You need soundproof carpeting or sound absorbing carpeting if you want to reduce noise in your home, office, or special area such as a listening room, recording studio, or home theater. Learn what makes a carpet soundproof or sound absorbing and how to install it.
Soundproofing your home or office lets you reduce exterior noise and contain interior noise. You can soundproof just one room of your home or office or every one of them.
This option has become a more everyday undertaking than you might think. Many homes now include a home theater. Soundproofing this room makes logical sense. It reduces the noise coming from the theater and eliminates outside noise from disturbing those enjoying a movie or sports event.
While you once had few options when soundproofing, you now have many. You can lay soundproof carpet alone, over special padding, underneath normal wood or tile, underneath soundproof tiles, or over existing flooring such as roll vinyl. You no longer must choose a gaudy movie theater-style carpet for your project.
You can now choose from a multitude of designs depending on your needs. These include using carpet underlayment, so you can use a normal hardwood floor over it or ceramic tile although these two latter options on top would pick up some sound, the carpet underlayment would muffle it. The newer styles of flooring install over the carpet layer and look like hardwood although their materials actually use an acoustical dampening material that absorbs sound.
You will have a lot from which to choose since carpet goes far beyond old-school rolls now. Here’s a quick rundown on potential soundproof carpeting you can use to beautify and quieten your home, office, home theater, home recording studio, or workshop. Your options depend on your intended use of the space.
Types of Soundproof Carpeting
Soundproofing requires layers. While you will still use typical sub-flooring and wall materials such as plywood and Hardie board, you will need multiple layers to achieve soundproofing. With respect to a floor, that means at least one layer of underlayment or liner underneath the main flooring, but on top of the subfloor.
Walls also get carpeted, especially in movie theaters and recording studios. This also requires the underlayment or liner before the pretty-looking carpeting goes on top. You may need more than a one-liner layer.
The term acoustic underlayment refers to a liner material that typically comes in rolls. You lay it over a plywood or concrete subfloor. It provides a cushion for the flooring installed on top. It also reduces noise impacts. Depending on the material you install atop this, you may need two layers of this liner.
Sound Deadening Vinyl
The term sound deadening vinyl refers to the same product as Mass Loaded Vinyl. This heavy vinyl provides a thin sheet of noise-dampening material. While not as thick as acoustic underlayment, it does the job and often gets used in areas with lots of vehicles or machinery. It works well on floors.
Sound Absorbing Floor Insulation
If you have ever been in an unfinished home, you saw this type of acoustic insulation stuffed in between the floor joists beneath the subfloor. In multi-story homes, you find it on the floor of each story, and it can be installed from the ceiling of the floor beneath.
Acoustic Floor Tiles
These acoustic floor tiles get installed beneath your upper layer of flooring, but over the subfloor. They reduce echo and reverberation. You can use an upper flooring layer with a hard surface in conjunction with this type of carpet flooring tiles, or you can install carpet over them.
Sound Absorbing Carpet Padding
Avoid the temptation to purchase the cheapest carpet padding. You need a sound-absorbing carpet pad for its dense thickness. Carpet padding goes just underneath the carpet layer, but above the subfloor and underlayment/liner layer.
Carpet padding and the acoustical underlayment or vinyl liner are not the same things. You would choose between underlayment or liner, then install the carpet padding over that if using carpet as your uppermost layer of flooring or wall covering.
This type of foam carpeting comes in square tiles. Carpet tiles make it simple to carpet a small area and come in handy when you want to convert a walk-in closet to a recording booth. These come in a variety of designs ranging from the large, raised pyramids to those with parallel lines to small checkerboards.
You typically install these over an existing floor or wall. These typically come in subdued colors of gray, black, and beige.
Neoprene Carpet Roll
Similar to EVA foam, this spongy material also gets used in scuba suits and all-weather fanny packs. It easily handles wet conditions and also works great as a soundproofing material. Thin, but dense, it helps retain heat, too. It might look like mass loaded vinyl roll when you spot it in the store, but it comes at a lower price.
The term soundproof carpet refers to what you probably thought of when you read the title of this article. It comes in rolls like typical carpeting. You can get it in Berber or a plush pile, but typically, it feels a bit like Astroturf because it gets very expensive to make a plush soundproof material. The texture catches sound and can amplify it. If you have ever visited a recording studio, you probably noticed the austerity of the sound booths and the control rooms.
They typically do not feature friendly or cozy settings. They use this type of carpet to dampen the sound of anything and everything except the voices and musical instruments the microphones are set to pick up.
If you ever wondered why movie theaters carpet their floors and walls with the same carpet, it is because the entire room needs to be soundproofed, so you do not hear the movie playing in the next-door theater. The ceiling gets acoustic ceiling tiles — only part of the room that gets a different treatment. This carpeting comes on rolls, similar to what you would expect from regular carpeting.
