Have you ever wondered why noise is considered a type of pollution? It’s not just a phrase; The Environmental Protection agency legitimately classifies certain types of noise as pollution. That’s because noise pollution can be just as harmful as other types of pollution. When noise is too loud and too consistent, it can cause health problems like insomnia, stress-related illnesses, hearing loss, and more.
If you live in a big city or just have a loud household, then noise pollution may be a part of your everyday life. It doesn’t have to be that way, though. You have plenty of tools at your disposal to help. One thing you can do is use different types of soundproof insulation. Many homeowners have turned to sound insulation to make their homes quieter. When used within ceilings and in between walls, soundproof insulation can reduce noise, providing a quieter, healthier life.
Of course, you have a lot of options when it comes to sound insulation, and all of those options can get a little overwhelming. Don’t worry. With a little bit of research, you can find the perfect sound insulation option for your needs. From wall insulation to acoustic foam panels, here’s what you need to know about keeping away unwanted noise.
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What is Soundproof Insulation?
Soundproof insulation is any type of insulation that greatly reduces sound between walls. This insulation is usually thick enough to absorb noise before that noise can pass from one room to the next. However, not all types of soundproof insulation use absorption alone. Some types of soundproof insulation and insulation alternatives provide sound damping or diffusion instead. This means that they bounce the sound away from the next room instead of absorbing it. In any case, soundproofing insulation is vital for reducing stress and creating peaceful environments.
Types of Soundproofing
When it comes to getting rid of unwanted noise, you should consider several different types of soundproofing. A combination of options may provide you with the perfect soundproofing solution, or you may just need one. In any case, knowing the different types of soundproofing can help you as you research your sound insulation material.
Different types of insulation material offer different levels of soundproofing. As you look for wall insulation and other types of soundproofing material, here are a few options you might look for.
Sound absorption is perhaps the easiest type of sound reduction to understand. That’s because sound absorption is exactly what it sounds like. When insulation absorbs sound, it prevents that sound from getting through to the other side of the material.
Sound absorption is the most common type of soundproofing that wall insulation provides. The thick, heavy material that you’ll find with fiberglass insulation or cellulose insulation is perfect for absorbing airborne noise and reducing sound transmission as a result.
Sound dampening is often used interchangeably with sound absorption, but the truth is that these two types of soundproofing are entirely different things. Instead of directly absorbing sound waves, sound dampening dissipates those sound waves, scattering them away from the place where you want quieter.
Sound dampening is a rarer form of noise reduction among different types of wall insulation. Still, some types of insulation may have a few sound dampening properties. Like sound absorption, sound dampening is a good type of soundproofing for reducing airborne noise, though it won’t provide much help against impact noise.
Sound reflection, or sound blocking, prevents noise from getting through a wall or other object. Sound-reflecting materials do not absorb sound. Instead, they bounce sound back toward the original source and away from the place that you want to soundproof.
Sound reflection may make a good choice if you want to soundproof a recording studio or practice room.
Sound decoupling may be the most complex form of soundproofing, but it’s highly effective against impact noise. In fact, sound decoupling is one of the few forms of soundproofing that can make a big difference when it comes to impact noise.
Sound vibrations can travel across an object such as a floor or ceiling to reach the other side. Decoupling is the process of separating the object so that the vibrations can’t travel across it. A drop ceiling, for example, may be considered a type fo sound decoupling.
Reasons for Soundproof Insulation
Still on the fence about upgrading your soundproof insulation? By now, you already know some of the more general reasons for exploring different types of soundproof insulation. The right soundproofing methods can truly enhance your quality of life. But what are some of the more specific reasons for adding more soundproof insulation to your home or building? Let’s take a closer look.
Reduce Noise from Outside
Unless you live in a very rural area, there’s a good chance that you have to deal with a lot of outdoor noise. The closer you live to a city, the worse that noise gets. Between traffic, airplanes, people talking, and other noise, is it any wonder why people have become so stressed? Soundproofing materials can help reduce noise from outside the home, thereby reducing stress.
