Soundproofing Myths – Do’s & Don’ts for DIY Soundproofing

As a service to those doing their own DIY soundproofing, we’ve prepared this list of Do’s & Don’ts.  We won’t explore every aspect of doing a good soundproofing job, but rather suggesting to avoid certain materials and processes that can save you tons of time and money.  Don’t waste time and money on ineffectiveness!  If you have lots of time and wish to experiment with different techniques and unknown materials, please do so!  (and let us know how it comes out!).  Many people have made the errors mentioned here and some have been kind enough to pass them on to us for inclusion.  Please feel free to contribute!

1. DO – Get Help!

If you have anything but a simple problem and the solution isn’t obvious, get help!  No need to figure this out all by yourself, it’s too easy to make expensive mistakes. There are many experts doing work in this field. Most provinces require them to be licensed. You can find help online by Googling “Acoustics” or check with your local building code department or provincial contractors license board. At least read everything on our website, including the other blogs we have written or even the product data sheets we have listed on each product page. Unless you have time and money to waste, DON’T experiment!! We are more than happy to help you- so give us a call!

2. DON’T – Think that Soundproofing & Sound Absorption are the same!

Soundproofing and sound absorption are two different things so don’t be tricked into thinking that devices meant to absorb sound will give you the same results as soundproofing. Both sound absorption solutions and soundproofing solutions have benefits but they achieve a different result.

Sound absorption uses sound dampening techniques and materials to improve the sound in a room. This is often used in rooms that need good acoustics, such as a recording studio or theatre, or in rooms that are large and echoing to better improve sound and music transfer through the area.

Soundproofing on the other hand, is used to isolate or block sound inside a room – or to keep sound out of a room. This option is often used in multi-family homes, basement suites or business situations where confidentiality or a quiet, calm work environment are desired.

3. DO – Understand that there are multiple options with varying degrees of success when soundproofing

If you think that soundproofing a wall, ceiling or floor only has one option, you are WRONG! There are numerous ways to soundproof a wall, as an example, just realize that each will give you different results. If you are wanting to soundproof a wall, without doing a minor “renovation” to it, you can use 2 different products to accomplish this. The most inexpensive would be to add a second layer of drywall (5/8″ is recommended always) with Green Glue Soundproofing Compound in between the second layer and the first layer that is already painted and on your wall. It is recommended that you use 2 tubes of Green Glue Compound on the back of each 4′ x 8′ sheet of drywall. Just remember to leave a 1/4″ gap around the perimeter of the drywall to allow for decoupling it from the ceiling, floor and adjacent wall(s). Why would you leave a 1/4″ gap around the perimeter of the drywall? Won’t sounds just hit the wall and “flank” through those gaps?? You are correct if that is what you are thinking! But what you do to deal with that 1/4″ gap is you use the Green Glue Soundproofing Sealant to “seal” that gap and further decouple the wall from its surroundings. Doing this treatment of soundproofing will save you tons of money by not having to demolish the current drywall and purchase 2 new layers of drywall for said wall. However this treatment will only get you minimal results; it should only decrease the sound transfer between the wall by 9-10 decibels.

Treatment #2 is very similar as the treatment #1, except instead of using Green Glue between the second layer of drywall, you can use Mass Loaded Vinyl. Mass Loaded Vinyl (MLV) comes in 1 or 2 pounds/sq.ft. and also comes with different results (and pricing), so feel free to give us a call or read more about the differences on the product data sheet supplied on the MLV product page. Just like with treatment #1, you will put the MLV between a second layer of drywall, this time by attaching it to the existing layer of drywall with a compound or glue. You will want to again leave a 1/4″ gap around the perimeter of the drywall to allow for decoupling it from the ceiling, floor and adjacent wall(s) and use the Green Glue Sealant to fill in the gaps. This treatment gets much better results, while still saving you the time and money of not demolishing your existing wall. While MLV is more expensive than Green Glue, you should see a 20-25 decibel reduction in sound transfer between the walls.

