Soundproofing for Apartments

By Joann Pan

Apartment dwellers are no stranger to noise problems. Whether you’re in the city or the suburbs, you can keep noise from coming in and going out. Here are eight steps you can take to soundproof your apartment. In fact, you can tackle most of these projects in a single weekend.

1. Plug up major gaps

The first step in reducing noise is closing up gaps, says Mason Wyatt of City Soundproofing “The catch phrase to remember is, “Where air goes, noise goes. Seal up anything you can.”

Many of us have front doors with gaps on the bottom wide enough to let noise in from the hallway. Installing a rubber door sweep is a low-cost way to block sound from the elevator, garbage room, laundry area, or echoey stairwell.

2. Shut and seal windows

Lock your windows to ensure they’re completely shut. If you’re still experiencing noise pollution, caulk or tape around the windows to seal any gaps. If you rent your apartment, use silicone-based caulk that’s easier to remove when it’s time to move out (check in with your landlord, though, before applying even silicone-based caulk).

A more permanent solution is to install a soundproof window behind an existing window. The soundproof panel adds an additional layer of acoustic and thermal insulation.

3. Install carpet or get a plush rug

Carpeting and rugs help absorb the sound of footsteps. Cut-pile carpet absorbs sounds better than loop-pile construction because of the additional “fuzz,” according to the Carpet and Rug Institute.

If you choose to add a rug, enhance noise reduction with a carpet cushion or pad. The Institute found that permeability of the material is essential to noise absorption. The less permeable the material of the cushion, the better—stick with fiber, jute, or foam-rubber.

4. Decorate with soft textiles

Minimal spaces and undressed walls allow sound to ricochet through a room. To vastly improve acoustics within a space and reduce bounce, add soft textiles, especially to hard surfaces. Choose upholstered furniture over hard chairs. Add pillows to sitting furniture. Cover walls with tapestries or fabric-wrapped panels. Use tablecloths on wooden tables to absorb sound.

5. Use a draft blocker

If you get a lot of noise pollution in a specific room, get an under-the-door draft blocker. This simple stopper costs a few bucks and can effectively block out some noise.

6. Hang sound-absorbing curtains

If you’re getting a lot of street noise pollution, focus on soundproofing windows. Keep windows closed and get noise-reducing curtains to block outside sounds. The noise-insulating curtains are heavyweight and pleated—the more material the better the noise reduction.

7. Get a noise-reducing door

You can opt to install a more substantial door. The best noise-reducing doors tend to be more solid than the hollow-core doors often used in apartment buildings. Check with your co-op board, HOA, or building management before swapping your front door.

8. Call in the experts for more extensive soundproofing

If you own your place, you may have a few more options available to soundproof your apartment. But the changes you can make will depend on your co-op board regulations or HOA terms.

You can schedule an appointment for soundproofing experts to come and access your home. Soundproofers will look for sources of noise pollution and offer ways to improve sound insulation in walls, ceilings, floors, doors, and windows.

Tips for choosing a soundproof apartment

Here are a few tips for the next time you’re apartment hunting.

  • Look for a space that’s furthest from the street.
  • Avoid buildings that are too close to a subway vent or entry.
  • Visit an apartment after working hours when most people are home so you get a realistic idea of noise levels.
  • Choose an apartment that’s as far as possible from the trash room, laundry room, or elevator.
  • Avoid the penthouse. Noisy air compressors are often kept on high floors.

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