How to soundproof my apartment? (Tips, Tricks and Quantification)

This blog post will answer the question, “What are the methods to soundproof an apartment?” The ways in which sound can infiltrate through an apartment, what kind of apartments can be soundproofed, and the benefits of soundproofing an apartment. 

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How to soundproof my apartment?

There are several key methods to soundproofing an apartment

  • Sealing the all the gaps in the Doors, Windows & Ceiling
  • Acoustic Caulking
  • Soft Furnishing
  • Acoustic Curtains,Blinds, rugs, carpets
  • Add Bookshelves
  • White Noise machines
  • Double Quilted Fibreglass panels
  • Increasing the thickness of the glass pane or using Laminated or Triple Pane Glass
  • Mass Loaded Vinyl

How can sound infiltrate through my room?

Sound infiltrates through a space either through airborne transmission or structural transmission.

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Busy downtown streets, howling pets, night partiers, Noisy neighbours, mechanical noises from ducts and pipes etc. can be a source of frustration for the residents. 

Flanking transmission which means to say that sounds emanating from adjacent elements such as internal flooring, vents and external walls are through structural transmittance can also infiltrate an apartment 

Also reflection of sound from interior walls can be a nuisance especially when consuming media or through online conference meetings which can cause sounds to be garbled beyond comprehension. 

Benefits of Soundproofing Apartments

Below are the benefits of soundproofing an apartment:

  • Makes the apartment isolated from unwanted noise   which can disturb activities such as studying ,sleeping, online conversations etc.
  • Reduction of ambient wind noise that can take place from airborne transmission.
  • Improves room comfort and a general level of cosiness.
  • Reduces outdoor contaminants and/or pests and cold draughts from entering the enclosed space improving thermal isolation (although may not be applicable for all forms of soundproofing).
  • Reduces Sound Pollution

The need for soundproofing an apartment

The need for soundproofing an apartment is to prevent your current activity from getting disturbed and improve acoustical comfort. There are standards that measure performance of building materials and associated equipment with respect to sound isolation. 

This can objectively quantify the acoustical performance and hence help make an informed decision when considering what kind and type of materials you would like to have added during the pre-construction or post-construction phases of your apartment.

According to ASTM E90  (Standard Test Method for Laboratory

Measurement of Airborne Sound Transmission Loss of Building Partitions) and ASTM E492 (Standard Test Method for Laboratory Measurement of Impact Sound Transmission Through Floor Ceiling Assemblies Using the Tapping Machine) results in STC (Sound Transmission Class) and IIC (Impact Insulation Class) ratings, respectively.

However as per live field testing is concerned, NIC (Noise Isolation Class) is usually considered in Building Codes and allows for a 5 db tolerance between the measured NIC and the comparable STC . 

The Table 1 as shown below can help you comprehend what rating of STC corresponds to what can be heard or how much sound leakage there is. This gives us a good understanding before setting out to soundproof an apartment.

STCs by audio distinguishability
STCWhat can be heard
25Normal speech can be understood
30Loud speech can be understood
35Loud speech audible but not intelligible
40Loud speech audible as a murmur
45Loud speech heard but not audible
50Loud sounds faintly heard
60+Good soundproofing: most sounds do not disturb neighboring residents.

Table 1: STCs by audio distinguishability

Another crucial element to look at is how much of an open area, exposed surface or gaps can bleed sound into an adjacent space. The transmission loss is linearly proportional to the percentage of Area open. 

Albeit, we also have to consider in tandem with this table, the associated cost. It is simply not feasible or pragmatic to restructure an apartment’s structural framing by decoupling the gypsum walls in the post-construction phase at least . This is where one has to consider the law of diminishing returns.

Sound diminution by percentage openness of barrier
Transmission loss% of area open
13 dB5% open
17 dB2% open
20 dB1% open
23 dB0.5% open
27 dB0.2% open
30 dB0.1% open
33 dB0.05% open
37 dB0.02% open
39.5 dBPractical maximum loss
40 dBTheoretical maximum loss

Table 2: Sound diminution by percentage openness of barrier

If you would like to read further about how these measurements are carried out and what readings you will expect from taking these measurements  as well as make sense of the entire process click on the link below. https://kineticsnoise.com/downloads/analysis/AT001099B.pdf

Methods of soundproofing an apartment

There are several key methods to soundproofing an apartment:

Seal the interstitial gaps: It is imperative to seal all the nooks and crannies in the doors, windows, ceiling without affecting their mechanism.

This involves:

Brush Weatherstrip: It contains tiny bristles as in a normal toothbrush and bend, twist and contort. This gives it longevity as well as preventing infiltration of dust particles and pests.

Acoustic Caulk: It’s basically a paste type of solution which is also commonly referred to as an acoustical sealant. It helps in sound dampening all those areas where gaps are found.

