Soundproofing Apartment Wall


I appreciate your help if you take the time to answer my question. I live in a lower income building where the walls are very thin. Luckily, I only share one wall with my neighbor. I am not suppose to make any alterations to the apartment. However, I feel that since I pay the maximum rent which really doesn’t save me much money over renting a house here in WV, and put over 600 dollars down for a security deposit I should do as I feel.

To the problem…. I know you said that most people worry about ”the aesthetic” of the place. In my case I could care less. It would be great if I could hang something from the wall using a massive amount of plastic ”picture hangers” adhesive hangers or whatever name they go by. Also I could use nails I just know its going to be a slightly bigger clean up before I leave. If I can make something that is easily movable that will insulate the wall from noise that is great. If not then I guess they can just complain when they come to inspect. My question is do you know of any really good materials to use , if its similar to a mat that I can pull on and off that is great. The wall isn’t very large it only has one obstacle which is a guard rail. but it does span the downstairs and upstairs. So I would be willing to put a good bit of money into it to get the best quality.

Thanks for any ideas you can give me.



Unfortunately blocking sound is a bit more of a tricky problem than is absorbing echo within the room. Basically there are two ways to block sound, one is to increase the amount of mass and density that you have between space A and space B, and the other is to de-couple the wall assembly, or build two separate walls that don,t touch each other. The decoupled wall will out perform the wall where only mass is added to the wall.

The difficult thing about blocking sound is that the products to do that are always found INSIDE of the wall assembly, covered with sheet rock. The BEST way to block the sound would be to add the RSIC-1 clip assembly to the wall and “float” another piece of sheet rock, but it doesn’t sound like this is a possibility in this case.

Another product that would help but require an additional layer of sheet rock is a product called Green Glue. This is what they call a viscoelastic damping compound which helps eliminate sheet rock from vibrating or resonating. Kind of like putting your fingers on a drum symbol or a bell to reduce the sound that is being made by either, this stuff does the same thing to sheet rock. It’s not an adhesive, but it is like a tube of elastic that goes between an existing layer of sheet rock and a new layer. You still have to screw through this second layer, back into the studs for structural support, but it will help.

The NEXT step would be to explore the option of hanging the “BSC-T25” Acoustical Quilted Curtain panels over the entire wall. This is not a “curtain” in the traditional sense of the word. They are not light, flowing pieces of cloth that pleat up like a hospital curtain. In the center of these panels, there is an 1/8″ thick, 1lb per square foot layer of Mass Loaded Vinyl which is a decent noise barrier. On either side of the vinyl, we install a nominally 1″ thick piece of fiberglass and then wrap the whole thing in a heavy duty vinyl. We install grommets across the top edge and would attach a vertical Velcro section to attach one panel to the next to make a wall with no air penetrations in it. These panels are VERY heavy but could be hung from very stout screws or hooks anchored into the header behind the sheet rock. The unfortunate part about these is that because they are made by hand, they are fairly expensive at around $13.00 per square foot. If you have the dimensions of the walls you want to cover, feel free to send them to me and I can get a quote together for you.

The only other temporary option that I have, I would not recommend for a few reasons. The product is called Mass Loaded Vinyl and is the exact same vinyl (the same stuff in the center of the BSC-T25 panel above). It is a noise barrier and might help, but there are a few MAJOR concerns that I would be concerned with. The first is the fact that the product is a class C fire rated product which means that it does not suppress flame spread and WILL produce toxic fumes if it catches on fire. Basically, the smoke will kill a person before they can get out of the room, clearly not good. Additionally, it is a vinyl based product that will have a significant amount of off-gassing. If you’ve ever hung a new plastic shower curtain or an inflatable air mattress and smelled the “plastic smell”, these will be many, many times worse and last for a LONG time. Two other things that is going to make this a fairly poor choice is the fact that when, like plastic wrap for a plate of food, when it tears, it wants to continue to tear, so mounting can be challenging. Lastly, if there are any air gaps in the vinyl (due to the lack of the vertical Velcro seams) the product is VERY quickly short circuited. A 5% air gap in the vinyl wall will leak 90% of the sound through it.

PLEASE do not attempt to put up any kind of foam on your wall or cut holes into the stud cavity and fill the wall with insulation!!! These approaches will do absolutely NOTHING at all for you. They are two of the most common misconceptions that I deal with every day. Putting foam on your walls will likely make the problem of a noisy neighbor WORSE because it will make your room(s) even quieter. Consider a library. The ambient (background) noise in a library is extremely low. Because of this, you are able to hear someone whisper from a considerable distance. Now consider a loud cafeteria. You nearly need to scream across the table just to be heard because the ambient noise is so high. The quieter the ambient noise in your room, the easier it will be for you to hear noises from coming in from adjacent dwellings.

I hope I have not discouraged or overwhelmed you too much. I get calls and E-mails from people in similar situations all the time, and it is a difficult part of my job. We have products that can likely help, but because of the type of dwelling, most of the solutions are not possible. The sad thing about the situation is that buildings like yours are likely put together with cost and speed in mind during construction and the result is the “paper thin wall” syndrome. They won’t let you do anything to fix it, but they will continue to take your hard earned rent money. If I had a cheap, easy solution to this I could probably retire.


  1. linda

    your link for “RSIC-1 clip assembly” says “Internet Explorer cannot display the webpage”

  2. Ted W

    Thank you for bringing this to my attention! I have gone back into the post and fixed the link. For your convenience, here it is again.

