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Soundproofing Your Home

Is noise at home keeping you awake or driving you crazy? Here you will learn how to soundproof your noisy house, apartment, or condo. Includes information on how noise travels, and how to block or muffle noise with soundproofing materials and methods.

Let’s face it: Thanks to lightweight home construction, open floor plans, and a multitude of noisy machines and loud entertainment gear, today’s houses are noisier than ever. Unless a house is equipped with some form of soundproofing, it can be insufferable at times.

Trying to quiet noisy neighbors in apartments and condos—or noisy neighborhoods is even harder. How do you soundproof a room to block outside noise? Or, more to the point, how do you soundproof rooms so you don’t hear what’s on the other side of the walls? 

We’ll help you answer these questions and more.

To help quiet your home, we’re going to show you how to:

  1. Soundproof a Room
  2. Soundproof a Wall
  3. Install Sound-blocking Doors
  4. Soundproof Between Floors
  5. Soundproof to Block Outside Noise
  6. Soundproof an Apartment
  7. Soundproof a Recording Studio or Entertainment Area

We’ll look more closely at all of these. But first, it will help to understand the dynamics of sound so you can effectively control it.

How Sound Works

Fundamentally, sound comes from the energy that is produced when an object vibrates, creating waves in the air around it. The sensitive membrane in our ears, the eardrum, detects these vibrations in the air and registers these frequencies in our brains as different types of sound.

Bass frequencies have long wavelengths and treble frequencies have short wavelengths. These sounds are affected differently by the materials they contact. You’ll find it’s much harder to block the pounding bass of your neighbor’s subwoofer than it is to silence a mid-range conversation.

The uniformity of a surface also affects sound transmission characteristics. Hard flat surfaces tend to bounce sound waves around, sometimes creating a lasting echo effect if the surfaces are walls directly parallel to each other. The softer and less uniform the surface, the less opportunity sound has to bounce off. If two walls are not parallel with one another, sound is less likely to ping pong back and forth. 

What Is Noise?

Noise is simply unwanted sound. In the home, most people consider noise to be just about any sound other than the sound made by what they’re doing. 

For example, if you’re on the phone, the television in the next room may be noise. Conversely, if you’re watching television, a phone conversation nearby can be noise. Your teenagers’ music is noise, period. You get the idea.

What Is An STC Rating? (This is a key measurement!)

When you’re dealing with noise, it’s important to be able to measure the effectiveness of soundproofing.

The ability of a material to block sound is measured by a Sound Transmission Class (STC) rating. 

Sound absorption is measured by a Noise Reduction Coefficient (NRC) rating or a Sound Absorption Average (SAA). 

In both cases, the higher the rating, the more effective the materials and methods are at doing their job. 

To block loud speech, a wall needs an STC rating of from 40 to 50. For excellent noise blocking, you’ll need an STC rating of from 50 to 60.

In each of the soundproofing sections below, we discuss the STC ratings you’ll want to achieve.

How to Soundproof a Room

To soundproof a room effectively, you can use a combination of noise blocking and sound absorbing materials and techniques. 

You can use sound blockers to prevent noise from traveling through the walls, ceiling, floors, doors, windows, and openings such as doorways, and then employ materials that absorb noise both inside and outside of the room.

Soundproofing is about controlling noise. So ask yourself, “What noise do I want to control?”

Broadly speaking, noise control falls within two camps: 

  1. Controlling the quality and nature of sound generated within your home, and 
  2. Blocking noise that you don’t want to hear.

Both of these involve stopping the unwanted movement of sound from one place to another and dampening echoes.

Two soundproofing techniques are used for controlling the movement of sound:

  1. Sound blocking and
  2. Sound absorbing

Sound blocking relies upon materials and methods that stop or reduce the transfer of sound. 

Sound absorbing soaks up sound so it doesn’t bounce from one place to another. 

Sound Blocking Materials and Techniques

To block noise coming from outside a room, such as traffic noise or noisy neighbors, you need materials that have a lot of mass. They will work as a sound barrier to minimize sound transmission. 

In addition, you may use materials or methods that separate or “decouple” the parts of a wall or floor so that sound waves don’t vibrate right through them. 

Sound blocking materials prevent noise from traveling through walls, ceilings, doors, windows, and floors. Materials that stop sound are typically dense, heavy, thick, or—in some cases—flexible. Generally speaking, they are too dense for noise to travel through them. 

A 12-inch-thick brick wall is a good example of a sound blocker. But thick brick walls are rare. Most of us must turn to other materials and methods to achieve effective sound blocking.

As you’ll find in the information below on how to soundproof rooms, walls, and more, extra-thick layers of drywall, special acoustic “green glue,” and mass-loaded vinyl (MLV) are among the best materials for stopping the movement of noise through walls, ceilings, and floors.

The principle that greater mass increases sound blocking holds true for windows and doors, too. Using double- or triple-glazed windows or solid-core doors dramatically increases their ability to block sound. 

Sound blocking methods. The most effective sound blocking methods involve building what are effectively double walls. The idea is to have these double walls separated so vibrations can’t pass through them. 

Staggered stud configurations, special clips for holding drywall, and multiple layers of ⅝-inch drywall are popular methods decoupling one side of a wall from the other. More about these below in Soundproofing A Wall.

But here is the problem: Unless you’re doing a major remodel or building a home with sound control as a priority, employing serious sound-blocking strategies like these can be very expensive and involved. It’s best to take on these measures when walls and ceilings are already opened up. If walls are closed up, you may need to tear them open to modify or retrofit them.

If you own your home, the effective, permanent solutions discussed below are possible if you have the budget. We’ll walk you through a variety of sound blocking solutions.

 If you’re renting, on the other hand, you’ll need affordable, workable alternatives. See Apartment Noise Solutions.

 

Sound Absorbing Materials and Techniques

To dampen echoes and reverberations that cause noise, absorb sound with soft surfaces and materials. 

Typically porous, lightweight, and soft to the touch, sound absorbing materials stop noise from bouncing around inside rooms. 

In addition, sound absorbing materials such as acoustic foam can greatly improve the quality of sound in a room. That’s why they are used for deadening distortion from reflected sound in a home theater, music room, podcasting booth, or recording studio. They work equally great to soften the sound in a noisy kitchen or recreation room.

