How do I "sound proof" a bedroom window?
February 6, 2007 8:31 AM   Subscribe

How do I "sound proof" a bedroom window?

As my sanity decreases and my blood pressure increases, I have finally decided to do something productive about the constant sound of construction noise invading my life. I cannot afford to move, so I am going to block out two north-facing windows and just accept that the endless stream art-loft building yuppies moving in isn't going to end soon.

In my mind I'm going to Home Depot and buying 4" thick foam and wrestling it in.

But I have no idea if this will work. What's the best material for this kind of endeavor?

THANKS (And think twice if you're thinking about moving to Venice Beach, CA)
posted by rocco to Home & Garden (19 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
You could do the foam thing, but for aesthetics, would you consider getting some very heavy drapes to line the whole wall in question? This would help to muffle some of the higher frequency noise that is coming through.
posted by davey_darling at 8:39 AM on February 6, 2007

Felt blankets are what the professionals use in studios and on stages. You can buy them from packing companies and hang them. You'll need to cover the whole wall, but it will work.

Foam pads like the ones you describe are not for muffling, but rather for deadening reflections.
posted by fake at 8:59 AM on February 6, 2007

If you're willing to spend some money, you can get windows that are supposed to block sound but still let you see out. Here's an example (just the first one that showed up, I have no idea if they're good).
posted by The corpse in the library at 9:00 AM on February 6, 2007 [1 favorite]

Can you tell us more about the kinds of noises that are coming in? Deep and percussive like jackhammers, higher like circular saws, irregular noises like clanking...?
posted by allterrainbrain at 9:15 AM on February 6, 2007

From what I have read concerning soundproofing it primarily rests on if there is an airway for the offending sound to travel through. I was looking to soundproof a room for a drum kit and found this site very informative.
posted by ronmexico at 9:27 AM on February 6, 2007

Response by poster: Thanks for all the suggestions so far...

I'm renting, so I cannot make any permanent changes such as new windows. The noise is from construction sites (three, would you beleive), so... Banging, drilling, machenery etc. The site closest to me is now just a hole, so I'm bracing for the worst.
posted by rocco at 9:32 AM on February 6, 2007

Have you considered ear plugs?

The foam ones that are shaped like a bullet are the way to go; I love 'em.
posted by Steven C. Den Beste at 9:39 AM on February 6, 2007

A word of caution: Regardless of what sound dampening method you choose, please take into consideration that some day you may need to use that window for a quick exit (in the event of a fire, for example).
posted by geeky at 10:02 AM on February 6, 2007

Second the ear plugs. You can get them at drug stores. They're cheap, too. After a few nights I don't even realize I have them in.
posted by jeff-o-matic at 10:05 AM on February 6, 2007

Even if you can't do permanent construction, there are some possibly useful suggestions re. modified "second wall" solutions in the middle of this article and in here.

And definitely listen to geeky if applicable.
posted by allterrainbrain at 10:12 AM on February 6, 2007

Heavy drapes and other fabrics on the walls may help.
posted by chunking express at 10:25 AM on February 6, 2007

A double paned window that has a vacuum between the two panes will block all sound.
posted by zeoslap at 10:29 AM on February 6, 2007

Before embarking on any major project, I would make sure that the noise is actually coming through the window.

Sound travels exceedingly well through solids (i.e. walls, floors, windows), especially at mid and low frequencies. I would guess that a significant amount of the noise is low end rumbles and bangs - this is more likely to be transmitted directly through the building (and possibly to the building through the ground) and into your space via the walls, floor and ceiling.

Isolation booths in recording studios (and other places where quiet is very important) are built with a floating room design - an entire room within a room is built, touching the outside world only via industrial grade foam blocks.

I would recommend testing the windows by hanging some heavy fabric (whatever you have lying around - sleeping bags?) over the window in order to see how much of a difference it makes. If the fabric doesn't make a huge difference, you should probably look into earplugs (as suggested above).
posted by aquafiend at 10:46 AM on February 6, 2007

It might help to do multiple things:

Blackout curtains are very heavy and do block some noise as well.

In addition, you can hang regular heavy drapes on a separate rod, so you have two thick layers, and neither of these will interfere with egress.

Also get a white noise machine - one that makes various types of white noise. Some people like the humming type (I hate it), but you might like "babbling brook" or whatever.

Finally, earplugs. Again, there are many different types, but most of them are cheap. Try a bunch.
posted by peep at 10:52 AM on February 6, 2007

On the cheap I'd make a Gyproc|Foam|Gyproc sandwich to slip into the window jamb. Leave an 1/8" gap all around which you seal with foam tape. You need mass to dampen low frequencies and air sealing and phase changes to dampen high frequencies. Plus foam needs to be isolated in case of fire. You can use a spray glue to mount the sheet rock to the foam.

For a few hundred dollars you could get a wood frames with sealed glass units made to fit the inside of the window. This will be especially effective if you've got poorly sealing or single pane windows. I did this for storm windows over my aluminium sliders and held the storm window in with two barrel latches. I've also seen people use magnets in conjuntion with steel clad windows. Besides the fire egress risk I'd want to be confident my solution could handle at least a minor earthquake.
posted by Mitheral at 11:33 AM on February 6, 2007

I have noise issues and have found that drowning out the sound is easier and more effective than trying to block it. Get a super-loud fan.
posted by _sirmissalot_ at 12:37 PM on February 6, 2007

(Beware of combining headphones and white noise, though; see this other thread that's going on right now...)
posted by allterrainbrain at 3:15 PM on February 6, 2007

On the cheap, even a piece of cardboard will deflect the sound pretty well.
posted by snsranch at 4:53 PM on February 6, 2007

rocco what did you end up doing and how is it working out for you?
posted by Mitheral at 1:55 AM on October 19, 2007

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