How To Soundproof A College Dorm Room In 9 Simple Steps

Dorm rooms are the best for inexpensive accommodation and making friends through the entire college experience. However, they also come with some significant cons, like not effectively blocking noise coming in and out of your room. Fortunately, that’s a problem effective soundproofing can fix.

So how do you soundproof a college dorm room? Here are some of the most effective soundproofing strategies you can use:

  1. Decorate.
  2. Cork the walls.
  3. Add furniture.
  4. Rearrange existing furniture.
  5. Cover the ceiling.
  6. Soundproof the windows.
  7. Add carpet.
  8. Use soundproofing paint.
  9. Put a mat under the door.

Soundproofing a room involves absorbing, dampening, or decoupling. Since you can’t exactly use decoupling—which essentially involves building a smaller room within an existing room—in a dorm, the only choice you have for your room is to apply sound sound-absorbing and dampening tactics. In this article, we will discuss how to soundproof a college dorm room in detail and give you tips on further mitigating noise problems.

9 Effective Ways to Soundproof Your Dorm Room

Since your dorm room might have limitations in space, the following soundproofing approaches are space-conscious and will, therefore, not clutter it. However, before applying them, check the rules and regulations around soundproofing dorm space from your school’s administration. That way, you can avoid trouble in whatever strategy you choose.

1. Decorate the Walls

While picture frames and other decorative pieces on the wall may benefit you with acoustical properties, they can help you with sound insulation as well. Even better, if your dorm rules can’t get you in trouble when you install a few pretty acoustical panels like these, you should use that opportunity to fill up your walls.

Ensure that you use thick art pieces because the thicker you fill up your walls, the lesser the sound penetration. Here are some artistic and functional pieces you can consider for your college spaces.

Also, if you’re artsy, you can put together art pieces made from foam, paper, and other materials that are good at insulation and frame them nicely. You can keep these pieces near the door or other places where sound intrusion and leakage are prominent.

2. Cork the Walls

The first place you saw cork was probably on a wine bottle as a sealant thanks to its impermeability to fluids, among other characteristics. Other than thermal insulation — which you may need, cork is an excellent sound insulator as well.

Cork insulates sound by trapping some of it in its cellular structure, depending on its thickness. It helps reduce impact sounds that are created by vibrations caused by impacts traveling through materials in your walls, ceiling, or floors. This impact noise may sometimes be referred to as structural noise.

Depending on where most of your noise is coming from, you can put the cork noise blockers on the walls strategically. And you don’t have to put them all over the surfaces; only put them where the noise emanates from most or where you hang out and need sound insulation.

For instance, you can choose to put the cork boards on the wall surface next to your bed to help you avoid outside noise when sleeping or at the places where neighboring noise emanates from most.

However, don’t just count on the cork boards to fix all your noise problems. They merely absorb some of the noise, not all of it.

Here are some best cork boards recommendations for soundproofing your dorm:

  • TRIPOLLO Cork Bulletin Board: All you need to do is mount this board on your wall and use it for insulation purposes as well as a normal board. You can put up cards, decorations and even make a vision board with it.
  • U Brands Cork Linen Bulletin Board: Since this one is white, it can appear like an add on to your decor while serving other benefits such as sound insulation and a to-do list board.
  • WEYOUNG Cork Bulletin Board: This vision board can be a complementary structure on your wall.

3. Add Furniture

According to the behavior of sound waves, an empty room will be noisier than a room filled with objects. This is because, when sound enters a room and finds no objects that can absorb some of it, it bounces off walls and comes to your ears stronger than when it finds objects that can absorb and interfere with the waves.

Therefore, one of the best ways to soundproof your room is by adding furniture. This doesn’t mean that you should clutter your room with furniture. Adding a lamp, sofa, or anything you might need is the best way you can buffer some sound waves.

Here are examples of cool soundproofing furniture you can add to your room:

Think about anything additional that you need and search for a product that suits you online or offline. No matter how small the addition, it helps. However, if you can’t add furniture for whatever reason, the following is another great option:

4. Rearrange the Existing Furniture

You can work with your current furniture to do some slight soundproofing as well. Notice all the spaces you leave and determine whether the noise comes directly from that point.

For instance, if noise keeps coming through your right wall, yet the surface is uncovered, shift some furniture there to cover it. You need to analyze your space first so that you don’t do a lot of shifting back and forth.

Keep in mind that your bed is an extremely sensitive space, and using it to cover a noisy wall might lead to disappointment. Although it might shield some sounds coming from the next room, you’ll always be sleeping nearest to the noise, so it might feel pointless to make this specific furniture move.

You can move your desk, dresser, or any other things you don’t spend ample time with. But one rule of thumb is to ensure that the spaces that remain unoccupied by furniture aren’t noise hotspots.

5. Cover the Ceiling

If you can clearly hear the collegemate upstairs shuffling their feet, it’s a sign that that’s going to bother you. It’s even worse if they seem to be walking around in high heels most of the time. But don’t fret, there’s a remedy.