You won’t find many solid colors of it. It will all have patterns you commonly see in movie theaters and hotels because those businesses most frequently purchase the carpeting.
Soundproof Carpet Tiles
These colorful carpet tiles fit together with grooves and teeth. This ensures a complete and total fit. That perfect fit ensures no noise escapes. Often used in schools, especially pre-kindergarten, kindergartens, and daycare centers, you will find this in extremely bright colors such as the orange and gray combination in the photo. Yellow, bright blue, and pink comprise the other common colors.
Soundproof Floor Planks
These soundproof floor planks often resemble hardwood flooring. They feature a tongue and groove design that fits together to form a closed bond similar to the teeth and grooves of the soundproof tiles. This flooring lets you achieve a traditional flooring look with the advantages of soundproofing.
It offers a choice popular with many homeowners who have noisy children or pets. It also frequently becomes the choice of offices that need a professional flooring option that eliminates employee footfalls and conversations.
This roll form of soundproofing gets used as an exterior finish often, but it is not meant to be used as a corkboard. People do try to use it that way. Yes, it resembles the corkboard you would use for tacking up notes, so you do not mar your wall. It typically has a thickness between underlayment and vinyl liner. It should be used underneath your top-most layer.
Rockwool Sound Insulation
This thick insulation layer can go on nearly any interior layer of padding beneath your carpet padding (if you use the carpet for the top-most layer) except it should not go directly over your subfloor. If you use this in a wall or over a wall, but under the carpet layer, you can put it anywhere. When carpeting walls, you do not have the subfloor to contend with which simplifies your choices.
Fiberglass Sound Insulation
This typically comes in framed squares or rectangles. It gets placed in between the spaces created by two-by-four framing, much like installing attic insulation that uses rolls. These come in frames though and provide a much simpler method of installation.
You need to worry less about scratching yourself with the fiberglass when using these because you can just touch the frame. You don’t have to worry if you forget to put your gloves back on like with installing roll insulation. This goes in the wall or floor before the sheetrock goes up or the subfloor goes in.
Frequently Asked Questions
Inevitably, with this many varieties of your choices of soundproofing materials, you have some questions pop up. We’ll do our best to address these questions in this FAQ.
What should you look for in soundproof carpeting?
Whether you shop for underlayment, liner, carpet padding, or carpeting, you will need to check three criteria to compare products. These three include the Sound Transmission Class (STC), Impact Insulation Class (IIC), and its thickness and density. The STC of the product refers to a numeric value reflecting its ability to reduce the effects of airborne noise.
The higher the STC, the better it does the job of dampening noise. The IIC refers to a second numeric value that reflects the floor assembly’s impact noise reduction. This refers mostly to footsteps, furniture movement, and machine noise such as the washer and dryer.
A higher value means a better material. The products’ thickness and density often result in better soundproofing. Most products do not work like Mass Loaded Vinyl which does any amazing dampening job yet remains a thin layer. Typically, in sound dampening, mass matters.
What is the best soundproofing material to use?
This honestly depends on your desired outcome. Dampening sound in your home’s hallways requires a different combination of materials than a movie theater would need to open its doors for business. A recording studio requires different materials than a kindergarten classroom.
There really is not a one-size-fits-all solution. You will need to hire a professional contractor to complete an estimate after examining your existing space. What you already have in some ways influences the materials they will use. You will have all the above from which to choose, but the most common include cork sheets, vinyl, rubber, and foam.
Who makes these soundproof carpeting products?
Roberts makes underlayments in felt cushion and in foam, while QuietWalk Plus crafts a synthetic blend underlayment. Floor Muffler uses closed cell polypropylene (PP) foam for its underlayments. Feather Step uses EVA foam.
There’s the challenge in comparing these products. Since each of the manufacturers wants to make a better or different product, they each use a slightly different material. Even comparing one foam underlayment to another becomes a challenge since one company might use EVA foam while another uses PP foam.
For this reason, you will probably find it tough to create an apples-to-apples estimate of a do-it-yourself installation of soundproof carpeting. If you go with a pro installer instead, they will typically look at items like which underlayment tears the least. That’s a bonus of the thick foam that Feather Step uses.
Some items you simply roll out while others, like sound deadening vinyl, must install using the adhesive on one side of the product. Some products, like those made by Fatmat and Dynamat, are designed for use in vehicles. This includes cars, SUVs, vans, and recreational vehicles (RVs). This lets you dampen road noise without making significant changes to your vehicle.
What is the easiest way to soundproof floors and walls?
If you soundproof when you build, you will have a much easier time than if you try to do it after you have already built your home. New builds will always provide the easiest manner of doing anything “fun” with a house or other structure. You can renovate though to add this.
