper backing with vinyl coating on the front, fabric backing with vinyl coating, or even solid vinyl.
You can also get temporary wallpapers made out of vinyl that uses peel and stick adhesive to allow you to remove the wallpaper if needed.
(An example of a paper wallpaper on a wall)
What’s important to understand about traditional wallpapers is that they are made with just a simple, patterned sheet of material (with, in some cases, vinyl coating added to the front.)
Soundproof wallpapers, on the other hand, are created by layering different materials.
An acoustic wallpaper consists of multiple layers of paper mixed with foam backing, latex, or any other sound-absorbing material. Other materials used to make acoustic wallpapers include cellulose, non-woven materials, fiberglass, bamboo, and textiles like cotton, linen, or raffia.
In some cases, soundproofing wallpaper manufacturers don’t use paper at all, replacing it with close cell foam to increase the wallpaper’s effectiveness at sound dampening and sound insulation.
But the layered structure of the wallpaper doesn’t mean that it’s significantly thicker compared to the traditional one. Granted, there is some difference in thickness; however, not as striking as it could seem at first.
The end result, however, always looks like traditional wallpaper. So, anyone visiting your room would never know that the beautiful wallpaper they see on your walls is also there to help with soundproofing.
(It is practically impossible to say whether this is a traditional or soundproofing wallpaper.)
But what about its sound insulation properties?
Can acoustic wallpaper actually soundproof a room?
There is much debate about this issue among soundproofing specialists. On the one hand, the name – soundproofing wallpaper – suggests noise-blocking capabilities. On the other, the composition of the wallpaper and materials used to make it hint at different properties than sound insulation.
So, what is it? Could decorating a wall with such a wallpaper reduce the noise seeping through it into your room?
Well, the overall consensus is that no, it could not. A soundproofing wallpaper is not a highly effective material to block sounds from getting into a room.
Granted, it does have some sound insulation qualities. Materials used to make it help reduce the impact of very low to mid-range sound frequencies such as loud neighbors talking next door, TV or music blasting from speakers, etc.
That said, it is still highly unlikely that an acoustic wallpaper will be able to completely dampen such sounds or eliminate them completely.
That’s also because its purpose is actually different.
You see – soundproofing wallpapers are primarily made not to block sounds from coming into the room.
Their purpose is to improve and manage the room’s acoustics.
(This is also where the term, soundproofing, in the name becomes very confusing.)
A soundproofing wallpaper will help you control the echo in the room and limit the amount of sound reverbing (bouncing) from wall to wall. The wallpaper works similarly to acoustic foam panels, like the ones you often see on the walls at many recording studios.
Note the red and black acoustic panels on the right side of this image:
These panels prevent the sound from bouncing from wall to wall and prevent you from hearing any echo.
But the problem with acoustic panels is that they don’t always look good in an ordinary room. Sure, they are an amazing addition to a recording studio or a podcast room. They can also clearly communicate your dedication to sound quality.
But they rarely add decor to a living room, for example.
That’s when a soundproofing wallpaper can come in handy. The wallpaper will offer similar sound-absorbing properties but will allow you to cover the entire wall or walls without reducing the visual impact of the room.
Now, in case you aren’t familiar with the concept of sound absorption, let me explain it really quickly.
The term – sound absorption – refers to the process of dampening sound waves to reduce resonance, echo, and also, their level in a room.
The process is often used to improve acoustics in a music listening room, a recording studio, but also an office.
Here’s an amazing video that explains the concept:
Soundproofing wallpaper works exactly like the piece of paper used in that video. It makes the sound stop “bouncing” almost immediately, preventing echo and reverberation from occurring.
Here’s another example showing how sound is reflected, and how it also travels through the walls and other surfaces:
Again, the soundproofing wallpaper would prevent the reflection from occurring, absorbing the sound and transforming it into energy.
When to use soundproofing wallpaper, specifically, then?
OK, so we know that an acoustic wallpaper will not block many sounds from coming into your room. We’ve also discussed how it could help you improve or manage the room’s acoustics.
But when exactly could that come in handy? When would you use a soundproofing wallpaper, then?
Well, I can think of at least three major scenarios:
#1. To dampen the sound in the room and improve its overall acoustics
Think about the last time you walked into an empty room, one with no furniture in it. What’s the first thing you’ve noticed? My guess is – the echo. Even your footsteps reverberated through the room seconds after you stopped moving. Your voice sounded more powerful than usual, too, right?
This happened because there was nothing in the room to stop the sound from bouncing from wall to wall.
