How to Soundproof an Apartment

How to Soundproof an Apartment

There are many perks to living in an apartment, but there are plenty of downsides too.

One of the major perks is that apartments are often constructed in well-serviced areas. I am talking close to roads, schools, and shops. Of course, the downside here is that those things can be incredibly noisy.

Another perk is that apartments are often cheaper than houses. After all, you have a lot of people clumped onto a single piece of land, all in the same building. The downside? Well, you have noise there too.

While soundproofing an apartment is possible, most apartment dwellers will have a major issue. This is the fact that they do not own the apartment. As a result, a lot of the soundproofing techniques that you can normally do on a home are simply not feasible in an apartment. Well, unless you get permission from your landlord. This means that you won’t be ripping out windows or replacing walls. You may not even have that much control over your doors. 

Thankfully, there are still a few ways that you can cut down on the amount of noise that an apartment can produce. I hope this step-by-step guide to soundproofing an apartment will set you on the right path. 

Tools and Materials Required 

While I am stylizing this as a ‘step-by-step’ guide, I can’t imagine that there are many people that will need to follow all of these steps. It would be far too costly, and you would end up with diminishing returns.

This list of the tools and materials that you need are for all the steps. You won’t need everything here. Instead, go through each of the steps, see which soundproofing techniques interest you, and I have written what you need for that specific step.

  • Drill
  • Screwdrivers
  • Curtain rails
  • Soundproof curtains
  • Weatherstripping
  • Door sweep
  • Soundproofing paint
  • Acoustic silicone filler + application too
  • Bookshelves
  • Candles
  • Heavy rugs
  • Acoustic foam
  • Finishing nail gun + nails
  • Level
  • Large pictures or decorations for walls
  • Soundproof door cover

Step 1: Work out where the sound is coming from

You probably won’t have to do that much, soundproofing. There are some people that will need to soundproof their entire apartment, but this is rare. It is more likely that you find that any sound issues are concentrated in a very specific part of the apartment. Your first job is to track down where that sound is coming from. 

By now, you should have a rough idea of which sound is irritating you the most.

If it seems to be traffic noise, then you will need to focus on your windows. If it is your neighbors, then you will need to focus on the walls. If it is outside your door, then you will need to focus on those doors.

The only sound that you can’t really deal with if you are leasing an apartment is noise coming from above. The problem is that most methods that you can use will probably go against the terms of your lease. I will give you one solution for dealing with that, but you will probably still need to run it by your landlord.

Step 2: Looking for gaps around the windows

If the bulk of the noise seems to come from your windows, then you need to work out where that sound is coming from.

If you are lucky, you will have double-glazing windows. This means that the sound shouldn’t be coming through the actual glass. Unless the glass is of poor quality. The sound is likely going to be coming through gaps.

Your best option is to pull out a candle and light it. You can then run it around the window seals. If the direction of the candle smoke changes, then you know that there is going to be an air leak here.

There are two ways that you can seal this air leak. You only have to use one of them, and I will run you through them in steps 3 and 4.

Step 3: Installing Weather Stripping

Weatherstripping is probably one of the quickest ways to seal up those air gaps.

The weatherstripping will come in an adhesive roll that needs to be cut to size. It will need to be installed directly into the window sash. If the sash is made from wood, then you can use some finishing nails to hold it into place. If the sash is plastic or metal, then the adhesive should be enough to hold the weather stripping.

If you can, purchase v-shaped weatherstripping. It is more or less invisible. This means that you do not have to fear incurring the wrath of your landlord. 

Step 4: Use Acoustic Silicone Filler

The alternative to weatherstripping is acoustic foam. However, this is a little bit less ‘landlord-friendly’ because it is going to be visible and isn’t easily removed.

If you are using acoustic filler, then you will need to clean the area around the gap with soap and warm water. This ensures that there is no dirt or grime left behind that can cause gaps in the filler which, of course, will let the sound continue to come through.

Once the area is clean and dried, you can spray the acoustic filler into the gap. Make sure that you do not overfill. Not only will this make the window difficult to open and close, but it can make the area look unsightly.

Allow the acoustic filler to dry completely before you move the windows.

Step 5: Use Soundproofing Curtains

If the sound coming through your windows is incredibly loud, likely because the glass is quite thin, then you will want to use soundproofing curtains, sometimes known as acoustic curtains.

Soundproofing curtains are heavy-duty, thick curtains that are designed to keep sounds from entering a room. They essentially ‘catch’ any sounds that try to pass through them. 

This is something that you can do with no major modifications to your apartment. Chances are that you probably already have a curtain rail hanging above your windows. If you don’t, then ask your landlord’s permission to install one.

If you do not have a curtain rail, then follow these instructions for installing a curtain pole.

This will be a two-person job.

  • Hold the new curtain rail in roughly the position you want it to sit when it has been secured in place. 
  • A second person will need to place a level across the length of the curtain pole.
  • Adjust the curtain pole until the bubble in the level is in the center.
  • Mark the drill holes through the holes in the curtain pole.
  • Drill holes for the size of the fixings that you are using. This will normally be wall plugs that came with the curtain rail, so check what size hole you need.
  • Once the holes have been drilled, add the wall plugs.
  • Screw the new curtain rail into position.

Once you have the new curtain rail up, or you are using an older one, just hang up the new soundproofing curtains, and you are done.

Step 6: Painting the Walls with Acoustic Paint

By now, you should have been able to soundproof your windows as much as you can feasibly soundproof them without replacing them. You can now move on to soundproofing the walls. 

