If you want learn how to soundproof walls cheap you have to plan on getting creative and compromising some. You also need to remember that “cheap” is a relative term. Obviously soundproofing walls without removing drywall is a goal for keeping costs down. If starting before construction, soundproofing a wall properly means starting with planning how to arrange the studs to minimize sound transfer, using quality soundproof insulation, and using other tricks such as noise proofing compound and isolation clips. All of that adds up to a hefty price tag. It’s expensive because every step in the process has to be done differently than traditional construction to get the desired result.
It’s easy to move a light object and hard to move a heavy object. That’s true whether you’re an out of shape 40 something like myself or you’re a sound wave. If you were to place a penny on a speaker it’s going to bounce all around to the music. The penny has some mass but it’s pretty small and light. Now imagine placing a brick on the speaker. The brick isn’t going to move. What you essentially have to do to soundproof your wall is add mass or place a large mass in front of the wall.
Many people think of the egg crate foam you might see in a sound booth and think that putting a lot of that on your wall will do the trick. The truth is it won’t have any real effect on stopping sound coming through your wall. Foam and other acoustical treatments are used to stop echoes and reverberations. They’re used in recording booths and studios to get a better quality sound thats free from unwanted echoes.
Mass isn’t the only method employed to achieve good soundproofing but it is going to be the most realistic and straightforward.
So I painted a pretty dire situation in the previous paragraph. Relax. There are some good ways to still achieve your goal without breaking the bank. Creativity and compromise doesn’t always mean expensive. Let’s run down some good tips and ideas for how to soundproof a wall cheap. I’ll organize them from least effective to most effective. This is going to also roughly be least expensive to most expensive though that may vary a bit depending on your situation and circumstances.
Heavy blankets and rugs will have some mass to help knock back sound and they’ll also acoustically deaden the wall to reduce echoes and reverberations.
Soundproof curtains are more purpose designed and should perform better than blankets or rugs. They can be installed in was to better cover the entire wall. Movie theaters use curtains on the walls. They do it usually with lighter material curtains and typically to reduce echoes so you have a better experience. By using heavy soundproof curtains you’ll be able to cut down echoes and add some mass to your wall.
Obviously a bookcase is going to have a lot of mass and will make a big difference. However, unless you have a bookcase that will cover the entire wall there will be some areas that are relatively un-soundproofed. Building in a bookcase that covers the entire wall could be cost-prohibitive but if you can go down this path you may want to consider including some soundproof insulation in the design to really beef up the mass.
Adding a layer of sheetrock will cover the entire wall with additional mass. There are soundproof brands of sheetrock available. They can have the equivalent effect of several sheets of additional sheetrock. Adding a single layer of drywall to your existing wall can be fairly easy to do and inexpensive. Also it won’t alter the existing room in any significantly noticeable way.
Including a layer of noise proofing compound in-between the layers of sheetrock will add a little additional mass but takes advantage of the compounds ability to dissipate sound vibrations.
Blowing in a dense-packed cellulose or some other dense insulation material will add a lot of mass and significantly cut down on sound penetration. You don’t need to remove the sheetrock. Companies that blow in insulation poke small holes in your walls to add the insulation. They can easily be patched later.
All of these ideas are great and can be combined to achieve a very good result. If you really want to go with the nuclear option you’ll need to build a wall in front of your existing wall.
If the wall you’re addressing isn’t too large and you are serious about putting an end to the noise coming through it you can go with the nuclear option. By building a new wall in front of the existing wall with a 2 inch gap. The base of the new wall should be built on a sheet of mass-loaded vinyl or similar soundproofing product. The wall cavity should be filled with a quality soundproofing insulation with a lot of mass such as mineral wool. Mineral wool is made from rock and is very dense, is a good thermal insulator, and is extremely fire resistant. The walls should be clad in 2 layers of sheetrock with noise proofing compound between the layers on each wall. Isolation clips should be used to attach the 2 layers of sheetrock to the studs. I told you it was the nuclear option. 😉
Before you get too carried away be sure you’re looking at the problem holistically. Sound doesn’t just transmit through walls. If there are windows on the wall then soundproofing the windows should be your main focus. If it’s a shared wall between a bedroom and a living space you should also keep in mind that sound can travel through the structure of the floor and ceiling to a degree. If a door is on the problem wall then soundproofing the door should also be a focus.
White noise machines are also seriously worth consideration. If you’re dealing with traffic noise or something similar a good quality white noise machine could make all the difference and only cost you $50 or so.
Last, plan on applying multiple techniques to get the desired end result. Nothing is going to be truly soundproof unless you can magnetically suspend yourself in a vacuum so that there is nothing to conduct the sound. Again, cheap is a relative term. Try inexpensive ideas first and build up from there. Good luck and I hope you achieve the peace and quiet you seek!
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