Soundproof Curtains, Acoustic Treatment & Myths You Need to Know

More often than not, when you’re looking for ways to sleep better at night, soundproofing a room is a concept that appears quite a lot. Installing a curtain made of thick material seems to be the no.1 solution for keeping noise away from a room. Even if soundproofing curtains do exist and do a great job, you should also take it with a grain of salt.

In all fairness, installing noise cancelling curtains isn’t a big investment and it’s not that complicated either. Carpet on the walls, egg cartons, blankets, specially-foam panels and even mattress are a lot more challenging.

What one needs to understand is that soundproofing and acoustic room treatment are two different things. Acoustic treatment is supposed to improve the acoustics within a room. It uses sound-absorptive materials and shapes, lowering echoing that sound reflecting off hard surfaces produces.

The materials we’ve just mentioned are miracle workers for improving the quality of sound in an auditorium or recording studio. They’re also able to reduce noise within a space that comes with an “echo-y” quality. however, they’re not capable to block the sound to leave/enter a room. In which case, soundproofing is the solution for one.

Soundproofing curtains or acoustic treatment?

Soundproofing curtains or acoustic treatment

Is there any way to tell if a certain product is made for soundproofing or acoustic treatment? The name of a product doesn’t tell you much, most of the times.

You can, however, check the ratings mentioned by the manufacturer. The Sound Transmission Class (STC) rating tells you about a material’s soundproofing (sound blocking) ability,

If a product only displays a noise reduction coefficient (NRC) rating, it means that it’s made only to provide sound absorption and no soundproofing.

What’s to know about soundproofing curtains?

The market gives you plenty of choices when it comes to noise cancelling curtains. You should pay attention to the materials (not all have the same soundproofing abilities) and the reviews. The length and width are fundamental for their efficiency. Make sure you order enough for your rooms. Here’s one place to check

As for the soundproofing curtains made for industrial use, there’s no better way to say it: they’re the real deal. they feature a really heavy layer between the sound absorption layers.

For instance, a soundproofing curtain can be made of two panels of quilted fibreglass and a middle layer made of mass-loaded vinyl (MLV). The thickness may vary and it can weigh from 0.5 to 2.5 pounds per square foot. It’s the mass that handles the critical soundproofing element.

According to the mass that they contain, the industrial-grade acoustic curtains present an STC rating ranging between 25 to 33. This is similar to a single-pane glass window (STC 26 to 30) or a typical interior wall of uninsulated drywall (STC 33).

As the MLV layer inside is really stiff, this type of curtains is rather rigid. they don’t fold nor bunch like other ordinary curtains. They need a tough tracking system/frames for supporting their impressive weight. They’re used to lower the noise from compressors, industrial machinery, pumps or generators.

Window panels that can block sound

Window panels that can block sound

Blocking sound coming through a window in a home/non-industrial establishment can be done by mounting a flexible window panel. This is no ordinary panel as it’s made with heavy sound-blocking material.

This sound-blocking window panel includes the technology in industrial noise control curtains, but it comes in a more comfortable size. It features practical mounting options and doesn’t ruin the look of a house. you can even find transparent models.

The sound-blocking panels may present an STC rating from 26 to 29. It depends a lot on their weight (it’s around 1 to 1.5 pounds per sq.ft). their performance relates a lot to the tightness of the mounting to the surrounding wall.

Let’s not forget to mention that these panels are most efficient against higher-frequency noises. (voices are a good example).

Soundproofing paint and all the other myths related

Suffice it to say, it would be perfect to have a soundproof paint. Unfortunately, this type of paint is still only a nice dream.

The “soundproofing paint” isn’t the only bogus thing out there when it comes to soundproofing. It’s quite common for one to suggest the famous egg crates as a solution for soundproofing a room. Others are going to go with the carpet, foam panels on the walls or even mattresses. Even if they’re not the worst ideas, they’re not the most effective either!

The best thing you can do is to do due diligence and find out what works and whatnot when it comes to soundproofing.

Here are the materials that are doing nothing when it comes to blocking sound:

  • Foam panels
  • Egg crates/egg cartons
  • Regular curtains, blankets, drapes
  • Carpets on the walls
  • Mattresses
  • Mineral wool
  • Foam insulation
  • House plants
  • Paint

You may very well use them for something else. For instance, foam insulation is a lousy material for sound blocking, but it’s great for thermal insulation. House plants are going to do nothing about the noise entering your room. But they’re amazing for improving the quality of indoor air and look nice too.

Not only that the materials we’ve mentioned are useless for sound blocking, but they do pose a risk for your safety as well. egg cartons are highly flammable, whereas carpet/mattresses on the walls may collect moisture. It’s only a matter of time until it turns into the mould, which is bad for your health.

Where is this confusion coming from?

It’s pretty difficult the understand the popularity of these “solution”, seeing that they’re useless? The main reason comes from the reality that many of them present good sound absorption. However, people forget that sound blocking and sound absorption are two different concepts.

Also, some materials and techniques are similar to the ones that are capable of soundproofing- hence, the confusion.

Here are some similar materials and techniques that work for soundproofing:

  • You may put foam/neoprene padding under bass speakers/ computer case for isolating them from the floor. This is also going to reduce vibration and sound through the structure.
  • Carpet and padding on a floor are great for reducing the transmission of impact noise to a room below.
  • Noise control curtains are specially made for blocking sound as they are made with a very heavy layer inside.
  • Standard fibreglass insulations help with the overall soundproofing when you use it sparely for filling the spaces between wall panels
  • Straw bales are good for sound blocking. They present a sound transmission class of 55.

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