How To Soundproof Existing Walls (Beginner’s guide)

Do you want to enjoy some peace and quiet in your home, but are annoyed by the noise coming from outside or from other rooms? You might think that soundproofing your walls is too expensive or complicated, but there are actually some easy and affordable ways to do it. In this article, we will show you how to soundproof existing walls with some simple steps and materials.

The solution to soundproofing existing walls is to add mass and density to them, as well as to seal any gaps or cracks that allow sound to leak through. You can do this by using acoustic panels, mass-loaded vinyl, soundproof drywall, or even blankets and carpets. These materials will absorb and block the sound waves, making your walls more effective at reducing noise. Soundproofing your walls will not only make your home more comfortable and private, but also increase its value and appeal.

By reading this article, you will learn how to choose the best soundproofing materials for your walls, how to install them properly, and how to measure the results. You will also find some tips and tricks to make the process easier and cheaper. Whether you want to soundproof your bedroom, living room, office, or studio, this article will help you achieve your goal.

Why Are Sounds Coming Through The Walls?

Before jumping into solutions, it helps to understand exactly how and why sound transfers so easily through walls and ceiling/floor assemblies.

Airborne Noise

Sounds that originate as voices, music, dogs barking, etc. are carried through the air in sound waves. As these sound waves encounter a wall, ceiling or floor, the vibrations are transferred directly through to the other side, where they materialize again as audible noises. Dense materials like concrete block more of the sound waves than lighter assemblies like wallboard.

Structure Borne Noise

Impacts against floors, walls and ceilings also create sound waves that travel through the actual building materials, especially if they are connected. Footsteps on an upper floor travel through joints to become footsteps you hear below you. Closing doors make the shared wall shake. Structural sounds arelower frequencies that are harder to block.

Flanking Noise

Sound waves follow any path they can from areas of high pressure to low pressure. If you only soundproof one wall, noise will simply flank around the treatment through ceilings and adjourning walls. Completely surrounding a room is ideal.

Leaks

Any gaps, holes or cracks become weak points for noise to pass through. Common culprits are electrical outlets, windows, doors, HVAC registers and any unfinished surfaces. Sealing these openings is crucial.

Basic Principles For Soundproofing Success

There are 5 basic principles at work in any good soundproofing project:

Add Mass: More density blocks more sound waves.

Damping: Materials that absorb and dissipate sound waves.

Decouple: Preventing transfer of vibrations from one wall to another.

Seal Leaks: Close up any gaps and openings.

Treat Flanking Paths: Apply multiple techniques to surround the space.

No single product or treatment will provide a complete solution. The most effective approach is to layer different soundproofing materials and techniques. Let’s look at some of the most common options used by DIY home owners.

Soundproofing Materials To Reduce Noise Through Walls

1. Insulation

Adding insulation into wall cavities provides noise reduction through basic sound absorption. The fiberglass batts or blown-in materials like cellulose introduce millions of tiny air pockets that dissipate sound wave energy.

The effectiveness depends on the thickness and density of the insulation. Typical fiberglass batts provide minimal noise reduction. Blown-in cellulose with a thickness of 12″ or more works much better.

For existing walls, blown-in materials are the only option as they can be installed without demolition. They provide affordable noise absorption while also improving energy efficiency. However, insulation alone is not enough for most noise problems between living spaces. Other treatments will usually be required.

2. Green Glue

This popular damping compound applied between layers of drywall can reduce sound transmission substantially. The viscoelastic polymer material literally converts vibrations into heat energy.

Applied correctly between two sheets of drywall, Green Glue damps structural sounds and provides some decoupling. It performs best when applied to full sheets rather than small areas.

Most homes build with a single layer of 1/2″ drywall on each side. Adding a second layer with Green Glue in between provides cost-effective sound blocking with minimal additional thickness.

3. Mass Loaded Vinyl (MLV)

Mass loaded vinyl is a thin, flexible vinyl sheet containing barium salts or other mineral fillers to make it denser and more rigid. MLV provides mass, damping and blocking in one product.

