Last updated February 8, 2024
Traffic. The CONSTANT droning of landscapers’ mowers, blowers, and edgers. That yipping Yorkie across the street. Your own surround-sound system that rankles neighbors when you just wanna jam.
Noise pollution can invade your home from both inside and out. But there are several sound-blocking and sound-absorption improvements you can make to reduce the decibels. Blocking keeps disturbing noises (traffic, the crying baby next door) out and your own noises (action movies, your kid practicing the French horn) in. Absorption harnesses a range of materials—insulation, rugs, even paint—to suck up sound waves and keep things downright Zen-like inside your place. Basically, you’re looking to disrupt or stop sound waves.
Here are tips that will help you get to a quieter place. Some are suited only for those building new homes or planning big remodels, but others are simple things you can do yourself or by using our ratings to find a pro to help.
Adding it will reduce your home-energy bills, and it has an added effect of dampening noise. Made of fiberglass, wool, plastic, or sponge-cake-like icynene (a polyurethane foam), it can be added to your attic, shoved into other unseen spots (utility rooms, crawl spaces), and sprayed into cracks. If you’re already tearing down walls or building additions, have it installed between the studs in exterior walls. You can find more info on insulation here.
These are panels of metal or brush-like material installed onto the bottom edges of interior or exterior doors. By blocking these gaps, sweeps will distill sound. They’re inexpensive and easy to install.
Devices like appliances and treadmills usually make noise. You can put rubber anti-vibration mats (about $25 each) under them with a piece of wood on top to decouple the floor from the object and reduce the sound.
During initial construction or a renovation, builders can add decoupling by staggering studs in walls or employing other tactics that introduce gaps into part of a building’s or room’s structure to stop sound waves from continuing along their paths.
Placing fabric over surfaces that transmit sound (aka windows) will muffle whatever kerfuffle is outside or inside the home.
While new replacement windows probably won’t pay for themselves in energy savings, one reason to switch is that new double-paned and insulated models can block a lot of outside noise. But it’s an expensive solution. An easier, cheaper fix is to add storm windows (either traditional exterior or newer interior) to your existing ones.
Made of foam, wood, fabric, or a combination, these come in a range of styles and prices, and increasingly look like artwork. Panels can be hung or glued on your walls, behind existing art, or even to the ceiling.
Get Solid Doors
Entrances to most condos and houses come with heavy security doors, which help keep bad guys and bad sounds at bay. They’ll need to be well-installed, sealed, and flush against their frames to dispel air, the elements, and any ruckus going on. It’s also worth considering solid doors inside your home, particularly those leading to any rooms or spaces where noise might be an issue, e.g., a home theater, your teenager’s bedroom. Click here for more info on buying doors.
Wall-to-wall carpeting—the thicker the better—dampens sound effectively. So does laying down rugs on wood or tile surfaces, particularly on the second floor of a house or in a condo. If the floor will be above another room, you can also install sound-buffering padding. Click here for our buying advice for carpet and rugs.
In spaces you want quiet, the more soft furnishings and surfaces you have, the less sound can get in or out. No, you don’t have to sleep in a padded cell (unless that’s your thing), but fabric hangings, carpets, and upholstered furniture will make any room quieter. And if you’re hiring a wood floor or tile installer, ask about soundproof materials that can be used in the subfloor.
Know Your Rating
For big projects involving redoing walls and ceilings, seek a high Sound Transmission Class (STC) rating, a construction classification for windows, doors, walls, and building materials indicating how good they are at noise reduction. These range from around 18 (not much noise blocked at all) to the mid-50s (tomblike silence). For DIYers, materials above 30 are considered adequate; if you’re working with a contractor, ask them for quotes on several options and to explain the difference. If you don’t plan to record punk rock albums, you might not need the highest-rated, highest-priced materials.