How to Soundproof an Apartment: 9 Tips for a Peaceful Space

updated Dec 1, 2023
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A living room with dark walls and blue couch

As great as apartment living is, one of the main downfalls has got to be the (sometimes near incessant) noise. Rumbling trucks at 2 a.m., noisy neighbors clacking heels at the crack of dawn, thumps that sound disturbingly like a bowling ball being dropped right above your head: we can all agree that few things are more irritating.

You can try drowning it out with your own cacophony, but for the sake of neighborliness, consider soundproofing. Wondering how to soundproof your apartment? We’re bringing you a collection of tips you won’t want to ignore — from soundproofing the ceiling to the floors.

Does Soundproofing Actually Work?

While soundproofing tricks (as opposed to installing permanent things like insulation or soundproof windows) won’t completely shut out the noise, they’ll muffle it enough to make life at home much more pleasant.

Kirsten Horton, an acoustics-focused interior designer, agrees. To those looking to remedy a noisy home, she suggests minimizing the amount of hard surfaces to improve acoustics and minimize echoes — think adding rugs or noise-absorbing wall panels.

“By using these acoustic-improving techniques in spaces, you create a space that feels more grounding and lends itself to focused work and intimate conversations,” Horton says.

1. Hang acoustic panels on your walls.

Acoustic panels are square- or rectangular-shaped fabric-covered boards that hang on your wall to reduce noise and echos. While they’re often used for home studios or home theaters, such as the ones shown here by @timberacoustics, they can work in just about any space. Feeling uninspired by these? Try this super cool living wall option.

Credit: Walsai

2. Lay down a sound-muffling foam mat.

Take a cue from the local preschool and add interlocking foam mats to your floor. Not only will you have a cushy place to sit or stand, these mats have the ability to muffle sounds that come from below. These black foam tiles from Amazon make a great option. 

3. Add window inserts.

You may not have heard of window inserts, but if you’ve got a lot of outside noise coming in from your windows, they’re ideal. Window inserts are clear glass or acrylic panes that simply install over your existing windows on the inside of your home, like the ones shown here by @indowwindows. Many boast sound reduction of at least 50%, though that will vary by manufacturer. 

4. Hang heavy curtains.

You’re probably not going to be able to convince your landlord to replace those flimsy windows with top-of-the-line triple-pane ones, but you can easily install new curtains, like these beautiful sound-blocking ones. Look for ultra heavy drapes with several layers of fabric. Curtains that are labeled “blackout” or “insulated” are a good bet.

Credit: Liz Calka

5. Seal door gaps.

As tiny as that sliver between your door and wall may be, if air can pass through it, so can sound. In fact, a 1% air gap can leak 30% of sound, and a 5% gap can leak 90%! So make sure your door is weatherproofed, especially at the bottom by the threshold, where the biggest gaps usually are. Install a door sweep — look for one with a thick strip of rubber for the best seal — or for interior doors, try a draft stopper.

6. Hang fabric on your walls.

Sound is absorbed by soft surfaces, so outfit your home with as many as you can, including on the walls. Hang tapestries, or consider soundproofing blankets. These ultra-heavy blankets often come with grommets so you can hang them from hooks on your wall or ceiling. They’re not pretty, but you can always drape a cool-looking tapestry, quilt, rug, or blanket over them.

7. Upholster your walls.

Another option for soundproofing is adding fabric to walls: Treat it like wallpaper and “paste” it to as many surfaces as you can. A lighter-weight, non-stretch fabric will work best for this. If your apartment has drywall, you can use a staple gun to attach the fabric; if you have plaster or cement walls, you can actually adhere the material directly to them with liquid starch. The starch essentially acts as temporary glue that can be removed with water later.

Credit: Sandra Rojo

8. Shift your furniture.

Place big, heavy pieces of furniture against walls you share with your neighbors to help muffle sound. Floor-to-ceiling bookcases are especially good for bulking up a thin wall, especially if you fill it with lots of books and objects. For extra sound-blocking, place a thick piece of foam (or hang a soundproofing blanket) behind the bookcase.

9. Layer your floor with rugs.

While rugs are more for blocking sound coming from your own apartment, they can help dampen sound coming from outside your home, similar to fabric on your walls. Cover your floor with a heavy, high-pile rug, cushioned with a high-density foam pad underneath.

If your upstairs neighbors are the ones driving you nuts, talk to your landlord: Many leases have a clause requiring tenants to cover a certain percentage of their flooring with a carpet or rug. Your neighbors might have disregarded it, and now’s the time to let your landlord know they need to follow the rules.