The most effective soundproofing materials depends on where you are trying to soundproof and what noise you are trying to soundproof. How do you use the space and how does noise impact your use of it? There are different processes for how to soundproof a room for music vs how to soundproof a home office.
The Two Types of Soundproofing
First, a disclaimer: you can’t completely soundproof a space as long as there is air. Anywhere air goes, sound goes too because sound travels via air.
There are two types of soundproofing:
Sound reduction, which stops sound from entering a space. Sound reduction will help keep your space free outside noises such as weather, outdoor conversations, and traffic.
Sound absorption, which stops sound already inside a space from echoing and reverberating.
Use these two types of soundproofing to:
- Identify the weakest areas where sound will enter and treat those. Sound waves, like water, will travel the easiest path, so plug those up first.
- Isolate problem areas. Sometimes it’s easier to treat the source before the sound waves reach the space you want to soundproof.
Best Soundproofing Material
Neighbors, barking dogs, cars – stop it before it reaches your ears. Adding these soundproofing materials or soundproofing products to your home or office will reduce the sound that breaks through easy entry points like windows, doors, and even walls.
Soundproofing Spray Foam
Definition: Foam sprayed from a can that can be added as insulation to walls for insulation.
Best for: Existing walls, floors (between levels)
Mass Loaded Vinyl Sound Barrier
Definition: Heavy, versatile material that reduces noise wherever it is placed.
Best for: Hollow doors, between walls, floors, and ceilings, around pipes.
Definition: Like regular caulk, acoustic caulk seals gaps in windows, walls, and doors and blocks air. Acoustic caulk has added noise blocking properties to stop sound vibrations.
Best for: Cracks in window frames, doors, walls, ceilings.
Acoustic Window Inserts
Definition: Soundproof window inserts that fit onto existing windows to air seal. Made from high-grade acrylic to both reduce and absorb sound.
Best for: Single-pane windows, historic windows. They work on double-pane windows, but you will get less noise reduction.
Sound Absorbing Wall Panels
Definition: Decorative sound absorbing wall panels (yes, decorative, why should you settle for plain?) absorb noise within a space in an aesthetically pleasing way. They come prefabricated or available to customize with your own art.
Best for: Rooms where noise echoes – large, flat surfaces like walls with no windows.
Definition: Soundproof underlayment is a rubber mat that you can place underneath other flooring materials to decrease sound transmission between levels. It can also eliminate noise from footsteps.
Best for: Creaking floors, upper levels.
Acoustic Floor Tiles
Definition: Acoustic floor tiles absorb sound during impact and from nearby sources.
Best for: Echoing room.
Comparing Most Effective Soundproofing Materials
Once you know where you are adding the soundproofing materials and what products you want, how can you compare which brand is the best? The best soundproofing material manufacturers will back up their product with a phone call discussing which types of noise it blocks or absorbs.
Many products also list their STC rating. STC, or Sound Transmission Class Rating, is a system that rates how well an assembly of building materials reduces or absorbs sound. The higher a product’s STC rating, the better it is at soundproofing. See this STC rating chart for relative noise levels. It’s a great way to compare products across brands and types.
Watch Effective Soundproofing Materials in Action
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