Reduce Noise Between Floors and Walls
Not all noise pollution comes from outside. Sometimes it comes from your kid’s playroom or an upstairs neighbor who makes a lot of protein smoothies. Soundproof insulation can be used inside ceilings and interior walls, creating a more quiet home experience.
Provide a Better Guest and Tenant Experience
You may be researching different types of soundproof insulation for your home, or you may want better insulation for a business you own. For example, some hotel owners and apartment complex owners want to improve their buildings’ insulation.
In places like apartments and hotel rooms, people expect a reasonable level of peace and quiet. If guests and tenants are bombarded with noise instead, that noise impacts their overall experience, which can lead to bad reviews and bad business. On the other hand, peaceful experiences lead to more client satisfaction. Sometimes, a change as simple as adding the right insulation can make a world of difference.
Create a Practice Room or Recording Studio
On the other hand, soundproof insulation doesn’t just keep sound from getting into your home. It can also prevent sound from leaving it. For many people, that’s reason enough to explore different types of soundproof insulation. Maybe you’re building a recording studio inside your home, or maybe you just need to hit all the high notes you want without risking your neighbors calling the police. In any case, soundproof insulation enhances acoustics. It keeps sound where you want it, and it prevents ambient noise from ruining your recordings.
Some people explore soundproof insulation when they want to build or improve their home offices. Soundproofing insulation became even more relevant after 2020, when people started using their home offices more often and realized just how loud their families and neighbors could be during working hours.
Of course, home offices aren’t the only offices that see improvement with the right soundproof insulation. Regular office buildings can benefit from soundproofing, too.
No matter the type of office, it’s no secret that noise can ruin productivity. It creates both stress and distraction, neither of which help people get work done. Soundproofing helps reduce noise, creating more productive working environments.
Create a Better Sensory Environment
Everyone has different sensory needs. For example, maybe you’re neurodivergent or a highly sensitive person. Maybe you deal with migraines or anxiety, both of which can be aggravated by noise. if you don’t have sensory issues yourself, maybe somebody else in your household does.
In any case, some brains hear sounds more acutely than others. Some people reach their sensory limits faster than other people. If noise bothers you more than it bothers other people, then the right environment can make a big difference, and sometimes having the right environment means using soundproof insulation and similar noise reduction tools.
Save Money on Energy Bills
Soundproof insulation can help protect your hearing and reduce stress, but it does more than that. It can also help you save money on your energy bills, and it can create a more comfortable living environment.
While insulation may be great for soundproofing, its primary purpose is keeping drafts from entering and exiting buildings. When you upgrade the insulation in your home, you can keep outdoor temperatures where they belong: outdoors. Likewise, when you run your heater or air conditioner, you can keep your climate-controlled air from escaping. Your air conditioner and heater will run more efficiently as a result.
Add Value to Your Home
Whether or not you want to sell your home right now, it’s always a good idea to think about your home’s value. There are lots of things you can do to increase that value, including remodeling certain rooms. You can add an extra boost to those remodeling efforts with soundproofing.
Soundproofing can make your home very appealing to future buyers. Everybody could use some extra peace and quiet, and if your home can promise some of that peace and quiet, potential buyers will pay attention. As a result, if you ever do sell your home, you may get more money for it as a result of your soundproofing project.
Types of Soundproof Insulation
These days, you have more options than ever for soundproof insulation. They come in different materials, textures, and application methods.
Quick, picture any kind of insulation. You’re probably picturing batt insulation. Batt insulation is one of the most common types of home insulation, and it’s what most people think of when they picture insulation. In fact, some people are surprised to learn that there are other types.
Batting is used for both climate and acoustic insulation, and it comes in rolls or precut panels made from fiberglass or mineral wool. To apply batt insulation, you or a contractor can unroll it and lay it into place. Keep in mind that it must be laid correctly for you to make the most of its sound-absorbing properties.
Spray Foam Insulation
Spray foam insulation comes in a can. It can be sprayed virtually anywhere that requires insulation, but it’s especially effective for cracks, corners, small spaces, and other places that may be missed by pre-cut insulation.
