According to a report by Quartz, data from the US census suggests that 5.2% of workers in the USA worked from home in 2017. Another 43% of Americans work from home occasionally. What this means is that, in recent years, working from home has become increasingly popular. But this doesn’t automatically make your home comfortable to work from, and that’s why you are here, reading this article. Don’t worry, in this article, I will tell you everything you need to know about soundproofing your home office, including the 7 most effective ways to soundproof your office.
Types of noises you’re soundproofing your home office against
Well, it makes sense that before you go about solving a problem, you understand the problem right? Yes. With regards to working from home, in my experience, you’re going to be bothered by certain sounds more than others. In this section, I will show you the types of noise pollution that can trouble you in your home office and how to prevent them.
I started working from home as a writer back in 2019. To put it mildly, it was rough. I was routinely distracted by household noises, and even noises I didn’t notice before – more on this later. This got me obsessed with soundproofing my home office and reducing the noise pollution in my home. Luckily, I stumbled upon an article by Cirrus Research, which classifies noise pollution into 4 broad categories:
- Continuous noise
- Intermittent noise
- Impulsive noise
- Low-frequency noise
Impulsive noises are primarily related to the construction and demolition industry. Soundproofing your home office against impulsive noises may be unnecessary since most homes are in residential areas that have little to do with the construction industry. The two types of noises you are likely to deal with in your home office are intermittent and continuous noises.
Continuous noises and how they affect soundproofing your home office
So I mentioned those noises I didn’t notice before I started working from home, right? Yeah, they are continuous household noises. These are noises from household and neighborhood appliances that don’t get switched off. Examples include refrigerators, heating and ventilation systems, fans, a close-by factory engine, etc. You don’t notice these noises until you need to focus.
While these noises may not be immediately distracting, you can certainly do without them. When you begin the process of soundproofing your home office, as your house gets quieter, continuous noises become more obvious. Soon, the continuous rumbling of your household appliances might just become unbearable.
Soundproofing your home office against continuous noise
Generally, these are my two most effective methods for hushing background noises:
Drowning out the noise: You can use a white noise machine to combat continuous noises. White noise machines produce their sound that muffles background noises and reduces distraction. The most amazing fact about these appliances is that you can typically get one for lower than $30.
Fixing the problem: You can fix or replace the noisy appliance. Whether it’s a fridge, fan, or air vent; I’m sure you would agree with me that they all get noisier with age. So, to reduce the noise, your best option may be to replace them. Alternatively, you could have them serviced and soundproofed.
Most common sources of continuous noise
Now, it’s different from home to home. You may have to figure out what the biggest cause of your noise pollution is. But here are some of the most common sources of continuous noise pollution and how to prevent them
Refrigerator: You may think your refrigerator isn’t that noisy, but trust me, you don’t want to be working next to it. Refrigerators produce a constant buzzing sound and vibration that could distract you when it matters most. Depending on the type, quality, and state of maintenance, you could also notice gurgling, dripping, hissing, and intermittent clicking noises from your refrigerator.
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Preventing noises from the refrigerator
- The first and possibly best option you may have is to avoid having a refrigerator in your home office. This is especially necessary if your work requires you to be extremely focused. Take me for example, I can’t afford to have a refrigerator buzzing close by while I’m writing. That’s mighty distracting!
- I used to have a huge problem working around my refrigerator because of the noise it produces. But then, I and my team conducted extensive research and came up with an unrivaled article; Soundproofing your Refrigerator like a Pro. In that article, you will learn everything about noisy refrigerators and how to soundproof them.
Air vents: Air vents carry air into and out of your house, but they can be pretty noisy appliances too. Yet, they are necessary for cooling, heating, and general circulation of air. Your HVAC system could produce a wide array of sounds like humming, rattling, banging, squealing, buzzing, and clicking. Each of these sounds has various causes but can be distracting nonetheless.
Soundproofing your home office HVAC system
- The first step to soundproofing your HVAC system is to identify the sound it’s making and know what’s wrong. For example, if it’s hissing, then there’s some leakage; if it’s buzzing, then the compressor is old and faulty. Get the problem fixed and enjoy a quiet office space.
- There’s a ton of things you can do to soundproof your air vent system, but going over them would be going over old ground. I have explained everything you need to know in my article How to Soundproof Air Vents. In there, you will find out more than you can imagine.
Intermittent noises and how they affect soundproofing your home office
Intermittent noise refers to the types of noise pollution whose levels decrease and increase from time to time. In a normal household, these noises are usually produced by the actions of other humans. These noises may include talking, yelling, crying, footsteps, dishes being put away, water running, kids playing, sound from the washing machine, etc.
These are the most apparent forms of noise pollution and probably the ones you are soundproofing your home office against. They’re very distracting as they usually call for your attention, and retain it in some circumstances.
Soundproofing your home office against the intermittent noise
Soundproofing your home office from intermittent noises generally involves the methods I will mention later. Those methods are simply understanding the places these noises can slip in through and blocking them. In this section, I will discuss what you can do if you don’t have the funds and time for such extensive soundproofing measures.
Get everyone to dial things down: This is essential, regardless of the soundproofing measures you want to employ for your home office. You can pad and insulate your office all you want, but if the people in the house don’t consciously reduce their noise levels – most especially around your office – you can still get distracted by them. So you can simply call a family meeting and let them know how they can help you by operating quietly during office hours.
Noise-canceling headsets: Can you talk to your family – and maybe neighbors – about keeping things quiet? Yes, you can. Would they always remember and never distract you after that meeting? Probably not. In this case, you would need effective noise-canceling headsets. You can find a wide array of these headphones from reputable companies like Sony, Bose, and Anker. I own the Anker Soundcore Life Q20 Hybrid Active Noise Cancelling Headphones. It not only blocks out ambient noises but also produces a quality sound that can effectively hush most intermittent noises like talking and footsteps.
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Identify the biggest sources of noise in your home: What appliances can a member of your household turn on during working hours that would distract you? Identify those household equipment and try to nip the noises they produce in the bud. Examples of such appliances may include washing machines and dishwashers. If your dishwasher causes so much trouble, then I can help with that. In this article, Soundproofing a Dishwasher, I gave a detailed explanation of everything you can do to muffle the noise from your dishwasher.
Choose the quietest part of your home as an office: It makes sense that you use the quietest part of your house for your home office. Reading this right now, you may think that’s the most obvious thing to do. But it’s not. Sometimes, the noiseless part of your house is the part least traveled to – and for good reason. Therefore, this portion of your house might be untidy or broken and require some effort to put in order. This might be your basement, attic, tree house, garden house, or wherever you find the most peace.
How to soundproof your home office: 7 general soundproofing methods
There are some measures you have to take regardless of the type of sound you are trying to prevent. These steps help to stop noise from entering the office, while also preventing sound from escaping. Here are the 7 most effective ways of soundproofing your home office.
- Pad and seal the door
- Soundproof the window
- Reinforce the walls
- Do what you can about the floor
- Downstairs office? Soundproof the ceiling
- Build a room inside a room
- Block holes, cracks, and crevices
Pad and seal the office door
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Guess where the bulk of the noise would come from? Yep, your door! This is particularly true if your door leads to a noisy part of your home, or is close to, say, the children’s room. Another primary factor that can determine the amount of noise your door lets in, is its mass. If your door is made of lightweight materials, then expect it to let in higher volumes of noises.
Generally, soundproofing the door to your home office involves two processes; sealing spaces through which sound can escape and adding mass to the door.
Sealing the door
The places to seal on your door are the space between the door and the floor, the excess space between the edges of the door and the door frame, and those tiny cracks on the door that lets in light and sound.
There are a ton of things you can do to seal your door and prevent noise. You can install a door draft stopper to stop noise from coming in from underneath the door. You can also use weather-stripping materials or gaskets to seal the edges of the door. These materials not only soundproof your door but they prevent heat from escaping the room.
Padding the door
Sound travels easily through hollow materials. The sturdier your door, the less likely it is to allow noise through it. If you live in an apartment or didn’t pay much attention to soundproofing when you were constructing your home, chances are that the doors in your house let in significant volumes of noise. That shouldn’t bother you too much though, there are several ways you can increase the mass of your door.
One way you can stylishly improve the weight of your door is to install a mass loaded vinyl to the surface of your door. This acoustic barrier will effectively block all the holes on the surface of the door. It will also absorb sound better rather than bouncing it off and causing echoes and reverberation.
An alternative approach would be to replace your door.
In my article, Expert Ideas for Soundproofing a Door, I penned a very detailed explanation of the most effective ways to soundproof doors. It is a comprehensive guide, complete with pictures, that tells you everything the experts know about soundproofing a door.
