By Tom Scalisi | Updated Dec 8, 2021 5:46 PM
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Silence is golden for so many of us: DIYers who use loud power tools, night-shift workers who must reduce noise for daytime sleeping, anyone recording music or podcasts, and students or entrepreneurs just trying to get some work done at home. Whether the goal is rest or activity, installing the best soundproofing material is sure to help achieve greater peace and quiet.
Cutting down on the decibels can be daunting, however, as there are many different types of soundproofing materials, and each works differently. The best soundproofing material catches and absorbs sound waves to control their passing through barriers, leaving your home quieter and increasing audio quality.
Read on to learn more about soundproofing materials and find a product that fits your needs, style, and budget.
Soundproofing comes in a variety of forms and, like anything, each type has its strengths and weaknesses. The following are some of the most common types of sound-dampening material. Some are easy to install, like window treatments, while others require a bit more effort, like in-wall insulation and acoustic coating.
Installing acoustic panels is one of the easiest ways to improve the acoustics within a room, but they can also help soundproof the outside world. Soundproof panels install on the surface of a wall; they often come attached to frames or hardboard backers.
Generally speaking, acoustic panels are made from an acoustic foam material meant to capture and muffle soundwaves. More expensive panels might also have a colorful fabric or pattern stretched across them to give a decorative vibe. The less-expensive options have ridges that look like a washboard.
Prices on acoustic panels vary tremendously. Cheaper models can cost well under $1 per square foot, while decorative soundproof panels can cost more than $25 per square foot.
Rather than hanging an acoustic barrier on a wall, it’s possible to paint it on. Acoustic coating, also known as soundproof paint, is a type of water-based paint designed specifically to hinder the transfer of sound waves. These coatings contain ceramic microspheres, sound-absorbing fibers, and thermacels. Thermacels are tiny vacuums filled with a bit of pigment, and it’s this pigment that really helps muffle the sound.
Soundproof paints are heavy, but they aren’t difficult to install. A roller and a brush is all it takes. The cost per square foot varies depending on the coverage, but a can of acoustic paint costs anywhere between $40 and $100.
Ask any flooring installer and they’ll tell you the underlayment is as important as the flooring material itself, and the same applies to soundproofing. The proper flooring underlayment provides sound absorption between floors, and a high-quality underlayment can deaden the thuds of footsteps and dropped items.
The time to install a floor underlayment is when installing a new floor or carpet. It can go under carpeting, vinyl, hardwood, and other flooring materials. This form of soundproofing will cost anywhere from $1 to $5 per square foot, depending on the product and materials.
One of the most effective ways to soundproof a room or space is to use sound insulation. This insulation looks similar to fiberglass thermal insulation, but it’s typically made from mineral wool, as it is denser and more expensive than many other options. However, there are sound-insulation materials made from recycled blue jeans and other fabrics.
Sound installation installs the same way as fiberglass insulation, making bare stud walls necessary. For that reason, it’s best to plan ahead and insulate the walls during construction or a renovation. The insulation can cost around $250 for a large room, but the price varies depending on the room size and shape.
It doesn’t matter how well the walls are insulated if the windows don’t have a sound barrier stretched across them. Soundproofing windows with window treatments can block out unwanted noise, reduce sunlight, and doll the place up a bit. They also prevent sounds from within a room bouncing off of the glass and creating reverberation or echoes.
While all fabrics help reduce sound, the main material in a set of sound-deadening curtains is PVC, which reflects sounds rather than capturing them. Regular curtains are generally expensive, but acoustic curtains can cost two to three times as much as a typical window treatment. They’re also not available in as many colors or styles, but they’re an effective way to top off soundproofing efforts.
With a general understanding of the most common soundproofing materials, there are some other points to consider. There is a balance to strike between effectiveness, ease of installation, cost, and other features that might not be evident at first. The following are some of the most important considerations to keep in mind.
Soundproofing effects can sometimes feel relative. Changes made, such as hanging curtains or installing acoustic panels, may seem to make a major difference right away. However, over time, they might feel less effective as the user gets used to the change. For that reason, there is a rating system to help offer concrete answers as to a soundproofing material’s effectiveness.
