WooHoo! Now you’ve done it. You are having a baby. Once the excitement is over, everyone you know will have comments, or advice. Quite a few of the comments (often from smirking, childless, know-nothing acquaintances–many of whom cannot figure out how to make babies) have a common theme. ‘You will never get a full night’s sleep again.’ ‘The kid will be crying and screaming 24/7.’ ‘You will never have a quiet, peaceful evening again.’ Well, unless you have created the spawn of the devil–a very rare occurrence–life is probably going to be way richer. And with a little planning and effort, it can be almost as quiet.
Make a Baby Room Soundproofing Plan
You need to get on this sooner rather than later. Six or seven months seems like a long time. It is not. You still have your life to live every day–while getting ready for the arrival. A study published by healthline.com suggests that each parent loses an average of 109 minutes of sleep every night for the first year of your newborn’s life. Yikes! That should be enough to make you get serious about soundproofing the nursery.
- Where do you live? – House? Apartment? Urban? Rural?
- How long do you plan to live there? – If the plan is to be there for years (and maybe add to the brood) you should contemplate spending a little more money and taking a lot more time.
Am I Keeping Noise Out–or Sounds In?
Both! You need to provide the most peaceful environment possible for your child. Too much loud noise can interfere with speech and language, impair hearing and learning, disrupt sleep and the cardiovascular system. (Please see epa.gov for more detailed information about Noise and its Effects on Children.) You need different products and approaches for each goal–and they need to work together in the same area.
The Most Effective Nursery Soundproofing
For the sake of this article, let’s assume that you do not want to blow the entire college budget on soundproofing a room for someone that is going to grow up, paint it purple, leave everything lying on the floor, then move out. (Or worse, not move out.) You do not need high-end acoustics. Some areas of soundproofing are more important than others.
If at all possible, empty the room. Soundproofing is way easier, and more importantly, way more effective if you are not continuously moving stuff, or working around it.
Soundproof the Floors
Initially, the floor of the baby’s room may seem relatively unimportant. Unless you have a living space below. If you have a living space above the room, and want to keep the nursery quiet, you should soundproof both. Impact Noise (sometimes called Footfall Noise) from above will disturb the newborn and Airborne Noise (crying baby) will disturb everyone above or below.
- Put down carpet. Use a good wool rug that will cover as much area as possible. Install QuietWalk Plus or Rug Pad USA with double sided tape to hold the underlayment to the floor and the carpet to the underlayment.
2. Use Kid’s Puzzle Play Mats. These are usually 1/4″ – 1/2″ thick. They reduce Impact Noise, provide a soft surface for the time your baby no longer spends most of her/his time in the crib, and come in many designs (including a hardwood look). For extra soundproofing you can put down QuietWalk Plus first.
3. If you were planning new flooring anyway, you can put down new laminate with soundproofing underlayment.
Note: For more information on soundproofing flooring underlayment please see out article Best Soundproofing Underlayment.
Soundproof the Walls and Ceiling
Adding mass to the walls and ceiling is a great way to stop sound from penetrating the walls–from both inside and outside.
- Add 5/8″ drywall to all walls and ceiling. Create a soundproofing sandwich panel by using Green Glue between the layers. After taping and mudding the drywall, you also have the opportunity to redecorate by painting the room in the colors you want. (Before your child turns into a teenager and either paints it black or puts up posters of whatever teen wannabe musician is the ‘thing’ in 12 years. Lil Mug and the Whumps?) (Note: If you choose this option, you will need to extend door and window jambs, and electrical fixtures. Make sure you use spray foam around the electrical boxes, or insulated plug covers to stop sound passing through the walls in these areas.)
2. Hang soundproofing blanketson the walls. This is fairly effective at keeping sound inside the room but not very good at keeping noise out. They are also not very attractive.
3. Consider a combination of hanging acoustic wallpaper on the walls and adding heavy sound-absorbing furniture. Again, this solution is quite good at keeping sound inside, but less effective at keeping noise out. (Note: You only need to cover about 30% of the wall area with acoustic panels to deaden the sound in the room. Please see our article How to Sound Treat a Room for more information on room acoustics.)
4. Soundproof the floor above–if there is one. It is easier than trying to soundproof the ceiling in the baby’s room. But if you have to soundproof the ceiling and do not want to use double drywall and Green Glue (and nobody wants to lift drywall above her/his head), consider installing a T-Bar (Drop) ceiling. By definition, it adds decoupling, and almost all of the available panels are fairly thick so they add mass and have soundproofing qualities. This product is available from most home improvement outlets. They will have all of the measurement and installation instructions along with the product. (Note: You must attach the hangars to the wood trusses. Gravity works. And you do not want to trust your child’s safety to drywall anchors.)
Soundproof the Door
The door is one of the least soundproof parts of your nursery. It is probably a hollow core unit without a weatherstrip or a sweep to block sound. There is probably no insulation between the door frame and wall framing. It is a great source of Flanking Noise–both incoming and outgoing. Flanking Noise can be described as ‘the ability of sound to travel through space like water’ oozing through cracks, badly sealed doors, and around physical barriers. Make sure you spend an appropriate amount of time and money on the door.
- Change your door slab to a solid core wood unit. This will add mass to the opening. I would suggest you get a prehung unit c/w frame. It should come with hinges and the slab and frame prepped for handle and strike. Once you have it installed, you will need to take care of the flanking noise. (Note: If you have added an extra layer of drywall, make sure your supplier can add the 5/8″ to the jamb width.)
- Use spray foam to soundproof the cavity between frame and wall framing, then install casing. (Note: It is way easier to install casing on one side, then foam–without overfilling–and finish by installing casing on the other side.)
- Apply soundproof weatherstrip to the jamb. (I would put this on before installing the door strike to ensure it latches properly and is not too tight.)
4. Install a soundproofing sweep to the bottom of the door. Stay away from the adjustable rubber type. They can mark the floor, stick in the cracks of hardwood, laminate, and tile. Over time, the rubber fins can wear down or tear off.
- For a double door system with very high soundproofing qualities, you could add a Shut-Eye Acoustical Shutter to the opening. Just make sure you have the room to open one door into the room and one door into the hallway. And if you are ordering a new solid core door and frame, be certain to inform your supplier of the plan so the frame can be used for the extra door.
Soundproof the Window
The many window soundproofing options available range from cheap and ugly to expensive and cute. Hopefully one of the following suggestions will fit your budget, taste, and ability.
- New triple glazed windows will cut down sound dramatically–both incoming and outgoing. They are one of the more expensive options but have the added advantage of keeping the room cooler in summer and warmer in winter. I would leave this to a professional unless you have some construction experience.
- If you are leaving the existing window, make sure that all of the weatherstrip is in good shape and it seals properly. Remove the existing casing and insulate the cavity properly. (I recommend about 1″ – 1 1/2″ of spray foam against the back of the exterior brickmould, then filling the rest of the cavity with fiberglass before re-installing the casing. Do NOT pack the fiberglass tight. In this case, more is not better.)
- Install Nicetown soundproofing curtains. Make sure they extend at least 6″ past the window perimeter. You can also use soundproof blankets or a window plug. (This is a soundproofing, friction-fit panel that you can make with a wood frame, ProRox SL 960 Rockwool soundproof insulation, and cloth wrapping. I am not a big fan of these because you will be constantly removing and replacing them if you want to allow light and air into the room.)
4. If noise getting out of the window is not a huge consideration, my choice is Shut-Eye Acoustical Shutters. They are a custom-made ready to install product that comes in a wide variety of colors and designs. They block out virtually all exterior noise and provide up to a 50 decibel noise reduction.
Shut-Eye Acoustical Window Shutter
- White Noise Machines – These machines are designed to drown out a lot of external noise in the baby’s room. There are some studies showing that babies sleep better with them in the room although some people fear they are too loud and could cause hearing damage. I am also egotistical enough to think I can make the room so quiet that there is no need for a machine.
2. Baby Monitors – This is a technological advancement that makes a lot of sense–particularly if you have made the room so soundproof it is almost impossible to hear anything from inside. Although the maternal instinct–at least my wife’s–has mothers out of a dead sleep and half way to the kid’s room before she even processes whatever noise, or change caused it.
3. Soundproof Cribs – These come with automatic rocking motion and built-in white noise machines. They are not actually soundproof, but I am sure that they can be useful to new mothers. I have no experience with them–and my wife’s opinion is censored.
Who Benefits From Nursery Soundproofing?
Everyone in the immediate area.
For Your Baby’s Comfort and Development
Your new addition will become the center of your household immediately on delivery. Sleep, rest, comfort, and happiness are absolutely essential for optimal development. Making sure there is a quiet, comfortable, and safe room for them to sleep in will help them to grow to their potential.
For You–the Parents
Remember that 109 minutes sleep loss per night? That is 663 hours in the first year. Almost 28 days. Soundproofing the nursery is not going to resolve the issue. Babies get hungry. They poop. They probably have bad dreams. But if quieting the room only gets each of you 19 extra minutes of sleep per night (115 hours in the first year. Almost 5 days) you, and the kid will be way better off. You will be more capable to be the parents you want to be–and more productive in the rest of your endeavors.
For Your Neighbors
It makes for a better relationship with the neighbors if they do not describe your pride and joy as that ‘screaming kid next door’. Soundproofing the room is one way to help keep the peace. And after 2020, we could all use a little more peace.
Keep in mind that your lovely baby will turn into a teenager one day. It will be good for you to remember all the love you felt while trying to give them the best start in life. This is especially important when you are seriously considering burning them out of the soundproof room you spent so much time, money, and effort designing and building. This too shall (might) pass.