At 1 lb./sq.ft it is relatively heavy. Use adhesives, nails or screws to install MLV over existing drywall or directly to frames before drywall. Overlapping seams is important for full noise blocking.

MLV can be painted, so it does not have to affect room aesthetics. It provides significant soundproofing by itself or when combined with other treatments like Green Glue and extra drywall layers.

4. Resilient Channels

These hat-shaped metal furring channels are used to decouple drywall from studs or joists. Screwing the drywall to the channels rather than directly to framing prevents transfer of vibrations.

Resilient channels combined with multiple drywall layers (and optionally Green Glue) disrupt sound flanking paths through the structure. They are a standard technique for building highly effective new soundproof walls.

On existing walls, channels can be installed onto the face of the studs or joists before adding additional drywall layers. This partially decouples the new drywall while adding damping mass.

5. Soundproof Drywall

Standard 1/2″ or 5/8” drywall provides minimal sound blocking. Special soundproofing drywall options contain viscoelastic polymers for damping, or extra mass from additional materials like talc or rubberizing compounds.

Products like QuietRock, SoundBreak XP, and SilentFX provide much higher STC and impact isolation performance while adding less thickness than double drywall. They cost more than standard drywall but install the same.

On existing walls, replacing the drywall on one side is an option. Alternatively, soundproof drywall can be installed over the existing drywall. Combined with Green Glue or MLV, effective noise reduction can be achieved with minimal new thickness.

Vibration Isolation Clips

These metal clips screw to wall studs or ceiling joists, then suspend a resilient channel. This separates the clip connection from the channel/drywall connection for full decoupling. They are the ultimate method used in sound studios and apartment complexes.

While highly effective, installation on finished walls is more challenging. But if room demolition is already planned, then vibration isolation clips are a top choice for new wall assembly.

Soundproofing Without Wall Reconstruction

Let’s look now at several techniques to reduce sound transmission through existing walls without removing and replacing drywall.

Double Drywall Method

Adding a layer of drywall over the existing wall provides mass and damping to reduce noise, especially airborne sounds. To really maximize the performance:

  • Use 5/8” fire-rated Type X drywall for the new layer rather than 1/2″ stock.
  • Apply Green Glue noiseproofing compound between layers per manufacturer instructions.
  • Consider using QuietRock or other soundproofing drywall rather than basic Type X.
  • Caulk along the perimeter with acoustic sealant.
  • Extend electrical box depth as needed to avoid shorts.
  • Tape and mud new drywall to provide solid mass.
  • Prime and paint with 2-3 coats. Texture matching existing wall may be needed.

Expect a noise reduction of 10-15dB with this straightforward upgrade. Use fasteners long enough to penetrate studs and avoid pops later.

Soundproof Drywall Over Existing

A simpler option is installing soundproofing drywall like QuietRock directly over the existing drywall:

  • No Green Glue needed, the QuietRock damps vibration.
  • Cut electrical boxes out after the fact to maintain depth.
  • Tape and mud to ensure continuous mass.
  • For high noise areas, double QuietRock may be warranted

Performance is nearly as good as drywall-GreenGlue-drywall. The special drywall costs more but reduces labor.

Resilient Channels Over Existing Drywall

These hat-shaped furring channels can be screwed directly to existing walls. They partially decouple the drywall from the framing underneath. Follow these steps:

  • Remove baseboard trim and outlet covers from wall.
  • Screw channels horizontally to studs 16″ or 24″ apart vertically.
  • Run channels continuous; overlap ends if needed.
  • Cut electrical box holes before installing drywall over channels.
  • Use 5/8″ fire rated Type X drywall for best performance.
  • Tape, mud and finish as normal. Channels show through so expect extra coats.
  • Caulk perimeter before replacing trim.

Do not attach drywall directly to existing wall – only to the resilient channels. Cellulose insulation can be added to the stud bays for extra performance.

