Living in an apartment in a bustling city can be very noisy, and nice as your neighbors may be, there are going to be times when their noise will be enough to drive you to crazy. It might be the upstairs neighbor click-clacking around in her high heels, the next door couple with the crying baby or the neighbor’s toilet that you can hear flushing at all hours. Any of these scenarios can be a problem but fortunately, there are ways to soundproof your home. And the good news is it doesn’t have to cost a fortune.
1. Add bookshelves
Bookshelves and their heavy, dense books provide excellent sound insulation and will make any home—and its residents—look more sophisticated. Bookshelves also come with the added benefit of extra storage space—although don’t go too crazy adding other trinkets. Too many empty spaces and clear surfaces will counter your noise-blocking efforts.
2. Reduce ceiling noise
Reducing the click-clack of your neighbor’s high heels on your ceiling may call for some diplomacy on your part. You can ask the landlord to put down rugs, carpet or mass-loaded vinyl to reduce noise. If asking nicely doesn’t work, you can always try installing acoustic, soundproof panels, known as ceiling clouds, which hang from your ceiling to reduce noise.
If squeaky floorboards are the problem, ask the landlord to fix them with soundproofing foam or other materials. Remember when you live upstairs from someone, be considerate and put down some carpets or area rugs, with rubber backing, on the floor. Your neighbors will definitely appreciate it. Area rugs are not only good for absorbing sound, they’re also a great way to pull together the décor of a room.
3. Reduce noise coming through walls
Anyone who has ever lived in an apartment has experienced how easily noise travels through thin walls. If the neighbor’s new baby is keeping you awake all night, and you need to make a quick plan to get some sleep, a bookcase may be just the answer. If you have space, add a solid wooden bookcase, lined with heavy books, around your apartment. A bookcase provides a stylish solution to reduce noise coming through thin walls. You can even add a thick piece of soundproof foam, or a soundproofing blanket, to the back of the bookshelf for extra noise absorption.
If you are able to, you could also ask your landlord if installing soundproof doors, or even soundproof walls, would be possible. Soundproofing drywall for example, could be used to raise the value of the apartment and bring in more buyers, if nothing else.
4. Wall art and tapestries are good for color and soundproofing
A large painting can be the focal point of a room, but it can also serve a practical purpose. Canvas wall art, fabric wall hangings, and tapestries are porous and make a room quieter by absorbing some of the sounds that comes through the walls or reverberates off hard surfaces. You can also add a layer of foam to the hollow back of a canvas to make its sound absorption even more effective. Hanging soundproofing curtains along your walls is also a solution to help quiet any outside noise.
5. Built-in insulation
If you’re busy renovating and you have the opportunity to add soundproofing walls, it is worth doing it. You can insulate your walls by packing soundproofing foam between studs and joists or by doubling up on drywall, if your budget doesn’t allow for actual soundproof drywall.
6. Block noise coming through soundproof windows
A single pane of glass just doesn’t cut it when it comes to cutting out noise in your apartment. If you own your home, do yourself a favor and upgrade to soundproof windows, with triple-pane glass. Newer windows also offer better insulation than old windows, and some can block up to 95% of sound. If that is not an option, make sure your window casings and frames are properly caulked and sealed, and invest in thick heavy drapes or soundproofing curtains. You can also arrange fabric-covered sofas or chairs, with plenty of decorative pillows, close to windows to absorb sound coming in from outside.
7. Replace your doors
Doors are often overlooked when it comes to soundproofing your apartment but you’d be surprised how much noise filters through the cracks around your doors. To reduce noise, you should upgrade by soundproofing doors throughout your apartment. Soundproofing doors can be as easy as ensuring that there is high-quality weather-stripping around your exterior doors. And don’t ignore the gap between the door and the floor. This crack may not be very wide, but it still lets noise filter into a room. A heavy-duty door sweep or draft blocker is a great way to keep out unwanted sounds, and as an added bonus, it is a quick and inexpensive way to insulate your house during hot and cold weather.
A solid wooden door is much better at shutting out sound than a flimsy, hollow door. If you own your apartment and it has cheap doors, consider replacing them with either solid wooden doors or, if that is too expensive, look for composite-core or particleboard doors as a less pricey alternative.
8. Absorb noise with fabric and soft furnishings
Sound travels around a room and bounces off hard surfaces and is amplified by both wood and glass. On the other hand, soft surfaces and dense, heavy fabrics absorb sound. To help dampen sound in a room, you can use soundproof curtains made of materials like cotton, felt, or mass-loaded vinyl; or you can create soundproof panels by adding foam directly to the walls, doors, and ceilings. But this might not give you the look that you want. Fortunately, there are a few more stylish solutions, like upholstered furniture, decorative fabrics, heavy drapes, plush carpets, wall art, and tapestries, that can be used to absorb sound, or if you’re more adventurous, you can grow a living wall.
9. Don’t neglect the bathroom
If you can hear your neighbor flush their toilet or sing in the shower, then they can probably hear you. The tiles and hard surfaces in the bathroom are great amplifiers of sound so you need to add some soft fabrics, wall hangings, and floor mats to absorb noise. If you have space, you can also bring in a small towel and linen closet to create soundproof walls.
10. When all else fails, try white noise
If you’ve upgraded to soundproof windows, hung tapestries, put a bookcase up against the wall, installed ceiling clouds, and filled your room with overstuffed furniture, cushions and heavy curtains and you still can’t block out the noise then you need to start thinking outside of the box. Buy a simple fan or install a window-unit air conditioner to help reduce outside noise in your apartment, and keep you cool at the same time.
Living with a noisy neighbor can be irritating but with good diplomacy and a few clever décor tricks, you can make your home more soundproof and comfortable to live in.