Materials that help control sound within a room are familiar to most homeowners. If you want to minimize sound bouncing around a room, choose soft materials such as acoustic ceilings, padded carpeting, and rugs rather than hard materials like hardwood, tile, and laminates.

The following educational video explains how sound travels and why reflected sound creates echoes, distortion, and interference. It shows how a combination of sound absorbers and diffusers make a room sound less noisy and more natural.

<div style=”text-align: center;”>   <iframe width=”560″ height=”315″ src=”https://www.youtube.com/embed/JPYt10zrclQ” frameborder=”0″ allow=”accelerometer; autoplay; encrypted-media; gyroscope; picture-in-picture” allowfullscreen></iframe> </div>

 

Best Doors for Soundproofing

Doors play an integral role in controlling the movement of sound through a house. They are one of the easiest and least expensive soundproofing measures you can take.

Doors are typically the thinnest barrier in a wall. Because they don’t benefit from the thicker—sometimes insulated or layered—construction of walls, they generally do a poor job of blocking noise. It just easily passes right through them.

Here we’ll look at the best doors for blocking sound, as well as ways to prevent noise from leaking in around them.

Solid Doors Block Sound Better

You can add significant sound control simply by replacing a hollow-core door with a solid-core door. 

Hollow-core doors are the most typical, ordinary flush interior doors. Beneath the door’s surfaces, an inner cardboard honeycomb core is surrounded by a softwood frame. The surfaces are faced with very thin wood veneers. Between the thin surfaces and the air-filled core, there isn’t much to block the movement of sound. 

Solid-core exterior or interior doors have, as their name suggests, a solid core of wood or composite material. They will block noise more effectively because of their density. Manufacturers sell many types, ranging from expensive hardwood to more affordable Medium Density Fiberboard (MDF) doors.

A solid-core door helps block the transference of sound by eliminating the drum-like construction of a hollow-core door.

A hollow-core interior door has an STC of less than 20. If you were to replace that door with a solid-core door that is properly weather stripped, you would end up with an STC rating of 34 to 36. This would block low speech, but not loud speech or other noise. 

Though most interior doors are 1 3/8-inch thick, exterior doors are typically 1 3/4-inch thick. The thicker the door, the better it reduces noise transfer. Just be aware that replacing a 1 ⅜-inch door with a thicker one will involve some carpentry modifications to the door jambs. 

Sound-blocking doors. You can actually go one step further than a solid-core door and buy a sound-blocking door. Doors made specifically for blocking sound typically have a construction that sandwiches 1/2-inch-thick particle board sound board with an interior layer of lead or another super-dense material. (A door that contains lead will be much heavier than a conventional door.)

They are often sold complete with jambs and integral interlocking thresholds and sweeps to keep sound from leaking-in around them.

When shopping for a sound-blocking door, you’ll see they all have an STC rating that measures their performance. Please see What Is An STC Rating?.

 

Weather Stripping for Doors and Windows

Of course, it doesn’t matter how the door is built if it’s open, right? Similarly, if gaps exist around the edges or between the bottom of the door and the floor, sound will sneak in around the door.

So the door should fit the jamb tightly. Use weather stripping to seal around its edges. Rubber or vinyl bulb [easyazon_link keywords=”door weather stripping” locale=”US” tag=”hometips”]door weather stripping[/easyazon_link] and a [easyazon_link keywords=”door-bottom weather stripping sweep” locale=”US” tag=”hometips”]door-bottom weather stripping sweep[/easyazon_link] do a good job of sealing around the perimeter of a door to block noise.

If you need a door sweep that doesn’t drag along the floor, investigate an [easyazon_link identifier=”B009UWK98M” locale=”US” tag=”hometips”]automatic door sweep[/easyazon_link] that seals the bottom of the door only when the door is closed.

You can buy recording-studio-grade door noise-reducing materials online as an [easyazon_link identifier=”B00TXGLLX2″ locale=”US” tag=”hometips”]acoustic door seal kit[/easyazon_link]

Soundproofing a Wall

Whether you want to control the noise within a room or block it from traveling into a room, your home’s walls are key. Keep in mind that most soundproofing techniques used for walls also work for ceilings.

Unfortunately, conventional walls and ceilings are only marginally effective at blocking noise because they are built like drums. 

They have surface membranes (typically ½-inch-thick drywall) attached to a structural framework of wall studs or ceiling joists. The spaces between the studs are filled with air or, in some exterior walls, insulation.

When sound waves strike one surface, they are conducted through the surface material and framework to the other surface where they’re broadcast as audible noise. 

Of course, where wall surfaces are thin or nonexistent, such as at an open window or doorway, noise flows freely.

 

STC Ratings for Walls

As a standard for comparison, a “paper-thin” conventional house interior wall made of 2-by-4 studs with 1/2-inch drywall on both sides has an STC rating of between 15 and 33. The variance depends upon construction and whether the wall contains fiberglass insulation. 

A 2-by-4 stud wall, insulated, with slightly thicker ⅝-inch drywall on each side will give you an STC rating of about 40.

Many condos or apartments have partition walls with staggered double 2-by-4 stud framing and, in some cases, one or two layers of ⅝-inch drywall on each side. These have STC ratings from 40 to the high 60s, depending upon the number and thickness of drywall layers and the addition of insulation between the studs.

Mass-loaded vinyl, discussed below, contributes an additional STC rating of from 25 to 27.

 

Soundproofing Insulation

During building or remodeling, an effective and affordable way to improve the soundproofing performance of walls and ceilings is to put batt or blanket insulation between studs or joists. Insulation absorbs the sound that would otherwise easily travel through the air pockets between wall framing.

Major insulation manufacturers, including CertainTeed, Johns Manville, Knauf Fiber Glass, and Owens-Corning, market 3 1/2-inch-thick fiberglass or rock wool “acoustic batts” specifically for sound control. These products are excellent at absorbing the sound that would otherwise travel through the air.

Designed to fit between studs, acoustic batts are 14 1/2 inches or 22 1/2 inches wide and 3 1/2 inches thick. Most are the same as R-11 or R-13 energy insulation batts. 

Kraft-faced batts are friendliest to handle and easiest to fasten in place (a vapor barrier is not needed for interior walls). They should be installed tightly between framing members, and snugly around pipes, electrical boxes, wires, and heating ducts with as few hollows or gaps as possible. Any gaps or hollows will allow noise leaks.

