How to soundproof a window: 12 Methods That Actually Work

Ian Mutuli
Updated on

There are many reasons you may need soundproof windows. Maybe your house or office is near a busy street, or maybe you live in a noisy neighborhood. Sometimes, it could be you making noise in your professions, such as music production or podcasting. Whatever the reason, there are cheap and expensive ways you can mitigate noise pollution. Here is how to soundproof a window in easy-to-follow steps.

What is Soundproofing A Window?

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Soundproofing windows eliminates unwanted sound that travels through the window into or out of your room. The process requires you to create sonic separation between surfaces using materials that add density and mass. Such materials include blankets, sealants, sheets, glass panes, and more.

You will be exposed to noise pollution if you live or work in a noisy area. This pollution happens when a sound is too high to cause discomfort. As sound is measured in decibels, the most uncomfortable sounds start at 85 dB or higher. This noise level is enough to cause ear discomfort or interfere with your work. The noise can come from lawn mowers, vehicles, construction machines, and musical instruments on a normal day.

According to National Geographic, noise pollution is a danger to the health and wellbeing of human beings, animals, and other living organisms. As such, you will need to take preventative measures to prevent the transfer of this unwanted noise by soundproofing your windows.

You may need to consider how to start the soundproofing process, depending on the amount of noise you are dealing with. You can then choose DIY window soundproofing or get an expert to do the soundproofing for you. In addition, you will also need to understand how much you can transform a window, especially if you live in a rental apartment.

In this article, we will discover 12 methods you can use to soundproof windows cheaply.

How to Soundproof a Window: 12 Easy Methods

If your existing windows let in outside noise and leak indoor sounds, you can use any of these methods to block as much sound transmission.

1. Remove the window

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Do you need the window at all? If you own the house but need the room to be very quiet for your work, you can choose to remove the window entirely and fill the area with drywall. Removing the window is the most permanent solution to block out as much noise as possible.

However, it would be best if you also considered a few factors that can affect your comfort or that of others living in the house. For instance, removing a window would block natural light from the room. This will increase your energy bill as you supplement lighting during the day. In addition, a workplace without natural lighting could affect your mood, sometimes leading to troubled circadian rhythms and depression.

Finally, a room without a window can derail the sale of your house if you decide to move in the future.

2. Use soundproof window inserts

Image source: indowindows.com

This method is especially ideal if your room is in an extremely busy and noisy area. Window inserts will block the most noise if you live near a construction site, a busy street with honking cars and sirens, or next to a loud neighbor. Luckily, these are designed well, so you don't have to touch the window frames or block natural light.

The noise reduction inserts are made with laminated glass and designed to sit a few inches away from your window. The laminated glass is made of two glass layers with a plastic sheet in the middle to block most vibrations. In addition, the window-fitting design leaves space between the existing window and the insert, which neutralizes sound vibrations, thus reducing the amount of noise that gets in or out of your room.

Here are some of the main steps to follow when installing a soundproof insert:

Step 1: Measure your window dimensions. It is important to measure all four sides since some window dimensions are not equal. So, grab a good tape measure, get both lengths (sill and head), and both heights (left and right).

Step 2: Buy your best window inserts from reputable companies such as Indowwindows.

Step 3: Clean the window and frame before installing. When it dries up, you can start installing the window insert.

Step 4: If your window insert has the feature, install the safety chains on the sides of your window to prevent dropping the insert. Next, hold the soundproofing window insert next to the window to ensure all four sides align. If they do, you can peel the film surrounding the glass panel and wipe the panel clean with a window cleaning microfiber cloth.

Step 5: Place the window insert on your window sill and gently press the tubing to align with the wall. Ensure the corners are well aligned, so the compression tubing does not appear wavy or leave air gaps. After installing the base of the insert, attach your safety chain so you can continue installing it without supporting it.

Step 6: Continue pressing the compression tubing on all four sides to ensure no air gaps are left. When done installing, the tubing should be parallel to the wall, so it looks neat and blocks most window noise.

