Moving into a new apartment can be a really exciting time. However, there is nothing more disheartening than realising you can hear your neighbours’ every movement or conversation. Fortunately there are ways to soundproof a wall between apartments.
Whether you’re bothered by their decision to listen to music late at night, or are just fed up of hearing them hoover their apartment when you’re trying to have some down-time, it's likely that you’re ready to take action to prevent sound travelling between your apartments.
In fact, it's not surprising that these sounds bother you so much. A 2019 study found that noise annoyance from neighbours is strongly associated with the development of eight different physical and mental health symptoms.
Not being able to sleep properly can also dramatically affect your quality of life, and thus, it is necessary to tackle the issue of noisy neighbours as soon as possible.
However, this isn't to say that living next to your neighbour is the equivalent of living next to an angsty teenage want-to-be famous rock band. In fact, if the wall in your apartment is thin, it is likely you can hear them carry out the most mundane activities.
Whilst this may not be as bothersome as something such as loud music or noisy birds, it can still affect how you feel in your own home. Also, if you can hear them talking about whose turn it is to do the dishes, you might wonder, what can they hear you talking about?
If you’re living in an apartment building and are bothered by your neighbours, it's probable that you’ve considered soundproofing your shared apartment wall. However, this can be a particularly difficult undertaking, especially for those in rented accommodation.
To point you in the right direction, we’ve constructed a list of the best ways to soundproof a shared apartment wall without using construction. We’ve also discussed the limitations of these methods, and other things to consider before undertaking such a project.
Check out the information below to make soundproofing your apartment wall as stress-free as possible!
Why Does Sound Travel Between Apartments?
First, it's necessary to discuss why you can hear your neighbours in the first place. The reason you can hear your next-door neighbours hoovering, listening to music or even just having a conversation is because sound can travel through the air, water, and solid materials. In fact, sound travels through solid materials very quickly in comparison to the other two mediums.
For this situation, there are two types of noises that you might be concerned about. Airborne noise, which is the thing you hear once sound has travelled through air, and impact noise, which you hear as a consequence of sound travelling through solid materials.
When you can hear your neighbours having a conversation that you’d rather not be aware of, this is as a result of airborne noise. If you are mainly plagued by your neighbours’ particularly vigorous washing machine which is placed against a shared wall, impact noise is the culprit.
What is Soundproofing?
The aim of soundproofing is to reduce these unwanted noises from your home. The type of soundproofing you opt for will depend on the extent to which you want to fully block out the unwanted noise, and what kind of noise that is.
Quieter noises can generally be dispelled using methods which are easy to employ, such as sound absorbers. However, more intense noises, particularly impact noises, will require more drastic measures to truly eliminate the unwanted noise. In this case, a professional might be necessary.
How To Soundproof A Shared Apartment Wall?
Ok, so now you know what soundproofing is, and the limits of DIY soundproofing methods, we can get into what methods you can actually use to limit the noise you hear from the neighbouring apartment.
Things you might need
Here are some materials you may need, depending on the method of soundproofing you choose:
- Green glue
- Acoustic foam panels
- Sound absorbing curtains
- Mass-loaded vinyl
1. Fill holes in the walls.
Walls can be very thin in modern apartments, so these are the first places you should look to when attempting to eliminate sound travelling from the neighbour's apartment. As strange as it sounds, there might actually be a number of small holes in the shared wall which are the main culprit of the unwanted noises.
For instance, the holes created to allow cables through the walls might be causing more harm than you think. If you have thin walls, even the smallest of cracks and holes in a shared wall can allow a large amount of sound to travel through. Therefore, be sure to scowl your shared wall for these holes before you commit to any other kind of soundproofing.
There are a number of ways to fill these holes, although, green-glue will do the job well. It will seal the hole well, and also act as a great soundproofing material. Make sure you buy a type of green-glue which can be painted over, in order to not completely ruin the look of your apartment!
If you're dealing with drywall then there are ways to soundproof existing walls without removing the drywall first.
2. Use acoustic foam panels
You’ve likely seen acoustic foam panels lining the walls of recording studios or for soundproofing a room. However, they can be a great weapon against travelling sound within apartments too. The acoustic foam panels are made from a polyester material, and generally come in thicknesses of two to four inches.
By placing acoustic foam panels on a thin shared apartment wall, the travelling noise should be softened. You can attach them to walls using a number of methods, such as spray adhesive. They can also be attached to your ceiling if you’re concerned about sound travelling from apartments above.
Acoustic foam panels can be very effective, however, they are most effective when used in conjunction with another soundproofing method (or multiple methods) from this list.
Also, people often find acoustic panels unsightly and quite bulky, so it's important to keep in mind how you might make them work with your apartment decor.
3. Hang sound absorbing curtains
A more aesthetically pleasing way of soundproofing a shared apartment wall is by using sound absorbing curtains. Adding a heavy material to your apartment wall will help in reducing noise from neighbouring apartments by resisting vibration and thus reducing the extent to which the sound can transmit from one apartment to the other.
