Thin Walls In A Mobile Home | How To Dampen Noise and Reduce Sound
What we now officially call “manufactured homes” have come a long way from the “mobile homes” of the seventies. However, there are still a few nagging aspects in which these homes lag behind their stick-built counterparts. One being their notoriously thin walls.
To hold them to the same standard as stick-built homes isn’t really fair as the two are built using vastly different materials, techniques, and are priced very differently. Because of the materials used, mainly wood, drywall, and vinyl siding, mobile homes don’t offer the same sort of sound blocking abilities as traditional homes.
In fact, this is one of the first things people worry about when they buy a mobile home. Thin walls are of extra concern if you will be living in a mobile home park and fear noisy neighbors disturbing your peace or being the perpetrator yourself. In this article, we’ll help you figure out some ways to deal with the issue of thin walls.
Coming up with a plan
There are many things to consider when starting a project to soundproof your home that could drastically affect how you go about it and how much it will cost you. Here are a few questions you should ask yourself to start out with:
- Are you trying to prevent noise from escaping your house or coming in?
- Do you want to soundproof the rest of your home against a specific room? Maybe you play an instrument or listen to music in this room.
- Or do you want to soundproof a single room from the rest of your home?
Luckily, it’s mostly the scope of the project that changes with the answers to these questions rather than the materials and techniques. It’s within the nature of sound-insulating materials that they generally prevent noise from traveling both ways.
As you will see when reading about our solutions in the next section, these types of fixes can be made to any part of the home. You just need to establish which areas of the home need to be soundproofed.
When coming up with a soundproofing plan (or before contacting a professional), you should at least gather the following information:
- The area of the wall, floor, and ceiling that needs to be soundproofed respectively.
- How many doors and windows are in the affected area.
Proven soundproofing techniques that work
As you can imagine, these are one of the main fault points when it comes to soundproofing a room or home either from sound escaping or coming in. Windows themselves generally aren’t very soundproof when compared to walls. On top of that, there are almost always tiny gaps in the frames and cracks that develop as a result of how mobile homes shift in place.
The material of the frames themselves is already a good place to start. Most mobile homes have metallic frames. Metal is an excellent conductor of sound which is exactly what you don’t want. If you have wooden frames, it’s already a huge plus as they dampen noise. Although it might seem a bit extreme to replace your frames based only on this, it could form part of a renovation or redesign project.
Replacing your actual windows with storm or double pane windows can make a slight improvement as well as insulate your home. However, they aren’t nearly as effective as windows designed to be soundproof.
The glass for these windows is just added to your current window frame behind your actual windows so it doesn’t call for any replacing. Soundproof Windows, Inc. is a good provider. Soundproof windows can have an STC (Sound Transmission Class) rating of 50 or more. The higher the rating, the more soundproof the building partition. However, these windows can be pricey, ranging from $400 to $900.
Another option is to simply hang noise deadening drapes. This is a much cheaper option that will cost you between $20 to $40 dollars per drape. As you can expect they deliver much less noise reduction, with a rating of only around STC 20.
There aren’t as many quick solutions for your ceiling as there are for your windows. In fact, almost all the methods will require some degree of “construction work.” You might even need to call in a professional contractor to do it for you.
One of the easier methods we really like is acoustic ceiling tiles. These are pretty effective, relatively inexpensive, and very easy to install. They are basically a type of foam board that comes in tiles that you can stick to your roof to cover the whole ceiling. Good products will be fire retardant and bacteria and fungi resistant. Based on a 140 sq. ft. room, it should cost around $200-$400.
For something a bit more involved, you can always fill the ceiling cavity with some form of noise reducing material. An insulator material such as Roxul safe ‘N’ sound Insulation can be installed in the ceiling to reduce noise. This is another easy solution but also costly, around $640 per 60 sq. ft. However, a reputable material like this should also be fire retardant and water repellent.
Mobile home floors are usually constructed to have a cavity that is similar to the ceiling in the roof. The underbelly below the home has joists running alongside it with the actual floor on top of it and supported by the joists. There can then be another “surface layer” of flooring above this one.
This means that many of the insulating tips we already provided for the ceiling will work for your floor as well. It might be slightly more challenging to get inside of your floor to insulate it. Simply putting the insulation underneath the underbelly won’t do much as that is not where the noise comes from. You might need to take out, insulate, and replace the flooring.
Another, more superficial, solution is to install a carpet. Carpets do a good job of absorbing the sound that originates from inside the room itself and helps just a teeny tiny bit to keep incoming sound out.
One of the options we like most is soundproof carpet underlays. These are foam mats that can be installed underneath a normal carpet. If looks don’t matter to you, you can even just install them without a carpet on top but take care not to damage them. These mats have STC ratings of around 50. Prices range wildly, but it shouldn’t cost you more than $200 for an entire room’s worth.