Leaving only a small portion of a wall or ceiling uninsulated can dramatically reduce its sound-reducing performance. Batts can be friction-fit in wall cavities. If temporary support is needed, two or three bands of drywall tape may be stapled horizontally across studs. 

In ceilings, batts should be installed just above the backside of the ceiling material.

 

Construction Methods for Acoustic Walls

Boosting the sound-blocking performance of walls and ceilings to higher STC levels calls for additional measures during wall construction. Here are a few options:

Metal wall studs. Using metal wall studs helps. A wall built with 2 1/2-inch metal studs yields an STC rating of 45.

Two layers of drywall. Another way to achieve better performance is to apply a second layer of 5/8-inch drywall to one or both sides of the wall. This gives the surface more mass, making it less prone to vibrate and transfer sound waves. 

Adding a layer of ½-inch drywall to one side of an insulated wall increases the STC rating to 40; adding it to both sides pushes the STC to 45. By moving up to ⅝-inch drywall and adding insulation you can get an STC rating as high as 60.

Sound isolation systems. An even more effective way to build an interior wall is to mount 1/2-inch gypsum wallboard on special resilient channels or clips that across the wall. These channels or clips absorb sound so it isn’t conducted through the wall studs, resulting in an STC rating of about 46. 

Typically, the drywall is screwed to a flange on the channels, not to the studs. Combining insulation, channel-mounted wallboard, and a dual layer of 1/2-inch gypsum on one side achieves an excellent STC rating of 52.

This video shows how to install drywall on the CertainTeed noiseproofing clip system: (VIDEO)

 

Staggered wall studs. In roughly the same category is a wall with staggered wall studs. Though this requires more labor and framing material, a wall of 2-by-4 studs, staggered along 2-by-6 bottom and top plates with two thicknesses of fiberglass insulation, produces an STC of about 50. Because the wall surfaces are each fastened to an independent set of studs, noise can’t travel through the studs from one surface to the other.

Fireblocking. Where codes and safety allow, consider eliminating fireblocking in interior walls. These short blocks, mounted horizontally between wall studs, transmit noise readily from one wall surface to the other. If you’re thinking about eliminating them, be sure to check with your local building department.

Mass Loaded Vinyl (MLV) barriers offer a serious step-up in blocking sound, with an STC addition of from about 25 to 32. Made of high-density organic sands and salts, as well as minute metal particles, these 1/8 to 1/4-inch-thick flexible products are sold in 4-by-8-foot sheets and 4.5-by-20-foot rolls. The material can be cut with a utility knife.

MLV can be Class A E84 fire rated when it has a foil facing on it.

Prices run from $1 to $2.50 per square foot. You can buy self-adhesive types, but this adds to the price. 

At about 2 pounds per square foot, they are heavier than they look. Depending upon the surface you’re attaching them to, you can use construction staples, nails or screws with big washer-sized heads, or adhesive. A power nailer loaded with staples is easiest to use. Because of the weight, MLV must be installed so that the fasteners don’t pull through the material. 

You can even install grommets and hang the sheets like curtains (a good solution if you live in an apartment or rental).

The following video shows how to install [easyazon_link identifier=”B007N3356S” locale=”US” tag=”hometips”]Acoustiblock[/easyazon_link], one of the available MLV systems. 

 

Sealing Up Wall Penetrations

Electrical switches and outlets are set into plastic or metal boxes in a wall. These boxes, because they are hollow, act as holes that allow noise to easily pass through the wall.

This is where Putty Pads or Quiet Pads can help. If you can gain access, wrap the back side of electrical boxes and similar penetrations with putty pads. These create an air seal and add mass to the box that sound can’t bypass.

This video shows how to use the pads. The host also discusses applying a double layer of ⅝-inch drywall and filling cavities between wall studs with fiberglass insulation.

<div style=”text-align: center;”><iframe width=”560″ height=”315″ src=”https://www.youtube.com/embed/J8U_BvEq5CI” frameborder=”0″ allow=”accelerometer; autoplay; encrypted-media; gyroscope; picture-in-picture” allowfullscreen></iframe></div>

 

Are Acoustic Tiles and Panels Effective?

People often ask if putting foam acoustic panels or tiles on walls will help reduce noise from neighbors or the neighborhood. The answer is: not much. 

Though they won’t really block noise, acoustic panels and tiles do help keep it from bouncing around because they absorb sound. By deadening the sound within a room, they help keep noise from traveling into or out of the room.

Because foam acoustic panels and tiles are often applied to surfaces as a finish material, they come in a variety of colors and styles. Cost for acoustic soundproofing tiles ranges from about $15 to $40 for a pack of twelve 12-by-12-inch tiles. 

 

Soundproofing for Recording or Podcasting

If two walls are not parallel with one another, sound is less likely to ping pong back and forth. This explains why uneven, angled, curved, or ridged soundproofing materials are popular in environments such as recording studios, home theaters, and music practice rooms where noise reduction is key.

For people who are building a home recording studio, soundproofing is an art. A good place to start is with [easyazon_link keywords=”soundproofing acoustic panels” —  or sound deadening tiles locale=”US” tag=”hometips”]soundproofing acoustic deadening sound tiles[/easyazon_link] like the ones shown here. Acoustic panels come in a variety of colors.

If you’re building a serious recording studio where you don’t want any sound bleeding through the walls, check out this video:

<div style=”text-align: center;”><iframe width=”560″ height=”315″ src=”https://www.youtube.com/embed/AOIAPBA2pT8″ frameborder=”0″ allow=”accelerometer; autoplay; encrypted-media; gyroscope; picture-in-picture” allowfullscreen></iframe></div>

How to Build Acoustic Panels

If you want to make you own acoustic panels for absorbing unwanted noise at a cost of less than $20 each, watch this detailed, easy-to-follow video:

<div style=”text-align: center;”><iframe width=”560″ height=”315″ src=”https://www.youtube.com/embed/tLk6fQVcoSw” frameborder=”0″ allow=”accelerometer; autoplay; encrypted-media; gyroscope; picture-in-picture” allowfullscreen></iframe></div>

Minimizing Uniform Surfaces

The uniformity of a wall or ceiling surface affects its sound transmission characteristics. Flat surfaces tend to bounce sound waves around, sometimes creating a lasting echo effect if the surfaces (or walls) are hard—and especially if they are directly parallel to each other. The less uniform the surface, the less opportunity the sound has to bounce.