Adding furniture immediately reduced the effect, but, in some cases, it was not enough. Here are just some such scenarios:
- You might be a music buff, for example, like me. As a result, you want to hear the music as it was recorded, without the distortion of any echo.
- The same happens when you want to record any sounds in the room, like a podcast, or use the space as a home recording studio.
- You might also want to use the space for Zoom calls and don’t want the mic to pick up reverberated sounds.
In each of these cases, you need to dampen the echo further.
Soundproofing wallpaper is an amazing material to do that. Not only it allows you to cover all walls with sound-dampening material, but it also adds a nice design touch to the room.
#2. To take the edge of faint noises
Most of the time, when we think of soundproofing a wall, we think of loud noises seeping in. We try to soundproof a wall from noisy neighbors, for example. Or we need to block the sound coming in through thin walls in our apartments.
As we’ve discussed already, soundproof wallpapers aren’t the right materials to use for that.
However, at times, we’re only bothered by faint noises coming through the walls. The overall wall’s acoustic is good enough to block most of the sound. It’s only a tiny amount of noise that’s getting through.
It might be a very faint conversation or music playing in the room next door. It might be the sound of distant traffic behind the wall of your house. It’s something that you hear only when standing close to the wall, but it irritates you slightly.
Well, that’s the type of sound that a solid acoustic wallpaper can help you take the edge off or even eliminate, depending on the sound and the wallpaper that you use.
#3. To support other soundproofing methods
Finally, acoustic wallpaper can work as an amazing finishing touch to other soundproofing methods.
For example, one of the most effective ways to block sounds from coming in is to add mass to the wall. This decreases the sound vibration and insulates the room from unwanted sounds.
But the problem with this method is that, well, it does not look amazingly well. A soundproof wallpaper could help you add a nice design touch to the end result, improve the room’s acoustics and sound absorption properties, and provide the final layer of defense against unwanted sounds.
What are the pros and cons of using acoustic wallpapers?
Acoustic wallpapers aren’t the only materials that you could use to dampen the sound and control the acoustics of the room. So, what makes this material better than the others, and what negative factors could sway you towards buying an acoustic paint instead, for example?
Let’s take a look.
Pros of soundproofing wallpapers
- Soundproofing wallpapers are relatively cheap. This is particularly true if you compare them with the cost of using acoustic wall panels, for example.
- Acoustic wallpapers are easy to install. You can also start with peel-and-stick wallpapers that you could remove if you’re not happy with the end result.
- Such wallpapers look great. They can add a nice design touch to your room.
- Finally, soundproofing wallpapers are fire-resistant, adding an extra layer of protection to your room.
Cons of acoustic wallpapers
- The biggest con of this material is that it does not soundproof a room from unwanted outside noises. You could combine the wallpaper with other soundproofing methods, of course. But in that case, it’s the other method that blocks most of the sound anyway.
- Most soundproofing wallpapers aren’t waterproof. As a result, you cannot use them in rooms that have a humidity problem or that can be steamy (like a kitchen, a bathroom, or the basement.)
Other options than soundproofing wallpaper
We’ve already discussed that acoustic wallpapers work better in combination with other soundproofing methods. So, below, I’ve listed a couple of such methods that can help you increase the effectiveness of your soundproofing wallpaper.
#1. Acoustic paint
Paints with soundproofing qualities work similarly to the wallpaper. Their primary function is to improve the room’s acoustics, as this video illustrates:
However, acoustic paint can also dampen some mid-range frequencies, although it needs to be said that the effect is often minimal. But painting several layers of acoustic paint, and topping it off with a layer of soundproofing wallpaper, could help take the edge off such noises.
#2. Cellulose insulation
Another common and highly-effective soundproofing method is to fill the wall’s cavity with cellulose insulation. The insulation can reduce the lateral movement of the sheetrock and reduce the amount of sound traveling through the wall or between floors.
This is how it looks inside the wall.
It’s worth noting that, as with many soundproofing materials, cellulose insulation will not block sound completely.
#3. Mass-loaded vinyl
Mass-loaded vinyl is a limp, high-density material with plenty of mass that you can use to reduce noise coming through the walls, air ducts, or around pipes. Mass-loaded vinyl is simple to install and, in most cases, will stop sound from traveling through a wall, plus reduce the echo and improve the room’s acoustics.
And that’s it…
Now you know everything there is about soundproofing wallpapers. You also know what this material is best used for and have all the information you need to decide whether it is something you want to use in your home.