If you find it hard getting your baby to sleep or focusing in your home office because of the outside noise, it’s high time you started a new DIY home soundproofing project. Having been a “victim” myself, I decided to block out noises from outside by soundproofing windows, doors and vents of course. Learn how you can reduce noise coming from your vents in this article.
Last summer, I got a call from my cousin Caroline in San Francisco, Bay Area. Well she’s a mother of three wannabe rock band teens. She said, Andrew, I need your help- my weekends are forever ruined. Well, it turns out that her sons would invite their friends over the weekend and break hell lose with drums and guitars.
I know you can imagine how it feels having a group of not only adolescent teens- but also aspiring rock stars in your garage. Can it be messy right?
I set about and soundproofed the room for drums and guitars, and I was happy with the results. But upon further investigations, I discovered that some noise would leak out through the windows. So I had to spend a couple of more days to block out all the noises coming through the windows. She was happy with the results, and I was happy I helped.
If you have noise problems, I’m sure you’ve tried whatever you can to block out the noises. Right? But I bet you didn’t realize that window soundproofing plays a major role in determining the noises that get in and out. Right?
Over the years, I’ve learned different techniques. I’ve been to New Zealand and Australia. It’s from these countries I discovered some fantastic green glue alternatives. To cut my long story short, I’ve learned of 10 different ways to soundproof windows that work. I bet you’ll find one that easies for you to implement and cheap as well.
Are there really soundproof windows?
The answer is No.
No single residential window block out all sound. Soundproof is just but another name for noise reduction.
The so-called soundproof windows only block noises up 90-95%.
This is because some sounds- low-frequency sounds to be specific are hard to block compared to high-frequency sounds.
So before buying a sound reducing window, it’s important to know the sound frequencies you want to block.
Fortunately, manufacturers today make sound dampening windows identification easier through a scale labeling known as Sound Transmission Class (STC) and the higher the number, the more effective a window is in blocking sound.
A traditional single pane window pane has 27 STC rating while a dual has 28. However, soundproof windows have 45 on the lower end all the way to 50 and can block up to 95% noise.
How Soundproof Windows Work
To reduce noise coming into your room, it’s a must you create a barrier between the source of the sound and your ear. Walls, ceilings, roofs, and window reduce some certain amount.
But to enhance a window’s ability to absorb sound, a window must have:
- More mass (glass should be thicker)
- Some air space should be available. (distance between the window panes)
- Laminated glass
A good example is CitiQuiet windows installed behind the window. They add 4 inches of noise reducing air between the new interior window and the existing window. These windows have an STC rating of 38 and allegedly promise 95% efficiency.
But there’s also Zeluck Inc which manufacturers 1 ¼ inch windows with an STC rating of 42.
How to Soundproof Windows in Simple Steps
1. Use Noise Reducing Curtains
While soundproof curtains will not 100% reduce noise, they are highly effective in blocking sounds. You can see some reviews of the curtains I recommend here.
I also love the fact that they add aesthetic appeal to your house. I decided to buy some for my cousin’s house, and she was shocked by how they filtered out the bass problem.
It’s important to note that these are not your ordinary curtains. They are made of high quality and heavy materials, and it’s for this reason they can block out the noise.
For best results, I would recommend you to get curtains that extend a few centimeters on the sides of the windows and stretch all the way to the floor. For best results, you can hang two curtains.
2. Block the window entirely
There are two ways you can achieve this. The first method is free and won’t cost you a dime but the second method; you’ll spend a few bucks.
a) Rearrange furniture
If you don’t mind blocking your windows, you should try this method. I guess you understand how sound travels right? (Read this article to get a refresher on how sound travels).
You can move some furniture on the window and just like curtains; they will block noise. You can place bookshelves, couches, closets or similar stuff in front of your window.
But if you don’t want to block out the window, here’s an alternative method. You can place furniture next to the window. They’ll still absorb some sounds but not as much compared to placing them in front of the windows.
b) Block using acoustic panels
The best part with blocking windows is that you will be guaranteed you won’t experience noise problem again- other factors such as walls, door, ceiling constant.
You can block garage windows, but I wouldn’t recommend you to block the living room or bedroom windows. The concept behind blocking windows entirely is to ensure that no gaps are left that could allow some noise in or out of the room.
3. Seal all the gaps
Those small gaps you see on your windows are the major culprits when it comes to leaking noise in and out of your homes.
Fortunately for you my friend, I’m going to show you ways in which you can seal all these gaps.