Spray foam insulation creates an air-tight seal, which is why it’s so effective for soundproofing. If your pre-cut insulation isn’t blocking sound effectively, that’s because it’s still allowing that sound to travel through the air in between walls. Spray foam insulation can help supplement your existing insulation to reduce the amount of sound escaping from one room to the next.
Spray foam insulation has other benefits, too. For example, unlike other types of insulation, spray foam repels moisture and doesn’t need to be replaced when it gets wet. It’s also easy to purchase and easy to install.
Next, there’s blown-in insulation, which can be made from either cellulose or fiberglass. It’s generally used in attics, to provide climate protection. As far as material goes, blown-in insulation is very similar to batt insulation. The difference is in the application. This material gets its name because it’s installed via an air hose. A specialist can blow the insulation into nooks and crannies.
The fluffy texture of blown-in insulation can make a difference for sound absorption, though when most people install blown-in insulation, their primary concern is keeping their homes cool in the summer and warm in the winter. Blown-in insulation has the benefit of fitting into corners and other places where batt insulation won’t fit without a lot of effort.
Keep in mind that unlike most other types of insulation, blown-in insulation will almost always require professional installation. It often takes multiple people to wield the hose, and blowing in insulation can take a lot of effort. Having a trained professional on your side can make a big difference and ensure successful insulation.
Types of Soundproof Insulation Material
Now that you’ve seen some different application processes, let’s take a look at the materials that go into soundproofing insulation. Your material choices can make a difference in the type of soundproofing you get. For instance, some materials are better for absorbing sound, while others are better for bouncing sound back toward its original source. The right material depends on your soundproofing goals, as well as your budget, climate needs, and other factors.
Fiberglass is a very common material in the United States, and it’s perhaps the most commonly used material in insulation. Fiberglass is a type of glass that has been turned into thin, soft fibers. Because fiberglass traps pockets of air, it’s used for trapping heat, cold, and sound, and it does a very effective job at all of these things.
It’s very important that you don’t touch or disturb fiberglass insulation. It can cause skin irritation and other issues. When moved out of place, fiberglass insulation can release particles into the air, and those particles can get into the lungs.
Cellulose is often used as an alternative to fiberglass. Those who prefer natural options are often drawn to cellulose instead of fiberglass because cellulose is made from plants or plant products, including things like sawdust or cotton.
However, you should still be careful while handling cellulose insulation, and you should never touch this material with your bare hands. While cellulose itself is a natural product, it’s also highly flammable without certain chemical treatments, and those treatments aren’t safe for human skin or membranes.
Mineral wool can often be found in batt insulation, and many experts prefer mineral wool over the more commonly used fiberglass. Like fiberglass, mineral wool is often made from glass fibers, but it can also contain fibers made from other elements, including stone and even industrial waste.
Mineral wool fibers are more tightly woven together than fiberglass fibers, so they block more sound and outside air than fiberglass does. That’s why mineral wool consistently earns higher insulation ratings than fiberglass does. Plus, mineral wool contains a higher concentration of recycled materials than fiberglass, so it appeals to those who want to lessen their environmental footprint.
Overall, mineral wool can make a great choice if you’re serious about your soundproofing needs. That said, mineral wool is also more expensive than other types of insulation, so make sure that you have the space in your budget for mineral wool before you make a commitment.
Did you know that cork can also be used as insulation? It’s true. It turns out that the material in coasters and bulletin boards can also work for climate control and soundproofing.
Cork appeals to those who want a greener choice in their insulation. Since it’s made from wood, cork insulation causes less harm to the environment than cheaper options like fiberglass. Cork insulation comes in rolls or boards.
Polyurethane foam is a plastic-like material that we use in our homes every day. It’s used in all kinds of building materials, comes in several flexibility levels, and can be very useful as a form of insulation. That said, polyurethane foam is becoming less and less popular as insulation these days, and that’s because it’s derived from crude oil products. It’s not environmentally friendly, which is why a lot of people opt for other types of insulation instead.