The 3rd and final treatment for soundproofing an existing wall, would require demolition of that wall down to the studs (wood or metal). Then you will want to assess your current insulation that is in this wall, Hush City Soundproofing always recommends using Rockwool Safe’n’Sound insulation (formerly known as Roxul). Once this is completed you need to decide if you want to add treatment #1 or 2 to this treatment (Green Glue or MLV). If you decide to go with MLV, it is best to install the MLV directly onto the studs first. If you decide to go the Green Glue route, it goes between the 2 layers of drywall. Once this is decided you will want to purchase and install our Resilmount A237R Sound Isolation Clips and install them according to the install instructions provided (basic rule of thumb is 1 clip every 4-5 sq.ft.). Then you will need to install 7/8″ hat track (aka resilient channel or sound bar) onto the clips. Then you will install your first layer of drywall, always leaving that 1/4″ gap for Green Glue Sealant. Then the second layer of drywall goes on top of that (possibly with Green Glue between), and ensuring that you stagger the seams of the drywall to seal off any gaps through the first layer of drywall (first layer of drywall doesn’t get taped or painted). Then once you have sealed off your second layer of drywall with Green Glue Sealant, tape, mud and paint your wall and you are done! This treatment is the most expensive to complete, however it obviously gets the best results. This treatment should get you a 30-50 decibel reduction in sound transfer, depending on if you use MLV or Green Glue, as well as depending on the wall assembly itself (wood studs vs metal studs, 2×4′ studs vs 2×6 studs ect..).

4. DON’T – Use any of these products for soundproofing…EVER!

How wonderful would it be if effective soundproofing came in the form of a paint!!?? It would be a true dream product, easily solving many noise problems. But alas, such a product is (for now, at least) just a dream.

The idea of soundproofing paint is not the only “myth” you might encounter with regards to products. Whenever a student, hobbyist, or aspiring musician asks for ideas about cheap ways to soundproof a room, someone will suggest egg cartons — you can count on it! Others will swear by mattresses, thick curtains, foam panels, or carpet on the walls. While some of these might indeed be cheap, they will do next to nothing to block noise. When you’re planning a soundproofing project, you can save yourself a lot of time and effort if you know the things that WON’T work. Here is a full list of products that DON”T work for soundproofing, so don’t waste time or money on them:

Soundproof Paint

Soundproof paint promises to deaden sound, however at 30 to 40 thousandths of an inch thick, it’s ability to do so is very low because the paint is so thin. Soundproof paint promises to absorb mod-range sound waves, offering an inexpensive way to soundproof your room. However, it’s thinness and lack of absorbing anything on the lower or higher end of the sound spectrum makes it an ineffective choice. Further, this paint comes in only a few colours and is relatively expensive for a material that offers little sound reduction.

Soundproof Wallpaper

Soundproof wallpaper is another “thin” layer that promises to provide soundproofing without living up to potential. Typically, this wallpaper is made from an aesthetic wallpaper backed with foam or some other sound deadening material.  While this can reduce general noise from room to room in a home, it does not soundproof the room and, again, often fails to block sounds in the high and low frequency ranges like high pitched music or traffic sounds. Soundproof wallpaper is simply not designed for actual soundproofing in a professional office or even a very noisy home. We suggest Mass Loaded Vinyl, it looks like black wallpaper, but it actually works!

Spray Foam Insulation

Spray Foam insulation is designed to insulate a home or office from heat and cold – not provide soundproofing.  While any building insulation will provide a little sound reduction from outside noises, cellulose insulation is no more a soundproofing element than shingles or siding. Further, this option is costly to install and involves actually drilling holes in the walls to blow insulation inside – an expensive and messy option for something that doesn’t work to block sound! We have had numerous spray foam insulation companies in Calgary, Edmonton, Vancouver & Winnipeg contact us to let us know that they know there product doesn’t work for soundproofing, and that they would like to either order products from Hush City or they want to refer customers to us when they call these Spray Foam Insulation companies for soundproofing. These Spray Foam companies still (and probably always will) continue to advertise and market there products for “soundproofing” so buyers BEWARE!!

Egg Cartons

These foam layers are often used in cardboard packaging or seen as mattress covers. They do not, however, provide soundproofing.  This low density foam does little to absorb sound, even in the mid-range.  The porous material simply lets sound move through it – a benefit in packing where crushing pressure is cushioned by the space in the material. This feature, however, is a detriment to soundproofing. Don’t be fooled that the ridges and valleys in egg crates look similar to acoustic and soundproofing tiles. This highly flammable material can even be dangerous so avoid it for your soundproofing project at all costs!