How to Soundproof Between Floors

In an existing home or apartment, controlling the noise that travels from the floor above to the room below (or vice versa) can be very difficult, particularly if you don’t own or control the room above. For more about this, please see How to Soundproof An Apartment.

If you own the room above, you can install padded carpeting to minimize the sound of shoes above or foam speaker isolation pads to deaden the rumble of speakers. You can also undertake repairs such as silencing floor squeaks

 

How to Build a Soundproof Floor Video

If you’re building a new home or undertaking a major remodel, and you want to make sure that the noise above is not heard in the room below—and vice versa—you can build a soundproof floor.

You do this by pouring a 1½-inch slab of lightweight concrete on the floor. This, of course, will be major construction that involves pumping and troweling concrete. Be aware that this technique will raise the floor level by at least 1½ inches, so this must be taken into consideration during your planning.

Here is a video that shows you what is involved in building a soundproof floor:

<div style=”text-align: center;”><iframe width=”560″ height=”315″ src=”https://www.youtube.com/embed/jXxxTkZoJBY” frameborder=”0″ allow=”accelerometer; autoplay; encrypted-media; gyroscope; picture-in-picture” allowfullscreen></iframe></div>

A floor-ceiling construction that produces an STC of 53 is achieved by mounting 1/2-inch gypsum wallboard to resilient channels fastened to 2-by-10 ceiling joists with 3 1/2-inch-thick batts between the joists. In this scenario, the floor above has a plywood subfloor, particleboard underlayment, carpet pad, and carpet.

 

Basement Ceiling Soundproofing Video

Below is an excellent video that shows you four different methods for soundproofing a basement ceiling so you don’t hear the noise above, and the people above don’t hear the noise in the basement.

The first, easiest and probably best method he illustrates is to apply to layers of ⅝-inch drywall with “green glue” to create a super-dense ceiling with an STC rating of about 40, which is ample in most situations. This option doesn’t involve installing insulation.

He explains that you can add more sound dampening by adding fiberglass insulation. Note: We recommend wearing a long-sleeve shirt, gloves, a dust mask, and safety glasses when installing fiberglass insulation.

 

<div style=”text-align: center;”><iframe width=”560″ height=”315″ src=”https://www.youtube.com/embed/GLjhrXFo0Kw” frameborder=”0″ allow=”accelerometer; autoplay; encrypted-media; gyroscope; picture-in-picture” allowfullscreen></iframe></div>

 

Ceiling Sound Absorption

To help quiet the noise of a room that is below other rooms, you can install an acoustic ceiling.

Companies such as Armstrong World Industries have a wide range of acoustic ceiling materials that are particularly popular for deadening the sound within a room and can help cut down on noise transference to and from basements and other activity areas.

Acoustic tiles and drop-ceiling systems offer excellent acoustical properties.

You might be pleased to find that they don’t have to look like an office ceiling. People who think the conventional styles of acoustic ceilings are a bit too institutional will like some of the newer styles available.

For example, Armstrong offers 2-by-2-foot and 2-by-4-foot acoustic ceiling panels that have a step-edged detail or look like embossed or molded plaster. “These are very good for blocking noise generated in the basement and keeping it from invading upstairs,” says a spokesperson for Armstrong’s residential ceilings. “They will give your basement ceiling an STC rating of about 35 and even better performance if you install batt insulation between floor joists,” he adds.

(For more about STC, see What Is An STC?)

With ceilings, as with the entire house, the most effective way to minimize noise is to combine a number of different sound-blocking and sound-reduction methods.

 

Soundproofing Windows

Noisy neighbors, traffic, animals, leaf blowers, lawnmowers, pumps, airplanes, construction: these are just a few of the noises that can interrupt your home’s peace and quiet. 

But what can you do about them?

The answer is that it may largely depend on the type of noise and the work and expense you’re willing to go to block the noise.

 

Replacing Windows with Soundproof Windows

Replacing old single-pane windows with special soundproofing windows can be a huge—though expensive—step.

One important note is that energy-efficient windows and soundproof windows are two different things. Glazing that has argon gas and low-E coatings doesn’t change a window’s acoustic features. The thickness of the glass, the amount of space between panes, and the integrity of the frame do.

Because conventional single-pane windows do very little to block noise, they are a significant target when it comes to soundproofing to shut-out exterior noise. A single-pane window has an STC rating of 18 to 27. (See What Is An STC?)

A dual-glazed (or “double-glazed”) window has an STC rating of 28 to 32. Dual glazing may be a significant energy improvement for your home, but as a soundproofing improvement, the change is only slightly audible. You need to move up to a higher performer to significantly block noise.

Laminated dual glazing steps up the STC to about 35, but this difference over basic dual glazing doesn’t justify the additional high cost of laminated glass. The same is true of triple glazing.

A better choice is choose double glazing that has two different thicknesses of glass. These windows do a better job of filtering out various frequencies of noise and will deliver an STC rating of about 34.

Most major window manufacturers offer special soundproofing windows, so check around. And be sure to get multiple bids if you’re thinking seriously about this type of major investment.

 

Installing Soundproof Window Inserts

If you live in an airport flight path, a noisy downtown area, or just a subdivision with too many leaf blowers, you’re going to want windows with an STC of 38 to 40 or more. 

In this case, investigate special soundproofing window inserts. These are far more affordable than completely swapping out windows.

Soundproof window inserts are custom-made to fit and be installed inside many types of existing windows. 

When installed, these windows leave a hefty space of about 4 inches between the existing window and the insert. As a result, they achieve very high STC ratings of 38 to 42.

They are made in a variety of operable styles by companies such as CitiQuiet, Indow Windows, and Citiproof Soundproof Windows. Certain brands are sold through major home improvement retailers.

 

Window Soundproofing Panels and Acoustic Quilts

Sound reducing acoustic curtains are an inexpensive way to absorb some interior room sounds and can marginally minimize outdoor noise. You can buy sound-blocking curtains on Amazon for under $40. But keep your expectations low—they are not going to do an exceptional job of keeping out the noise.

Noise-reducing curtains absorb indoor sound and help block outdoor noise. Buy on Amazon

Acoustic curtains will be most effective if you choose sizes that will reach from ceiling to floor. At the very least, they should extend a few inches beyond the perimeter of a window.