Sound Transmission Class (or STC) is a rating of sound isolation. It’s described in numbers, and it determines how well something blocks sounds and noise; generally speaking, higher numbers are better.
Noise Reduction Coefficient (NRC) describes how a product absorbs sounds, and it works on a range of 0 to 1, with 1 being the most effective. NRC ratings can be highly effective for determining a product like a panel or curtain’s effectiveness.
As explained above, the cost for each type of soundproofing material depends on several factors. The size of the space being soundproofed is likely the most important factor. Design and aesthetics can drive the price up, and if a renovation is necessary, the price can soar.
When determining a budget for soundproofing, it’s important to weigh what’s necessary versus what’s desired. For a podcast or music studio, full soundproofing might be necessary, requiring a larger budget. For someone who just needs to be able to sleep through school dismissal or a neighbor’s barking dog, a smaller budget should do the trick.
When determining which method or type of soundproofing materials to use, installation should be a major consideration. For someone who isn’t very handy, curtains and acoustic panels might be as far as they’re comfortable going. But for someone with some serious DIY chops, knocking down some drywall and installing soundproof insulation could be the best choice.
Generally speaking, curtains and acoustic panels are the easiest soundproofing materials to install. Next would likely be soundproof paint, though its effectiveness might not be realized without additional soundproofing methods. Finally, underlayment and wall insulation are more challenging but entirely worth it if there is already a project afoot.
Most of the best soundproofing materials are easy to install, though. Mineral wool insulation simply pops into a stud bay, while underlayment just needs to unroll and lay on the floor. These materials rarely require specialized tools or techniques.
Often, the best soundproofing materials have features that serve extra purposes. Some might be additional conveniences, while others can make a difference in the user’s bank account:
From soundproof foam to acoustic panels to mineral wool and more, the following are some reliable soundproofing products for home and professional use. Be sure to keep the most important considerations in mind when comparing these products, from installation and cost to performance and additional features they may offer.
For those who don’t find foam panels or rubber sheets especially attractive, these jute-covered acoustic panels are bound to please. The 2-foot by 4-foot panels are 2 inches thick and have solid wood frames that make them a snap to hang or attach to a wall. Though available in a few different colors, neutral options like ivory and natural tend to suit homes and offices best.
The ATS Acoustic Panel offers an NRC rating of 1.0, making it extremely effective at reducing noise. The jute fabric will also do its part to minimize light reflection—especially helpful for folks who need to sleep in after the sun rises. However, if all that’s required is echo control, there are less expensive options that will do the trick.
Soundproofing is serious—but it doesn’t have to look that way! The budget-friendly SoundAssured Soundproofing Studio Foam wedge panels are available in a host of colors, including blue, green, and purple. The panels come in sections that are 1 foot square and 2 inches thick to keep noise to a minimum. They’re sold in a set of four, and shoppers can purchase several sets in different hues to create a fresh, exciting pattern at an attractive price.
Installation is easy with spray adhesive or double-sided utility tape strips. They’ll also do a decent job of absorbing light, keeping excess light reflection to a minimum. With an NRC rating of .65, they’re adequatebut not as effective as some other options. So, while they’re great for catching echoes and creating better sound quality for in-home studios and offices, they won’t fully block that cacophonous garbage truck as it rolls down the street.
For those whose home office or studio calls for something a bit classier than the eggcrate look or a network of ridges, soundproof in style with BUBOS acoustic panels. The 12-inch by 12-inch squares (sold in packs of six) come in various solid colors as well as a variety of interesting patterns. Choose a simple, client-friendly design or go full-traveler mode with a world map background.
These acoustic panels are made from 100 percent polyester, so they’re safe for families and pets, with no off-gassing, dust, or other possible harmful materials. They’re also flame retardant.
Outfitting an entire room with these stylish squares could get expensive, since each package only covers 6 square feet. However, they’d make an attractive addition as an inset design surrounded by ridged acoustic panels.
When it comes to adding a layer of soundproofing behind the drywall, it’s tough to beat ROCKWOOL’s Soundproofing Fire Resistant Wool Insulation. This product can reach an STC rating of up to 52, creating a solid foundation for soundproofing rooms or studios.