Mass Loaded Vinyl Over Existing Drywall

MLV applied directly over paint provides significant noise reduction with minimal change to room:

  • Clean wall surface thoroughly and apply adhesive.
  • Cut MLV sheets to size and install from top down, overlapping seams.
  • Work material into corners and around openings. Seal edges with acoustical caulk.
  • Once applied, vinyl can be painted to match decor. Use light coats.
  • Consider adding 1/4″ drywall over the MLV for greater soundproofing.

MLV weighs 1psf so use plenty of adhesive or mechanical fasteners for strong attachment. Isolate trim from wall surface when reinstalling.

Soundproof Blankets

For quick sound absorption and noise blocking, covered fiberglass or rockwool blankets can be installed on walls or ceilings. These are commonly used as moving blankets and provide effective reduction:

  • Look for 2″ – 3″ thick blankets with mass loaded vinyl covering.
  • Use spray adhesive to install directly on existing drywall or plaster.
  • Overlap seams and tape together for continuity.
  • Cover with 1×2 or 1×3 furring strips if desired.
  • Top with acoustic fabric like Guilford FR701 to improve appearance.

Leave 1″ gap between wall and blankets for easier removal later. Soundproof blankets provide similar noise reduction as 1-2 layers of drywall.

Acoustic Panels

Lightweight foam or fiberglass panels designed for studios can absorb high frequency noises. They do not block sound but help reduce echoes and brightness in rooms. To install:

  • Wipe wall surface clean to improve adhesive grip.
  • Apply panels vertically spaced 2-4 inches apart.
  • Alternating panel edge types avoids parallel reflection paths which causes flutter echo.
  • Corner bass traps absorb low frequencies and improve room acoustics.
  • Covering panels with fabric makes them more attractive visually.

Performance improves with thicker, denser panels. Avoid excess compression and leave airspace behind panels. Focus treatment on one room versus shared walls.

Stop Flanking Noise Through Other Paths

Adding mass to walls and absorption inside rooms helps but does not fully isolate them. Sounds will still flank around treatments through the ceiling, floors, doors and ductwork. Performing upgrades throughout the space is ideal.

Ceiling Upgrades

Ceilings often transmit significant noise from footsteps and voices above. Adding insulation like cellulose or spray foam helps absorb. For greater soundproofing:

  • Install 5/8″ resilient channels perpendicular to ceiling joists.
  • Attach 1 or 2 layers of fire-rated Type X drywall using screws long enough to penetrate joists.
  • Use Green Glue between drywall for maximum decoupling and damping.
  • Seal perimeter with acoustical caulk and extend lighting boxes down.

Also place furniture like bookcases against ceiling below to block sound. Rugs on upper floor rooms will reduce impact noise.

Floors

Hard flooring materials transmit noise easily between levels. Carpeting and rugs help but more is needed for loud footsteps or jumping above. Soundproofing options include:

  • Add plywood layer over wood subfloor for mass
  • Install isolation barrier like AcoustiCORK®
  • Float new layer plywood on rubber pads or neoprene adhesive
  • Apply sound dampening mat like Impacta
  • Add thick carpet pad and install new carpet
  • Replace below joist insulation with soundproofing type

Combining isolation pads, dense underlayment and thick carpet makes a huge difference in floor noise reduction.

Doors

Hollow core doors provide almost no sound blocking. Solid wood or steel doors are better but still transmit substantial noise unless upgraded. Options include:

  • Add storm doors to create an air gap and double barrier.
  • Install thicker weatherstripping around all four sides for better sealing.
  • Adjust hinges and latch plate so door seals tightly when closed.
  • Replace hollow core doors with 1-3/4″ solid core wood or steel doors.
  • Upgrade exterior doors for more noise blocking.

Sealing thresholds and bottoms gaps is equally important. Sound leaks right through the small openings around the door edges.

