I started working from home 5 years ago, and sound quickly became an issue with the kids playing in the other room. Since then I’ve moved twice, and I’ve learned from each move how to better soundproof my home office.
Each soundproofing project is unique, but most home offices can be effectively soundproofed for just a few hundred dollars if you’re smart about it. I’ve broken this blog post into several subcategories to make it more scannable. But first, a VERY important tip that will likely save you tons of money on this project–understanding the difference between sound deadening and sound blocking!
Sound Deadening a Home Office vs. Sound BLOCKING a Home Office
Suppose you have noisy kids (like my 3 kids…) in a room adjacent to your office. You want your office to be quieter, so you purchase sound deadening curtains to put over the windows, those pointed foam panels like you see in a recording studio, etc.
Unfortunately, you could spend over a thousand dollars on those purchases, and it will do very little to soundproof your office. Those products help with sound deadening–preventing sounds from echoing around the room. However, they will not be effective at keeping sounds from outside the room from entering it.
Sound blocking products will help to keep sound from entering the room at all. Sound blocking requires density to be effective. This is why it’s much easier to build a home office and make it soundproof than it is to sound block an existing home office. If you’re building a house, you can have the builder simply use sound blocking drywall or soundboard to prevent sound from entering the room.
Step 1: Plug All Holes
Suppose you are on one side of a 5 foot thick concrete wall, and I’m on the other side of the wall. I turn on a loud radio. You probably couldn’t hear the radio at all. Now suppose there is a 2 inch hole drilled through the wall. Even the small hole allows so much sound to get through that it will sound as if there is no wall at all.
So before we do anything else, we need to plug all the holes. The largest “hole” in your office is undoubtedly the door, but we’ll talk about that later. Right now we’re considering things like above door air vents, windows with cracked caulking or which do not shut tight, etc.
If you are trying to cut out sound from outside the home, then a new soundproof window can fix many issues for just a few hundred dollars installed. If it’s an above door air vent that is the issue, then read how to soundproof the vent.
Step 2: Soundproof the Door
The door is almost certainly the biggest problem in your home office. There are several steps you can take to soundproof the doors.
The least expensive and quickest way to soundproof your door is to get an inexpensive soundproof weather strip (like this one on Amazon) to put under and around the door. I like that soundproof weather strip because it’s adhesive so you can literally just unwrap it and stick it to the door jam and you’re done. That will at least stop sound from going straight into your office. It doesn’t matter how thick your door is if you have an open crack under the door.
If you have carpet under your home office door, then you’ll also need this draft stopper which will glide across the bottom of the carpet and provide soundproofing. So you’ll use the adhesive strip around the top of the door and the door jam, and the door sweep on the bottom of the door.
Next, consider changing out your door for a solid-core door. Go up to your door and knock on it. If it sounds heavy and thick like a chunk of wood, then you have a solid-core door. All exterior doors will be solid core. Doors that lead to another interior room of the house are almost invariably hollow-core doors, which do little for soundproofing.
If you have a hollow-core interior door leading to your home office, or worse a glass door, then consider heading to Lowe’s or Home Depot and buying a solid core door for $99 and paying a handyman $75 to install it. Quick fix, but you’ll still want to put on the adhesive soundproof weather strip I mentioned earlier.
In one of my home offices, I simply installed a second door. So I had a handyman build a second door to the office, so you had to open two doors and go through two doors to get in the office. This made a DRAMATIC improvement in the quietness of my office. I realize this may not work in all homes, but if your layout works for having two doors then it’s definitely something I recommend.
Another option if you don’t want to buy a whole door is to get a soundproofing blanket and hang it on back of the door. This can be just as effective as a solid core door, but costs much less.
Step 3: Preventing Structural Sound
If you have followed steps one, two, and three and are still having trouble with sound, then chances are good that you have an issue with structural soundproofing issues.
In my previous house, my home office was directly above the garage. When my wife came home and used the garage door opener, it made a loud, low grinding sound. Since the garage door opener was mounted to the ceiling downstairs, the vibrations are sent through the studs right into my office. This is structural sound.
The only way to stop structural sound is by using isolation techniques. Basically this just means separating layers of your wall so the vibrations of sound can be dampened and not passed to another layer.
So the way you’d do this is by hiring a handyman to basically make a second layer of drywall on all of the walls of your office. This pushes in the room just 1″ (not even noticeable) and dramatically reduces the level of sound–especially low frequencies like traffic or structural sound.
Step 4: Preventing Echo within the Room
The last thing you can do will probably make the smallest difference in terms of actually dropping the decibel level in your home office, but it can make the sounds that do come in be less annoying by stopping echo.
First, decide how much of an issue your room has with echo. Simply walk into the room and shut the door and yell “HELLO!” as loud as you can. Listen to the extremely short echo after yelling to see how much reverberation is happening.
Just think, for every single sound that comes into your office, that sound is reverberating for another 1/4 second or so. Preventing echo won’t make the room quieter, but it’ll make any sound more annoying. So that’s why we’re working to reduce the echo.
Fortunately, stopping echo is very simple. First of all, look to your floors. If you have tile, wood, or other hard-surface flooring, this will dramatically increase echo. The solution is simple–get a big plush rug.
Next, look to your walls. If your room has facing walls as all square or rectangle rooms do, then softening sound on the walls can help. Put up curtains to keep sound from bouncing off windows. Put up large canvas gallery wrap artwork on the wall with some foam behind it to soak up sound hitting the walls. The key is adding thick, soft materials around the room.
If you don’t think preventing echo is important, go into your bathroom (high echo room) and turn on music on your phone. It’s hard to hear the words because things are echoing so much around the room. Then keep the music playing on your phone and walk into the closet where there are lots of clothes hanging on the walls. The soft material from the clothes soaks up the echo and makes the room FEEL quieter.
Working from Home is AWESOME! I absolutely love not having a commute, and now that I’ve followed these steps my office is quiet and peaceful. It’s really nice to be able to go into my office, shut the door, and have just as much privacy and ability to focus on my work as if I were in an actual place of business.
Best of luck to you on your project!