Your work from home setup has probably evolved a lot over the last few years. And the last thing it’s missing is sound control. Soundproofing a home office will take it from good to great, massively increasing your focus and productivity.
This guide is for those who want to get serious about soundproofing, not just discussing quiet hours with family members or wearing noise-canceling headphones. We’ll show you how to get the most bang for your buck with sound-absorbing materials, where to place acoustic panels on your walls and ceilings, and how to block noise on shared and exterior walls for optimal focus and productivity in your home office.
Benefits of a soundproof home office
A quiet workspace is critical to doing good work. And if you have daily Zoom meetings, you know this. But even if you don’t, eliminating background noise will enable you to produce a greater quality and quantity of work, and possibly even enter a flow state. And without the distractions from your family or neighbors, you’ll be able to get more done in less time, improving your work-life balance.
Soundproofing Every Part of Your Home Office
From floor to ceiling, every part of the room plays a role in the acoustics of your office. And whether you’re looking to just block out distractions or build the ultimate music and podcasting studio, this is everything you need to soundproof a home office setup.
Choose your desk placement
Before you get to soundproofing treatments for your home office, you need to determine the best place for your workspace. In most residential homes, windows and exterior walls are the loudest points of the room. Place your desk on an interior wall opposite of these to further distance yourself from noisy neighbors or busy intersections. Even better, choose a spot that’s far away from the entryway to the room. Doors block some noise, but not all of it (more on this below).
Ideally, the wall you choose will block most of the sound transmission inside your home or apartment. And remember, your desk doesn’t have to sit against the wall. Sometimes, the best location for your desk is the middle of the room, equidistant from windows, doors, and thin walls. So before you do any actual soundproofing, figure out what desk setup works for you.
Treat your walls with acoustic panels
Acoustic wall panels reduce noise by absorbing sound waves and eliminating echoes and reverberation. In your home office, they’ll absorb sound generated in your office and block some of the noise from adjacent rooms and outside your home or apartment.
Unless you want complete silence in your workspace, you don’t need to cover the walls from floor to ceiling in acoustic panels. Place them near the main points of sound reflection at a height of 3-6 feet, the height where most noises originate from. For reference, the most common reflection points are corners and bare walls opposite of openings like doors and windows. And if the room on the other side of your shared wall is loud, you’ll want to hang acoustic panels on that wall as well.
Another option is to hang soft décor around your workspace, especially near the reflection points. Soft wall hangings like canvas paintings and tapestries can also improve sound absorption and reduce echo. And though they’re less effective than traditional panels, they’re a cheaper alternative for your home office.
If you want to go the extra mile, you could replace your wall’s insulation with fiberglass batt insulation. As a fair warning, this will cost you thousands of dollars and weeks of renovations. Acoustic panels and soft wall décor offer the most acoustic control on a budget.
Upgrade your doors
Even closed, your home office door allows plenty of annoying noises to pass through. But with a few quick changes, you can turn your door into an extended wall.
The easiest way is to install a door sweep or threshold seal, preventing any sound waves from entering through the gap beneath the door. Door sweeps are rubber strips that attach directly to the door to prevent drafts and improve insulation, but they work great for soundproofing too. Similarly, threshold seals attach to the floor threshold, often where two different floors meet, like hardwood and carpet. Though there are acoustic door sweeps and seals made for soundproofing, your home office will be just fine with a basic weather or insulation model.
To take it a step further, consider upgrading your door. Most interior doors aren’t built with soundproofing in mind. It will cost you a few hundred dollars, but swapping out your hollow core door for a solid core door will help prevent sound passing directly through the door.
And for home offices that are tucked around a corner or simply don’t have a door, build yourself a soundproof one with portable room dividers.
Seal off your windows
Windows are even worse for noise reduction than doors, easily letting sound waves pass through and distract you from work. The quickest and easiest way to absorb sound near your windows is with soundproof curtains. They’re the most budget-friendly option and can be installed in just a few minutes, but they do have drawbacks. For them to work effectively, they have to be closed, meaning no natural light. This is a non-starter for most people because natural light boosts mood and increases productivity. Plus, natural light is absolutely necessary in rooms without much artificial light.
The more effective option for both acoustic and visual improvements is to install window inserts, which are essentially new windows installed within the existing frame. And much like a door sweep, they’re meant to cut down on energy bills by reducing heat loss. But they’re just as effective at blocking sound waves as they are at heat waves.
Soften up your flooring
Hardwood floors are stylish and easy to clean, but they’re making your office even louder. The same goes for laminate and concrete flooring. As sound travels across the room, they reflect off the hard flooring, creating echoes and reverberation that damage the acoustic quality of your home office. The only way to stop this is to soften up your floor with thick carpet, area rugs, and sound deadening mats. These softer materials absorb sound waves rather than reflecting, significantly reducing the volume and echo in a room.
Installing carpet will deliver the most bang for your buck in terms of cost and noise reduction. Should you not want to install carpet, covering a few large areas will produce a similar absorption effect.
If the primary distraction is loud, downstairs neighbors or structural sound in your building, you might need extra layers of insulation. For a few hundred dollars, you can lay down sheets of acoustic board or sound-deadening mats to further reduce noise coming from outside your living space.
Create sound clouds on your ceiling
Noisy upstairs neighbors in apartment buildings and multi-level condominiums can destroy any attempt to soundproof a home office if you don’t treat your ceilings. Acoustic ceiling tiles are the best way to block sound from above. Made from sound-absorbing felt, they dampen any unwanted noise before it reaches your ears.
They also reduce echo and reverberation to elevate your home office’s acoustic quality without disrupting the aesthetic. They’re a must-have for music or podcast producers that need a dedicated space to create.
Furnish with upholstered fabrics
In case you hadn’t noticed, there’s a theme to effectively soundproof a home office – thick, soft materials. Your furniture is no different, especially upholstered fabrics like polyester, linen, and cotton. And while it’s impossible to find a soft, ergonomic desk, you can outfit your workspace with soft office chairs, sofas, and ottomans that absorb even more sound.
Treat the neighboring room
If you’ve done all you can to your office space but still find yourself distracted by the room above, below, or next to you, focus your efforts there. The most effective way to absorb sound is near the origin. So if your office sits adjacent to the family play room or home gym, your best bet is to outfit those rooms with acoustic treatments. Though you won’t be making any changes to your office, sometimes the best way to soundproof your home office is by treating the room next to you.
Soundproofing a home office doesn’t have to be an expensive undertaking. Nor does it have to take weeks. With a few acoustic solutions in exactly the right places, you can tune the volume in your office to a comfortable, quiet level.