Soundproofing a room involves many variables. Careful thought and consideration must be given to the acoustic goals we are trying to soundproof for. You must first decide what variables to solve and which ones not to based on your budget.
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Find Noise Location
Where is your noise coming from? How much noise is there? How much of an issue does the noise present? What materials are we going to use to lower the noise levels? How do we assemble the materials so we do not spend money and not achieve our acoustic goals? We must follow a step by step plan to insure that we achieve maximum results with the minimum of dollars expended. Let’s first decide how large of a noise issue we have. Let’s start by measuring it.
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Soundproofing A Room Step One: Noise Measurements
In soundproofing, we have to know the amount or quantity of noise we are dealing with. To do this, we have to measure the amount of noise we are dealing with. That noise number will go a long way for steps 2-5. That number will also assist us in what type of material we need to use to minimize the noise levels. We don’t want to buy and use material we don’t need, especially is it doesn’t solve our noise issues. We also do not want to cause more harm and add to our existing noise levels by doing something that cost more money but would have never worked for the acoustic goal we had in mind from the first place.
Proper room Size: 25′W x 50′L x 16′H
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Sound and its estranged cousin, noise, is all about sound pressure. Sound pressure can be measured and a number assigned to it. This number will give us a start point to work from. For an inexpensive measurement tool, go to Radio Shack and ask for a dB meter. Do not ask for a sound pressure meter, even though that is what you are measuring. Ask for a dB meter. A dB meter will measure sound pressure in decibels.
Place the dB meter in your room and measure your room during all times of the day. Turn off all sound generating devices within the room and measure. Turn the devices back on and measure again. Write the levels down. Find the dB number that suites your individual needs for the sound proofing goals you have. If it is an office room, do we need to make the office quieter, so we can get more work done? If it an home theater room, do we need to keep the home theater sound or noise depending on one’s point of view from leaking into adjacent rooms and disturbing others.
Numbers Over Time
Examine all the numbers you have recorded throughout the day. Find your level of acceptable. Give it a number. This is the number that indicates the sound pressure level we need to sound proof for. Anything over that number, we will consider noise. Now the noise has a number and cannot hide. If we like our room at 70 dB, not degrees, and our room is 80 dB because of our neighbor’s stereo, we have a 10 dB noise issue. Now we know what we are up against.
Step Two: Inside vs. Outside Noise
Where is that 10 dB noise source. Where is it coming from? Is it coming from outside our room? It is originating within our room or coming from the outside of our room. Determining the noise source location is critical. It tells us what type and how much sound proofing we must use to minimize the noise issue. If our 10 dB noise issue is originating from a source outside our room, we will need to employ barrier technology. We must put a barrier between us and the noise source. If our noise issues originate from within our room, we must use absorption technology to deal with that particular noise level. Let’s minimize the noise levels from our neighbors stereo.
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Step Three: Which Technology To Use
To stop 10 dB of noise from our neighbor’s apartment and his stereo system, we will need to put up a sound barrier between us and the stereo system. To accomplish this, we must build a wall against the noise. This is a special type of wall. It is a wall comprised of many different layers of materials carefully arranged to minimize vibrations because all noise is caused and produces vibrations. We must separate our wall from our existing wall that is between us and our neighbor.
Our existing wall can actually help us with our noise issue. We must use air as a material and many other materials with greater densities in certain amounts. Construction of our barrier wall and any barrier technology should be left to a professional. A professional knows what works and what doesn’t. He or she can save us a lot of time and money. They don’t need to use trial and error with our money.
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Inside Room Noise
If our noise levels are caused by noise producing technologies inside our room, we can eliminate or turn down those devices. We can put those boxed into sound proof cabinets. If that isn’t an option, we can add absorptive materials using the process of absorption. Sound absorption technologies are numerous and come in many forms. There are foams, panels, and chairs. Yes, chairs depending on their thickness and material type can be affective lower frequency absorbers.
Most absorption technologies come in a panel type of arrangement and can be hung on existing walls to absorb excessive noise energy from within our rooms. This will deal with all types of middle and high frequencies. We can use our chair to deal with low frequencies or we can even design frequency specific, low frequency absorbers called Helmholtz Resonators. If our excessive noise levels from within our room contribute to our 10 dB noise issues we can minimize these issues using absorption technologies which will be much cheaper than trying to stop the noise from our neighbor’s stereo from passing through our walls using barrier technology.
Step Four: Treat the Whole Room
Barrier technology must be used throughout the whole room. We cannot just use one wall, such as the wall between us and our neighbor. That wall is our start point. We must treat all the room boundaries because noise is like water. Noise will “flow” to the weakest point in your structure. Barrier technology must be consistent and work together as a system. Even a small crack between your existing wall and your new barrier wall can have large acoustic consequences and negate all of your sound proofing efforts. Absorption technology to handle the excess energy in your room, must be placed on at least 60% of your room walls and even the ceiling. Treating one wall is a good start, but to achieve our acoustic goals, we must treat 4 out the 5 room boundary surfaces.
Step Five: Voicing The Room.
Science can take us only as far as we are willing to assist it. We must make changes through barrier technology and absorptive technologies. We must then live with the improvements we have made over a time period. As we are living with our changes, we need to re-measure again the new pressure levels using our dB meter. How did we do? Did we reduce the noise levels from both outside and inside our rooms? Do our current measurements measure and indicate what we are acoustically after. If not, we now know the power of what we have done and how well it worked towards our goal of lowering the noise from either inside our rooms or outside our rooms. This knowledge will serve us well in our efforts to capture more “dBs” in the future.
In soundproofing a room, we must first measure our noise issues and assign a number to our noise problem. Next, we must decide where the noise is originating from. From there, we choose the appropriate acoustic technology to use. Barrier technology and sound absorption technologies can be utilized. We must treat the entire room and then live with what we have done for a while because now, we have a new reference point to work from. Changes can be made later on as we now can redefine our noise issues starting, hopefully, from a much better noise position.
We can absorb bass energy in our rooms, so it will not carry into adjacent rooms. We can absorb excess vocal and music energy, so our neighbors do not hear us. Keeping outside noise outside, requires structural add ons to our existing walls. Our activated carbon filters, installed between the studs in a remodel or new construction scenario, can turn our walls into huge bass absorbers. Adding our proprietary foam to inside walls can minimize noise levels and reduce that the amount of sound leaving the room.