Soundproof the windows
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If you ask for my opinion, I would insist that you choose a room with no windows for your office space. This is because of how difficult it is to soundproof a window. The only problem you may encounter with an office without windows is the absence of natural light. That could be a problem depending on your preferences, but there are a variety of office lightings that could suffice – in place of natural light.
But if you don’t have that option, there are a couple of things you can do to significantly block noise.
Sealing the gaps
By gaps, I’m referring to those spaces between the pane of glass and the window frame, and the spaces between the window frame and the wall. You would be surprised to find the volume of sound that can pass through those tiny spaces.
To seal them up, you can opt to use expandable foam, a water-resistant caulk, or an acoustic sealant. While all these options will be great for soundproofing your home office window, the acoustic sealant is our first pick.
Adding mass to the window
There are a few ways you can add mass to a window. You can pick double glazing or triple glazing as the padding option of your taste. Now, apart from choice and personal preference, the volume of noise coming in through the window can also be a deciding factor.
Firstly, double glazing and triple glazing refer to adding one or two extra panes of glass to your window, respectively. Dong this adds mass to your window setup, but it also leaves space between consecutive windows. The vacuum between the glasses traps most of the sound attempting to pass through it.
Using a soundproofing material
If all your attempts at stopping the sound from getting through the window fail, you can rely on soundproofing materials. Soundproofing materials are materials that trap and absorb sound. These materials include soundproof curtains, blankets, and blinds.
For a more stylish appearance, you can get soundproof curtains or soundproof blinds of various designs and colors. If the style isn’t a priority or you’re on a budget, you can go for soundproof blankets. Or you can simply place some of the thick blankets you already have over your office window.
The above tips are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to soundproofing your windows. For an in-depth look into how you can completely soundproof your window, see 11 Best ways to Soundproofing a window. In this article, you get to see even the most advanced and extreme window soundproofing measures.
Reinforce the walls
Yes, walls! You might be surprised to find that your walls are not as soundproof as they may seem at first. Sure, they offer more resistance to noise than windows and doors, but to muffle more sound, you need to soundproof your walls.
My article about soundproofing a drywall will teach you all you need to know if the walls of your home office are dry walls. I painstakingly explained every method and process in detail. Check it out.
Here, I will show tell you what you can do about the walls in general. There are certain things you can do regardless of the type of wall in your home and they are:
Sound absorbing paints
Do they exist? Yes, they do. Are they very effective? The long answer is that I have covered exactly how effective soundproof paints are, and you should check it out. The short answer is that they work.
One of the primary ingredients used in producing these noise-absorbing paints is latex, it is the latex that gives the paint its sound-absorbing and dampening properties. Soundproofing paints come in a rich array of colors and are as beautiful as regular paint for your home office.
Acoustic materials for soundproofing your home office
The go-to and most popular method to soundproof a wall is to cover it with some sort of acoustic material. These acoustic materials include acoustic wall panels, acoustic foams, and acoustic blankets.
You don’t need to be worried when you hear the term acoustic. Acoustic in this sense is used to classify materials that can absorb sound rather than reflect it. So your regular blanket and upholstery could as well be referred to as acoustic.
However, soundproofing your home office with regular blankets could make the office look drab and bland. So instead, you can go for the aesthetically pleasing professional-grade acoustic wall panels. They are more effective at soundproofing and are also more attractive.
Use acoustic decoration on your walls
In modern times, home décor has had to do a lot more than just beautify a place. Most of the decoration and furniture you would find in most houses today, serve at least a dual purpose. They either beautify and hide faults, or they could adorn your walls and help with soundproofing.
Examples of furniture and décor you can use in the soundproofing of your home office are bookshelves and artworks. In the case of the bookshelves, you can place a ceiling to floor bookshelf next to light or hollow wall. This will add mass to the wall and sound will find it harder to pass.
Similarly, you can use acoustic artworks to interrupt the hard surface of your wall. Hard surfaces cause echo and bounce sound randomly. Breaking the surface strategically with these sound-absorbing décor will help you have clear conversations.
Do what you can about the floor
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I know this subheading sounds a bit pessimistic. Truth is that, when it comes to soundproofing floors, whether in your home office or anywhere else, the best you can do is pad it as much as possible. The sound transmitted through floors – impact noises – is tough to soundproof against.