Soundproofing window inserts can block up to 70% of outside noise. In addition, they are easy to remove when you want to allow some clean air into the room.

3. Use external storm windows

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Storm windows are great for soundproofing, especially with a single pane window. Like the window insert option above, a storm window also creates an air-filled gap between the windows, and the space works well to absorb sound.

The external inserts are made with high-quality tempered glass, and you need to get yours custom-fit for your windows. The installation steps are similar to the interior window inserts above. You still need to ensure you install the windows a few inches from the existing windows to create space to arrest most exterior noise.

Unfortunately, storm windows are expensive and may not be a good idea for apartment dwellers. In addition, you may also need to get a qualified professional for the installation process, especially when you need to soundproof high windows.

4. Replace single pane windows with double or triple pane windows

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If you live in an older house, there is a chance it has single-pane windows. Single pane windows have one piece of glass that lets in most noise from outside. However, if you want to eliminate most of this noise, double or triple-pane windows can give you better noise reduction as the air-filled spaces between the pieces of glass reduce sound vibration.

Besides noise reduction, a double or triple-glazed window panel also controls temperature to keep you warmer or cooler during winter and summer. However, this method is only ideal for homeowners as it requires you to replace the window frames. Here are the main installation steps to follow.

Step 1: Take the exact measurements of your existing window frame so you can buy the same size double or triple-glazed window frames for installation.

Step 2: Remove the frame from the interior and exterior sides of the house before removing the old window.

Step 3: Clean the wall opening on both sides of the house to ensure no debris would compromise your soundproofing expectations. Then, follow your window pane installation manual to attach the roofing nails or flashing tape, add a sealant to all sides of the window opening, and install shims and all pieces before fixing the double or triple-glazed window panes.

This soundproofing method is not only expensive, but it also requires good skill. So, if you cannot do it yourself, getting a professional to replace the windows will be better.

5. Seal all gaps in the window using acoustic caulk

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Another way to soundproof your windows is by sealing small cracks and gaps in the window that will obviously allow in noise from outside. Acoustic caulk is a latex-based sealing product that offers excellent noise reduction effects.

Unlike the three methods above, using acoustic caulk is an inexpensive yet effective soundproofing method that you can also use in a rental apartment. It is also easy to use, so you don't need to hire an expert. Here is how to use the noise-proof sealant.

Step 1: Remove silicone caulk around the window frame to guarantee the acoustic caulk seals well. You can use a putty knife to scrape the caulk off the surface.

Step 2: Open a small hole on the end of the acoustic caulk tube, then load the tube onto a caulking gun. Then, use the gun to feed the caulk onto the spaces between the window frame and wall.

You can apply this caulk to all frame and wall materials; the good thing is that it does not crack or shrink over time. In addition, you can find it in colors that match your window frames.

6. Build a soundproof window plug

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If you live in an apartment or don't have the budget to change your window panes, you can build a temporary window plug. This plug fills the front of your window panes with foam, soundproof matting, and wood to create a three-step noise reduction process. In application, the foam arrests most noise. But, since the foam is not 100% noise-proof, sound waves that move past the foam are mitigated by the mat and wood. Even better, the plugs are easy to install and remove at a moment's notice.

Here are the steps to build an effective soundproofing window plug.

Step 1: Take your window measurements and cut the exact measurements on a piece of wood. Next, repeat the same cutting process on your soundproofing mat. The mat could be made with mass-loaded vinyl, fiberglass panels, or MLV. Finally, cut your foam an inch larger than the previous measurements so you can use it to create a good seal.

Step 2: When you have all three pieces cut perfectly, start gluing them together using a good adhesive. The best option might be to use an acoustic seal with good soundproofing abilities.

Step 3: When the plug is perfectly sealed, you can cover it with a more attractive piece of fabric, then add handles for easy installation and removal.

7. Use thick soundproof curtains

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This is one of the cheapest window soundproofing methods and allows you to design a good interior theme. Soundproofing curtains are made of a thick fabric with a vinyl lining that filters sound waves. When buying, you will find that most sound-dampening curtains come in velvet fabric and dark, rich colors.

These curtains are very easy to install if you have curtain rods or boxes. However, when buying, ensure you get their measurements right, so they run longer than your window frames. In addition, choose the thickest fabric to maximize the soundproofing effect.

8. Use quilted fiberglass window panels

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If you don't want to tamper with the window construction, the next best option to use would be a quilted window panel or a professional acoustic panel. It is easy to install and much thicker than a sound-dampening curtain, thus adding extra weight to the window to block most of the exterior noise. These professional acoustic panels are made with fiberglass, and you can cut them to fit your window measurements. 

To install the panels, you will need to use hooks around your window frames onto which you will hang the panels. The fiberglass panels have durable metal eyelets, so you can hang them easily. For even better sound reduction, you can use double-sided Velcro strips along the frame to create a tight seal around the window.

9. Use honeycomb shades

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You can also use honeycomb shades when you want to block out moderate outside noise. These are designed like rows of hexagonal tubes of thick fabric stacked atop each other like window blinds. This design blocks out light and prevents loud sound waves. For window soundproofing, you will need to install your shades inside the window frame.

So, place the brackets on the window sills and drive screws inside a hole on each bracket. You can fix many brackets to ensure a good fit once you attach the shades to ensure you don't leave air gaps for sound to seep through.

10. Use a window soundproofing film

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If you have a tight soundproofing budget, you can consider using a soundproofing film rather than other cheap methods that block out the light. Window soundproofing films are made with vinyl which blocks noise while maintaining your window's transparency.

The films are also easy to install since they are stickers. You can apply the film to both sides of your window glass panes. For that, you need first to clean and dry the panes, so the film adheres easily. Then, press the film firmly onto the glass panes ensuring you leave no air bubbles. Since it is a thin film, it may not be of much help with very loud noises.

Still, you can enhance its effectiveness by sealing the edges of the window frame with acoustic caulk.

11. Use other external barriers

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You can also consider planting a shrub or a wooden fence surrounding your house if you have loud neighbors. The fences will fragment sound waves, this reducing noise pollution. As you create a fence, space the wood pieces or plants densely to create a more effective sound barrier.

12. Rearrange your furniture

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As you know, sound travels by creating vibrations through different surfaces and environments. As such, you can reduce the amount of external noise traveling through your windows by placing different furniture items to absorb the sound waves.

This is especially a good method if you don't have a budget for any of the above soundproofing methods. To use furniture for soundproofing, place a couch, bookshelf, or wardrobe along the same wall as your window. In addition, lay a large rug next to these furniture pieces to reduce vibrations that could lead to more sound transmission.

How Much Does it Cost to Soundproof a Window?

The cost of soundproofing your window depends on the materials you use. In order to choose the best materials, you will need to consider factors like the level of pollution you are dealing with and how permanent you want the soundproofing to be. The process will require you to buy different materials like sealants, blankets, and glass panes that all cost different amounts. When you couple the price of products with labor when you can't soundproof the window yourself, the process can cost anywhere between $20 to $1,500.

For instance, if you want a more permanent solution for a house you own, you might need to replace older single pane windows with noise-blocking double pane windows. However, this method can cost up to $900 for a single window plus more labor costs if necessary.

Alternatively, you can invest in internal and external window inserts that block noise from both sides, and you won't interfere with the existing window. However, while very effective, the inserts are expensive, costing between $300 to $800 per insert.

If you live in a rental apartment, you will want to avoid making drastic changes to the windows, especially without permission from your landlord. Still, you can make minor adjustments to the window frame, such as sealing any cracks and gaps that let in outside noise.

You can use different materials such as acoustic caulk or other sealants. These DIY and temporary soundproofing methods can cost as little as $20 since you will not require a professional.

Another method you can use to block sound from outside is by fitting soundproof curtains, which can cost around $30, or quilted fiberglass or honeycomb shades that cost around $40.

Featured image source: cityproof.com

Ian Mutuli

About the author

Ian Mutuli

Founder and Managing Editor of Archute. He is also a graduate architect from The University of Nairobi, Kenya.