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Soundproofing to save your sanity: Affordable options for renters

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Noise is a fact of life in New York City, but at home, at least, we hope to get some peace and quiet. Soundproofing your windows is a great way to deal with noise coming from outside the building. But what about neighbor noise?

One New York renter – who says she can hear her neighbor’s conversations word-for-word – enlisted help on Brownstoner forum for finding the best temporary soundproofing tricks. 

"Given that I cannot make any changes, i.e. add another wall or ceiling, I need low cost, effective and temporary solutions so I can survive here for the remainder of my lease," she says. "I read that hanging fabric or curtains can help minimize the sounds from other apartments, but apart from that I don't know if any particular thick fabric works best. Any advice before I go curtain/fabric shopping for the remaining walls?"

Although her options are more limited because she can’t make any permanent changes, several commenters offered some interesting suggestions:

  • "Different length sound waves are blocked or reflected by different density material.  Your wall already has some layers of various densities.  I would think a thick fabric or quilting would be good sound insulation, and indeed many people add fiberglass insulation inside of walls as insulation.  The good thing about fiberglass is that it is not a fire hazard.  Alas, most fabrics you might choose burn.  I am sure this is a big problem for you, but try to resist buying fabric for its density alone.  The best fabric is a professional theater curtain, because all but the antique ones will be fire proof."
  • "How about heavy curtains (velvet?) hung ceiling-to-floor about 6" in front of the wall? The air gap will help. The curtains need to be tight against all four surfaces...ceiling, floor and side walls. If you use panels, overlapping them a foot or so would be ok."
  • "Unfortunately, the only real way to go is to hire a sheet rocker and have them install resilient channels with an added layer of sheet rock (or two). This is a more expensive and permanent solution, plus your LL would need to give you approval and you'd be losing some floor area. But I have been in a space before/after the installation of resilient channels and the improvement was literally night and day." 
  • "Quietrock Soundproof Drywall.  I think prospective renters would appreciate peace and quiet, and that would outweigh a negligible loss of floor area - you could add a layer ranging from ½” – 1 3/8”. Maybe you could persuade the landlord to split the cost with you so you can survive your lease, and he gets an improvement out of the deal."

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