This video shows how one brand of soundproofing panels is easy for a do-it-yourselfer to buy and install.

 

<div style=”text-align: center;”><iframe width=”560″ height=”315″ src=”https://www.youtube.com/embed/ZzNzXA8aPLA” frameborder=”0″ allow=”accelerometer; autoplay; encrypted-media; gyroscope; picture-in-picture” allowfullscreen></iframe></div>

 

Caulk and Weather Strip Windows

Gaps and spaces around windows allow noise to pass freely. One of the cheapest but most effective soundproofing measures you can take is to weather strip and caulk windows. For more, see How to Weather Strip Doors and Windows.  

 

Soundproofing the Garage

If your home has a room next to or above the garage, street noise can travel right through the garage into your house. In this situation, the makeup of your garage door is also a consideration.

The typical garage door is built with an open interior framework and faced with a sheet of plywood, steel, vinyl or aluminum on the outside.

 

ISO

Sound-minimizing garage doors have internal foam insulation and interior surface panels.

But you can buy premium garage doors that are filled with foam insulation and have an additional facing on the inside. These are particularly good at keeping street noise from entering through the garage.

For more, see the Garage Doors Buying Guide.

Apartment Noise Solutions

Some sound control issues are not easy or affordable to solve completely because they can involve opening up and reconstructing walls, ceilings, and floors. Obviously, if you live in a rental or apartment, these methods are not practical.

But what can you do to cut down on noise from next-door neighbors or an apartment above or below you?

Your best measures are going to be those with neighbor compliance or participation. If you have a positive relationship with your noisy neighbors, discuss the issue and see if you can work out a solution together. For example, if their subwoofer is pounding your ceiling with bass tones, maybe you can offer to buy them a set of acoustic foam isolation pads for their speakers. 

If the sounds of clicking heels or heavy foot falls are pounding the ceiling, see whether they might put padded carpeting or rugs in the most problematic rooms. 

If the problem is floor squeaks, talk to your landlord.

If the noise is coming through walls, try to arrange furniture to control it. For example, consider putting a floor-to-ceiling wardrobe or bookcase against a noisy wall. You might even put mass loaded vinyl (MLV) behind it on the wall or the back of the bookcase or wardrobe.

Be sure to check out the sections above on Best Doors for Soundproofing and Window Soundproofing Acoustic Panels and Quilts. 

 

How to Panel a Wall

Expert step-by-step do-it-yourself advice on how to install sheet paneling, including preparation.

There is a paneling style for almost every decor. Choices include rustic boards, frame-and-panel designs with or without molding, and elaborate raised panels. You can cover an entire wall or choose waist- or shoulder-high wainscoting.

Installing sheet wall paneling is a relatively easy do-it-yourself project.

Paneling can be made from fine hardwoods or inexpensive pine. Finishes run the gamut as well. Panels can be given a clear finish, or they can be painted, stained, or coated with any number of decorative finishes.

Paneling is sold in two forms: sheets and boards. Sheets are typically 4 by 8 feet. Boards range from 3/8 to 7/8 inch in thickness, but the most common are 1/2 and 3/4 inch. Boards come in widths of between 3 and 10 inches and may have either square, tongue-and-groove, or shiplap edges.[GARD align=”left”]

Before installing paneling, place the materials in the room where they will be installed for two to five days to allow the wood to adjust to the humidity level. This will help eliminate any shrinkage or expansion problems once the panels are secured to the wall.

Preparing the Wall

When applying sheet or board panels over a finished wood-frame wall, you may be able to attach the material through the wallboard or plaster to the wall studs; otherwise, you will have to attach furring strips—1 by 3s or 1 by 4s—to the studs as a base for securing the panels. If the wall is new and without wallboard or plaster, you can attach sheets or boards directly to the studs or to 2-by-4 blocks nailed between the studs. If you do attach furring strips to the wall studs, use nails long enough to penetrate them by at least 1 inch. Fasten the strips to masonry walls using concrete nails or screws and shield-type masonry anchors.

To ensure that the siding will sit flat on the wall, furring strips should be plumb and flat; you can make adjustments with cedar-shingle shims wedged behind the furring strips as needed. Leave a 1/4-inch space at both the top and bottom of the wall when applying the strips to allow for unevenness in the floor or ceiling.

Note that furring strips and paneling will add to the thickness of the wall. Window and door jambs must be built out to compensate for this. It is likely that you will have to add extensions to electrical switches and receptacle boxes, as well.

Installing Sheet Paneling

Cut each sheet 1/4 inch shorter than the distance from the floor to the ceiling. Apply adhesive to the framing in a wavy pattern. Drive four finishing nails through the top edge of the panel. Position the panel on the wall, leaving a 1/4-inch space at the bottom, and drive the four nails partway into the wall. Pull the bottom edge of the panel about 6 inches from the wall and push a block behind the sheet. When the adhesive is tacky. Remove the block and press the panel firmly into place by striking it with a rubber mallet or by hammering against a padded block. Drive the top-edge nails all the way in, and then nail the panel at the bottom and, if needed, through the grooves at stud locations. Cover the nailheads and the 1/4-inch gap with molding.

Fitting a panel around any opening requires careful measuring, marking, and cutting. Keep track of all the measurements by sketching them on a piece of paper.[GARD align=”left”]

Starting from the corner of the wall or the edge of the nearest panel, measure out to the edge of the opening or electrical box. Then, from the same point, measure out to the opening’s opposite edge. Next, measure the distance from the floor to the opening’s bottom edge and from the floor to the opening’s top edge. (Remember that you will install the paneling 1/4 inch above the floor.) Transfer these measurements to the panel, marking the side of the panel that will face you as you cut (face up for a handsaw, face down for a power saw).

Position the first panel at a corner.

 

 

 

1With a helper, position the first panel at one corner of the room, but do not apply panel adhesive yet. Check the inside edge of the panel with a level to make sure it is plumb.

Scribe the wall’s contour onto the panel.

 

 

2While your helper holds the panel in place, use a compass or scribe tool to scribe the corner edge of the panel so that it can be cut to fit snugly against the adjoining wall. Draw the compass along the adjoining wall so the pencil leg duplicates the unevenness onto the panel.

Cut the contour along the panel’s edge.

