Types of Soundproofing Materials: Which Should You Use?

Whether you’re looking to block overhead noise, minimize sounds that travel through shared walls, reducing the banging and clanging that comes out of your laundry room, or you want to eliminate unwanted noises from any other space, you’re going to want to invest in soundproofing materials.

From curtains and rugs to insulation and panels, there are various types of soundproofing materials on the market. With so many options to choose from, however, it can be hard to narrow down the choices and determine what actually works and what doesn’t.

To help you on your quest for finding the best materials to block out obtrusive noises and make your home, office, or any other space a bit more peaceful and quiet, we’ve compiled a list of the best soundproofing materials available.

The Different Types of Noise

Before we discuss the different types of soundproofing materials, it’s important to discuss different types of noise.

There are two primary types of noise: airborne and impact. Knowing the difference between the two is important, as it will help you understand what type of sound you’re dealing with and determine the best strategies and materials to use to block the transfer of unwanted noise.

Airborne Noise

airborne noise
Image credit: Greengluecompany.com

The type of noise that usually comes to mind when you think about sound is airborne. All sounds are caused by waves that create vibrations and reach the ear when they travel through some type of medium.

With airborne noise, as the name suggests, that medium is air. Some examples of airborne noise include speaking, crying babies, barking dogs, a meowing cat, music, TV, the clicking of computer keys, and so forth.

Impact Noise

impact noise
Image credit: Greengluecompany.com

In the case of impact noise, the vibrations that sound creates travels through mediums other than air; instead, it travels through structures, hence why this noise is also referred to as structure noise or structure-borne sound.

When an item makes an impact with another item, the collision of those two items creates a direct line that sound waves can travel through; for example, the location where the impact occurred and the room where the sound can be heard.

Some examples of impact noise include footfalls that travel from an upper-level floor through the ceiling above you, a ball bouncing on a floor above you, water rushing through pipes in the walls, or a chair banging into a wall in another room and the sound travels into the room that shares the same wall.

As you can see, when it comes to soundproofing, understanding the type of noise that you’re dealing with is important, as different strategies need to be employed to block out different types of sound.

Types of Soundproofing Materials

Different soundproofing materials have different effects on noise. Your specific soundproofing needs are dependent on the goals that you are trying to achieve.

For instance, if you’re in a band and you want to prevent your neighbors from hearing your jam sessions with your band mates, you’ll want to enhance the acoustics of the room you practice in; however, if your neighbor is in a band and you want to block out the noise that travels into your home your neighbor and his/her bandmates are jamming, then you’ll want to prevent the sound from traveling into your space.

With that said, below, we share some of the best soundproofing materials available and discuss how each one works so you can choose the right material for your specific needs.

Soundproof Floor Underlayment

flooring underlayment

If you want to ensure that the noise from your floors doesn’t travel into the space below you – or you want to block unwanted noises from traveling through the ceiling from the floor above you – soundproof floor under-layment is a great solution.

This soundproofing medium helps to prevent the transmission of both airborne sound and impact noise, as it blocks vibrations, thereby preventing sound waves from traveling through both the air and the floor.

There are numerous types of soundproof floor underlayment materials. The majority of options feature a sound-reduction membrane that absorbs vibrations.

When selecting an underlayment, make sure you consider the type of flooring you’re planning on installing over it. Some options can only be used with specific types of flooring materials – wood, tile, stone, etc. – while others can be used with virtually any type of flooring, but may not offer the best sound absorption.

The primary benefits of using soundproofing floor underlayment include:

  • It soundproofs floors
  • It soundproofs ceilings
  • It acts as an insulator and can keep floors warmer
  • It reduces both airborne and impact noise

Sound Deadening and Dampening Materials

Sound deadening and dampening materials are designed to minimize vibrations, which therefore helps to prevent the transfer of sound. These materials are ideal for use in areas that are prone to drastic temperatures or in locations that have limited or awkward space.

The construction of sound deadening and dampening materials varies; however, as mentioned, they are generally designed to reduce the transfer of vibrations. You can purchase this type of soundproofing material in sheets that can be cut-to-size, or in paint-like medium that can be applied directly onto a surface.