Steps 6, 7, and 8 will give three different methods for soundproofing the walls. You do not need to use all of them. In fact, you can’t use all of them. I am going to go from ‘most intrusive’ to ‘least intrusive’.

The best option is to give your walls a lick of paint. You should use acoustic paint for this. Acoustic paint is essentially a thick paint designed to absorb sounds, much in the same way that the acoustic curtains will.

Acoustic paint will need to be painted quite thickly on the walls which can ruin the aesthetics of the room, particularly since it is only available in a few different colors.

If you rent your apartment, then you will probably need to ask your landlord’s permission to paint the walls. Most won’t mind as they will love you to do a bit of painting and decorating. However, if you don’t ask, you are risking eviction.

Step 7: Install Bookcases

The option that I love the most is the use of bookcases.

Put some bookcases against the walls and fill them up with books, DVDs, CDS, or even ornaments. The bookcases will add an extra thick layer that the sound now needs to penetrate through. This means everything will get a bit quieter.

The main problem with bookcases is that they are not going to be working in every room. Nobody wants bookcases in their bathroom, for instance.

Step 8: Decorate the walls

In lieu of painting your walls or installing bookcases, you might decorate your walls. This can include:

  • Adding paintings to the walls
  • Adding thick rugs or fabrics to the walls

Most landlords have no issues with you putting things up on the walls as long as they do not cause long-term damage. 

You can design your room however you want. All you need to remember is that the more that you add to the walls, the more the sound coming through them will be dampened. 

Step 9: Installing a Door Sweep

You can now move on to soundproofing your doors.

This will require making holes in your external door. If you have a landlord, they may not be happy with this, so make sure that you run it by them first.

A door sweep is something that will allow you to seal the gap at the bottom of the door. While you can also use weatherstripping to do this, door sweeps are a lot better because they protect sound coming in from both sides.

How you install a door sweep will be dependent on the product that you have purchased. However, generally speaking, they will follow this installation method:

  • Open the door and clip the door sweep to the door.
  • Ensure that the door sweep is pushed flush against the base of the door. This will guarantee that it is level.
  • Hold it in place while you mark the drill holes.
  • Remove the door sweep and drill pilot holes (smaller than the screws that you are using)
  • Put the door sweep back into place.
  • Go through each screw, screwing loosely. This will hold the door sweep in place.
  • Open and close the door to ensure that you still can.
  • Tighten up the screws.

Step 10: Install a Soundproof Door Cover

You can think of a soundproof door cover as a heavy-duty blanket that fits on top of the door.

The installation that you need to use here will be dependent on the soundproof door cover that you have purchased. However, it is likely going to be no different from installing a curtain rail. This means:

  • Moving the door cover rail into place.
  • Ensure that it is level (use a second person for this job)
  • Drill your holes
  • Screw the door cover rail into place.
  • Attach the door cover to this rail.

Alternatively, you can use soundproofing curtains over your door. They are not as effective, but they are a bit cheaper and easier to find. You will need to find a small curtain rail for them to sit on. 

The downside to soundproofing curtains is that they do not sit flush with the door. This will allow a small amount of sound to get through. However, if outside of your door isn’t drastically noisy, then this probably is going to be that much of a problem. 

Step 11: Use Heavy Duty Rugs on the Floor

If your neighbors below have been complaining about a lot of noise coming from your apartment, then you will need to soundproof your floor. Well, unless you want to be tip-toeing about everywhere.

I find that the best option here is to just use some heavy-duty rugs. They will absorb the bulk of the sound.

Sadly, there isn’t that much you can do beyond this. The problem isn’t really you making too much noise. It is going to be the quality of the ceiling and floor that causes that sound. There will be an air-gap in the ceiling which will cause echoing. All you can really do is dampen the sound, and rugs are the best way to do that.

Step 12: Add More Furniture to the Room

The most irritating part of hearing sounds from outside of the apartment isn’t the sound as such. It is the fact that once the sound enters your apartment, it echos. This makes everything seem a whole lot louder.

The best way to combat the echoing is to add more furniture to the room. As I said before, you will also be able to add items to the walls which will also help to reduce the sound. Adding the rugs to the floor will also help with this.

A lot of people find that once they have started to add more furniture to their room, the external sound becomes less noticeable.

Step 13: Install Acoustic Foam on the Ceilings

As I said at the start, there isn’t that much you can do about the noise coming through the ceiling in an apartment. This will often involve a considerable amount of construction work such as installing a fake ceiling. I can’t imagine your landlord will agree to this sort of work.

There is one option available that is almost landlord-friendly. However, it still involves modifying the ceilings slightly. This means that you will need to run it by them first.

Acoustic foam can help to trap soundwaves. It is often used in the music production business. It doesn’t look the best and it will completely change the look of your room, so you will really need to consider whether it is worth it.

There are two ways that you can install acoustic foam onto your ceiling:

  • Construction adhesive
  • Finishing nails using a nail gun

I recommend the finishing nails option. This is because it will probably cause a lot less damage to the ceiling than construction adhesive, which means that your landlord is much more likely to say yes.

The acoustic foam will come in panels. Hang one panel up at a time. Once you have one panel fully installed, push the next one up close to it. You do not want there to be a gap between panels because the sound could travel through this gap.

There will be points where the acoustic panels are a bit too large for what you want to do with it. Thankfully, acoustic foam is a fairly soft material. This means that you will be able to cut it to size with a standard hacksaw. Make sure that you have fitted it with a wood blade beforehand. Standard hacksaw blades will fill up too quickly, which can make cutting acoustic foam with them a nightmare! 

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