Almost nothing is worse for home living than dealing with noise issues, whether it’s coming from inside your own abode, or penetrating walls from the outside. When a noise source itself cannot be remedied, who wants to stick thick gray foam on walls for sound-proofing? Because few of us want our living room to resemble music studios, research can lead to this question: Does soundproof wallpaper work?
Soundproof wallpaper works. How well depends on the wallpaper’s composition; its application; and expectations. To totally block all sound, there are other options. But to get interior style along with muffling noise, soundproof wallpaper is worth a look.
- What is Soundproof Wallpaper?
- Perceptions and Expectations for Soundproof Wallpaper
- Nitty-Gritty of Acoustic Wallpapers
- Where to Buy Soundproof Wallpaper or Acoustic Wallpapers
Situations like this are not foreign to many American households. Unwanted or disruptive noise can come from many sources, including inside the rooms (or garage) of your own home. Add to that noise emanating from neighbors or the neighborhood, and you can reach a point where you must decide what to do about it.
Soundproofing the interiors of structures is not always pretty. Most of us are aware of what music or radio studios look like, because we see television interviews or online videos with them as backdrops. They are lined with rippled or dimpled foam, usually in a dark color, and are not ideal places for hosting friends or family.
I was a homeowner when my son became a teenager, so dealing with noise matters along with interior decorating are not foreign to me. Not only did my son bring friends home more often, he also took up playing my bass guitar. Before long, my garage turned into the neighborhood jam spot.
As someone who worked from home off a laptop, this posed challenges for a few years, as one could imagine.
Soundproof wallpaper is gaining in interest and popularity, for several reasons. Mainly, manufacturers have gotten creative, even clever, in producing what is sometimes referred to as acoustic wallpaper. Today we have a decent number of choices in terms of their appearance, structure, and application, and you might find some details surprising.
What is Soundproof Wallpaper?
The product name itself is a bit off: what manufacturers label as soundproof wallpaper is not really sound “proof”; and it’s not really paper. At least not all of it.
Many soundproof wallpapers today are made not of paper but closed-cell polyethylene foam, designed to insulate and dampen noise. That’s the overall composition for noise-fighting performance. In terms of visual appearance, this type of wallpaper can look unique from an interior design perspective, even stunning.
Most soundproof wallpapers differ from what many of us remember about wallpaper, in that you don’t need all that paste or those rollers to apply it to walls. Of all the pros of going with soundproof wallpaper, the ease of installation is cited often, as many products come ready with peel-and-stick adhesive on the back side.
In terms of sound-blocking, basically the concept is that the more density and/or mass you can add to a wall, the better it is for muffling sounds. While regular wallpaper material might resemble thick copy paper or art paper sheets, soundproof wallpaper can exceed a quarter-inch in thickness.
For this reason, soundproof wallpapers are often recommended over what is called soundproof paints, which can hardly be applied in enough coats to meet or exceed a quarter-inch, must be re-coated every other year, and can be expensive by the gallon. Soundproof wallpapering is considered a more affordable, easy and stylish option, especially over soundproofing projects that require opening up walls.
Most everyone knows that an advantage of wallpaper over paint is design elements. In fact, some of today’s soundproof wallpaper designs look like stylish brick walls, sometimes even in 3D. These styles can even be cut around single bricks, or groups of bricks, for sound-dampening touches around a room.
Decorative sales points aside, are soundproof wallpapers actually effective against unwanted noise? The consistent answer is, they might not be totally soundproof, but many can be considered sound-absorbing.
Perceptions and Expectations for Soundproof Wallpaper
Many soundproof wallpapers are basically thinner versions of foam products like foam tiles, which are applied to improve acoustical sound inside — and not to really block sounds from entering a living space. Considering this, if you want to dull echoes or ambient noise inside a room space, this wallpaper type might be your choice.
But if I wanted to block the sound of Social Distortion songs while I worked afternoons, would I go only with soundproof wallpaper? Probably not — but it would be a consideration to at least try, maybe along with other noise-killing tactics.
Again, soundproof wallpapers do not necessarily block noise; but they can be effective in reducing the impact of troublesome sounds. If the source is producing really high or low frequency noise, sudden shrills like those of emergency ambulances, or maybe guitars set high on the treble side, soundproof wallpaper might make it more tolerable, but it probably won’t erase it completely.
How would I apply soundproof wallpaper? To reduce the general noise from room to room inside a home, and maybe improve the overall acoustics and warmth. People can tend to forget how cold walls can get in the winter, coldness that contributes to lowering temperatures inside rooms. Any additional layer, especially those thicker than regular paper, should help.
Nitty-Gritty of Acoustic Wallpapers
How Soundproof Wallpaper Works
Compared with traditional wallpaper that’s a single paper sheet with design print on one side, acoustic wallpaper is created with several layers, among them a thick, usually foam layer that helps absorb sound waves to limit echo and reverberation. Sound waves bounce off hard surfaces, and while soundproof wallpapered walls will remain flat, they have that added foam element to soften noise blows.
A report by SFGATE not long ago claimed that acoustical wallpaper contributes to wall soundproofing by cutting up to 75% of noise. The article also reminded property owners that the top federal environmental watchdog agency reports that health problems like sleep disruption and high blood pressure can be linked to noise.
