In recent years, foam panels have gained some popularity as an effective and affordable soundproofing product. That, however, is somewhat misleading. While there are many ways to soundproof a room, using foam is not one of them.
So, if foam doesn’t really work, how do you soundproof a room without it? Here is a quick step-by-step guide on how to soundproof a room without foam:
- Soundproof the walls using mass-loaded vinyl.
- Install floor underlayment.
- Build a floating ceiling using isolation clips.
- Seal the door with a door sweep and an acoustic threshold.
- Replace or seal the windows.
These steps require a certain level of technical expertise, so make sure to also read the detailed explanations below. What’s more, there are other ways to make your room quieter that are both easier and more budget-friendly. You can learn what these are at the end of this guide.
A Quick Note on Foam
At this point, you might be wondering why foam is not a great choice when it comes to soundproofing. It’s quite simple, really: the only thing that is able to block and deflect sound is sheer mass. That’s why you want to use thick and high-density materials for your soundproofing.
In contrast, acoustic foam is a soft, porous substance that lets sound pass through it practically unhindered. Therefore, foam cannot block noise — but is highly effective at absorbing it.
That does not eliminate sound but helps reduce the reverberation and echoing in the room, which is why you can see foam tiles lining the walls of many recording studios.
Materials You Will Need
Before we dive into the how-tos, here is a list of the most important products you will need to soundproof a room:
- Mass-loaded vinyl, such as this Noise Grabber Mass-Loaded Vinyl
- Green Glue Noiseproofing Compound
- Resilient Sound Isolation Clip
- Acoustic caulk, such as this OSI SC175 Draft and Acoustical Sound Sealant
- SpecSeal SSP Putty Pads or similar firestop putty pad
- Floor underlayment, such as the AMERIQUE Premium Super Quiet Floor Underlayment
- This BAINING Door Draft Stopper Sweep or a similar product
- A window seal kit, such as the NeatiEase Magnetic Window Insulation Kit
- A sound barrier blanket like this Audimute Isolé Sound Barrier and Absorption Sheet
- NICETOWN Full Shading Curtains or similar noise-reducing curtains
Step 1: Soundproof the Walls With Mass-Loaded Vinyl
Mass-loaded vinyl (MLV) is a highly effective soundproofing solution for interior walls. However, bear in mind that the installation process will take a fair amount of work. You might also need an extra pair of hands.
For best results, you want to apply the MLV over the entire wall surface. The MLV is applied above the fiberglass construction and under the sheetrock or drywall. To fasten it securely in place, you can use roofing nails, screws with washers, or a pneumatic cap stapler.
As you do that, make sure not to cover any electrical outlet boxes. Instead, surround them using an acoustic putty pad. Remember also to fill any gaps in the MLV surface with acoustic caulk.
Step 2: Install Floor Underlayment
To soundproof a floor, you need to target impact noise rather than airborne noise.
The sources of airborne noise include conversations, dogs barking, music, TV sets, and more. Impact noise, on the other hand, is the sound made by the collision of solid materials, such as booted feet walking on a floor or door banging.
Unlike airborne noise, which travels through the air, impact noise is structure-borne. The energy of the impact gives rise to vibrations that resonate through the structure materials.
The best way to address impact noise is by installing an acoustic floor underlayment under the finished flooring. The underlayment will capture impact vibrations before they can make it further into the structures of the building.
Step 3: Build a Floating Ceiling Using Isolation Clips
The best way to soundproof a ceiling is by installing the underlayment on the floor above. That way, you will nip unwanted upstairs sounds in the bud.
However, if floor underlayment is not an option or you want to have an extra layer of insulation, you can use isolation clips, a few layers of sheetrock or drywall, and a noise-dampening compound to create a floating ceiling.
This method adds more mass between the impacted surface upstairs and your ceiling, which helps block sound. The isolation clips also help to physically separate the ceiling from the floor above, thereby cutting the path of the vibrations.
Step 4: Seal the Door With a Door Sweep and an Acoustic Threshold
When it comes to soundproofing a room, the door is the weakest link in the chain. Sound can travel even through the tiniest cracks in a door.
To soundproof a door, you need to increase its mass and make it as close to airtight as possible. If you can afford it, consider buying a ready-made soundproof door. For a more budget-friendly solution, you could replace your flimsy door with a new one with a solid-wood core. That would place more mass between the room and outside sounds.
Finally, seal the door by installing a door sweep and an acoustic threshold.
Step 5: Replace or Seal the Windows
Last but not least, you want to soundproof the windows. You will get the best results if you replace your old frames with double-glazed windows.
A quicker and cheaper solution is to get a window seal kit. You can mount these over your existing windows using the built-in magnetic strip. That will add an extra layer of thermal and acoustic insulation. Best of all, these kits are easy to remove if you need to access the window for cleaning or maintenance.
More Tips on How to Make a Room Quieter
Get Sound-Blocking Curtains
If the soundproofing solutions above are too costly or time-consuming for you, consider getting sound-blocking curtains instead.
They can block and dampen some of the outside sounds. What’s more, they are highly effective at blocking out light, making them a great alternative to window blinds.
Play With the Soft Furnishings
Much like foam, soft furnishings cannot block sound. What they can do, however, is absorb it. That muffles noises, helps make conversations more intelligible, and improves the overall sound experience. So, it might be worth it to place carpets, tapestries, upholstery, and cushions in strategic locations around the room.
Use Acoustic Blankets
High-quality acoustic or sound-barrier blankets have components that simultaneously block and absorb sound waves. You can hang these on walls, windows, and doors for a quick, temporary soundproofing solution.
Fight Noise With Noise
In addition to blocking and absorbing sound, another way to improve the overall sound in a room is by adding unobtrusive background noise. That could help muffle and cover up annoying outside sounds.
To help with that, you can play nice background music or get a white noise machine.
Soundproofing a Room Without Foam: Final Thoughts
Living in a nosy neighborhood or building does not mean that you have to put up with all the loud noise. There are ways to soundproof any room effectively. The key steps are:
- Soundproofing the walls with mass-loaded vinyl
- Installing floor underlayment
- Building a floating ceiling using isolation clips
- Sealing the door with a door sweep and an acoustic threshold
- Replacing or sealing the windows
While these solutions can be quite costly and work-intensive, the results are definitely worth it.
However, make sure to use premium materials and get professional advice where needed.