Soundproof curtains are a great way of doing this. In addition to being heavy and thick, they are far more sightly than acoustic foam panels. You can choose from a vast range of colors and patterns, and even use them to make a room look more fashionable and stylish than before.
In theory, soundproof curtains could be used to conceal acoustic foam panels, providing extra protection against travelling noise! These work well to block traffic noise coming through a window too.
4. Mass-loaded vinyl
Mass-loaded vinyl is a heavy sheet, generally made from plastics, ceramics and metals, which is used to coat thin walls to help soundproof rooms. Thanks to its weight, it is a great option for soundproofing a shared apartment wall. Installing mass-loaded vinyl is also quite a simple process!
Similarly to the acoustic foam panels and soundproof wallpaper, mass-loaded vinyl is best used in conjunction with another soundproofing method. Consider sealing up any holes in the wall, applying mass loaded vinyl on top, and then using soundproof curtains to finish off the job!
5. Repositioning furniture
Though repositioning furniture won’t make a great deal of difference to a lot of people, if you’re finding that travelling sound is echoing in your apartment, it might be a great idea to fill out your space a bit. In turn, this will lessen the extent to which travelling sound will bounce off hard surfaces.
Use furniture to cover your apartment walls, such as large bookshelves, closets or wall art installations. It's important to remember that this will have minimal effect, apart from reducing the echoing noise in your apartment.
Although, if used in conjunction with other methods in this list, it might just be the finishing touch you needed to make your apartment a more tranquil, quiet space. Also, it's a particularly easy, non-permanent solution, which is great if you’re in a rented apartment.
Things To Consider
Because of the nature of sound and the many directions in which it travels, it is likely that the methods below won’t get rid of all the unwanted sounds in your apartment. Sound travels up and down, meaning that some of the noise from your neighbours is likely being transported through the floor or ceiling. It’s important to keep this in mind to make sure your expectations are realistic.
Additionally, it's important to assess what kind of sound is bothering you, before spending money on things which likely won’t make a dent in the travelling noise. If it is a light sound that you can hear, such as blurred conversations, the DIY methods below will likely help.
However, if it is more intense sounds that are bothering you, like penetrating impact noises, it is important to know that any DIY method will likely have minimal effect. Of course, there is no harm in trying. Although, to properly soundproof an apartment or even just an apartment wall in this case, it is likely that you would need to hire a professional.
If you want to try some soundproofing techniques, but understand that they might not make a huge difference, check out the suggestions below. These, when used in addition to the soundproofing techniques we will discuss later, will likely make all the difference, especially if what you’re hoping for is to simply get a good night sleep!
1. Talk To Your Neighbours
There is no harm in talking to your neighbours if you can hear them through your shared apartment wall. In recent years, it has become less and less common to have any kind of relationship with your neighbours. However, by striking up a friendly, non-confrontational conversation, your problem could in fact be solved without any need to splurge on soundproofing techniques.
If you are struggling with hearing your neighbours television or loud music, this method could be especially effective if you approach it in the right way. Forget passive aggressive notes through the letterbox, and instead, knock on their door with the pretense of introducing yourself as their friendly neighbour.
Once you’ve introduced yourself, openly and honestly discuss how the noise travels through the shared apartment wall, and ask if anything can be done to prevent it. You never know, they might hear some of your movements or activities, so it could be beneficial for everyone!
It might even be as easy as them doing some simple things to make heels quieter so you don't hear them stomping around.
2. Ear Plugs
Though this seems rather obvious, if sound is troubling you when you are trying to sleep, a good pair of ear plugs might just do the trick. If you have spoken to your neighbour, and not much can be done about the noise during the evenings, purchasing a decent pair of noise-cancelling ear plugs is a much more cost effective way of dealing with unwanted noise, than attempting to soundproof the shared apartment wall.
3. White Noise Machine
White noise is produced by playing every frequency that humans can hear, at the same amplitude, in a random order. Essentially, this produces a kind of sound that many people associate with things such as television static.
White noise machines have become quite popular amongst people who find they are being rudely awakened in the middle of the night due to sounds coming from neighbouring apartments. This is because white noise has the ability to mask sudden changes in sound consistency.
To explain, consider the situation where you are woken up due to the neighbour turning on their television late at night. This may not wake you up because of the volume of the television, but rather, it might do so because of the change in sound consistency, which has altered from soft to loud. In this case, a white noise machine will mask that change in consistency, thereby making it less probable that the television being turned on will wake you up.
Nothing can be more frustrating that hearing your neighbours movements and activities through a shared apartment wall. This can be more than frustrating if the travelling noise affects your quality of sleep, as this can dramatically affect your quality of life.
Soundproofing an apartment wall is a great way to eliminate some of the noise that is bothering you. However, we suggest that you also attempt to talk to your neighbours, or purchase a white noise machine, to ensure that you’re getting the best results possible.