Ducts

HVAC ducts that penetrate walls also compromise sound isolation. Noise easily travels from room to room through the metal or flex duct. To reduce:

  • Line inside of metal ducts with 1-2″ duct liner insulation for absorption.
  • Wrap duct board joints with acoustic sealant.
  • Seal flex duct connections thoroughly with mastic.
  • Switch duct boots to models with sound damping built in.
  • Change duct route to avoid direct passes through walls.

Also keep duct register covers fully closed in rooms not being heated and cooled to prevent flanking.

Be Careful Of Soundproofing Myths

After learning about the various options for soundproofing walls, it helps to be aware of some common soundproofing misconceptions and shortcut solutions that simply do not work well:

Myth: Egg Crates / Acoustic Foam Help

Those light foam squares make little difference. They only absorb very high frequencies and cannot block meaningful sound levels passing through walls and ceilings from neighbors. Useful inside studios but not between living spaces.

Myth: Fiberglass Insulation Is The Solution

Fiberglass batts found in walls provide minimal transmission loss on their own. The sound absorption only slightly reduces noise coming through. Greater density insulation like Roxul helps but heavy drywall is much more effective.

Myth: Caulk and Seal All Joints

Sealing gaps where walls meet ceilings and floors is important. But simply caulking joints between drywall sheets or window/door frames has negligible impact. Airborne sound readily passes through small cracks. Proper mass and damping is required.

Myth: Adding Thick Paint Will Help

Some special viscoelastic paints damp vibration slightly but coatings make almost no difference in soundproofing. The microscopic thickness doesn’t add meaningful mass or isolation quality. Just the opposite – multiple coats could seal wallboard flexibility.

Myth: Soundproofing One Shared Wall Is Enough

Noise will flank around a treated wall through the ceiling and other walls. For effective soundproofing, apply upgrades throughout the space being treated. Although improving the most direct path does help significantly.

With an understanding of the fundamentals, and an overview of proven materials and techniques, you are ready to greatly reduce nuisance noise in your living space. Check local codes for any requirements when adding layers over existing drywall. Consider combining several methods tailored to your specific situation. With some time and diligence, you can successfully transform those annoyingly thin walls into effective sound barriers.

How Can I Soundproof Existing Room Walls On A Budget?

Whether in apartments, condos or houses with poor insulation, noisy neighbors can make living uncomfortable. Constantly hearing footsteps, voices, music and bass through walls is unpleasant and disruptive. Unfortunately re-constructing walls or buildings is expensive. But there are affordable ways to beef up existing walls for more peace and quiet.

Let’s look at practical solutions to stop next door noise without breaking the bank:

Inspect And Patch Holes

Before adding improvements, first inspect walls and ceilings for any openings, cracks or gaps that allow sound to leak through. Use acrylic sealant or acoustic caulk to patch these weak spots so noise cannot flank around new treatments. Typical areas to check closely are:

  • Electrical outlets – Especially around boxes and wiring holes
  • Switch plates – Seal around edges with acoustic caulk
  • Window frames – Fill gaps between frame and rough opening
  • Baseboards or cove molding – Caulk bottom edge gaps
  • Doors and door frames – Weatherstrip to seal when closed
  • Air vents – Apply metal HVAC tape around duct board joints
  • Drywall corners – Check for cracked seam tape
  • Fixtures like lights, cabinets, mirrors – Caulk gaps

Spend time sealing the obvious openings throughout living space. This improves soundproofing performance and stops hidden sound leakage.

Install Sound Absorption Panels

One straightforward way to reduce noise inside a room is installing foam acoustic panels to absorb sound rather than block it. Panels with wedge contours diffuse reflections for more broadband absorption:

  • Start with first reflection points on walls – adjacent to windows and across from doors where sounds bounce most.
  • Spread absorption to cover larger areas of walls in problem rooms.
  • Use thicker 2” or 3” panels for increased low frequency absorption.
  • Focus on common living areas rather than unused bedrooms or closets.
  • Install panels vertically with small gaps between for lighter visual look.
  • Corner bass traps control low frequency build-up and improve acoustics.

This alone does not prevent loud noises for neighbors. But absorbing echoes does make spaces like home theaters and music rooms much more enjoyable.

Insulate Existing Hollow Walls

Adding insulation into wall cavities can dampen noise coming through from next door. Blown-in types like cellulose work well to fill the voids without removing drywall:

  • Cut holes between studs near the top of the wall to insert nozzle.
  • Dense pack by blowing in cellulose one bay at a time using hose with back pressure.
  • Work methodically around room to fill all cavities fully.
  • Patch drywall when complete and refinish seams.

Insulation reduces cavity resonance and absorbs mid and high frequency sounds passing through. Effective for interior walls but not assemblies shared with outside.

Double Up Drywall

Adding a layer of drywall over the existing wall increases mass which helps block sound. For DIY projects:

  • Use 5/8” Type X drywall for fire resistance and weight.
  • Stagger seams between existing drywall and new layer.

Add Mass Loaded Vinyl

Mass loaded vinyl (MLV) is a thin, dense vinyl sheet containing barium salts or mineral fillers to add mass. MLV can be installed over existing drywall using adhesive or mechanical fasteners. It provides significant noise reduction through added damping and density.

To install on a budget:

  • Purchase 1 lb./sq.ft. MLV which is most affordable option
  • Cut sheets to fit each wall and overlap seams by 6 inches
  • Use spray adhesive to attach MLV directly to cleaned wall surfaces
  • Smooth and press vinyl to avoid bubbles or gaps
  • Paint over MLV with 1-2 coats of latex paint to match room decor

MLV performs well by itself or paired with other upgrades like additional drywall. It is an easy project for DIYers to dramatically improve wall soundproofing.

Hang Sound Absorbing Blankets

Moving blankets can also reduce sound transmission when installed on walls or ceilings. The mass and fiber batting absorbs noise energy passing through. Blankets are very affordable but limited on color options.

For installation:

  • Look for medium weight 2″ thick moving blankets
  • Use spray adhesive to mount blankets directly to wall
  • Overlap edges by 2-3 inches for seamless coverage
  • Install up to 3 blanket layers for heavier soundproofing
  • Finish with furring strips and acoustic fabric for appearance

Blankets are quick to install but difficult to decorate around. Sound transparency will be noticeably reduced though.

Decouple The Drywall

Resilient channels provide a lightweight way to decouple drywall from the wall surface. The isolating hat channels screw to existing drywall and new drywall screws to the channels. This separation isolates the two wall layers for better sound blocking.

On a budget:

  • Use basic resilient channels without isolation clips
  • Screw channels directly to wall studs through existing drywall
  • Space channels horizontally 16 inches or 24 inches apart
  • Install perpendicular across studs for maximum decoupling
  • Screw one layer 5/8″ drywall to channels using proper screws

Decoupled double drywall with staggered seams provides cost-effective noise reduction.

Prioritize Problem Walls

To make improvements affordable, focus on the most problematic walls rather than entire rooms. Spreading out upgrades over time is prudent as well. Create your own multi-step plan by:

  • Identify direct sound paths from next door into your unit
  • Verify noise issues when directly adjacent to walls and ceilings
  • Rank order problem areas from worst to least
  • Research prices for your preferred solutions
  • Budget available funds and set priority order
  • Purchase materials for most urgent wall first

With some diligence, major soundproofing enhancements are possible over time without exhausting funds upfront. Turn down the volume from neighbors step by step.

Combine Multiple Techniques

While any single technique helps, combining approaches maximizes effectiveness for the investment. Don’t overspend on one premium solution when layered improvements may work better.

If funds are limited, try:

  • Patching holes and sealing cracks
  • Applying acoustic sealant around junctions
  • Mounting sound absorption panels on primary wall
  • Installing mass loaded vinyl over wall
  • Hanging inexpensive moving blankets as second layer

With creative thinking and smart budgeting, significant noise reduction is possible. Know that revisiting and upgrading over time is part of the process. Be patient and persistent.

