Why Is Soundproofing So Expensive? 5 Tips to Reduce Cost
Ever wanted to start a soundproofing project but was worried about the costs? It is likely that you have overheard or read somewhere that you require a large budget, but why is soundproofing so expensive? Or is it?
Way before I started this blog to help regular guys like you and me to work on such projects, I have been trying out ways to reduce noise around my house.
This led me to conduct and research deeply into the subject, and I’m pretty happy to say that it has made me a bit of a mini expert.
One of the common things I hear is “Are you crazy? It must have cost you a bomb!”
That can be true if you are going for professional-level soundproofing, but there are alternatives that you can consider which mainly relies on DIY skills.
In this post, I will share some insight as to why soundproofing cost can quickly add up, and what you can do to soundproof on a budget instead.
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Contents: Skip to section
- Why Is Soundproofing So Expensive? 5 Tips to Reduce Cost
- What materials are commonly used for soundproofing?
- What causes soundproofing material to be so expensive?
- How much does it cost to soundproof your home: broken down
- DIY solutions to soundproof your room
- What will you soundproof first?
What materials are commonly used for soundproofing?
You can find dozens of soundproofing materials in the market such as acoustic foam, acoustic panels, acoustic fabrics, soundproof doors and windows, decoupling products etc.
All of these, to some extent, help you to get rid of the excessive noise or to prevent room-to-room sound transmission.
The ones that have been most suitable and efficient for me are described below (though opinions may differ from person to person).
1. Dense Acoustic Layers (MLV)
MLV or Mass Loaded Vinyl is a dense, flexible and rubber like material which acts as a noise barrier. It minimises the sound, eliminates vibration and can cover any surface easily.
It is made to be self adhesive, which can turn soundproofing into simple projects.
Generally, it is used for soundproofing cars, appliances and noisy machinery.
2. Acoustic Foam
Acoustic foams come in unique wedge or pyramid shapes.
Along with preventing sound leakage, they also improve the sound quality of a room.
They can be attached to walls as well as hung from the ceiling.
These are mostly used in home theatres, recording studios and gaming rooms.
3. Acoustic Panels
Acoustic panels can be and sometimes is referred to as the decorative version of acoustic foams.
They come in so many different patterns and colours that they serve a dual purpose – soundproofing plus decoration.
They are suitable for classrooms, cinemas or areas meant for entertainment, and it is not uncommon to find them hanging on walls or ceilings like a acoustic cloud for both decorative and functional purposes.
4. Acoustic Fabrics
Acoustic fabrics are a bit thicker and heavier than normal fabrics and used to make blackout curtains, studio blankets as well as soundproof curtains.
I would suggest you to use double paned glass windows along with the such fabrics for better effect.
If you do not have such kind of windows in your home, you can consider installing noise-blocking window film. It is easy and pretty cheap to do so.
What causes soundproofing material to be so expensive?
Here in America, acoustic panels or foams can cost you a whooping $150–$300 each. (of course you can get cheaper ones, but that really depends on how effective you want it to be. I mostly use cheap ones though)
This is the price that you have to spend for great quality ones, and it can get higher with better quality. Now you may ask, what makes them so expensive?
The simple answer is that it is a product in demand and having a small market with not many competitors.
That means that suppliers can charge a premium as they do now.
If you’re in need, you are bound to pay that price because there’s no other option.
But, there are also some more practical reasons behind it.
Acoustic foam is usually made from polyurethane foam (melamine foam can also be used). While you may think that these raw materials are not so costly, why is the end product so differently priced then?
The answer is in the process of making it.
Acoustic panels and foams are made in a particular way that drives up the cost of production.
The process itself may not be very expensive but it is very complex as compared to manufacturing of regular foam.
Obviously, you have to put some extra efforts to create foam that is able to reduce echo and reverberation.
The machinery used in the process is are custom made, plus the transportation of acoustic foams is also a bit costlier.
Acoustic foams are generally preferred by musicians and home theatre enthusiasts.
It doesn’t have a wide range of buyers.
By catering to this specific high spending niche, producers know that they can get away with pricing the products on the high side too.
But before spending your hard earned money (as did by one of my close friends), you should know that acoustic foams can only absorb high frequency sounds.
You should not consider them if you want to block out bass.
And if you want a long term solution, my suggestion would be to go for professional acoustic panels.
Other soundproofing materials may also cost quite high.
For example, Mass Loaded Vinyl (MLV) costs relatively much higher than normal drywalls. For example, a 40sqm sheet can run you over $100 easily.
And sometimes, when you feel the need of soundproofing years after your house is built, soundproofing can also involve rebuilding of your walls which is obviously very expensive.
The larger area you need to soundproof, the more you spend.
