Help me make my curtains as noiseproof as possible
April 2, 2015 2:06 PM   Subscribe

I live on a busy London street and am making curtains for a second-floor room with 2 large wooden sash windows that face the street. Guests sometimes sleep in this room and I'd like to minimise street noise for their sake. My curtain materials are 1 layer of this heavy woven tapestry fabric (mostly cotton) and 1 layer of blackout fabric. Should I also be interlining the curtains with some kind of fluffy stuff, like quilt batting? Or would that be overkill?

Acoustically, is there going to be a huge difference between the sound-blocking properties of fabric+lining versus fabric+interlining+lining?

I did interline the curtains I made for my bedroom (heavy fabric layer; heavy quilting layer; blackout fabric) and they turned out to be too heavy to move easily. Like, if I want to open or close them all the way, I have to use a stepladder and lift-and-pull. I'd prefer for these curtains to be more manageable. If you do think I should interline them, suggestions for effective lightweight materials would be welcome.

Before anyone says "double glazing": the building façade is listed (non-UK readers: this is like a conservation area), so I can't replace the single-glazed wooden sash windows with anything different.
posted by Pallas Athena to Home & Garden (12 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Best answer: suggestions for effective lightweight materials would be welcome

One of the principles of soundproofing is increasing the mass of the barrier (in addition to damping and decoupling it), so changing to lighter weight materials is likely to hurt rather than help.

Is there anything you can do to make heavy curtains easier to deal with? Perhaps give up on sliding them open, and settle for tying them open in the middle with the top still closed? Would that be sufficient for guests, even though you like to be able to fully open your own curtains?
posted by clawsoon at 2:32 PM on April 2, 2015 [1 favorite]

I would suggest that the curtains cover the entire wall.
posted by H21 at 2:36 PM on April 2, 2015 [5 favorites]

I like the tying back the curtains idea if it works with the look of the room, or maybe adding sheers behind the curtains to give another layer for sound to travel through. Another option might be to get a small white noise machine to mask street sounds for your guests.
posted by julie_of_the_jungle at 2:42 PM on April 2, 2015

In addition to covering the entire wall with curtains, it might help to place furniture on that wall, such as bookcases or other large furniture.
posted by Michele in California at 2:44 PM on April 2, 2015

Build in a second window on the inside? After all, double pane windows are just two panes of glass.

Also, 2nding clawsoon on mass.
posted by flimflam at 2:54 PM on April 2, 2015

I have a similar problem, and was recommended getting a foam/Styrofoam insert for the window. Haven't tried it yet, and you do get the aesthetic issues.
posted by troytroy at 3:41 PM on April 2, 2015 [2 favorites]

Best answer: I think quilt batting would be overkill and might give the curtains more of a blanket effect than the desired curtain effect. Covering the entire wall with curtains might get prohibitively expensive, especially at £20.99 a meter.

I live right on a noisy alley (oh, hello delivery trucks at 4 a.m.!) and instead invested in a white noise machine to muffle the sound. It works pretty well and I don't have to keep it on all the time.
posted by mochapickle at 3:41 PM on April 2, 2015 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Roman blinds are easy to make, if a bit fiddly, and very easy to open and close. They have a very neat, clean look in use - you don't get flowing gathers, you get a series of pleated rectangles. Because of the opening mechanism you would, I think, be able to quilt the material, and you could please yourself where to place your battens ie inside or outside the window frame, wider than the window or fitting it.

You could easily do a small test blind with quilt batting and fabric of equivalent weight to your real fabrics, and test whether the blind mechanism will work with your material.
posted by glasseyes at 4:16 PM on April 2, 2015 [3 favorites]

Best answer: Design the curtains with lots of extra fabric and fullness so that the fabric accordions back onto itself more than patterns usually call for. So, even when the drape is pulled closed across the window, there would be lots of S curves absorbing sound. I would line it with whatever you normally use. Also, try designing them to be longer so they can be hung higher than you normally would (I'd eyeball for how high you can get away with putting the curtain rod - this always looks nice anyway/makes the room seem bigger, but also helps with the sound.) And, if you can, then create enough length that the curtains also puddle a bit onto the floor. It's a tiny bit harder to keep clean, but looks luxe and will also help with the sound. Here's an example.
posted by marimeko at 4:27 PM on April 2, 2015 [3 favorites]

Best answer: I have, in fact, done the trick of covering the entire wall. I used lightweight material, bought on the clearance rack for cheap. I didn't spend much money (under $200 to cover 3 walls, a window and a doorway opening).

If the lightweight material hung flat, it made little difference. If it was about two to three times the width of the space it was covering and thus had lots of folds and gathers, it did do a lot to muffle sound.
posted by Michele in California at 4:28 PM on April 2, 2015 [1 favorite]

Before anyone says "double glazing"

I don't know if these are available in the U.K., but Indow windows pop inside a window frame to seal out sound and seem to be really effective. They don't damage the window frame at all and can easily be removed.
posted by three_red_balloons at 10:05 PM on April 2, 2015 [2 favorites]

Best answer: I've done entire comforters/duvets/quilts. The best setup i ever had on a busy street and in a stupid college house(in which i did my windows AND made a "four poster" bed) was the thickest, heaviest, most exaggerated velvet theater curtains. The kinds that are so heavy they destroy normal curtain rods and rip the screws out of the wall.

Also seconding having it cover way beyond the window in every direction. Not just side to side, but above and below as well. Also seconding letting the extra material billow, and having them be massively oversized for the window. For an idea, each curtain could have covered a window alone with lots of overage.

Thick flannel blankets worked almost as well, but the incredibly heavy velvet curtains were a great solution.

They also double as blackout curtains, so you don't need a separate set of those.

I bought mine second hand for next to nothing, by the way. I think i paid less than $30. They were a little tiny bit tattered at the edges, but they still looked pretty dramatic/hilarious and were quite functional. The hardest part of the setup/install honestly was finding a strong enough curtain rod and mount. I ended up having to put a really exaggerated looking 3rd support in the middle of the rod, and use massively oversized screws directly in to studs/framing. Expanders/anchors just ripped out and annihilated the plaster or sheetrock on their way.
posted by emptythought at 1:55 AM on April 3, 2015 [2 favorites]

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