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.