When you first get into DIY home soundproofing, you’ll begin to notice that there is a lot of different terminology being thrown around. Even worse, it’s pretty common to refer to everything as soundproofing even when talking about an application that is really sound absorption. This was something I initially struggled with until Eric (who knew far more about home soundproofing then I did starting out) pointed out the key difference and then everything fell into place. So, today I thought I’d pass on the knowledge that he so generously shared with me.
Answer the question, what do you want to do?
When you first get annoyed by a sound, whether it be from outside your home or from another room, you immediately begin thinking about how can I stop the sound. Assuming you can’t stop the sound at it’s source (no, yelling at your noisy spouse in the other room isn’t a good long term soundproofing technique), you next need to answer the question, are you trying to get noise to stay in a room or are you trying to keep an exterior sound from getting into your home.
Each of these scenarios require very different applications of “home soundproofing techniques.”
If you want sound to stay within a space, what you’re looking for is often sound absorption techniques or products. A product that is designed to absorb the echo effect within the room is what you want. They’re designed to in essence soften the surfaces in a room which will in turn reduce the echo in the area that permits the sound to travel further. Think of something like soundproofing foam or panels.
The other side of the equation is sound blocking. These are the type of products that are intended to either block a sound from entering or leaving a space. These are often much harder surfaces that are designed in such a way that they help to discourage direct sound transmission between 2 hard surfaces. You don’t need to understand the science of sound transmission (think back to 6th grade science class where you learned about wavelengths and frequency) to know that these products work.
But wait a second Patrick, aren’t there products that can do both? Why yes, yes there are. There are now composite hybrid materials on the market that are designed to both block and absorb sound. But the intention of this article isn’t to get into specific product recommendations or applications but to build a stronger foundation of your knowledge base on the subject.
This is all great, but what do I do with this knowledge?
Now that you’ve got a clearer understanding of sound blocking vs sound absorption, the question is what good does that information do you. The key is to go back to the first question of what do you want to do. Dig a bit deeper and try to answer these key questions as they will help guide you on what product you might need:
- Are you looking to block sound or absorb it?
- What is the size of the room and what are the surfaces made of?
- What are you using the room for and what types of sounds are you trying to block?
Hopefully, this gives you a solid foundation so that then you’re reading further about the subject, you can apply these 3 key questions to your particular situation and find a solution.
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