[Editor’s Note: This article was written by Tom Simpkins.]
Homes of all shapes and sizes can become inundated with noise from all sides. Whether you’re living in a city apartment, a townhouse or even a village cottage, external noise can slip in under your door, seep in through your windows or seemingly fall from your ceiling, and when this irritating noise starts to interfere with your days and your nights it can be tempting to consider soundproofing.
Of course, when you’re in a rented property it’s hard to know what you can and can’t do. With a security deposit constantly on the line, even the most minor of changes can potentially cost you a lot of money, so even if you’re tired of noisy neighboors or the rabble outside some soundproofing measures might not seem worth it.
So what can you do? Conventional soundproofing actions will seem a tad much, especially when considering how you’ll explain it to an angry landlord. Insulating the walls with soundproofing foam, fixing panels under the floorboards and getting stuck into the roof with insulation materials might be a step too far, especially when considering there are significantly less risky solutions to your soundproofing needs.
To explore these solutions, Soundproofing R Us takes a look at the various ways you can fight back against external noise; all without incurring the harsh penalty of a shattered security deposit.
1. Quick & Simple Fixes
Before embarking on a journey to find specialized products or rearranging your entire apartment, it’s important to consider that there are some tips & tricks to making life a little quieter; each of which asks very little of you or your home. The first option is particularly simple if you’re living in an apartment; interacting with other residents.
Noise can vary from student accommodation to cramped metropolitan buildings, but the essential setup of an apartment building will always be the same; a lot of people trying to live in one confined space. Anyone with even a trace of empathy will be able to understand where you’re coming from if you ask them to keep it down, especially if you ask nicely and it’s a reasonable request.
For example, someone who stays up watching TV loudly every night probably won’t mind it when you ask them to turn it down, and getting to know your neighbors will grant them opportunities to brace you for certain occasions, such as any upcoming parties.
If your neighbors are unreasonable, or if the noise is coming from uncontrollable elements like passing cars, then earplugs can offer some quick respite from rowdy noises. You shouldn’t be expected to have earplugs in 24/7, but if you’re having trouble sleeping through noise then these quick solutions can make the difference between 40 winks and no winks at all.
Finally, for anyone who’s a little more tech-savvy, there’s the option of bringing a white noise machine into the apartment. These handy gadgets essentially emit a non-distracting noise that will help to, almost literally, level sound’s playing field. By letting your ears subconsciously tune into one of these machines, external or irritating noise can start to fade out of your mind.
2. Easy to Moderate Fixes
If asking neighbors nicely doesn’t work, there are plenty of things you add to the home to dampen noise. Draft excluders for the doors and rugs for the floors are fantastic and charming additions to essentially any room, both of which can assimilate naturally into a home’s decor whilst simultaneously serving as soundproofing for doors and floors.
There are also some methods for soundproofing windows, yet these will require a little more effort. One of the easiest additions to windows is simply to hang thicker curtains, especially as they’re considerably more sound dampening than the likes of blinds, and with a bit more effort you can install window inserts. Window inserts are incredibly effective at soundproofing a room, however, they need to be installed using a sealant, so you’ll probably have to give the landlord a heads up.
Those that aren’t afraid of getting a little more physical can also consider moving furniture around in rooms; especially as this will help to reduce echo. Leaving large open spaces is what causes a lot of echoes, and thus exacerbates any noise coming into a room. A great way to stop this echo, as well as serve as soundproofing for walls, is to place heavy furniture like bookcases along the walls.
3. ‘Might Be Worth Asking About’ Fixes
These options, as effective as they are, might toe the line of whether you can do them or not. They’re not as extreme as breaking open the floorboards and installing floor panels, but they do affect the apartment itself, and so you’ll probably have to double-check with your landlord whether you can do these or not.
The biggest areas to tackle with these fixes are the walls and the doors. Some apartment doors can be incredibly thin, or if they’re leading outside the can be too small for the frame and essentially let a draft in around each edge. Either of these types of doors would justify installing a thicker, heavier door, especially thanks to the soundproofing advantages of such a door. Of course, this would fall under the realm of what a landlord should be responsible for, so looking to the walls might be more beneficial.
For starters, it turns out that ‘soundproofing paint’ actually exists and provides some fantastic benefits; if the noise you’re having to deal with isn’t too loud. For example, it can help to silence the mumbles and murmurs you might hear through the wall, but it’s not insulated enough to counteract a band practice. Another soundproofing solution for the walls are actual soundproofing foam panels, yet they might require explaining to your landlord if they ever pop in.
Soundproofing panels are likely the first images that spring to mind when thinking of soundproofing foam, often taking the form of black triangular patterns, and installing them can be incredibly easy with the right tools. To professionally install them you’ll need to use the likes of rubbing alcohol and industrial-strength adhesive, yet these measures can damage the walls or, at the least, the paint. However, simple ways to install them that’s a lot less likely to damage the walls is to simply use commander strips. These can still potentially damage paint though, which is why it might be worth warning the landlord.