If you purchased a home or office building and want to add a soundproof area to it, you can quite easily. It will require removing the existing flooring though since most installs would have only consisted of either carpet padding over the subfloor or underlayment under the hardwood or ceramic tile floor. You might have vinyl flooring directly over a subfloor if the house is old enough.
What layers will you have on a soundproof floor?
You will have insulation batting in between the joists of the subfloor, then the subfloor over it. You will then install an underlayment layer followed by a carpet pad if you choose to put carpet on as the uppermost layer. This changes if you use tiles or hardwood or vinyl flooring over the carpet layers such as the padding.
You would not use the carpet padding under those options but would use a thicker underlayment. You could use carpet tiles above the carpet underlayment and carpet padding, but those are the only type of tiles with which you would use carpet padding. If you want to install laminate flooring, you must use a specific type of underlayment designed for laminate floors which resembles carpet underlayment but is not.
Its design improves the laminate’s acoustics and helps it last longer. Part of this is from its moisture-locking feature which blocks water vapor from entering the laminate. This helps keep it from developing mold, mildew, or rotting.
How can you improve the look of soundproof carpeting?
You mean you did not want your house to look like a 1970s movie theater? Bummer. Well, there are options. You can purchase soundproof rugs that look like the ones you buy in home décor stores. The difference is that they get crafted from the same materials as soundproof carpet but with a more fashionable look. They come in standard sizes of throw and room rugs.
What if you cannot rip up your existing floors?
You can make your flooring sound resistant without ripping them out and adding to the area beneath the subfloor and between the subfloor and the uppermost layer of flooring. This will not result in soundproof floors, but it will dampen the sound. This works well if you just want to make your children’s playroom quieter.
You could use mass-loaded vinyl or butyl rubber as an underlayment. You would simply install it over your existing floors, then add the new flooring on top of that. You could purchase Dynamat to create a flooring underlayment easily.
Although designed for vehicles, it also works well indoors. One package of Dynamat contains nine 18-inch x 32-inch sheets. The product measures about two inches thick, so it adds quite a bit of silencing material regardless of what lies underneath it.
You would not want to use them alone because they weren’t designed for attractiveness. Use them beneath your choice of lovely carpet or flooring.
How much do these materials cost?
Let’s be honest. Soundproofing does not come cheap. For very small projects, you might find the materials for between $2,000 to $5,000.
For larger projects though, you could spend between $6,000 to $20,000. Underlayment comes in rolls. These typically range from 180 to 250 square feet in three- or four-foot widths. Depending on the final uppermost layer, this one layer could cost $40 to $320 per roll.
You also have your liner, your carpet padding, plus your carpet to lay down. For this reason, most people only soundproof one room of their home, typically the room that requires it for entertainment or work reasons, such as a musician with a home studio.
Why would you use a professional installer?
First off, this stuff is complex. You need to know what you are doing and how to best do it. Otherwise, you wasted a lot of money. Second, you can actually save money by using a pro installer.
Yes, they will charge labor, but you get a guarantee on the work plus they already have the materials. Installers purchase in bulk. They have storage units or warehouses full of those rolls of underlayment and liners.
The only thing you need to purchase on the bill is the uppermost layer of carpet or flooring that everyone will see. The other types of carpet layers they already have in stock. What would you do with all the leftovers anyway? By hiring a pro, you save yourself from overages and wasted money.
Are there any side benefits to soundproofing?
Yes! All of these layers of liners and padding and batting further insulate your home. You will reduce your energy bills because the same insulation that blocks noise also blocks air. You get to stay warmer in winter and cooler in summer, too.
When you undertake a soundproofing project and hire a professional contractor how many people comprise the team?
Hiring a professional team brings the best results. Expect to meet with three key people in the design and development of your project — the building contractor, sound engineer, and interior decorator. They will work with you to develop the project, then the building contractor will undertake the construction work with a small team of carpenters and finishers.
The sound engineer’s contributions include choosing the materials appropriate for the job and their combination. The interior decorator determines with you the styles and colors appropriate for your décor.
What considerations are there when you want to install a home recording studio?
Installing a home recording studio or a home theater, top this list of why most individuals want to soundproof a room. With respect to carpeting, you need a liner under the carpet padding, then a layer of soundproof carpeting. You also need a room-sized acoustic carpet.
In a recording studio, you need your loudspeakers set up on an acoustic carpet to avoid a flutter echo, a metallic quality, lingering ringing sound that occurs between the ceiling and floor. Using an acoustic carpet also lowers the image of the sound stage by altering the floor reflection in a positive way and creates a comb filtering sensation. Installing an acoustic carpet also helps reduce the noise level of the listening space.
Use an area rug rather than a whole room rug to keep the room bright room which results in a warmer sound.
What is an acoustic carpet and why do you want one?