Does the name “polystyrene foam” sound familiar to you? That might be because it can go by another name: Styrofoam. Not all polystyrene foam is the same a Styrofoam, though. Styrofoam is a specific type of polystyrene. It’s thinner and more brittle than the type of polystyrene foam that you’d find in insulation.
Polystyrene foam can make a great insulator. However, much like polyurethane foam, polystyrene foam is losing some momentum as a type of insulation. That’s because it’s also not great for the environment. It’s not biodegradable and does not recycle well.
Finally, there’s soundproof drywall. Though drywall isn’t technically a form of insulation, it’s insulation-adjacent, so we’re including it on this list. For most purposes, soundproof drywall works just like regular drywall. However, soundproof drywall is thicker, sturdier, and most importantly, made specifically for soundproofing. If you’re up for a major DIY project, consider replacing your regular drywall with soundproof drywall. This can be a great project, especially if you only want to soundproof one room, like a home office or home recording studio.
What to Look for in Soundproof Insulation
Now that you’ve seen some of the different types of insulation, you may want to know what it is that makes some insulation better than others. When you start shopping for soundproofing insulation, here are a couple of things that you should look for.
First, you can always make things easier for yourself and shop for acoustic insulation specifically. While most regular insulation does have soundproofing properties, acoustic insulation is specifically designed with soundproofing in mind. Acoustic insulation does tend to be more expensive than some other forms of insulation. However, it does come with added convenience because you won’t have to do the soundproofing math yourself.
STC and NRC Ratings
On the other hand, you may not mind doing the soundproofing math yourself if that means that you get to save a little money. In that case, you’ll want to know about STC and NRC ratings.
NRC stands for “noise reduction coefficient,” while STC stands for “sound transmission class.” Both of these measurements have fairly technical definitions, but if you’re not an audio tech nerd, here’s what you need to know: NTC measures how well a product reduces in-room noise, and STC measures how well a product blocks outside noise from coming into a room.
If you’re soundproofing a recording studio, then NTC will make a difference. Products with a high NTC will prevent environmental noises like static from ruining a recording. NTC can also make a difference for home theaters, practice rooms, and other places where the right acoustics matter.
A high STC rating is what you’re looking for if, say, you live in a city and want to block out noise from airplanes and traffic. The better the STC rating, the more noise you can block.
Soundproof Insulation Alternatives
Now, what if you’re not ready to re-insulate your home just yet? Or what if you want some extra noise protection on top of your soundproofing insulation? Either way, insulation is not your only option when it comes to soundproofing. You have other options, many of which are cheaper and more portable than insulated walls. Here are some of those options.
Acoustic foam comes in many forms. You can find it in rolls, square panels, rectangular panels, and more. It can also come in several colors, though it’s easiest to find acoustic foam in dark colors like black or gray. You can attach acoustic foam to walls or ceilings. Keep in mind that acoustic foam is a noticeable option, and you don’t find it in a lot of ordinary rooms. It’s used most often in practice rooms and recording studios.
Freestanding Acoustic Panels
If you’ve ever been to a blind music audition, there’s a good chance that you’ve seen freestanding acoustic panels before. These panels provide another great option for singers and musicians who want to practice at home without disturbing the neighbors. With the right positioning, you can use an acoustic panel or two to create a portable soundproof “room” to practice in.
Vinyl is another great material for soundproofing, and it’s often sold in rolls for soundproofing purposes. Instead of absorbing sound, vinyl bounces sound back toward its original source, thus keeping a lot of that sound from reaching the next room.
Acoustic sealant may provide what you need if you have some small soundproofing concerns. For example, say that you have noise escaping through the cracks surrounding your windows. In this case, acoustic sealant, or acoustic caulk, can help you reduce problem areas and add some peace and quiet to your home without making any major changes.
Acoustic blankets provide another portable alternative. Similar to moving blankets, acoustic blankets are bigger, thicker, and heavier than regular blankets. They’re filled with noise-blocking materials and can make a great choice for temporary soundproofing needs. You can hang acoustic blankets on walls, or you can create a makeshift soundproof “room” by using a combination of acoustic blankets and freestanding acoustic panels.