Any noise-limiting improvements you can make should be good for your health.
Aesthetics and Soundproof Wallpapers
Great advantages of wallpaper compared with other soundproofing tactics are that it does not require construction to remove drywall to install sound-blocking materials inside walls; and your choice of visual designs. Like regular wallpaper, soundproof wallpaper is available in a great variety of designs including floral, vibrant, and brick designs.
Most soundproof wallpapers are also waterproof, though like any wallpaper it is not recommended for often-damp areas like bathrooms or kitchens, where moisture can weaken adhesives and cause peeling away from walls. They are wipe-off easy to clean, and durable.
Shopping Around for Soundproof Wallpaper
If you come across a retail outlet or online site full of soundproof wallpaper products, a few product features are common, and insight into some of them can really help achieve your goals whatever it may be. In fact, that’s exactly where you should start: determine right away what you want most, whether it’s sound-blocking power, the feel when touched, texture or design when looked at, etc. Knowing the purpose of wallpaper for your property is a key starting point.
That said, here are details to look for in packaging or digital imagery:
- Layers. As stated above, soundproof wallpaper products are not the single sheet of days past, but layers, often made of different types of materials. Some products might have 9 or more layers; look for at least one form of foam among them. As one soundproofing expert stated, not all wallpapers are created equally.
- Thickness. Also as noted previously, any added thickness on a wall slows the movement of sound waves through wall materials. Most top soundproof wallpapers provide thicknesses of at least 8mm, or close to a third of an inch. That’s a pretty significant mass if you think about it. Going much larger and you’re looking at straight foam panels on walls, and those don’t offer many options to improve aesthetics in a room space.
- Texture. The smoother the wall surface, the more prone it is to bouncing sound waves off. Even a little roughness helps, and foam-like surfaces with tiny bumps or crevices are even better. If it looks really shiny, it’s probably too smooth and flat to be much help inside the room as it might boost noise initiated right there.
- Composition. Home interior design is not unlike other aspects of our lives that have been improved by technological advances. I wouldn’t expect a wallpaper product to list nanotechnology as part of the materials used in production, but some quality brands do research how some materials perform with sound waves, and you could be surprised at their effectiveness. Again, inclusion of a layer of foam is a given; but you might find wallpaper with more than one layer of different types of foam. In computer terms this is called redundancy: extra layers of protection in case the first line of defense fails.
- Selection. Brands that seem to offer a lot of choices in terms of designs and colors probably have been in the industry a bit and are responding to consumer desires and demands. Some, like wall panel prints by TAISHEN present a variety of colors; others include design choices ranging from crocodile to the barn wood, faux wood or even sea foam look of foam wallpaper panels by Stone Ten.
- Application. Some of the best soundproof wallpaper products come in packs of squares or rectangles, of 1 up to 20 or more. These individual small panels usually come in the peel-and-stick variety, eliminating the need for messy pastes and rollers, and can be cut to fit wherever and however you want. Gone are the days of having to purchase long rolls of wallpaper.
Also remember that the composition materials and number of layers in acoustic wallpapers don’t have to work alone to reduce noise at home. Some experts recommend first applying a thin layer of something else, like vinyl, on a wall before applying wallpaper on top. As noted above, it’s just another obstacle between sound-makers and your ears.
Because soundproof wallpaper and even acoustic panels have not inundated the home improvement market, particular brands have not stood out enough to allow them to attach premium prices to their products. Still, product reviews are fairly consistent in stating that paying for quality wallpapering options is worth it long-term, for using higher-quality materials that last longer under the strain of harmful sun rays, moisture, and all the punishment human beings can produce indoors.
In short, they suggest not pinching pennies for the product. Anyone who has ever had to remove wallpaper understands this: if you’re going to glue paper to a lot of wall space, you better do it well, and do it right. This also includes proper preparation of wall surfaces before application such as cleaning and allowing enough time to fully dry.
Remember this: regardless of the soundproof wallpaper you purchase this option still will be more affordable than true sound-proofing projects like swapping in thicker drywall, or insulating spaces inside walls. You might beware of soundproof companies or experts you run across online, because often in their reviews of soundproof wallpaper they comment negatively because they promote other projects for “real” soundproofing, which generates revenues for their industry.
Not every property needs walls torn up or industrial-looking wall adornments just to address noise.
Who Should Get Soundproof Wallpapers?
Soundproof wallpaper has potential for all kinds of applications, but it seems especially attractive for dwellers of multi-room apartments, or those living in apartments or condos near noisy transportation corridors. Families can benefit, too — you could still hear the baby cry, but all that ruckus from your roughhousing pre-teens might not be as bothersome.
Even some businesses could benefit, especially for the interior acoustics improvements that soundproof wallpaper promises. I can remember a newspaper newsroom or two that could have used it a while back. Gymnasiums, nurseries, shopping malls, wherever people mass together and their voices carry, thicker wallpapering could absorb sound waves and reduce noise pollution.
Aside from the noise attenuation, soundproof wallpaper also provides an array of design and visual options — a key point in deciding just how important muffling that noise is for your well-being.
Where to Buy Soundproof Wallpaper or Acoustic Wallpapers
Soundproof and acoustic wallpapers are readily available via the popular shopping avenues: