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Soundproof Home Office

How to Soundproof a Home Office

How to Soundproof a Home Office

These days the office looks... a little different. In fact, it looks a lot like home. As we all do our best to carve out working spaces in our homes, away from screaming kids, the neighbors mowing their lawn, dogs barking, and countless other distractions - we start to blur the lines between working from home and living at work. Being able to “step in” to a new environment for work is key to increasing productivity, but if you can still hear the sounds of home, it’s hard to keep your mind at work.

We’ll help you find ways to soundproof your office as well as improve the acoustics so you can block out distractions and keep your focus. Let’s start with the difference between soundproofing and acoustics.

These days the office looks... a little different. In fact, it looks a lot like home. As we all do our best to carve out working spaces in our homes, away from screaming kids, the neighbors mowing their lawn, dogs barking, and countless other distractions - we start to blur the lines between working from home and living at work. Being able to “step in” to a new environment for work is key to increasing productivity, but if you can still hear the sounds of home, it’s hard to keep your mind at work.

We’ll help you find ways to soundproof your office as well as improve the acoustics so you can block out distractions and keep your focus. Let’s start with the difference between soundproofing and acoustics.

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Popular Home Office Soundproofing Products


Acoustic Pro™ Fabric Wrapped Panel

Green Glue

Soundproofing vs. Acoustics

Both soundproofing and acoustics are important strategies for noise control, however they each solve very different problems. Soundproofing is all about keeping sound *out* of a space, so if you are dealing with things like high frequency street noise or the low frequency sounds of yard work, you want to think about soundproofing. Acoustics take into the account the quality of sound *inside* a space. By improving acoustics you can reduce reverberations in a space and make it easier to hear others or yourself on those many video calls you find yourself on these days. Things like carpets, curtains, and furniture can absorb some sound and improve acoustics slightly, but there are other strategies that will have a bigger impact.

Once you’ve identified the types of noise problems you’re dealing with, you can get to work on solving them. Let’s start with soundproofing.

difference between soundproofing and acoustics in a home office
difference between soundproofing and acoustics

Soundproof Your Home Office

Sound moves a lot like water, it will find its way to the weakest point and can travel through the smallest of gaps. So the biggest key to stopping sound is sealing up gaps, just like you’d want your shower to be sealed up before running the water.  

Small gaps

Homes can shift and move over time, and even new homes may have gaps in the wall construction. Most contractors are not focused perfectly sealing a wall for soundproofing. Take a look at your base molding, electrical outlets, and vents. Use acoustic seal inside these gaps to seal up spaces so things connect tightly and less sound can get through. A well sealed residential wall has an STC rating of about 38, but most walls in your home have an STC rating of 30-34 due to lack of proper sealing. Acoustic caulk is cheap. This is a an easy fix and good place to start.

Doors and windows

There’s often more space around your doors and windows than you think. The average door has roughly a square foot of space around it. Imagine a square foot hole in the middle of your wall, and it would be pretty clear where the noise is coming from.

First take a look at the door itself. If it’s a hollow core door, then it’s not dense enough to be a good sound barrier. Replace it with a solid core door. Then use a Door Seal Kit to plug the gaps all around your door to completely seal up any remaining gaps. We often hear about using weather stripping from your local hardware store, which is actually a great solution for thermal transfer, but it won’t do much to block sound because those rubber seals don’t seal well enough to stop sound transfer. For a true seal, we recommend a door seal kit. The kit is made up of 3 adjustable seals for the top and sides of the door, and 1 bottom seal. When the door is shut and the kit is installed, the seal will expand to apply pressure to the floor and edges to create a complete seal. The seal then retracts when opening the door so you don’t even notice it’s there.

example of a home office
example of a home office

Windows suffer from the same problems as doors. You could replace them, but that’s even more difficult and way more expensive than replacing a door. Soundproof window inserts are a cost-effective and easy-to-install way to seal up the gaps around windows. They also help with thermal insulation which gives the added benefit of reducing your heating and cooling costs!