The most notable benefits of sound dampening and deadening materials include the following:

  • Extreme versatility; it can be used in automotive, marine, construction, commercial, and residential applications.
  • High durability.
  • Easy to apply.
  • Long-lasting results

Soundproofing Insulation

soundproof insulation

There are also soundproofing insulation products available that can be installed between walls, in ceilings, and underneath floors. This soundproofing material is comprised of thick, durable materials that are designed to absorb sound waves and prevent the transfer of vibrations.

In addition to eliminating both structural and airborne noise, soundproofing insulation also helps to prevent heat transfer, which means that the space will stay warmer or cooler (as the case may be), and can ultimately help you save money on utility bills. That’s a win-win-win situation.

There are numerous types of soundproofing insulation materials. Options include rolls of insulation, foam, and sprays. Consider the type of environment you intend to install the insulation in, your overall goal for the space, and your budget.

The advantages of using soundproofing insulation to block unwanted noises include:

  • Extreme versatility; it can be used in ceilings, attics, interior and exterior walls, etc.
  • Easy to install
  • Provides temperature control by preventing heat transfer; keeps spaces cooler in the summer and warmer in the winter
  • Can effectively reduce utility bills

Soundproofing Barriers

mass loaded vinyl material
Image source: yiacoustic.com

If you’re looking to prevent unwanted noises from traveling into your property – airplanes, trains, traffic, etc. – soundproofing barriers are great option to consider.

These materials are designed to block out the transfer of both structural and airborne noise, as they minimize vibrations and reduce echoes, thus preventing the transfer of obtrusive sounds from traveling into your space.

Soundproofing barriers are constructed out of a variety of materials; options include fiberglass composite, foam composite, and mass load vinyl. They can also be permanent or temporary. Examples of some of the locations where this type of soundproofing material may be used includes:

  • Backyards
  • Front yards
  • Restaurants
  • Offices
  • Home theaters
  • Around firing ranges
  • Hotels
  • Conference centers

The main benefits of using soundproofing barriers to minimize the transfer of unwanted noises include:

  • Great flexibility
  • Extreme versatility
  • Easy to install
  • Can improve the aesthetic appeal of a location
  • Excellent soundproofing abilities

Soundproofing Curtains and Drapes

soundproof drapes

Windows are often a source for unwanted noise transfer. Typically, airborne sound is the most common type of noise that travels through windows; however, impact noise can also travel through them. Examples of sound that can travel through windows include voices, traffic, construction, and wind.

If you’re looking for a way to reduce the amount of sound that travels through the windows in your home or business, you could replace them with soundproofing windows; however, there’s an easier, faster, and more affordable option: soundproofing curtains or drapes.

These window coverings are made of thick fabric that’s intended to absorb soundwaves, thus preventing the passage of vibrations indoors.

The benefit of this type of soundproofing material includes:

  • Easy to install
  • Available in an assortment of styles and colors
  • Improved aesthetic appeal
  • Affordable
  • Minimizes heat transfer through windows

Acoustic Panels

sound absorbing foam

If you are looking to prevent noise from traveling out of your space and into another one, acoustic panels are a great option to consider. These panels absorb sound, thereby reducing echoes and reducing feedback.

Acoustic panels are comprised of compressed foam or wool, which allows this soundproofing material to absorb sound waves and minimize reverberation in walls that are located in enclosed spaces. These panels help to “clean” unwanted noise from an area.

The advantages of acoustic wall panels include:

  • Reduced feedback
  • Minimized reverberation
  • Affordability
  • Easy installation

Conclusion

As you can see, there are a variety of soundproofing materials to choose from. The type of material you should use depends on the type of sound you are trying to eliminate, as well as the space you plan be install the material in. With the right materials, you can effectively eliminate unwanted noise and create a more peaceful, noise-free space.

Sources

James Burkett
James is a self-employed writer and editor and has the privilege of working from home. However, he quickly discovered how unwanted noise can disturb both work and sleep. Over the years he's effectively soundproofed his entire work space and a number of rooms in his house. Needless to say he can work and sleep much more peacefully.

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