If your bedroom window faces the sunrise, then you may already know the value of blackout curtains. Well, soundproof curtains are to noise what blackout curtains are to light. You can hang soundproof curtains over your windows to block sound from outside.
If your need for soundproof insulation comes from outside noise, then soundproof curtains may very well be enough to fix the problem. Windows, being thinner than walls, are some of the least soundproof parts of a home. A soundproofing solution for your windows may provide quiet without requiring a huge DIY project.
Soundproof window inserts can provide another excellent resource for blocking outside noise. Window inserts add an extra layer of glass on top of existing windows. They’re relatively easy to install, can be found in many hardware stores, and are inexpensive compared to full window replacements.
Draft Stoppers and Weather Stripping
When looking for soundproof insulation, don’t forget about other sources of noise. We already mentioned windows, but sound can escape through cracks under doors, too. When this happens, the simplest solutions are usually the best solutions. Look for draft stoppers, weather stripping, and other choices designed to stop air from escaping. Because they prevent air from escaping, they can also stop many of the noises that travel through the air.
Sometimes, people look for soundproof insulation because they need something to reduce the sound coming through their ceiling. Does that sound familiar to you? Maybe the kids’ playroom is right above your home office, or maybe you just don’t have enough soundproofing in between floors. In any case, drop ceilings can help reduce unwanted noise from above.
A drop ceiling can also be called a false ceiling. It’s a secondary ceiling that gets installed below the primary ceiling, often with soundproof materials such as acoustic ceiling tiles. By adding an extra layer between floors, drop ceilings reduce overall noise and create quieter environments.
Of course, if you want to reduce sound at its source, you can always use soundproof flooring to reduce noise between floors. A soundproof underlayment will put a sound-absorbing barrier between carpets and the base of the floor. If you use soundproof flooring and drop ceilings together, you can have extra protection against unwanted noise.
Frequently Asked Questions
You may still have a lot of questions about soundproof insulation. If so, you’re not the only one. Here are some of the most commonly-asked questions about soundproofing, insulation, and how to get the most peace and quiet out of your efforts. Take a look below and see if you find the answers to your questions.
Where Can You Use Soundproofing Insulation Materials?
It depends on the insulation materials. For the most common forms of insulation, such as fiberglass or mineral wool batting, you can place your insulation in your attic and in between the walls of your home. You should never place this kind of insulation where it can be easily touched, especially by children or pets.
Other types of soundproof insulation provide more flexibility. For example, you can use acoustic foam anywhere you don’t mind having foam panels on the walls. Spray foam insulation, meanwhile, can be sprayed in places where most insulation can’t reach.
Can Thermal Insulation Be Used for Soundproofing?
Yes. Anything that insulates against heat and cold will also insulate against sound, to a certain degree. Thermal insulation may not be designed specifically for soundproofing, but it can still deliver results if that’s what you’re looking for.
However, you can also find insulation options that are specifically made for soundproofing, and you may find these options more effective than thermal soundproofing alone.
What Type of Insulation is Best for Soundproofing?
Mineral wool and fiberglass are great options for soundproofing, but the top-tier soundproofing option is acoustic insulation. Again, this kind of insulation is designed specifically for soundproofing, not just thermal insulation.
Does House Insulation Help With Soundproofing?
Absolutely. The thick material of house insulation helps to absorb sound, preventing it from traveling between walls.
Can You Soundproof Existing Walls?
Yes, you can soundproof existing walls. If you want to soundproof your walls from the inside, then you may have to tear down some drywall to install your insulation. Otherwise, you can soundproof walls from the outside by using acoustic panels.
Can You Insulate Between Two Floors to Reduce Noise?
Yes. However, keep in mind that impact noise is more difficult to absorb or repel than sound that travels through the air. Impact noise is the kind of noise that comes from one object running into another, such as a person’s foot hitting a floor or somebody dragging a chair from one place to another.
That said, there are a couple of ways that you can reduce that noise. One way is installing a drop ceiling or false ceiling, which is a second ceiling that goes below the first one. This creates more space between floors, which provides some protection against sound. The second way involved soundproof flooring, which includes carpeting a soundproofing underlayment.