Seek Additional Assistance If Needed

For severe noise issues, additional financial support may be needed beyond DIY budgets. In apartments or condos, engage the landlord, owner or property manager. Explain the problem and ask if they can contribute given reasonable enjoyment is being disrupted. If they are unresponsive, check local tenant rights for guidance.

For shared walls between separate private homes, consider a friendly discussion with neighbors about splitting costs for upgrades that benefit both units. Get estimates and propose the most affordable shared work.

If the offender is open to cooperating, excellent soundproofing is possible without solely bearing the cost. Not always successful but worth respectfully trying.

With some clever sleuthing and planning, major soundproofing is possible even with limited resources. Carefully weigh the most cost-effective options and remain open to financial help to reach project goals.

How Do I Block Neighbor Noise Through Existing Walls?

Whether in an apartment, condo or townhouse, hearing your neighbors through walls, ceilings and floors is frustrating. Barking dogs, loud music, normal conversations – it all invades your home’s tranquility. If moving is not an option, you may wonder if anything can be done to reduce the noise short of major demolition.

The answer is yes! With the right soundproofing techniques, you can effectively block neighbor noises, at least to tolerable levels:

Find The Actual Noise Paths

To focus efforts in the right location, take time to verify the exact paths that noises take from other units into your home:

  • Stand adjacent to walls and ceilings when disruptive sounds occur
  • Move to each room that is impacted
  • Rank order which assemblies allow the most noise transfer
  • Also check doors, vents and plumbing walls as possible flanking routes

Proofing every square inch is unnecessary. Treating the actual sound leakage paths makes the biggest difference.

Add Mass And Damping

More mass makes it harder for sound waves to vibrate through a surface. Damping turns vibrations into small amounts of heat instead. Adding both is ideal:

  • Install a second layer of 5/8” drywall using adhesive and longer screws
  • Stagger seams between existing and new drywall layers
  • Apply Green Glue damping compound between layers
  • Seal all edges and gaps with acoustic caulk
  • Extend outlet boxes and trim to accommodate new depth

This straightforward upgrade provides meaningful noise blocking from neighbors.

Decouple The Drywall

Preventing direct contact between drywall layers better isolates them for soundproofing. Resilient channels work well:

  • Install horizontally across studs or joists
  • Screw channels through existing drywall into framing
  • Add R-13 fiberglass insulation between channels
  • Screw new 5/8” drywall to channels only
  • Tape, mud and finish as normal

Decoupled double drywall with damping insulation optimizes airborne noise reduction.

Seal All Hidden Openings

Don’t neglect to seal every crack, gap and hole that noise can leak through:

  • Caulk along all corners and moldings with acoustic sealant
  • Weatherstrip doors and window openings thoroughly
  • Seal outlets/switches with foam gaskets
  • Tape HVAC joints and apply mastic to duct seams
  • Verify drywall corners and joints have no cracks

Vigilance sealing bypass routes forces noise through your upgraded soundproofed walls and ceilings.

Manage Impact Noises

Stopping footsteps and other structural vibrations requires special attention:

  • Install thick underlayment and carpet/pad
  • Float floor over acoustic mat if replacing hard surfaces
  • Use sound clips along with double drywall on ceilings
  • Hang heavy drapes over windows
  • Keep shared walls empty of furniture to reduce vibration

Isolating impacts and keeping them off walls limits transfer to your living space.

Treat Adjoining Areas

Don’t forget that noise flanking can still compromise isolated walls. Also upgrading:

  • Open floor ceiling above problem room
  • Bedroom wall behind noisy living room
  • Common stairwells transmitting noise
  • Doors allowing noise to pass through gaps

Surround noisy neighbor paths to your home with multiple soundproofing barriers wherever feasible.

With diligence and tiered use of proven soundproofing materials, significant noise reduction through walls is indeed possible. Expect the process to require some trial and error to pinpoint optimal solutions for your unique situation. But combined techniques will pay off in much welcomed peace and quiet.

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