If you’ve moved into a new house, perhaps you’d like to make one room quieter. Though truly soundproofing a room is quite involved and expensive, here are three things that you can try without spending an exorbitant amount of money. You also won’t have to give up your security deposit if renting or damage your house’s resale value if you own.
Rug Near Door
In a bedroom or home office, one thing that may let noise in is the gap underneath the entry door. You can reduce this gap significantly by putting a “welcome mat” style rug outside of it. Though not as effective as the other two methods, it’s also generally the cheapest and quite easy to experiment with.
Probably the most obvious noise reduction method, headphones can help block out ambient noise. Noise isolating earbuds (similar to what Apple offers) can be used as well as over-the-ear headphones. As you might suspect, the type of headphones that not only cover your ears but go over them and rest on your head offer better protection than those that simply sit flat on the ears.
Although there is some benefit to noise-cancellation in an environment that has a monotonous droning noise (like an airplane), the benefit of this in many circumstances with dynamic sounds (like crying, music or talking) can be negligible. On the other hand, headphones or earbuds allow you to listen to readily available ambient music or noise. You might find this to be a quite effective “active” method for tuning out, if not actually blocking or canceling, annoying sounds.
If headphones don’t do the trick for your home office or quiet space, you can always put up soundproofing foam panels. These panels are generally sold in squares that can be attached to a wall or other surface to absorb sound waves that hit them. If you aren’t afraid of damaging your house or apartment, these can be attached directly to a door or wall, but for a portable sound barrier that can be applied anywhere, you can make one out of plywood and furring strips as described below.
To make this kind of barrier, you’ll need the following:
- (2) 4’ x 8’ plywood boards
- (1) 1” x 2” 8’ long furring strip
- Wood glue
- (28) Small nails
- (18) 1’ square sound insulation panels
Cut the Wood
If your local hardware store is able, have the wood cut into strips in the following dimensions:
- (1) plywood 6’1” x 2’8”
- (3) plywood 1’ x 6’1”
- (4) plywood 6 5/8” x 2’8”
- (4) furring strips 2’ long. Slightly shorter is OK.
Using a miter saw or handheld orbital jigsaw, cut each 6 5/8” width plywood section at 33 ½ degrees, starting at the one corner sloping inward to the other 32” side. Repeat this on the other side to create an isosceles trapezoid as shown below with parallel sides 12” and 32” long. This will create three sides approximately 12” long, allowing the three 1’ sections to rest on each of them.
Once cut, align the 1” side of a 2’ furring strip with the middle of the 32” side. Apply wood glue at the joint, then attach with three equally spaced nails. These supports should stand on their own and will help form the skeleton of this noise-reduction furniture.
As pictured, place these four assemblies, spaced at 2’ from each other, on the 2’8” board. The outside trapezoids should be aligned with the top and bottom of the 2’8” plywood section. Glue them to the larger section of wood, weighting the furring strips to keep them in place until the glue sets. Once the initial glue is dry, glue the 1’ wide pieces to the three open sides of the trapezoid, using small nails as needed to hold them.
Paint and Insulate
Paint the shape as desired, paying attention to the joints. Though the exposed 2’8” side will need to be painted in its entirety, only the joints on the other three sides will show prominently once the sound insulation panels are installed. You can paint these selectively as shown. Spray paint with primer is shown here, but hand painting would likely be a better method.
Once the paint has dried, use spray adhesive or another method to attach the 18 sound insulation panels to the 1’ wood panels—you may have to reattach if not securely glued to begin with. You can alternate the direction of these panels at 90 degrees as shown for an interesting visual effect or even purchase different colored panels for a unique look.
Though it will stand on its own, the base is fairly shallow and shouldn’t be used in an area where falling over would be dangerous. To make the structure more stable, it would be possible to cut a slot in the bottom of it and add weight inside on the bottom support, perhaps as a storage space for extra books.
As the shape is designed to measure just under 3 feet in width, it can be placed in the middle of most hallways. Although likely effective, access to your office or other quiet room would be restricted. As shown in the image below (shot from approximately the location of a home office desk), a good alternative is to “extend the doorway” with it, catching a portion of the sound energy that would normally reach you from the door.
Using this structure with a rug in front of the door resulted in a noise reduction of around 10 decibels versus a closed door. Nearly all of this was due to the sound insulation structure. The number “10 decibels” may not sound like much, but it represents a huge reduction in the amount of sound energy reaching your ears. When combined with headphones and some nice ambient noise or music, you can finally get some work done at home that your employer has been expecting!
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