You’re in bed. You have to get up early for work the next morning and your neighbor decides that the best way for them to unwind is listening to music. Bass thumping pounds through the walls and floors of your bedroom, keeping you awake and spiraling you into a fit of anger for the discourtesy. You complain only to discover that they really didn’t have the music up that loud, it’s just that their surround-sound sub-woofer makes the studs in the walls vibrate, transmitting the sound to you—indistinct and very annoying.
Apartment, condo, or even townhouse living often means hearing far more from your neighbors than you really want to. We talked about using insulated curtains to save energy and baffle sound in a previous article (“Save energy, and reduce sound with insulated shades and drapes“). We have three more tips for baffling sound around the house.
Our first tip has to do with your walls. Construction trends since the 1980’s have included vaulted or cathedral ceilings to give the feeling of space. They’re beautiful, but they also bounce sound around like an auditorium and when you share walls, floors, or ceilings with neighbors, you get the added issue of their sounds as well as yours. Fabric is one of the best things you can use to baffle sounds. You have the option of upholstering one of more of your walls. This effect can be very dramatic and we might include instructions on how to do it in a future article, but it’s also expensive and is permanent enough that it’s not appropriate if you live in a rental. The next best thing is to hang swags of fabric, tapestries, or curtains as art. Select a favorite piece or collection of art and frame the space with a pair of curtains for dramatic effect. Fabric panels can also be draped along the ceiling to further deaden sound and insulate the noise from your neighbors.
The second tip is for your floors. Hardwood flooring is beautiful and highly desirable, but it also bounces and transmits sound. Coupled with vaulted ceilings, you might as well be living in an echo chamber. Once again, fabric is your friend. Area rugs are not only attractive, but extremely useful for baffling sound. Increase the sound buffer as well as extend the lifespan of your rugs by investing in rug pads or liners.
Dust ruffles aren’t just for dust. Don’t neglect the space under your bed either. If your bed stands high off of the floor and you can see underneath, make sure the area rug covers it completely. For beds that sit a little lower to the ground, you can stuff the space full of batting, fabric, foam, or store out-of-season clothing. Select bedding that includes a dust ruffle to both hide what’s under there and to further keep sound from transmitting up to you. Metal box springs can vibrate when sounds comes up from the floor. Consider changing out that box spring set for a platform arrangement.