Soundproof your home office on a budget

by Media Xpose

Sound consists of low-frequency waves, similar to radio waves but very different to microwave. It is the characteristic of sound waves to keep travelling in all directions of space until they meet some form of opposition.

So what’s the problem?

At present, a huge number of employed people are working from home. COVID-19 has brought many changes, and the experts seem to agree that full-time remote working may become the thing into the future. So yes, we need all the help we can get to filter out the various distractions of neighbours, cars in the street, and kids.

South African insulation companies are seeing an increase in customers searching for ways to soundproof their living areas.

Can you do a home-fix to this problem?

Fortunately, soundproofing at a basic level is not rocket science. In fact, it is rather intuitive. So there are plenty of budget-friendly ways to soundproof your space.

For the homeowner, it helps to understand some basic things about sound. Sound waves will bounce off ‘reflective’ surfaces in their path, creating some form of reverberation in the room. This is useful to know because it can be applied to stopping the way that sound moves around a room first.

Items with mass (weight) in the room will absorb sound

When heavy items are placed within a space, they tend to absorb the sound, creating less noise.

Tip: You can add layers of insulation by pushing bookshelves and wardrobes against walls that face the street.

Add rugs and canvas paintings to dampen vibrations

Any textile you can add to the floor and walls helps too. Rugs, for example, make a huge difference. If you have them, large canvas paintings can also make a difference in cancelling noise. If the noise is really getting to you, try hanging rugs (blankets) on the walls.

Invest in ambient ‘white noise’ stuff

If you haven’t got the ability to move furniture around, you could look to invest in an ambient (white noise) noise machine instead. These go for relatively cheap on online sites and can overpower the irritating noises of the outside world and help you get into the zone for working. You can also get downloads for your smartphone!

Weather-strips to seal noise gaps

Draughts are ubiquitous in South Africa. Your local hardware store will stock weather stripping that is intended to be used to block draughts and cold air; however, it is also a very effective sound blocker too. It’s surprising just how much sound comes through small gaps. With an adhesive strip on one side, the weather strip tape placed where the windows and doors touch the frame really can be effective.

Make your own soundproof panels

Soundproofing foam is available online and in retail stores – put these on your walls. These trap sound rather than block it, transforming the sound wave into heat and reducing reverberation.

Tip: If you’re really on a budget, save your cardboard egg boxes and hang them on the walls. These will send sound flying back in alternate directions away from you.

A ‘cavernous space’ swallows the sound

Move your study to the largest room possible. Sound travels and the more space, the more sound will need to travel, losing energy in the process. This leads to the noise becoming less loud.

Make window plugs

Window plugs are made out of 1 to 2-inch soundproofing mats which are inserted across the window frames. These plugs tend to form a very tight sound barrier.

Get professional assistance – with a budget

There are a few things you can do to improve the windows in your home office, if you have cash to spend.

Double glazed windows: Windows are the main medium that noise travels through. Many homes have single-pane windows which might be installed on a wooden frame. These are not good when it comes to offering noise insulation.

Speak to one of the country’s major door and windows suppliers as they will have products that can be retrofitted. A huge bonus is that this will also help to insulate your home against the hot summer and cold winter temperature extremes.

Add drywall to create sound resistance – and pump insulation inside to dampen sound

Noise can easily pass through walls which are a single layer drywall. You can try a few tricks to combat this:

  • By adding an additional layer of the drywall to the existing wall you can improve the resistance to sound. The thicker the size of the drywall, the more resistance to sound.
  • Insulate your office walls to soundproof space.
  • One of the most effective ways to insulate a home office is by adding insulation. Be sure to get the advice of an accredited expert here because the correct grade of insulation will have to be selected.

Insulate under a wooden floor

Blanket insulation has a natural ability to become an integral part of the wall, floor or ceiling by filling all the gaps and irregular spaces and producing a significant improvement in noise suppression. Due to the porosity of its interwoven fibres, a product such as cellulose insulation is able to absorb low and high frequency ranges within an enclosed wall or ceiling cavity. Cellulose fibre has a NRC-Noise Reduction Coefficient of 0.90 (90% of sound energy absorbed).

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