    Thank you!

  3. Anissa

    Hi Ted,

    My question relates to the MLV. Is it safer when used sandwiched between the fiberglass and heavy duty vinyl as in your quilted panel? or does the danger of off gassing still exist in this capacity?

    I bought some MLV to use in conjunction with closed cell foam in a car sound deadening project, but once I smelled the fumes of the roll just sitting in my garage I decided it wouldn’t be a good idea to install in a car.

    My idea now is to possible glue it with vinyl adhesive between two sheets of closed cell foam. Do you think this would solve the off gassing issue at all?

    My other idea was to allow it to air out in the garage before installing it. How long is a long time…?


  4. Ted W


    Thank you for the comment and question. Some Mass Loaded Vinyl products will, in fact, off gas for quite some time. Unfortunately I don’t have a way to quantify or measure the amount of time it will take as I do not know of any testing that has been done. For many years, we carried the vinyl that does off gas but we now carry a different product where this is not a problem. A vinyl that has been manufactuered through a process where the vinyl is poured is the type that will smell – the vinyl that is produced via a process through which it is extruded will not.

    As far as sandwiching it between closed cell foam, there is, unfortunately, too much relativity in types and specs for foam to be able to determine exactly what it will do. I would probably use some kind of air-tight membrane to be sure that the gas is encapsulated rather than foam if the odor is an issue.

    What kind of car-related project are you working on?


  5. Anissa

    Thank you for your response. I have been using RAAMatt and Ensolite foam to decrease the resonance of the door panels in my Honda Element. The doors used to “clang” when I closed them. Now, they closed with a nice quiet thud. The car is definitely a bit quieter now. The doors feel much more solid, and I can hear more detail in the music.

    The MLV was for the floor mat I was making. My hope was to reduce road noise, although I think doing the space over the rear wheel wells might make more of a difference there. I ended up cutting a sheet of MLV to size and letting it air out in my garage for a month before making my mat. The smell was almost completely gone by then. (Good to know about the poured vs. extruded vinyl, -I wish I had known that sooner!) I used ensolite on the underside, and closed cell foam gym matt for the top and ran it up to the cover firewall inside the car. (It’s removable, should it ever become an issue.)


  6. Ted

    If you are ever considering a project like this again, let me send you a sample of our PVC Barrier-Decoupler and a chunk of the v-max They would be absolutely ideal for these situations and I have used them both myself in both of my past Subarus – a WRX and a Forester. I used a piece of the V-max on the inside of all of the doors and then went back, pulled the interior – double layering the rear deck and trunk (respectively). to help to reduce the exhaust noise that was making it into the car.

  7. Matrika

    There is a hallway in my apartment. The right side/wall of the hallway is makes the bedroom wall. The left side/wall of the hallway is a separator between the other unit (two units ) which is their kitchen/living room wall. Whenever, they close their kitchen cabinets, the bang/low frequencies go right through the hallway and bedroom wall and wake me up. What can I do/install? There is zero insulation between the two units. Please help! Thanks!

    • Ted W


      Hello and thanks for the comment. Unfortunately this is a very difficult situation as blocking sound involves modifying the walls of the building. One cannot expect sound to be reduced by a temporary-to-install and low cost type of panel — these types of products are only used to absorb echo within a room.

      The most inexpensive and probably the most effective solution for something like this is also going to be the least intrusive, visually. Ask the management company of the building to install hydraulic or spring-loaded cabinet closers on their cabinets along with rubber stoppers so they don’t close as hard — resulting in less energy being introduced into the structure.

      Let me know if you have any more questions. Thanks,

  8. Carmen

    Hello Ted,

    I have a very similar situation with my condo, I can hear conversations clearly between a shared wall with my neighbor, however my condo association does not authorize the use of insulation between the units. I have done some research on the matter and was looking for some advice. How effective would it be for me to install another layer of soundproof drywall and green glue on the sound emission between walls? I was told by my condo association that putting something on the walls is permitted. Would this be something you recommend doing or do you have another method that would be better? Thank you for your time.

    • Ted W

      Your comment about being able to clearly hear conversations through a shared wall is concerning. Although I’m not there to see or experience the problem, a little voice in my head is suggesting that you look for any kind of gap/crack/shared airspace between the two units. Depending on where you are located, there are building code requirements that require common walls be built to certain specifications and those specifications can be extremely quickly short-circuited by any common airspace or gap/crack between the walls and the ceiling, floor, or another wall. I would look carefully for those before doing anything. If you find one, let me know.

      Regarding making modifications to the wall, I would absolutely suggest using a layer of green glue and an additional layer of 5/8″ drywall. That is a perfect application for an improvement like that.


  9. Kelty Hamilton

    Here’s what I did. I live in an old house and share a wall with a neighboor. What I did was buy a whole bunch of inexpensive heavy mats, got a whole bunch of free bubble wrap from local retailers…then staplegunned the bubble wrap underneath the mats as I hung them on the wall. When the whole, and I mean, the whole, wall was sealed using this technique, the sound from next door diminished dramatically. Now the noise is more tolerable, but I worry about the off gassing of the mats…so far no headaches or anything. So, now I am feeling much more privacy and ease living here. I always felt as though \i had to be quiet for my neighboor next door. Now I feel a lot more comfortable making noise of my own and clanging dishes and pots and pans around when I want. And coughing. I should have done it a long time ago.

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