One of the most effective but also the easiest way to seal the gaps is by use of a weatherstripping tape. You can get it from your local hardware store or Amazon. See the weatherstrip brand I recommend.
Weather-strips are made of different materials. Some of the common materials used include silicone, tapes and foam and many others. To find the best one that suits you, you should take into consideration factors such as
- Aesthetic appeal
- Amount of friction
I found this Closed-Cell Foam Tape effective in sealing gaps at my house and my cousin’s house. But first, consider the material that will work best for you. The best part, they block gaps effectively and will only require less than 30 minutes of your time.
b) Try acoustic caulk
Another product I would recommend anyone wanting to seal the gaps on your windows or doors is an acoustic caulk. Once you install this product, you’ll be guaranteed to block out noise for at least the next 3-4 years. It’s durable, doesn’t crack or shrink and it’s easy to use.
You should also note that there’s a difference between a regular caulk and acoustic caulk. Acoustic caulk doesn’t shrink or harden and hence it’s not prone to cracking. Some good examples of acoustic caulks include Green Glue dampening material (not to be confused with the common Green Glue Sealant) and Sashco Big Stretch Caulk.
4. Replace your windows
If you’re willing to spend extra dollars… but I guarantee you it won’t break the bank. I would recommend you to replace the existing windows with double-pane ones.
Double panes will reduce noise leaking by approximately 60%. Another benefit of double-panes is that they will reduce heat transmission. (Read this article– Opens in a new tab.
So you will have cooler summers and warmer windows. This will save you on electricity bills because you won’t need to turn the AC to keep your room cool or hot in the summers or winters respectively.
Additionally, you could also hire a professional to replace the existing windows with soundproofed ones. But you should only try this if you live in your own home. However, if you’ve rented a unit, you should first ask the landlord or property manager before doing any major renovation.
If the landlord agrees or if you’ve purchased a home, you should find a professional. Over the past few years, I come to learn that many window installers aren’t familiar with installing soundproofed windows.
So you will need to make sure that the person you invite over knows what he/she should do. No cracks or gaps should be left because a poorly installed soundproofed window can leak in noise.
5. Add more mass to the windows
Compared to replacing your windows, adding some mass to the windows is much cheaper. You will only need to add a layer of acrylic on the window. This will reduce the noise passing through.
However, it’s important to note that you will have to install a metal frame for this to work. You will then need to use a magnet to attach acrylic to the windows. Ensure that all the gaps are sealed as well.
You will note that this method is much similar to soundproofing using a window plug. But the only difference is that acrylic is transparent and will still allow light to penetrate inside the room.
But it’s important to note that acrylic only works for not so loud noises… so if your neighbor or your son is launching the next space station down, this may not be a viable option for you.
6. Try some thick blinds
Thick blinds use the same concept as sound deadening curtains. The reduce echoes in your room and also block some noise.
If you’re going to use blinds, I would suggest trying out ones made of thick materials. I bought two of Calyx Interiors Cordless HoneyComb blinds for my home office, and I’m happy with their effectiveness.
Though they weren’t as effective as noise-proofing curtains, they some impact- so I think it’s important if you try them out.
But you’ll appreciate the fact that they allow in some light. So if you’re trying to sound insulate your home office, try out these blinds. They let in more light compared to sound deadening curtains.
7. Use some thick moving blankets
I’ve used soundproof moving blankets, and I can assure you they work same as noise reducing curtains. But it’s important to note that they reduce the noise coming through, but the won’t gets rid of sound leakage.
But you might be asking, why the hell would I need moving blankets?
Let me explain…
You’ve probably seen professional movers use some sort of blankets to wrap furniture, right? They use the blankets to prevent damage.
How can a blanket prevent damage?
You’re probably asking this right?
But these aren’t your typical blankets; moving blankets are made of dense materials like polyester, mineral wool, woven cotton, mineral wool, and fiberglass. Such features made them so popular in DIY soundproofing projects, and hence people began referring to them as soundproof blankets.
But my suggestion is that you get ones with grommets to make it easier for you to hang them over the window.
But I’ve discovered that cheap blankets lack grommets- so you’ve got only three options. Buy blankets with grommets (expensive) or buy cheap ones and spend extra cash on grommets or install them manually by screwing them to the wall.
8. Use DIY Window Plug
Are you ready for some fun and simple DIY soundproofing project? You can build a window plug. You’ll save not only some cash but also block unwanted noise.
You will only need to plug the window plug in a window opening when you need some quiet time. You can remove them afterward. This is a simple yet effective method that lets you control the level of noise you want in your home.
