Do-it-yourself / DIY Soundproofing

Want to do it yourself? Here's how to get started planning a DIY soundproofing project.

man doing home remodeling
Image courtesy of US Department of Labor

If you are a do-it-yourselfer with a bit of remodeling experience, you can handle most soundproofing techniques. It will require patience, and the willingness and ability to follow directions meticulously. For effective soundproofing, the devil is in the details, and cutting the wrong corner can destroy the effectiveness of an otherwise perfect job.

If you're not interested in tackling the job yourself, regular contractors can handle the work, if you can explain what you want done and can specify the materials that you want them to use.

In planning your project, start by taking the time to understand your noise problem and what you want to accomplish. Ask yourself these questions:

  • What is your noise problem?
    • Is the noise coming through the walls, floor, or ceiling?
    • Is the noise airborne (like people's voices) or structural (like footsteps)?
    • Is the noise high-frequency (like kids yelling) or low-frequency (like music, construction noise, or aircraft)?

  • How much would the noise need to be reduced in order to be tolerable for you?

  • Are you willing to tear out walls, floors, or ceilings, or only add on to what's already there?

Then, educate yourself about soundproofing techniques and materials, keeping in mind your answers to these questions as you go, so you will know which approaches apply in your situation and which ones don't. This will help keep what might be a cheap soundproofing project from ballooning into a more expensive and less cost-effective one.

There's excellent free help available from reputable soundproofing companies, who will work with you to select the right approaches and materials for your situation and your budget. But beware — there is also a great deal of misinformation on the internet, from some salespeople, and from some non–soundproofing specialists. Some advice on how to soundproof that was valid ten years ago has been made obsolete by new and much better materials and technologies that are available today. Some recommendations are put out as advertising by companies that simply don't have the experience to be knowledgeable on the subject. Some articles are written by well-meaning amateurs and even professionals who are repeating old myths that have been disproven, or applying an otherwise good solution to an inappropriate situation.

How can you tell good products from not-so-good ones? Ask to see lab test data showing transmission loss (TL) curves, or at least STC (sound transmission class) ratings. Or you can sometimes find them published on the internet, on the manufacturer's website. That will give you an independent basis for comparing different products or systems. If no data is available, any claims for the product's effectiveness are only hearsay.

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