Also, the more sound you need to get rid of, the costlier it becomes.
High frequency sounds are easier to block than low frequency sounds (such as bass).
With more sound, you may need to make structural changes and use more better materials, ultimately increasing the budget required to improve noise reduction.
How much does it cost to soundproof your home: broken down
The cost of soundproofing a room can typically range from $400 to $4000 depending on the size of your room, noise source and the extent to which you want to reduce the noise.
To soundproof individual areas of your room, here are a few guidelines and recommended soundproofing materials that are reasonably priced and can be reused around the house easily.
1. Soundproofing windows
Soundproofing windows can cost you up to $1500 if you replace your old windows with soundproof ones.
On the other hand, it will be less than $100 if you decide to go for curtains or other add-ons.
2. Soundproofing walls
Soundproofing existing walls can be costlier and less efficient than soundproofing the walls while they are built.
If you are moving to a new place, consider discussing with your contractor on ways to soundproof your walls.
I know that most are built with hollow type walls and that is a terrible choice in my opinion.
On the other hand, if you have existing walls, there are a few things you can do to reduce noise transmission.
Expect to spend anywhere between $100-200.
My first choice is always to go for mineral wool insulation boards. They are hands down the most effective way a homeowner can block out noise between walls. These can be used to build drywalls, and I personally used it during my basement garage revamp.
Here is where you bring out your credit card and make a serious investment. Mass loaded vinyls are basically thin pieces of material that are super dense. That means sound cannot pass through easily. They are pretty to look at and works extremely well.
Sidetrack: noisy pipes in your bathroom? Wrap them up with MLV.
3. Soundproofing Ceiling
You know what I really dislike? Noisy neighbors from upstairs.
Feet stomping, furniture dragging, kids running. All of these ruckus is enough to drive a person crazy. I have even read on forums about people needing medication after falling into depression.
If you can’t stop them from making so much noise, your next best option is to reduce it.
Soundproofing the ceiling comes with similar options as walls and they do a decent job at blocking out noise.
If you are moving into a new apartment, you may consider fabricating a false ceiling that can act as a buffer to absorb potential noise from above.
Otherwise, stick to the acoustic foam tiles or consider using soundproof paint.
Cost wise, it will be similar to soundproofing walls.
Side note: I heard of these things called ceiling thumpers in China. How they work is that “stomp” on the ceiling, essentially giving the people upstairs a taste of their own medicine. I don’t encourage this, but it’s interesting to know what people are willing to do.
DIY solutions to soundproof your room
Putting everything together, you can certainly reduce the amount of noise in your room considerably on your own. Here are 5 steps you can take.
1. The simplest way is to add more mass to your room. The more furniture you have in your room, more sound will be absorbed.
You can try adding sofas, tables, bookshelves or cupboards to your room. They won’t look odd and will reduce the noise. Arrange them along the walls for further noise reduction.
You can also add more cushions since soft materials absorb sound better.
2. For doors, you can use weatherstripping tape or rubber gasket. They will fill up the gaps and act as noise barriers for external noise sources.
Rubber door stoppers can also be an option for the doors or you can just lay a stationary rubber threshold on the floor. All these help to block the sound coming through the gaps in doors and windows.
3. Heavy blankets can be a good option to soundproof the windows on your own at a very cheap price.
Use thicker blankets for a better result and don’t hesitate to layer them up.
4. Use a heavy and thick carpet to soundproof your floor. An alternative can be a rug which is preferable if you live in a rented apartment as it can be easily removed.
They are cheap, easy to use and very efficient. You can also use an underlay underneath the carpet/rug. Check out this post if you have wooden floors.
5. The last thing I’d suggest is to make your own soundproof panel. Here are some basic instructions and you can achieve this with a pretty low budget.
- Find a soundproof material available to you. I would recommend mineral wool or moving blankets as it is cheap and easily available. Something else like acoustic foam will also work.
- Now get some wood to construct a wooden frame to accommodate the soundproof material. The size of the frame should be according to the surface you need to soundproof.
- Then, fill the frame with the material you’ve got.
- Get a light fabric such as cotton to cover up the frame (it should be attractive as this is the visible part).
And you’re done making your own soundproof panel!
These DIY soundproofing tips will help you quiet your room/house without spending a lot on costly materials and labor.
What will you soundproof first?
As you can see, starting a soundproofing project may not be as expensive as you think. While the price scale will be high if you engage a professional, if you are willing to get your hands dirty, there are ways to do it on a budget.
I used to think that only a professional can do the job well, but not anymore. In fact, I recently did my own acoustic fence which worked like a charm!
Other than just fighting noise, I also purchase white noise machines to drown them out instead, so that’s worth a thought.
So what is it going to be for you? DIY or hired help?