This batt insulation consists of mineral wool, which does a good job of reducing sound while also resisting moisture, water, and fire. And, because it hides behind the drywall, it leaves room for creatively decorating the space after the renovation. However, although this product easily fits in 16-inch stud bays, it requires unobstructed access to those stud bays.
These soundproof and blackout curtains from NICETOWN feature two layers of thick, triple-weave polyester fabric. This design allows them to absorb sounds up to two times more than traditional curtains, keeping the room quiet and peaceful. The two-layer design also adds a barrier of insulation to prevent warm and cold air from escaping or seeping in from outside. However, there isn’t an NRC or STC rating available.
As a bonus, the curtains block 100 percent of sunlight and UV rays from entering a room. These acoustic drapes are available in multiple sizes and 16 color options to match different room decors and personal preferences. When needed, safely machine-wash these curtains in warm water with a mild detergent and iron them on low heat.
Anyone installing a new floor who would also like to benefit from some noise reduction should consider FloorMuffler’s Premium Underlayment. If the user plans correctly, the layer can be installed under laminate, engineered, or solid hardwood floors to create up to 73 STC—making a real difference in the amount of sound that travels through the floor.
This product installs easily underneath the flooring material of choice. It has adhesive strips along its length to seal the rows together as well. This creates an effective noise barrier and serves as the moisture barrier almost all flooring materials require. Plus, it installs underneath the floor, keeping it out of sight. The only downside to this product is the user has to be willing to install a new floor over it, meaning it requires more planning and a larger budget than other soundproofing options.
Home soundproofers looking to go the extra mile with their noise-reduction efforts should give Green Glue Noiseproofing Sealant a try. This acoustic-coating product seals cracks and gaps along windows, doors, flooring, ceilings, and anywhere else two objects might meet and not create a perfect seal. While this product is not STC or NRC rated, it is the next logical step after insulation, underlayment, and other, bigger soundproofing projects.
This caulk comes in 29-ounce tubes, so users will need large caulking guns, though it then becomes very easy to apply. Also, understand that this sealant doesn’t come out green; it’s white and totally paintable. Once applied around a window or door, it will cut down on noise transmission plus offer a bit of insulation.
Soundproofing extends to vehicles, too. Anyone who’d like to cut down on engine hum or road noise should consider installing KILMAT Automotive Sound Deadener Noise Insulation. This soundproofing underlayment installs under a vehicle’s carpets, door panels, hood, trunk, firewall, or ceiling, and helps reduce the sounds transmitted from the road and engine.
The mat is easy to cut and features a self-adhesive backing that the user must simply stick in place. The material also indicates that it was installed properly by laying perfectly smooth. While the KILMAT Automotive Sound Deadener Noise Insulation installs easily, it requires a roller, which some DIYers might not have on hand.
Anyone searching for the best soundproofing material should consider the ATS Acoustics Panel for its superior NRC rating and ease of installation. However, for those who’d prefer to save a bit of money, the SoundAssured Acoustic Studio Foam can make a significant difference in a noisy environment.
Before putting this list together, we wanted to ensure we were suggesting the best soundproofing materials on the market. In order to do that, we had to perform extensive research and compare the best features and capabilities of all these products.
First, we looked for options that spanned the different types of soundproofing materials. Then, we compared NRC and STC ratings between those products to offer the most effective models. Finally, we looked at all the chosen products and sorted them by the most common categories that shoppers would require. The end result is a list of some of the best soundproofing materials available.
When it comes to soundproofing walls, ROCKWOOL Soundproofing Fire Resistant Wool Insulation is one of the best products available.
The best way to soundproof a set of windows is by using sound-reducing curtains like the NICETOWN 100% Blackout Curtains Noise Reducing Drapes. Also, caulking around the outside of the window will help, and Green Glue Noiseproofing Sealant With Cleanup Wipes could be just the ticket.
Large-scale soundproofing generally occurs at the construction phase, so it’s best to build the walls with soundproof insulation like ROCKWOOL Soundproofing Fire Resistant Wool Insulation before installing the drywall. Beyond that, installing ⅝-inch drywall and acoustic paint also will help.
The cheapest soundproofing material is generally foam, which is fairly effective and easy to install. SoundAssured Soundproofing Acoustic Studio Foam is a good example.
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