6 Tried-and-True Ways to Soundproof a Room, Even as a Renter

As great as apartment dwelling is, one of the main downfalls has got to be the (sometimes near incessant) noise. Rumbling trucks at 2 a.m., clacking heels at the crack of dawn, thumps that sound disturbingly like a bowling ball being dropped right above your head: I think we can all agree that few things are more irritating. You can try drowning it out with your own cacophony, but for the sake of neighborliness, consider soundproofing. While these tricks won’t completely shut out the din—if you want that, it may be time to pack it all in and move to the country—they’ll muffle it enough to make life at home much more pleasant.

Hang heavy curtains

You’re probably not going to be able to convince your landlord to replace those flimsy windows with top-of-the-line triple-pane ones, but you can easily install new curtains. Look for ultra heavy drapes with several layers of fabric. Curtains that are labeled “blackout” or “insulated” are a good bet.

Seal door gaps

As tiny as that sliver between your door and wall may be, if air can pass through it, so can sound. In fact, a 1% air gap can leak 30% of sound, and a 5% gap can leak 90%! So make sure your door is weatherproofed, especially at the bottom by the threshold, where the biggest gaps usually are. Install a door sweep—look for one with a thick strip of rubber for the best seal—or for interior doors, try a draft stopper.

Hang fabric on your walls

Sound is absorbed by soft surfaces, so outfit your home with as many as you can, including on the walls. Hang tapestries, or consider soundproofing blankets. These ultra-heavy blankets often come with grommets so you can hang them from hooks on your wall or ceiling. They’re not pretty, but you can always drape a cool-looking tapestry, quilt, rug, or blanket over them.

Upholster your walls

Another option for adding fabric to walls: Treat it like wallpaper and “paste” it to as many surfaces as you can. A lighter-weight, non-stretch fabric will work best for this. If your apartment has drywall, you can use a staple gun to attach the fabric; if you have plaster or cement walls, you can actually adhere the material directly to them with liquid starch. The starch essentially acts as temporary glue that can be removed with water later.

Shift your furniture

Place big, heavy pieces of furniture against walls you share with your neighbors to help muffle sound. Floor-to-ceiling bookcases are especially good for bulking up a thin wall, especially if you fill it with lots of books and objects. For extra sound-blocking, place a thick piece of foam (or hang a soundproofing blanket) behind the bookcase.

Layer your floor with rugs

While rugs are more for blocking sound coming from your own apartment, they can help dampen sound coming from outside your home, similar to fabric on your walls. Cover your floor with a heavy, high-pile rug, cushioned with a high-density foam pad underneath. If your upstairs neighbors are the ones driving you nuts, talk to your landlord: Many leases have a clause requiring tenants to cover a certain percentage of their flooring with a carpet or rug. Your neighbors might have disregarded it, and now’s the time to let your landlord know they need to follow the rules.

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