Buy curtains, get sleep?
October 15, 2011 5:31 AM   Subscribe

What is the best way to lower the ambient noise in my bedroom given the following constraints? (Snowflakes inside)

First off, assume that I cannot use ear plugs or white noise. I'm experimenting with those based on other Askme questions, so for this question, I'm looking for home improvement-type answers ONLY. :)

I live in a room in a city apartment that faces the street and shares walls with the living room, kitchen, and hallway, like this:

k x x l
i x x i
t x x v
c x x i
h x x n
e x x g
n x x room

(Sorry, I am a terrible artist!) The point is, all of the walls generate some kind of noise, either from people or vehicles.

Other constraints:
- I am extremely UN-handy. I can barely use scissors. Solutions that require me to hang plasterboard or do something with egg crates probably won't work for me.
- I am renting, so no major modifications
- Cost is not a huge concern. I'm willing to buy the 3 sets of curtains or the super fancy ones if that will work best. On the other hand, I don't want to hire an acoustic contractor to remodel the room.
- The noises I'm dealing with are not particularly loud, but I have anxiety and startle awake easily. Trucks driving by. People having breakfast or walking in the hallway.


- Noise-blocking curtains: Which ones have you used? Which ones do you like? The street noise (traffic and voices) comes through a window which is the only source of light. Are there noise-blocking curtains that are not also light-blocking curtains?

- Sound dampening plastic film on windows: Have you used it? Was it relatively easy to install? Did it work?

- Wall curtains: Would it look weird if I put curtains on all of my walls? It's a very small room. Is there a way to make this look better? I'm kind of decorating impaired as well so any suggestions would be helpful.

- Foam pads/blankets: Is there a place where I can buy already made sound panels covered in pretty fabrics to hang on my walls, rather than having to buy sound foam and cover it myself (requiring skill and time I don't have)?

- What else has worked for you?

Thank you, Mefites! I love this community!
posted by carolinaherrera to Home & Garden (5 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Buy bubblewrap and tape it to the windows, just at the top, so you can move it aside to look out. Lets the sun in, but insulates temp, and noise.

It's easy to buy large pieces of foam, nice fabric, and spray on fabric glue. Buy a box of metal clips of the type used in offices, and use them at the top, to hang the foam from picture hooks. Use quite a few, the foam could tear. Make one of these for the back of the door.

Do you have books? Full bookcases are pretty good at insulating.
posted by theora55 at 9:04 AM on October 15, 2011

If you have the money you can buy nice thick quilts or comforters and hang them on the wall to help block out the sounds, you could hit up the Goodwill or just get cheap ones at Walmart or even go the nice hand made quilt route depending on you budget.

If you can use nails (not sure if you are renting or not) tack them to the walls you want, if not you can get those peel and stick hooks that can hold decent loads. Attach some safety pins to the back and hook the pins on the hooks.

Voila instant baffles.

Thick curtain material too would help and would have built in tabs for hanging on the hooks.
posted by wwax at 10:08 AM on October 15, 2011

I can't figure out from the diagram which part is supposed to be the bedroom, but...

Are there noise-blocking curtains that are not also light-blocking curtains?


sound panels covered in pretty fabrics

If you make them yourself.

Sound dampening plastic film on windows:

I've only heard of the air-leak-dampening ones, but I can't see how film like the insulation stuff would have any effect on sound.

What else has worked for you?

Ear plugs and white noise.

Really, for a standard renting situation with no skills, you're limited. You'd be limited even if you weren't renting, because there's only so much you can do to a room without construction in order to reduce the propagation of sound from the outside in, especially for impact noises like "people walking." Pretty much the only thing you could do that is along the lines of what you ask for in the question is to make a window plug.
posted by rhizome at 10:51 AM on October 15, 2011

You have money to spend? you want pretty? Here's a company that makes wall murals and art pieces that incorporate acoustic panels.

And here's one that has panels covered in various fabrics.

For hanging curtains when I didn't want to make any holes in the walls, I've used spring tension curtain rods; strong, small magnets; or a clothesline and clothespins.

And don't forget the ceiling. I recall seeing a picture somewhere of a room in which the walls and ceiling had all been covered with draped sheets, like being inside a giant cocoon. The dust would be a whole nother nightmare, but I'll bet it would be quiet.

And the floor too, of course. I assume you have a carpet? Wall-to-wall would be best.

Maybe a canopy bed, with curtains all around, would help, too.
posted by Corvid at 3:17 PM on October 15, 2011

Don't expect much if you start buying thick curtains and acoustic panels. These are designed to reduce the amount of sound that bounces around the room, but will have little effect on preventing sound from coming in. They may help a bit, but you will be investing a lot of money for very little return.

Unfortunately, soundPROOFING (which is what you are looking for) doesn't come cheap, and requires quite a bit of work.

If you can come up with some thick curtains or acoustic panels cheaply, it wouldn't hurt to try them out, but they will only block out a bit of the high frequency noise, which typically isn't the sound that would bother you when a truck drives by. The lower frequency noises are likely going to bother you more, and there isn't much of anything within your constraints which can block this.
posted by markblasco at 9:48 PM on October 15, 2011

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