You will spend less on the materials needed to build, and it will be a fun activity you can undertake during your own free time.
How to make a window plug at home
Making a noise reducing window plug is simple. I would only suggest you be keen when getting the measurements. Because measurements can either make or break your projects.
Some of the materials you will need include:
- Soundproof mat
- Green Glue or any strong wood glue
- 2Cupboard handles
The first step: Takes a measurement of your window frame. If the sill is 2 inches, then you will need 1 inch thick acoustic mat. The measurement should be directly proportional. For example for a 6-inch you will need a 3 inch thick acoustic mat.
It’s also good that you leave air gap so that the plug does not press against the pane. This gap also serves as a buffer.
So what is acoustic mat?
Also known as soundproofing mats, acoustic mats are used in cars to deaden engine noise. They are available in different sizes and thicknesses and have an adhesive backing. So if you’re going to use the plug during the day, you don’t have to worry because these mats are designed to withstand high temps. ( I would suggest you to try FatMat Hood-Line for your window plug.)
The soundproofing window mat should cover 1 inch wider and longer than the window. This overlap is important to ensure that no air gaps are left. You can also add some layers of this mat as you like because the thick the better. But remember to leave an air gap between the panes and the plug.
Step 2: Create a backing board for the plug. This will add more mass for proper sound insulation and also enable you to fit handles.
The backing board dimensions should match those of the window. So that means the acoustic mat will extend 1 inch around the sides of the board.
For proper insulations against sounds, the material plug should be thick as possible, but also makes sure that it’s not too heavy such that it’ll take four people to fix it in place when needed.
Alternatively, you could use a medium density fiber board but these are quite heavy.
Now that you’ve glued your soundproofing mat to a backing board, it’s time to make some handles to ensure that you can fit and remove the plug without troubles. Simple straps or cupboard handles are just fine. Here are some perfect examples of what I’m talking about.
Alternatives to a window plug
As the name suggests, an acoustic barrier limits noise transmission. The barrier is often filled with dense material for good sound absorption. This method works same as window plug but it’s ideal for homes where installing a plug wouldn’t be viable.
Mass Loaded Vinyl- Mass loaded vinyl is dense making it good in sound absorption. It does not take up much room and it’s designed for this purpose- noise blocking. (See more photos here). You can also use fiberglass to reduce noise leakage.
9. Try some noise blocking acoustic panels
I mentioned the use of acoustic panels above but not in detail. They are thicker and bulkier and hence good in soundproofing because the heavier, the better. Here is a good example of a product you can look at- Fiberglass 1708 Biaxial.
These products are made of fiberglass which act as a sound barrier, and their uneven surface makes them good in absorbing echoes on either side of the acoustic panel.
Installing them is simple. They are fitted with grommets, and hence you can easily hang or screw them on the wall. But remember that, the closer they are to the window, the best.
The only things you probably won’t like about acoustic panels are the looks and price. They are expensive than other methods mentioned above (except replacing windows). They are also “ugly” compared to the noise reducing curtains.
10. DIY Sound dampening curtains
If you’re on a budget or you probably have a weirdly shaped window in your house or probably can’t find sound deadening curtains, you can try and make some.
But when looking for a material to act as a noise reducing curtains, there are key factors you should take into consideration.
- The material used should be thick and dense
- Heavy fabrics the likes of velvet, suede, are effective in reducing noise and also improve aesthetic appeal. (But note that they are highly flammable)
- They should stretch all the way to the ground, and the width should be almost double window width
If you’ve got an old rug, that’s heavy or fluffy; you can actually make a good noise reducing curtain out of it. I know it might sound bonkers, but when done right it not only reduces noise leakages but also enhances aesthetic appeal.
How Much Do Soundproof Windows Cost?
Soundproof windows cost something $400-$900 depending on the size, an indication that silence isn’t cheap.
But for a 3by 5-foot CitiQuiet window insert, you’ll have to spend $1,000 plus depending on the size and the features. Custom built noise reducing window can cost you up to $10,000 excluding the installation fee.
I’m glad I found ways to soundproof my cousin’s windows. I can assure you that there’s nothing sweet like enjoying a peaceful day at your home without getting disturbed by unwanted sounds.
If you’re faced with the same problem, then probably it’s time you took “matters in your own hands. Choose a technique that will be easier for you to implement and I promise you that once you’re done, you’ll be glad with the results.
Some of the methods highlighted above will not give 100% noiseproofing so I would suggest that you combine two or three if possible. For instance, you can hang heavy drapes and also seal all the gaps.
None of the methods above is more expensive than your wellbeing.