Foam Rubber

The material used on your mouse pad or yoga mat doesn’t work to soundproof your room either. Soundproofing materials work only in part because of their composition and in part because of their design elements, designed to disrupt and absorb sound waves. Sticking up yoga mats to the wall/floor (no matter the colour) will do nothing to soundproof your room.  Further, the expense of lining a room in foam rubber could easily yield effective soundproofing solutions that would work much more effectively.

Curtains, Carpet or Mattresses

These solutions are sneaky as soft surfaces disrupt the flow of sound waves in a room, thereby tricking your ears into thinking that the room is quieter. Curtains and carpeting have a similar affect – which is why an empty room seems more echoy and louder than one with furniture and decor.  Carpet and mattresses on the walls, however, do nothing to block incoming or outgoing sound to soundproof a room. Further, they are aesthetically displeasing and would make a poor choice for home decor or an office building that needs a professional atmosphere.

Dark coloured walls

Colour only affects the eye, not the ear. While the dark colours in your room may look cozy, they do not actually affect the soundproofing of the room in any way. Dark colours fool the eye into thinking a room is smaller, quieter, and more intimate. Visual appearance, however, does not affect the movement of sound in a room. Paint your room whatever colour you want but it simply won’t affect the sound quality or soundproofing of the room at all.

Many of these “simple tricks” for soundproofing are straight out myths. Additionally, by the time you purchase and implement many of these solutions, you could afford to have purchased and installed actual soundproofing equipment for your space. If you don’t know what to do to properly soundproof your space, just call the experts at Hush City Soundproofing. It is usually best to have an in home (or office) consultation performed by a trained expert, as they can identify any and all areas that may become a problem. Hush City has soundproofing solutions for nearly every possible scenario. So whether you need to soundproof a wall or ceiling, a floor, a window, a doora pipe or ductmechanical equipment to isolate the vibration from or you just need products to improve interior acoustics; Hush City Soundproofing has it all, so give us a call today!

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5 thoughts on “Soundproofing Myths – Do’s & Don’ts for DIY Soundproofing”

  1. I live in an old apartment building, and recently tried to reduce sound from the neighboring apartment by attaching a layer of 1/8” MLV to the existing drywall and then 5/8” “Quietrock” drywall over the MLV, and the difference is minimal, sad to say. I can still hear entire conversations through the wall, a bit more muffled than before but still plainly audible.

    • Good Day Paul,
      I noted your comments on our website. I could not fine you in our Customer base system. Did you purchase the MLV from Hush and did we do the work? If not are you able to tell me what MLV you purchased and describe for me how the system was installed? If there is anything we can do to assist you going forward please feel free to reach out to us at 1-855-526-2615

  2. thank you for posting! i have to make a decision for condo ceiling from noise, stomping , cracking wood , etc upstairs neighbor. One contractor said MLV and one 5/8 Quietrock drywall on top of current ceiling. The other Contractor said for soundproof, tare 1979 current ceiling, put Insulation, fix Joist nails screws that cringes when he steps AND 2 Sheetrock with Green glue for soundproof, and he said you wont hear any noise, soundproof! the difference in prices is 1500.00! but after reading your experience im going to have to go for the most expensive one with insulation, fix joist nails , 2 sheetrock with green glue Worth it!! TO HAVE PEACE IN MY PLACE!!! all this because upstairs neighbor pulled carpets and put wooden floors and im guessin NO underlayment to absorb noise.

  3. Hi I’m a student on a tight budget. I’m in toronto doing my masters in opera. And I’m in a bachelor apartment. I need soundproofing advice deparately! Only one wall shared with another apartment and a door entrance to hall. The one wall is mostly cupboard a d there is only a small nook space 50in wide x 20 in deep where I have my desk that directly adjoins the next apartment. Can I do some kind of pannel behind my desk to cut down sound ? I can’t attach anything to the wall. With covid realities, some of my lessons must be from home on zoom. And if I could design some type of panel to go against my front door, I’d stop getting complaints from the hallway! It would be great if I could take these pannels with me for my next place too. I’m not looking for a perfect solution. Limited choices in a rented apartment, but a good amount of sound reduction would be great. Any cost effective advice for an opera student appreciated!

  4. I have a new house being constructed, theatre is on the top floor. Walls are 2 x 6 , we filled these with safe n sound. Then resilliant channels installed onto the wall studs, then sheets of quite rock 5/8 . I noticed the 1!/4 screws are going thru the quiterock, then into the channel and a tiny bit goes into the studs – is this good or should we remove the the scres and replace them with 1 inch screws which won,t touch the studs

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