The term acoustic carpet refers to a carpet that exhibits a high thread count with a sheared, deep pile. They typically have an open back. An acoustic carpet will have a Noise Reduction Coefficient (NRC) rating. The higher the rating, the better the carpet performance.
A rating of 30 NRC would absorb 30 percent of the speech range that reaches or impacts the carpet. The NRC rating does not include lower hertz sound, such as the bass. The subwoofer bass range is 80 Hz and below.
What is and is not an acoustic carpet?
The typical carpet in a home has a low thread count, sealed back and these thick rugs stop liquids from penetrating through the rug to wet the floor. These rugs and carpets reflect sound, and they are not acoustic carpets. Although a Berber weave carpet does have a high thread count with a sheared, deep pile, its tightly packed threads keep it from being an acoustic carpet.
Long loop piles that are low-density aren’t acoustic either. No high thread count sheared low pile qualifies as an acoustic carpet. A deep-pile sheared carpet with a high thread count and an open back can be an acoustic carpet, especially if it has a felt underlayment.
A deep-pile Persian rug does qualify as an acoustic carpet. Typically, hand-made, these rugs cost more. So, look for a carpet with an open weave and a loose knap with an unsealed back. This you can slip a felt carpet pad beneath and voilà! You have an acoustic carpet on which to set your loudspeakers.
How can you tell if your existing carpet is an acoustic carpet?
Try not to laugh, but you face the carpet and imitate a snake hissing. If you hiss at your carpet, and it does not hiss back, it probably is an acoustic carpet. Although it sounds odd, it really does work.
To learn the difference of what you need to hear, hiss in an open room facing away from reflecting surfaces. Hiss. Listen to the sound of the unencumbered hiss. Now, place your hand in front of your mouth as if you want to cover a yawn. Hiss into your hand.
Notice the difference between the two sounds. Your hiss hitting your hand illustrates when treble reflects on a surface. The unencumbered hiss is an example of what you should hear from an acoustic carpet. If you need another example, listen to your hiss in an open room facing away from reflecting surfaces again.
Now, hold a piece of typing paper about two inches away from your mouth and hiss. The reflections off of the paper will differ from those off of your hand, but they still provide a second example of what a non-acoustic will sound like.
Now, test your carpet by pealing it up from the floor and holding it firmly in front of your face about two inches away as in the two experiments. Hiss. If you hear a sound similar to your hiss into an open room, you own an acoustic carpet already. If it bounces the sound like your hand or the paper, it is non-acoustic, and you need to go shopping.
Do you want an open or closed carpet back, and how do you tell the difference?
When you decorate your home, go for a closed-back carpet. When you outfit your recording studio, go for an open back carpet. The waterproofing used in home décor carpets works horridly for sound.
You will be able to blow through an open-backed carpet. You want the open back for your recording studio, listening room, or home theater. You cannot improve a closed-back carpet to make it better absorb sound.
Sound absorption comes from the carpet pile. You can add to an open-backed carpet by placing a felt carpet underlayment beneath it. Be careful when you choose your underlayment because if it has a seal on top, typically that looks like blue skin, it will turn your open back carpet into a closed-back carpet as soon as you step on it or any other weight gets put on it.
You need unsealed underlayment.
What are the choices if your home came with sealed carpet in your listening room or home theater?
You have three choices to remedy the situation of a sealed carpet in a room in which you need soundproofing and sound conditioning.
1. You can change the carpet by purchasing a felt underlayment pad and an open back carpet. (This is the cheapest solution.)
2. Tear out the old carpet. Purchase and install an acoustically rated carpet with a high NRC. (This is the most expensive solution.)
3. Leave the existing carpet in place. Purchase an acoustically rated rug and place it on top of the existing carpet. (This is the moderate cost solution.)
How do you find just the right carpet?
You had better love shopping, my friend! There are not that many acoustic-rated rugs and carpets from which to choose. You could purchase a fabulous, hand-made Persian rug.
You could shop around to find a handful of NRC machine-made rugs. You need a carpet pile that falls between 5/8ths to 3/4 inches in depth. An acoustic-rated rug or carpet will have many threads in a densely packed carpet.
Always check the NRC ratings. If a rug does not have a tag that specifies the NRC, it does not have one. It might work well with a felt pad beneath it so long as it has an open back, but it is not, strictly speaking, an acoustic rug. Avoid any carpet or rug sealed with plastic. If you want a head start on shopping, choose from one of the following three choices for roll carpet:
- Stainmaster carpet “Dazzling Light,” which is acoustic rated,
- Stainmaster carpet “Calypso Royal.” which is not acoustic rated, but a good product,
- Gulistan carpet “Touch of Love,” which is not acoustic rated, but a good product.
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Home Depot: Sound Absorbing Carpet
Soundproof Guide: Top 5 Best Soundproof Carpets and Flooring Material