Door Sweep: These cover up the undersides of the doors and can be either made up of a polystyrene foam, rubber or like a brush strip as mentioned above. 

Acoustic Curtains: Hanging soundproof drapes reduces sound reflection off of glass window panes, partition walls and doors which can significantly improve acoustic comfort and prevent sound leakage

Double Quilted Fibreglass panels: They are a pricier option and functions more like an acoustical blanket than curtains. They are 48” X 96” so you will have to see how many of these you will need to cover the entire door or a window. They also have a shiny quilted look.

Acoustic Blinds: They are as the name suggests and function just as normal blinds when hung against a window. They do, however, have thicker material to dampen high amplitude sound vibrations.

Laminated or Triple Pane Glass: These are as far as it gets bar using non glass paned doors and windows. They are often a costlier option.

However, triple paned glass has dead spaces or air pockets that are very effective at blocking high and low frequency sounds. 

An ancillary benefit of these is that they also act as good thermal insulation and prevent high amounts of heat transfer into adjacent spaces.

Increasing the thickness of the glass pane: Although not as effective as using double or triple paned glass, it still goes a long way in soundproofing the apartment. 

Leverage large and soft furniture: Adding BookShelves, Sofas, Cabinets etc can not only help improve the aesthetics of an apartment but reduces sound reflection and maintains acoustical isolation. 

All this and without adding a dime to the expenses one has to invest in soundproofing using specialty materials and equipment.

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Carpets, Rugs, Sound Pads: Plush carpet, rugs, and sound dampening pads can help absorb sound, along with wall hangings, upholstered furniture, and even plants. These materials also lessen the sound of footsteps and objects dropping within the apartment, minimising the echo and absorbing the noise.

White Noise Machine: This machine plays broad-band noise signals constantly in the background. They help to divert attention by masking any disruptive noises in your immediate environment.

Conclusion

This blog addresses the ways in which sound can infiltrate into an apartment , the performance metric information an individual needs before opting for soundproofing an apartment. 

Finally, the main ways that an individual can reduce sound infiltration & leakage. It is pertinent to mention before installing additional measures for sound proofing, one must first investigate what source the sound is coming from to effectively prevent infiltration.

If you have any questions or comments please let us know.

Frequently Asked Questions: How to soundproof my apartment

Can you make a sliding door soundproof?

For interior doors, soundproofing blankets may be hung directly over the doorway to further decrease the sound from within. Soundproof blankets can improve the sound-blocking of a doorway by 80-90%. Gaps around the sides of sliding barn doors create sound flanking paths.

How to Soundproof an Apartment Floor?

Using acoustical rubber padding or rugs and carpet can help absorb sound waves thereby reducing sound reflection and dampen outside invasive and disturbing sounds. 

Does sound travel through glass windows & doors?

An open window lets in air, but it lets in sound too—because the air carries sound waves. 

More importantly, while light waves pass through only a handful of solid materials (such as transparent plastic and glass), sound energy will happily storm through most solids and emerge almost as loud on the other side.

How do I stop wind whistling through a sliding window?

We can fix it by simply removing the door from its track and then adjusting the roller screws by driving them towards the bottom. 

Finally removing the top door stop. Realign the door on the track, reinstall the top plate, and readjust the roller screws.

How can I soundproof doors in my apartment?

Yes, there are many ways to soundproof sliding double doors using acoustic dampening materials such as foams, blankets, and caulking. In addition, use of wooden or PET doors instead of glass panel doors can also prevent sound diffusion into the adjacent space.

 What are the different types of Noise?

There are two different kinds of noise:

Airborne Noise – Sounds transmitted between rooms via flanking elements instead of directly through separating elements or along any path other than the direct path.

To reduce the amount of sound heard by the other person you would need to install a barrier or Sound Insulator between the source and you, the thicker and denser the barrier then the better the sound reduction will be.

Impact Noise – This is the transmission of sound via the connection of different Materials to each other i.e. Footsteps on the floor of a house.

To reduce vibration transmission, you need to either stop the sound getting into the floor, out of the ceiling or a combination of both, by adding a Floating Floor or an Acoustic ceiling system.                  

What situations require soundproofing?

The basic reason to soundproof a room or a space is to prevent your current activity from getting disturbed.

This could be in situations such as:

In a bedroom to snooze in absolute silence. A good night’s sleep can keep a person more focused and active for the day and revitalise the senses.

At a recording studio where ambient sounds are detrimental to the recording process which could require multiple retakes and order expensive post processing to filter out such noises

In meetings or during a conference where sound bleeding cannot just be a disturbance but a leakage of confidential or privileged information not suitable for any other audience. Also, it can prevent clear passage of sound and cause incorrect information to be registered by the audience.

Personal office spaces and study rooms greatly benefit from sound isolation as much like good night’s sleep it can help to improve and sustain focus on the task at hand and prevent distractions.

References:

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