 

 

3Cut the marked edge along the pencil line. A saber saw works best for this, but you will need to use a fine-toothed blade to avoid fraying the front of the panel. Or, you can transfer the mark to the backside and cut the panel on that side.

Nail the panel to wall studs.

 

 

 

4Attach the panel to the wall, placing nails in the dark grooves where they’re least likely to be visible. Stop hammering before the nailhead reaches the surface, and set the head flush with a nailset.

Mark for electrical box cutouts.

 

 

 

5When a panel must be cut for a switch or receptacle, hold the panel in position against the electrical box and mark the box’s location. Snap chalk lines to the approximate place where the box will go. Then measure the distance from the edge of the adjoining installed panel to both sides of the box and transfer these dimensions onto the panel between the chalk lines.

Use a saber saw for cutouts.

 

 

 

6Make cutouts for electrical boxes using a saber saw equipped with a fine cutting blade.

 

 

 

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How to Hang Drywall

Expert step-by-step techniques for fastening drywall wallboard to walls and ceilings.

Tools and Supplies for Hanging DrywallDmitry Naumov / Shutterstock.com

Tools and Supplies for Hanging Drywall

In this article, we look at the process of mounting drywall to framing members. For information on cutting drywall, see How to Cut Drywall.

On ceilings, use annular ring nails or drywall screws to fasten drywall panels to joists.

On walls, use drywall nails or screws to attach drywall panels (“Sheetrock®”) to studs and top and bottom plates. Panel joints should be centered against ceiling joists or wall studs and staggered so they don’t align with adjacent joints.

Special drywall lifts make raising and supporting ceiling panels a much easier job.©Christina Richards / Shutterstock.com

Special drywall lifts, available through tool rental supplies, make raising and supporting ceiling panels a much easier job.


Using a screw gun or drill driver to attach panels is easiest, particularly for ceilings. Most codes call for spacing fasteners every 8 inches along panel ends, edges, and intermediate supports. Place the fasteners at least 3/8 inch from panel edges.

Use drywall screws to fasten sheets to ceiling joists.©Christina Richards / Shutterstock.com

Use drywall screws to fasten sheets to ceiling joists.

Before installing drywall panels, mark wall-stud locations on the floor and ceiling so you can find their locations easily after the panels are in place.[GARD align=”left”]

HomeTips Tip: Take photographs of walls before installing drywall so you can easily locate pipes and wires after walls are covered.

Using a screw gun or drill driver to attach panels is easiest, particularly for ceilings. Most codes call for spacing fasteners every 8 inches along panel ends, edges, and intermediate supports. Place the fasteners at least 3/8 inch from panel edges.

If you nail the panels, use a bell-faced or drywall hammer to dimple the drywall surface with the final blow on each nailhead. This creates a small divot that you will subsequently fill with drywall compound.
To attach drywall to a ceiling, position a pair of stepladders or set up sturdy sawhorses and planks to serve as a low scaffold. Then you and a helper can hold each end of a panel in place against the ceiling joists. Start fastening near the center of each panel and then place a few fasteners at the edges until the panel can support its own weight. Continue until each panel is fully fastened.

 

 

 

 

For walls, begin at a corner. Push the panel tight against the ceiling and fasten to the studs. Install the rest of the upper panels and then the lower ones. Force the lower panels tight against the upper ones before fastening, using a pry bar or a block and flat board as a lever. Make cutouts for receptacle and switch boxes using a power jigsaw.

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How to Cut Drywall

Cut drywall by slicing through the surface paper with a sharp utility knife, drawing the knife along a straightedge. Snap the piece away from the cut, and then slice through the paper backing.DmitriMaruta / Shutterstock.com

Cut drywall by slicing through the surface paper with a sharp utility knife, drawing the knife along a straightedge. Snap the piece away from the cut, and then slice through the paper backing.

Cutting and installing drywall (“Sheetrock®”) is fairly straightforward and can be accomplished with only a handful of common tools. However, because full panels are heavy and awkward to handle, hanging drywall is far easier with a helper.

 

If the wall will be painted or wallpapered, you’ll need to finish the joints and corners, but you may not need to hide joints on installations that serve as a backing for ceramic tile.

 

For more about the process of hanging and taping drywall, see How to Install Drywall.

 

 

Using a pencil and straightedge or chalk line, mark for your cutting line on the front paper layer. Score through the front paper with a utility knife and then turn the drywall over and break the gypsum core by bending the panel toward the back. Finish by cutting the back paper along the crease, as shown.

A utility knife is all that's needed for making straight cuts across drywall.

A utility knife is all that’s needed for making straight cuts across drywall.

Make straight cut outs or cuts that only go partway across a sheet using an old handsaw.Holbox / Shutterstock.com

Make straight cut outs or cuts that only go partway across a sheet using an old handsaw.

Cutouts and curved cuts. You can use a utility knife to make straight cuts and a handsaw, compass saw, drywall saw, or power saber saw to make curved cuts or small cutouts.

When cutting drywall to fit around doorways, windows, outlets, and other surface interruptions, measure out from the adjacent panel and up from the floor to the obstruction. [GARD align=”right”]

Then transfer these measurements onto a new panel and cut. Make small cutouts for outlet and switch boxes about 3/16 inch larger than the boxes, and adjust the holes with a perforated rasp if necessary.

Featured Resource: Find a Pre-Screened Local Drywall Contractor

 

How to Repair Plaster Walls & Ceilings

Expert advice and detailed instructions on repairing the most common plaster wall and ceiling problems, including cracks, holes, and sagging

Earthquakes are unkind to plaster walls, as evidenced by this deep crack.

Plaster applied to wood lath is held in place by the “keys” that form when it squishes through the lath. (For more about how plaster walls are built, see Plaster Wall Construction.) Over time, these keys can disintegrate, causing the plaster to crack, crumble, and fall away from the lath. Settling of a house or the occasional earthquake can speed this process.

Some plaster is of poor quality, and this may cause the plaster to crack and crumble. In addition, water damage from roof or plumbing leaks can discolor plaster and cause peeling or efflorescence, the leaching of salts and minerals to the surface.

Plaster can also be damaged from the normal stresses and strains of people living in a house: holes from wall hangings, scratches from furniture, spilled liquids. Fortunately, most of these simple problems can be easily fixed.[GARD align=”left”]

Cracks leading from windows and doors or along seams in the ceiling can signal more significant damage, so you may want to call in a contractor to take a look at your home’s structural integrity.