At this point you’ve probably done enough for the run-of-the-mill office job with a few meetings throughout the day. But if your job requires things like recording, performing, teaching or otherwise presenting virtually for extended periods, you may need to take additional home office soundproofing steps.

wALLS

We mentioned STC ratings earlier. An STC rating is a measure of how well a partition, like a wall, blocks sound. Here’s a quick reference on how much sound is blocked depending on the STC rating.

STC Rating What Can Be Heard
25
Normal speech easily understood
30
Loud speech easily understood
35
Loud speech heard, but not understood
40
Loud speech heard as a murmur
45
Loud speech barely able to be heard
50
Loud speech not heard
60+
You're soundproof
STC Rating What Can Be Heard
25
Normal speech easily understood
30
Loud speech easily understood
35
Loud speech heard, but not understood
40
Loud speech heard as a murmur
45
Loud speech barely able to be heard
50
Loud speech not heard
60+
You're soundproof

With that in mind, remember that a well sealed standard residential wall has an STC rating of 38. If you’ve taken all the steps above to seal gaps around doors, windows, and outlets, you’ve got an STC rating approaching 40 which is good enough for most home offices.

To increase your wall’s STC rating without breaking out the sledgehammer, you can add additional drywall to increase the mass. Use Green Glue to apply an extra layer of ⅝” drywall. This decoupler layer of drywall in addition to sealing gaps will take your STC rating into the low 50s.

Protip: If you’re going to soundproof walls, you need to do the ceiling (and probably floor) as well. If you don’t, sound will “flank” over or under your walls into your space. Treat your ceiling the same way you would your wall with Green Glue and ⅝” drywall. For your floor you can add a rubber underlayment and then additional flooring on top.

To learn more about how to ensure your home office into a place of peace and quiet, check out our other articles on door soundproofing and ceiling soundproofing.

Improving Home Office Acoustics

Imagine listening to your favorite album on a state of the art crystal clear surround sound system. Now imagine listening to it on an old handheld FM radio that’s just out of range of the nearest radio tower. That difference in sound quality can make a major difference in your listening experience, and even your mood. There’s a whole field of research devoted to the impact of sound on people. It’s called “psychoacoustics”. There’s a lot to say on the subject, but a quick version is that lower sound quality means the listener has to expend more energy and more focus on what you’re saying to understand you. They are more likely to get distracted from your message. They are less likely to retain the information you tell them. They are more likely to rate you as a poor communicator. They will report less “enjoyment” from listening to you. If your job involves a lot of communication with groups via videoconference, you are making a mistake to not consider the acoustics of your home office. Whether you’re a teacher trying to engage a class, a consultant trying to win a client, or an employee trying to put his or her best foot forward in a presentation, it’s important to make sure you don’t lose your audience. Audio quality is a key component. By improving the acoustics in your space, you can help yourself be both easier and more enjoyable to listen to.

home office with acoustic panels
home office with acoustic panels

One of the easiest and most effective ways to improve the sound quality in your office is to install acoustic wall panels. In a standard 10 x 10 room, just 32 square feet of panels will drastically reduce reverberation time in your home office and improve the acoustics in your space.

Acoustic Pro Fabric Wrapped Panels

The Acoustic Pro fabric wrapped panels are not only immensely effective at improving sound quality, but they’re designed to look great with custom shapes, colors, and even designs. So even if you’re still wearing sweatpants on the bottom, you’ll look very professional on screen.

Our panels are made for a variety of commercial and residential spaces so they're designed to look natural in all kinds of rooms, and are customizable so they can fit into your design plans. We offer 8 standard colors, 6 shapes, and 2 thicknesses, but can also build custom panels to fit your needs with fabric wrapped panels or acoustic clouds.

*Note: Not finding the right size, color, or shape for you? Contact us to create custom panels built to your specifications.

Need Help Soundproofing your home office?

Working from home has been a blessing and a curse for most of us. And while it’s great that our commutes are cut down to about 20 feet, it’s not always great for productivity. We hope our guide helps you carve out that quiet space to clear your head and get work done, but if you still have questions, reach out to us anytime, we’d love to help!