Q: My bedroom and my neighbor’s living room share a common wall with no insulation. I can hear conversations, TV and music. For the most part, they are quiet, but they are going to sell later this summer and I fear I won’t be as fortunate with my new neighbors.
How can I make this wall as soundproof as possible? I am retired and I tend to go to bed early and get up late.
A: The conversations, television and music you hear coming from your neighbors are really vibrations from sound waves striking your neighbor’s side of the wall and reverberating through the wall to your space.
Of course the sound you hear is a muffled version of the noise being created on the other side of the wall. That it’s muffled provides the clue of how to solve your problem. You must isolate the vibration. Your goal should be to reduce the reverberations from the neighbor’s home.
There are several things you can do. Adding another layer of Sheetrock to your side of the wall will help but will not eliminate all noise. Installing insulation in the common wall will also help but will have a similar result.
The best way we’ve found to address this problem is to construct another wall parallel to the common wall with a dead space of at least 2 inches between the two walls. Building this sound wall should not be too costly, especially if you do it yourself. You’ll need 2-by-4 framing lumber, insulation made especially for sound attenuation, a few pieces of Sheetrock, joint compound and paint.
To get started, measure the length of the wall and the height of the room floor-to-ceiling. Plan on one top plate and one bottom plate and one stud per foot of wall. Nail or screw the bottom plate to the floor, locating it about 2 inches from the common wall.
At each end of the bottom plate, use a level to draw a plumb line up the wall to the ceiling. Install the top plate by connecting it to the two marks on the opposite walls. With any luck, the wall will run perpendicular to the ceiling joists, allowing easy nailing into the joists. If not, you’ll need to install a few pieces of blocking for nailing the top plate.
Once the top and bottom plates are secure, begin at one end and nail in the studs every 16 inches on center. Set the first stud at 15 1/4 inches away from the wall so that the center of the stud falls at 16 inches. This saves some cutting and a lot of frustration when installing the Sheetrock.
Check all studs with a level to make sure they are plumb. Nail a stud at each end of the wall to provide plenty of the purchase for the wallboard at each end.
The next step is to install the insulation. Owens Corning manufactures fiberglass sound attenuation batts that seem to meet your needs. These batts are designed specifically for use in interior partition systems where sound control between rooms is required.
Information on this and many other products is available on the Owens Corning Web site (www.owenscorning.com).
Once the batts are installed, it’s just a matter of installing the wallboard, taping, texturing and painting.
A minor stumbling block might be electrical plugs and possible phone lines in the existing wall. Even though it may be a little more work, we’ve always viewed moving electrical outlets as an opportunity. For example, this is the perfect time to put in a pair of sconces or a switched outlet for that lamp.
As always when working with electricity, turn the power off first. And if you’re not completely confident in your abilities, call in the experts.
Even if you are not up for building this sound wall yourself, we can’t imagine that hiring a contractor on this one would break the bank. Sweet dreams.
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