Repairing Small Cracks in Plaster

Small cracks in plaster are relatively easy to repair, with one condition: The plaster must be firmly anchored to the lath behind it. If, when you push on the wall, it flexes as though it has broken away from its support base, call a plaster specialist—the repair will involve removing the loose plaster and replacing it.

It just takes a little spackling compound to repair fine cracks, nail holes, and gouges in a firmly anchored plaster wall. Here’s how:

Widen a crack with a can opener and then apply spackling compound to it.

1Widen the crack. Wearing safety glasses, take a lever-type can opener and use the point to widen the crack to about 1/8 inch, as shown at right. Or, you can use a screwdriver or a utility knife.

2Blow out the plaster dust. Using a medium-bristle brush, scrub the area with a solution of water and tri-sodium phosphate (TSP) or a non-phosphate detergent.

3Cut short pieces of self-adhesive fiberglass mesh joint tape and cover the groove with them.

4Dip a sponge in clean water and dampen the area.

 

5Mix setting-type joint compound and apply it over the tape and groove using a 3-inch-wide putty knife. Smooth it out evenly and allow it to dry.

6Apply another coat of joint compound with a drywall knife or wide-blade putty knife. Apply it smoothly and “feather” the edges so that they taper into the undamaged area. Allow the compound to dry and then sand lightly to blend the patch into the wall at the edges.

7Prime with a high-quality latex primer and then paint.

Using a nail, score the plaster and then apply spackling compound to it.

Repairing Large Cracks in Plaster

Larger cracks can be fixed in a similar way:

1Widen the crack with the can opener and dampen the edges of the crack with a sponge.

 

2Fill the crack half full with patching plaster. When it has dried a little, score the plaster with a nail, as shown at right. This will give the next layer of plaster something to hold onto.

3Dampen the patch again and apply another layer of patching plaster to about 1/4 inch of the surface. Let the patch dry and apply a coat of finishing plaster.

Repairing Holes in Plaster

It’s relatively easy to repair small holes in plaster if the lath backing that grips the plaster is intact. If the lath backing is fine, you can mix joint compound with plaster of Paris for the patch.

First brush away loose plaster and dust. Working from the edges inward, push the plaster mixture into and through the lath for a good bond. Apply an initial “scratch” coat.  Let this dry, then apply a finish coat.[GARD align=”left”]

If there isn’t proper backing behind the hole, install backing first. Begin by enlarging the hole just enough to expose firm lath around the perimeter. Using tin snips, cut a piece of wire mesh that’s large enough to bunch-up and fill the opening when you push it into the hole. If necessary, wind wire ties wound around one or two dowels or sticks to hold it in place until the plaster mixture hardens.

Apply the plaster mixture in layers, allowing each to set before applying the next. When the patch is complete, and dry, just snip off the exposed wire.

Getting the surface coat smooth can be tricky, especially if the hole is large and you have limited plastering skills. In this case, use only joint compound for the final coat. When the patch is dry, use fine sandpaper to sand the surface smooth. Then prime and paint it to match the wall.

How to Fix Sagging Plaster

Flaking and cracking plaster are relatively minor repair items, but when the plaster starts to sag, or “belly out,” from a wall or ceiling, it indicates deeper problems.

Plaster is heavy, and it needs a solid, well-anchored base to support its weight. This base is usually strips of wood or metal wire mesh (both referred to as lath) that are nailed to the wall and ceiling framing. When the plaster is applied, it squeezes through the lath, creating “keys” that harden to form a strong integral bond with the wall.

Over the years, plaster can dry out and lose its holding strength, or weaken from vibration, and the keys begin to break away. The lath can also pull away from the framing. Gravity and the weight of the plaster exert themselves, and the first sign is often sagging, followed eventually by the collapse of the plaster surface.

At this point, you may want to call in a professional. Repairing a large wall area is difficult enough, but if the ceiling is beginning to sag, working over your head with heavy, hard-to-handle materials is not an easy job. If you still want to attempt your own repairs, here’s how:

1First, protect the flooring under your work area, because once you begin the entire affected area could give way. To prevent plaster dust from spreading into the rest of the house, hang damp sheets or tape plastic sheeting over the doorways and put an exhaust fan in a window. If you’re worried that much of the ceiling could come down at once, build T-shaped supports from 2 by 4s and use them to hold a piece of plywood flat against the ceiling while you work.

2Use a hammer and cold chisel or wrecking bar to chip out a small area at the edge of the bulge (wear safety glasses). Once you can see behind the surface, you should be able to tell if the plaster has pulled away from the lath or the lath itself has come loose from the framing. If the lath has pulled away and the plaster is still well-adhered to it, you may be able to refasten the lath to the framing without removing the plaster.

3Use long drywall screws that will penetrate at least half their length into the wood framing. Start near the edge of the bulge and press the ceiling upward as you drive the screws (you may have to shift your plywood support, and the tees holding it, as you work). Because the plaster and lath form an integral sheet, like a piece of drywall, it may go back up without a problem. However, if the lath has warped, or if the old nails in the framing prevent the lath from returning to its original position, this may prove impossible. You might have to first remove much or all of the plaster just to get the lath back up.

4If the lath is still anchored to the ceiling joists and the plaster has pulled away, your only option is to remove the old plaster. It’s a dirty job, but if there’s nothing holding the plaster to the framing, it will come down quickly.

There is another trick that professionals use to repair plaster walls and ceilings that have failed—leave the old plaster in place and reface the entire area with new drywall. Long screws with washer heads are used to pull the drywall and old ceiling back up to the framing, or as close to level as possible. You end up with a drywall surface, but it eliminates the problems of sagging, cracking, and flaking plaster once and for all.

Find Pre-Screened Local Plaster Repair Help

How to Repair Plaster Walls & Ceilings

Expert advice and detailed instructions on repairing the most common plaster wall and ceiling problems, including cracks, holes, and sagging

Earthquakes are unkind to plaster walls, as evidenced by this deep crack.

Plaster applied to wood lath is held in place by the “keys” that form when it squishes through the lath. (For more about how plaster walls are built, see Plaster Wall Construction.) Over time, these keys can disintegrate, causing the plaster to crack, crumble, and fall away from the lath. Settling of a house or the occasional earthquake can speed this process.

