For anyone who has ever been in a professional recording studio, practice space, or even a workshop in a densely populated area, the idea of a soundproof room is a familiar one. Usually thought of as a specialized feat of carpentry reserved for professional environments, soundproofing a room is neither overly difficult nor is it exclusive to studios or urban workshops. In fact, we’re here to help you learn how to soundproof a room for whatever the purpose, whether you are retrofitting a pre-existing room or soundproofing a room under construction.
WHAT IS A SOUNDPROOF ROOM?
When people think of a soundproof room, they usually imagine a special room with saw-toothed detailed padding or construction on the walls. While this is the most effective soundproofing design, this is necessary for professional recording setups where echoes must be eliminated and sound restricted to the recording space. For most circumstances, there are much easier ways to achieve the level of soundproofing necessary for a given environment.
In order to discuss how to soundproof a room, it’s necessary to understand what sound is. Sound is a wave of energy that moves through a medium, such as air or wood. Different mediums let sound pass with varying difficulty and strategically using these different mediums can dampen different frequencies of sound.
What’s more, sound passes through or reflects off a surface depending on the shape of the surface it hits. A flat wall will absorb much more sound energy—and so transfer more sound through to the other side—than a wall that has a jagged, egg-crate architecture, which disrupts the sound energy and sends it reflecting off it in thousands of smaller, quieter waves, letting significantly less sound energy pass through. This is more effective than using a sound absorbing medium, but it is also more costly. Depending on your need and budget, some combination of the two can get you the level soundproofing you need.
The first step in learning how to soundproof a room is understanding what you’ll need to get the job done. Depending on the technique you intend to use, the materials you need will vary, but generally, you will need more studs, more drywall or sheetrock, and more insulating material than you would for a normal wall. You may also need special soundproof panels for the wall if you are looking for professional levels of sound-proofing, such as for a music studio or home theater.
HOW TO SOUNDPROOF A ROOM PROPERLY
Here, we’ll show you how to soundproof a room in increasing order of complexity and material. As with any wall construction, make sure that whatever material you use conforms with local building codes, as localities may have different regulations on what materials are approved for different types of buildings.
METHOD 1—SEALING CRACKS WITH ACOUSTICAL CAULK
Before moving on to more complicated techniques for how to soundproof a room, it’s important to note that the number one culprit when it comes to sound passing through a wall is the narrow gaps between sheets of surface material. Any gap can let quite a lot of sound through, which harms the effectiveness of other, more comprehensive soundproofing materials or techniques. Using Acoustical caulk to fill in whatever seams or holes in your wall surface can go a long way to improving their sound dampening ability.
METHOD 2—SOUND PROOF INSULATION
Once you frame a wall, ceiling, or floor that you want to soundproof and one side of the frame has drywall, concrete, or some other surface material in place, in place of the typical fiberglass insulation—which has some soundproofing ability as well. Instead, you can use specialized soundproofing materials between the two surfaces that will better absorb different frequencies of sound.
This is probably one of the easiest techniques for how to soundproof a room that you’ll find. High frequencies might include the high notes of a piano or a loud human voice while low frequencies might include a large subwoofer of a stereo or home theater or the bass drum of a drum set. The use of the room will dictate the type of soundproof insulation you will need to use.
METHOD 3—THICKER SURFACE MATERIALS
Another simple trick for how to soundproof a room, to know that drywall and sheetrock come in varying levels of thickness– and the thicker the material, the better the sound-proofing it will generally have. If you don’t need too much sound dampening, this might be a more readily available alternative than special sound proof insulation, which might not be available at the local hardware supply store.
METHOD 4—DOUBLE-UP ON SURFACE MATERIAL TO DAMPEN HIGH FREQUENCIES THROUGH DECOUPLING
As an alternative to thicker surface materials, you can also consider using another layer of drywall or sheetrock, layering in sound absorbing adhesives or other approved intermediate material. Whenever sound passes through a new medium, some of its energy is reflected through the medium it is leaving. At high frequencies, this has a noticeable dampening effect. Be careful though as this same process makes it much harder to dampen low frequencies like the bass on a home theater sound system.
METHOD 5—STUD PLACEMENT
Anytime sound leaves a material and passes into open space; sound energy is lost. With this in mind, if you have the space for it, use two rows of studs, rather than just the one typically used in wall construction, leaving a small gap between the two rows. This offers some of the best soundproofing you can get, at the expense of requiring more space for the wall overall. If you cannot leave a gap between the rows of studs, see if you can stagger their placement, so that the studs alternate between one surface and the other. This way, less sound energy can travel through the two the two surface materials using a single stud.
METHOD 6—CLIPS AND CHANNELS
Sound clips are an effective way to dampen sound by using a clip that you screw into a stud that contains a large piece of rubber. Attach a hat channel to the clip and then screw the drywall to the channel instead of the stud. This way, sound passes through the drywall, through the channel, and then into the rubber in the sound clip which significantly dampens the total sound energy passing through the wall.
METHOD 7—PLACE SOUND PROOF MATERIALS DOWN BEFORE LAYING CARPETS OR OTHER FLOORING
If you want to soundproof a floor, layering in soundproof mats or leaving a gap between the flooring and the framing or underlying surface can be a very effective way to dampen the sound of footsteps overhead and other common sounds like TV’s, stereos, or musical instruments. Further, many of the same techniques you can use to soundproof a wall are just as applicable to a floor or ceiling, so whatever steps you are taking to soundproof a series of walls are just as important to the floor and ceiling if there are rooms above or below the soundproof room you are constructing.
METHOD 8—PLACE SOUNDPROOF PANELS ON WALLS
There are many different brands of soundproof paneling that you can place on walls to dampen sound energy as it passes through, with varying degrees of dampening. The larger the gap between panels, the less effective the paneling will be, but whatever you can do to disrupt the sound energy before it makes contact with the surface material, the less sound will make it through. Higher end paneling is more effective, but also more costly, so make sure you plan out how much paneling you’ll need in advance to ensure maximum wall coverage.
METHOD 9—ATTACH SPECIAL SOUND PROOF SURFACE ARCHITECTURE
By far the most expensive, but also the most effective, way to soundproof a room is to use specially designed surfaces on the wall that disperse any incoming sound energy before it reaches the wall surface itself. This is the type of material you’ll find in professional recording studios: wall surfaces that look like they are covered in pyramids—or even long thin spikes. These surfaces reflect the sound energy in every direction so that little, if any, reaches the wall surface behind it. Needless to say, this might be overkill for a home theater or a practice space, but for a professional recording area, you will not find a better soundproofing solution than this.
As you can see, there are many options for how to soundproof a room. What matters most is the type of sound you need to dampen and by how much. If you establish that, there are several techniques and materials you can use to achieve your goal in a plannable, sustainable way that doesn’t break your budget.
Many of these ideas could easily be adapted to existing walls in case a particularly noisy room needs a retrofitting as well. As with anything else in construction, though, always check with local officials about any possible zoning or building restrictions they may have that might impact your choice of technique, but no matter what option that is, there is always an effective alternative for how to soundproof a room if one should prove impractical or in violation of local rules.