January 9, 2006 12:57 PM   Subscribe

There is a ridiculous huge rectangular cut-out in the wall between my bedroom and that of my sister (what can I say, NYC real estate is ingenious). Please help me cover it up in some soundproof fashion.

The hole is 24" tall by 38" wide. It's nice because it gives her some light (no window in her room), but it sucks as far as privacy/sound goes. Any ideas (extra points if they preserve the light-permitting aspects of the hole)? I've purchased 2 sheets of lucite, each is 36"x44", so if you have any good ideas for how to attractively attach those (or know whether they'll even help with the sound?), that would be great as well.
posted by unknowncommand to Home & Garden (15 answers total)
Response by poster: There should be more commas in my first sentence.
posted by unknowncommand at 12:59 PM on January 9, 2006

Best answer: You can enclose the hole in a pine box that goes all the way around, and then mount your lucite sheets between quarter-rounds. Make sure the finish carpentry is tight. Quarter rounds are cylindrical dowels, cut into quarter-sections.

To install each sheet:

-cut the quarter lengths to length and attach with finishing nails.
-mount a piece of lucite, pressed up onto your itnernal quarter-round frame.
-cut more quarter lengths and attach with finishing nails on the other side, sandwiching the lucite in.

I just got done doing this for our recording studio. Works like a charm. Almost no sound is coming through there.
posted by jon_kill at 1:01 PM on January 9, 2006

This may or may not be safe, so proceed at your own risk:

Attach the clear lucite to the wall on either side, using molding in the shape of a picture frame. Between the 2 sheets of lucite, put several sheets of clear bubble wrap, so that the entire space is full of bubble wrap. The bubble wrap will still let some light through, but will be a pretty good sound insulator.

Again, check for fire safety issues before proceeding with this plan.
posted by JekPorkins at 1:03 PM on January 9, 2006

What level of sound do you need to block? Phone conversation? Loud music? You say soundproof, but maybe muffling would be a more realistic goal. On the other hand, if it's sex noises, yeah, you'd want sound proofing.
posted by voidcontext at 1:04 PM on January 9, 2006

Best answer: How much can you spend? Are you handy? I'd ditch the lucite and go with Glass blocks cemented into a wooden frame. Lets light through, but maintains privacy and kills noise. will be expensive and heavy though. And probably useless after you move out
posted by cosmicbandito at 1:20 PM on January 9, 2006

Response by poster: voidcontext: at this point, any muffling would be fine. The acoustics are such that I could probably actually hear a pin drop in her room (plus I can hear everything in the living room if her door is open to it). Once I moved my bed to a better place so that it was quieter, and then she could hear everything from my room instead.
posted by unknowncommand at 1:23 PM on January 9, 2006

Response by poster: cosmicbandito: I'm willing to spend about $50 over what I've already spent on the Lucite, and I'm not particularly handy, but I'm good at following directions (and patient). With glass bricks, my concern would be finding the right size (do they make more than one size?) such that there are no gaps. Unless something could be done about the gaps.
posted by unknowncommand at 1:27 PM on January 9, 2006

One thing to consider is that if you permanently block that hole, you're reducing the number of bedrooms in your apartment by one. If it's a two bedroom apartment now, it would become a one bedroom apartment according to the (building codes or something?) of NY. Putting in a glass block window would severely piss off your landlord. That opening is there and without glass because it's required. Otherwise, without light and fresh air, your sister's room is technically a closet.

You don't need it there of course, so if you choose to block it up, go for it. Just be aware your landlord may use your security deposit to pay to undo whatever you do put up.
posted by voidcontext at 1:32 PM on January 9, 2006

If you don't mind spending a bit of money glass block would fit in this hole pretty good and for non structural purposes like this it can just be siliconed together rather than mortared. It'll block sound better than the walls around it while still passing light.
posted by Mitheral at 1:34 PM on January 9, 2006

unknowncommand writes "With glass bricks, my concern would be finding the right size (do they make more than one size?) such that there are no gaps."

Glass block is available in assorted sizes: (pdf) 4" x 8"; 6" x 6"; 6" x 8"; 8" x 8"; 12" x 12" and you can mix and match; however, enough to cover 6 square feet is going to run you more than $50. You would make up the short fall in size choices with wood framing either around the whole assembly or between each course of bricks.
posted by Mitheral at 1:45 PM on January 9, 2006

I've recently discovered a product called polygal, which is two polycarbonate sheets with a honeycomb layer between. This is often used for greenhouses, but can be used for other things. Look for a plastics supplier that advertises lucite and the like--they'll probably have it.

Get a sheet (4' x 8') of this in white (translucent) and some bubblewrap.

You could (ghetto) cut the polygal to the size of the opening, tape one sheet to one wall, fill the void between with bubblewrap, and then tape the other sheet to the other wall. Or (nice) build a wood frame for each sheet of polygal and nail them into the surrounding walls, filling the void with bubblewrap.

This will give you 3+ layers of baffling, pretty good light transmission, and minimal impact on the walls.
posted by adamrice at 2:03 PM on January 9, 2006

I should probably disclose why (if you're unsure) this hole exists. You mention that your sister's bedroom has no window. A friend of mine had the same setup in his house- basement bedrooms, one with no window, and a hole in the wall between them. He and his brother each occupied one of the rooms, which was great for when they were kids but as teens they wanted to patch it for privacy reasons. Their father would not consent however, because apparently the building code in this state (Minnesota) requires that all bedrooms have access to a window. I can only imagine that it's the same in NY, since why else would they build it like that?

So you should probably understand that the alteration you propose may or may not create a building code violation inside your house.
posted by baphomet at 2:52 PM on January 9, 2006

Response by poster: baphomet: I'm not sure if it would create a building code violation, though I appreciate your concern. People here, including landlords, turn many a room into a "bedroom" (which isn't to say that it's legal or a great idea), and I've seen many seemingly legit (although pretty dark) bedrooms with no windows whatsoever. She certainly has her own door to the living areas, and the room is large enough for a full-sized bed, a dresser, a closet of its own, and plenty of space to walk. It's kind of a puzzling layout.
posted by unknowncommand at 3:09 PM on January 9, 2006

You can get sheet styrofoam to put between the plexi, and it transmits some light. The bubble wrap is a great idea and would look cool. If you make an insert pretty much the size of the hole, and make 1 piece of plexi slightly larger than the hole, it might be able to stay in with no hardware. or minimal hardware.

If you want to make it more of a project, put a rope light or fairy lights in between the plexi with bubble wrap. They generate heat, so you'd have to drill some ventilation holes.
posted by theora55 at 5:40 PM on January 9, 2006

Response by poster: Thanks so much for these suggestions, I probably should have posted here before purchasing the lucite. Anyhow, I'm going to try and tackle the project this weekend I think, and then I'll update and mark a best answer.
posted by unknowncommand at 8:44 AM on January 11, 2006

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