Some plaster is of poor quality, and this may cause the plaster to crack and crumble. In addition, water damage from roof or plumbing leaks can discolor plaster and cause peeling or efflorescence, the leaching of salts and minerals to the surface.

Plaster can also be damaged from the normal stresses and strains of people living in a house: holes from wall hangings, scratches from furniture, spilled liquids. Fortunately, most of these simple problems can be easily fixed.[GARD align=”left”]

Cracks leading from windows and doors or along seams in the ceiling can signal more significant damage, so you may want to call in a contractor to take a look at your home’s structural integrity.

Repairing Small Cracks in Plaster

Small cracks in plaster are relatively easy to repair, with one condition: The plaster must be firmly anchored to the lath behind it. If, when you push on the wall, it flexes as though it has broken away from its support base, call a plaster specialist—the repair will involve removing the loose plaster and replacing it.

It just takes a little spackling compound to repair fine cracks, nail holes, and gouges in a firmly anchored plaster wall. Here’s how:

Widen a crack with a can opener and then apply spackling compound to it.

1Widen the crack. Wearing safety glasses, take a lever-type can opener and use the point to widen the crack to about 1/8 inch, as shown at right. Or, you can use a screwdriver or a utility knife.

2Blow out the plaster dust. Using a medium-bristle brush, scrub the area with a solution of water and tri-sodium phosphate (TSP) or a non-phosphate detergent.

3Cut short pieces of self-adhesive fiberglass mesh joint tape and cover the groove with them.

4Dip a sponge in clean water and dampen the area.

 

5Mix setting-type joint compound and apply it over the tape and groove using a 3-inch-wide putty knife. Smooth it out evenly and allow it to dry.

6Apply another coat of joint compound with a drywall knife or wide-blade putty knife. Apply it smoothly and “feather” the edges so that they taper into the undamaged area. Allow the compound to dry and then sand lightly to blend the patch into the wall at the edges.

7Prime with a high-quality latex primer and then paint.

Using a nail, score the plaster and then apply spackling compound to it.

Repairing Large Cracks in Plaster

Larger cracks can be fixed in a similar way:

1Widen the crack with the can opener and dampen the edges of the crack with a sponge.

 

2Fill the crack half full with patching plaster. When it has dried a little, score the plaster with a nail, as shown at right. This will give the next layer of plaster something to hold onto.

3Dampen the patch again and apply another layer of patching plaster to about 1/4 inch of the surface. Let the patch dry and apply a coat of finishing plaster.

Repairing Holes in Plaster

It’s relatively easy to repair small holes in plaster if the lath backing that grips the plaster is intact. If the lath backing is fine, you can mix joint compound with plaster of Paris for the patch.

First brush away loose plaster and dust. Working from the edges inward, push the plaster mixture into and through the lath for a good bond. Apply an initial “scratch” coat.  Let this dry, then apply a finish coat.[GARD align=”left”]

If there isn’t proper backing behind the hole, install backing first. Begin by enlarging the hole just enough to expose firm lath around the perimeter. Using tin snips, cut a piece of wire mesh that’s large enough to bunch-up and fill the opening when you push it into the hole. If necessary, wind wire ties wound around one or two dowels or sticks to hold it in place until the plaster mixture hardens.

Apply the plaster mixture in layers, allowing each to set before applying the next. When the patch is complete, and dry, just snip off the exposed wire.

Getting the surface coat smooth can be tricky, especially if the hole is large and you have limited plastering skills. In this case, use only joint compound for the final coat. When the patch is dry, use fine sandpaper to sand the surface smooth. Then prime and paint it to match the wall.

How to Fix Sagging Plaster

Flaking and cracking plaster are relatively minor repair items, but when the plaster starts to sag, or “belly out,” from a wall or ceiling, it indicates deeper problems.

Plaster is heavy, and it needs a solid, well-anchored base to support its weight. This base is usually strips of wood or metal wire mesh (both referred to as lath) that are nailed to the wall and ceiling framing. When the plaster is applied, it squeezes through the lath, creating “keys” that harden to form a strong integral bond with the wall.

Over the years, plaster can dry out and lose its holding strength, or weaken from vibration, and the keys begin to break away. The lath can also pull away from the framing. Gravity and the weight of the plaster exert themselves, and the first sign is often sagging, followed eventually by the collapse of the plaster surface.

At this point, you may want to call in a professional. Repairing a large wall area is difficult enough, but if the ceiling is beginning to sag, working over your head with heavy, hard-to-handle materials is not an easy job. If you still want to attempt your own repairs, here’s how:

1First, protect the flooring under your work area, because once you begin the entire affected area could give way. To prevent plaster dust from spreading into the rest of the house, hang damp sheets or tape plastic sheeting over the doorways and put an exhaust fan in a window. If you’re worried that much of the ceiling could come down at once, build T-shaped supports from 2 by 4s and use them to hold a piece of plywood flat against the ceiling while you work.

2Use a hammer and cold chisel or wrecking bar to chip out a small area at the edge of the bulge (wear safety glasses). Once you can see behind the surface, you should be able to tell if the plaster has pulled away from the lath or the lath itself has come loose from the framing. If the lath has pulled away and the plaster is still well-adhered to it, you may be able to refasten the lath to the framing without removing the plaster.

3Use long drywall screws that will penetrate at least half their length into the wood framing. Start near the edge of the bulge and press the ceiling upward as you drive the screws (you may have to shift your plywood support, and the tees holding it, as you work). Because the plaster and lath form an integral sheet, like a piece of drywall, it may go back up without a problem. However, if the lath has warped, or if the old nails in the framing prevent the lath from returning to its original position, this may prove impossible. You might have to first remove much or all of the plaster just to get the lath back up.

4If the lath is still anchored to the ceiling joists and the plaster has pulled away, your only option is to remove the old plaster. It’s a dirty job, but if there’s nothing holding the plaster to the framing, it will come down quickly.

There is another trick that professionals use to repair plaster walls and ceilings that have failed—leave the old plaster in place and reface the entire area with new drywall. Long screws with washer heads are used to pull the drywall and old ceiling back up to the framing, or as close to level as possible. You end up with a drywall surface, but it eliminates the problems of sagging, cracking, and flaking plaster once and for all.

Find Pre-Screened Local Plaster Repair Help