Although they are mainly used to block sound from upstairs, you would be surprised how much sound gets carried over from one room to an adjacent one through these floor cavities. If you want to soundproof a room because you play instruments or loud music there, soundproofing the floor is a must.
Doors themselves aren’t too bad (or great) at stopping noise from coming in and out (they have an STC around 20). However, they do frustrate your soundproofing efforts because of the relatively large gaps they leave in between the door and doorframe.
Coming up with someone to “plug” these holes should be the first step when trying to soundproof your doors. The biggest gap in any door usually is the gap between the door and the floor. This is mainly to avoid the door scraping on your tiles or wood which is annoying, causes noise, and can damage either.
Door seal sweeps are the easiest and cheapest way to block this gap and provide your door with some sound dampening. Make sure you get proper door seal sweeps that are made to block sound. These usually are in the form of a rubber strip tied in a loop as opposed to just a rubber strip dragging one end on the floor. This is an example of such a sweep. They cost between $30 to $60.
Another affordable solution is to use weatherstripping. Weatherstrips can be applied to both your doorframes and your window and is a very easy DIY fix once you have the product. The great thing about this versatile item is that they will also provide temperature insulation and stop dust from getting into the home. One 5 meter roll, which should cover a whole door, costs around $6-$10.
To soundproof the door itself you can opt for medium density fiberboard doors or thicker double-glazed or storm doors. These have slightly better sound blocking qualities than your average doors. If looks aren’t that much of a bother to you, you can also fix the same soundproof panels or tiles you place on your walls to the door itself.
Acoustic doors are another highly effective option. They can have STC ratings close to 60. However, we only really recommend this if you have a very serious need of it. They aren’t easy to find for home doors.
We saved the most important for last. As the biggest surface area of any room and as the one with the most direct contact with other rooms or the exterior, walls are a crucial cog when it comes to soundproofing any space.
Walls are also one of the areas subject to the most “DIY” fixes that do little, if anything, to actually provide noise dampening. Later on, we will address some of these directly to dispel them from our list of efficient solutions.
The best solution to soundproof your walls is to fit them with soundproof panels. You could for most situations use the same tiles that you would for the ceiling of your home. These come in all kinds of textures and colors to make sure you don’t have to compromise on looks.
Pyramid, wedge, and strip-shaped panels are some of the most common and effective products you can find. You also get them in either small, square tiles or long, big panels. The price varies dramatically depending on the quality of panels you choose and their STC rating. If you want something nice, like panels that look like decorative wood, it will also cost you.
Expect any solution to cover your whole room to cost more than a $1000, and even $5000 to $6000 if you want professional quality.
Soundproofing myths to avoid
We aren’t sure what it is about soundproofing that attracts so many old wives tales. Chances are that you have heard one or more of these before, most likely from someone who swears by it without being able to give you any concrete proof that it works.
Most of these DIY solutions are very cheap so at least you wouldn’t have wasted much money in trying them out, however, your spare time is priceless and that’s why we want to save you the trouble of testing these dubious (at best) techniques.
- Common foam rubber and old mattresses: Many people have used this foam, commonly found in mattresses, to soundproof certain rooms. While it does actually offer some noise dampening, it isn’t nearly as effective as other materials that don’t cost much more considering the amount of foam rubber you would need. Also, these materials are a major fire hazard as they burn very quickly and easily. Another problem with this approach is that it needs to be done very precisely. Any gaps between mattresses will drastically reduce the efficacy. They also attract moisture and thus mold.
- Carpets: Carpets do absorb sound and stop it from escaping outside of a room to a certain degree, but they do absolutely nothing to keep sound out of the room (AKA actual soundproofing). If you solely want to soundproof a room it seems wasteful to pay the money, go through the effort, and change the design of the room with carpet if there are other more effective materials.
- Fiberglass insulation: Many drywall manufacturers will laud this type of insulation for its soundproofing capabilities if it’s present in their walls. However, there is little proof that it has any real effect on incoming sound.
- Rubber floor mats: This is another one many people will recommend. Again, it’s very difficult to actually insulate a room well enough with these mats to get a decent result. On top of that, it’s a very unattractive solution.
Fixing your mobile home’s thin walls
These solutions should enable you to soundproof any part (or your whole home) effectively. Most solutions are pretty straightforward:
- Measure the space you need to cover.
- Choose a product.
- Apply it to the walls, ceiling or floor following the instructions.
As a safety measure, always make sure you buy products that are rated for being fire retardant and water repellent. Nothing is more important than that, even noise pollution. We hope that you found this article informative and can now confidently embark on soundproofing your mobile home thin walls. Good luck!
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