Impact noises are produced when something hits or collides with hard surfaces like floors. So, while you can easily soundproof your home to hush footsteps, you can’t do much if something heavy falls. The effect of the object colliding with the floor would still be transmitted throughout the house, via the floors.
But employing the following soundproofing actions will help reduce the intensity of impact noises. Only the vibration of heavy objects hitting the floor will get your attention.
Thick carpets and rugs
Usually, this is enough soundproofing. Especially those very thick wall to wall carpets that even help to absorb some of the sounds from the walls. Some other pros of this option are that it is widespread, easy to install, and you can always find the color and design that suits your taste.
If using a wall to wall carpets don’t appeal to you, you can opt to use area rugs instead. You may have already noticed that the bulk of the sound from your floors is within a particular area. This can be the case if your original floor does a good job at soundproofing. You can use a small rug to cover that area.
In combination with carpets, these work to effectively reduce echo and the effects of impact noises. Floor underlays are thick and soft sound-absorbing materials that fit snugly under the carpets. They have the dual function of improving the feel of the floor on your soles and absorbing vibrations.
These floor underlayments are usually water-resistant and can be made from laminate, cork, or vinyl materials.
Downstairs office? Soundproof the ceiling
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Soundproofing the ceiling of your home office seldom comes into consideration. But if you live in an apartment building, and have a noisy neighbor directly above your office, you need it. The need to soundproof your ceiling may also arise if your office is in the attic. In that case, you may need to soundproof against airborne noises and noises from outside the house.
Here are the soundproofing actions you can take on the ceiling of your home office:
Ceiling clouds, otherwise known as acoustical clouds, hang from the ceiling. They do more than provide cushion for your ceiling from incoming sound, they also improve the sound within the room. They are excellent at trapping sound. Even the back ends of these clouds absorb sound.
What more? These acoustic clouds also have a decorative function as they are pleasing to behold. If you opt to use these ceiling clouds, another advantage would be the reduction of echo, reflection, and reverberation. What this means is that sound – like speech – within the office will be more intelligible.
Acoustic foams, fiberglass, and boards
Now, depending on the kind of ceiling you have, you can opt to use acoustic foams, fiberglass, or acoustic boards. Also depending on the severity of the noise coming from above, you may decide to use a combination of two of the options I just mentioned.
Additionally, attaching drywall to your ceiling could help. What you need is to ensure that there’s some space between the existing ceiling and the drywall. For improved soundproofing, you can choose to add layers of fiberglass within the joist of the drywall.
Build a room inside a room
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Just in case you are feeling a little adventurous and want to try something exceptional, you can build a room inside your office. This private haven will have the advantage of two different sets of protective layers.
This can be extremely useful for you if the normal forms of soundproofing have failed you. Adding mass to all the essential parts I mentioned may prove futile if your environment is excessively noisy. In that case, building a smaller room within a larger space would be a smart way to hush the noise.
Building a smaller room requires the same soundproofing and padding actions I have already covered above. But there is one essential thing you need to do to get it right; you need to ensure that the walls of the inner room don’t touch the walls of the outer wall.
If you have the walls of the smaller room touching that of the outer room, you would be defeating the purpose of having a smaller room in the first place. Vibrations and sound can easily be transmitted by conduction if you let that happen. So you want to make sure there’s significant space between the different walls.
Also, adhere to the general soundproofing guide. For instance, you should opt to use drywalls. If you can use double drywalls with acoustic fiberglass between them, that would provide substantial insulation.
Block holes, cracks, and crevices
Apart from strengthening your walls, doors, and windows, you would also want to go around to ensure you block other openings. It’s astonishing the amount of sound that can be transmitted through tiny cracks and crevices.
Air vents, electric boxes, and ductwork are the biggest culprits when it comes to openings that let in sound. These openings, when they stand alone, seem insignificant. But if they are too many, then the volume of noise they let in, become substantial.
You have to trace and address these noise routes individually and ensure you block them. You can build a maze in the vent to restrict the entrance of noise and retain airflow in the room. Similarly, you can soundproofing sealant or caulk to seal off small holes, or cover with a soundproofing blanket.
The end note
At the end, I would just say that soundproofing your home office is very important so that you can get the most peaceful environment for proper concentration on your work. I work from home too and I know how hard it is to concentrate on work if there is even a slightest bit of noise around! Luckily, these tips have worked really well from me and now I work in a complete soundproof environment with almost no noise! You can try these out too and I’m sure you won’t regret it! Best of luck!