The ceiling doesn’t have to be soundproofed permanently with construction. You can apply non-invasive approaches with:

  • Acoustic foam panels
  • Acoustic foam egg panels
  • Mass loaded vinyl

You can install the above soundproofing materials easily and cheaply. Moreover, they won’t be hard to pull down at the end of the school year, so you can leave the room as you found it.

How to Install Acoustic Foam Panels on the Ceiling

There are various ways of installing acoustic foam panels. Still, you probably want a process that’s easy to apply, uses affordable materials, and, most importantly, doesn’t ruin the ceiling with permanent attachments.

Follow the below steps to install acoustic foam panels temporarily:

  1. Get high-quality acoustic foam panels, spray adhesive, and hanging strips.
  2. Cut a box into sizes slightly lesser than the foam panels.
  3. Attach the box pieces to the back of the foam panels with the spray adhesive.
  4. Now put the hanging strips on the sides of the box for attachment to the ceiling surface.
  5. Start hanging the panels in the middle of the ceiling, moving outward.

You need to attach the panels to the box sides first before hanging them to not only provide a smooth attachment surface but also to ensure that uninstallation is easy. You can also check out the below video if you prefer physical instructions.

You can also install acoustic egg panels using the above process.

How to Install Mass Loaded Vinyl on a Ceiling

Mass Loaded Vinyl (MLV) is an excellent sound blocker with two main components: mass for sound blocking and vinyl, which is responsible for its flexibility. The mass makes the flexible thin sheet of MLV exhibit sound inhibiting properties with a mixture of chemicals, including barium sulfate.

Installing MLV can be done during construction, or you can apply it on the ceiling of your college dorm room to block some of the noise traveling through the ceiling. Since the construction option is out of the question, you can put it up by cutting it to your desired size and stapling it on the ceiling.

We recommend the TMS Mass Loaded Vinyl. However, you may not like the MLV color, which only comes in either grey or black. In that case, you can apply latex paint that you prefer and get the desired look in your college dorm room—with a sound blocking advantage.

To get an idea of how you can temporarily put up MLV on your ceiling, check out this video.

6. Soundproof the Windows

If some of the noise from outside comes through your windows, you can soundproof them by creating a noise barrier when you’re sleeping or studying. You can choose to go with heavy curtains or consider a more soundproof option: soundproof curtains.

Soundproof curtains like the best-selling ones from NICETOWN use different technologies to reduce sounds. But they all perform one major task: absorbing sound. For instance, the NICETOWN Noise Reducing Curtains feature a triple weave technology that ensures a dense material for high sound absorption. It also provides thermal insulation to reduce the extreme effects of temperature during winter and summer.

Therefore, it’s all up to you. You can get simple heavy curtains from your nearby store or choose from those designed for sound deafening.

[Related Article: 5 Best Sound Deadening Curtains For Your House]

7. Add a Carpet

Apart from beautifying your room, carpets, rugs, or mats can absorb plenty of noise coming in and out of your room. Most of the noise that can reach you through the floor may come from the space underneath you. It could also be another dorm room or any other space with high traffic.

Even if your dorm room already has a carpet, you can add another layer with thicker rugs. These are better at absorbing sounds since they have numerous fibers. For instance, this beautiful King Collection Trellis Polypropylene Indoor Area Rug would be almost ineffective in reducing noise, but this Solo Solid Shag Collection Modern Plush Rug might reduce most of the noise coming from the floor.

But there could still be a better option.

For example, if you already have a rug, you can add an MLV sheet under it to provide higher sound blockage without messing up the look of your space.

8. Use Soundproofing Paint

Use Soundproofing Paint

Seems too good to be true, right? All you need is to paint the walls and/or ceiling, and you have your noise problems sorted. Well, that’s not entirely true. Soundproofing paint can reduce some noises, but if you want it to be as effective as possible, it’s best if you also use some of the other soundproofing solutions mentioned in this list.

So, what is soundproof paint made of? Soundproofing or acoustic paint is made of latex, which improves the sound and thermal absorption properties of surfaces. With sound-absorbing fillers and ceramic microspheres, soundproofing paint achieves a higher density than regular paint, enhancing its sound-absorbing capabilities.

But how does it work anyway? Acoustic paint works in three major ways:

  1. It reduces the penetration of sound thanks to its high density. It’s recommended that you apply at least two coats of the paint. Since it’s high in density, it results in a noise barrier.
  2. The latex in the paint makes it have a soft sealed nature. This prevents some sounds from seeping, hence reducing noise.
  3. The sound-absorbing fillers muffle most sounds by doing the obvious: absorbing some noise.

You can use soundproofing paint on walls, furniture, or any other surfaces you wish. Since it’s latex paint, you can apply it to MLV to complement its sound deadening abilities. For affordability and ease of application, we recommend DEI Boom MAT Spray on Amazon.

But keep in mind that loud noises like traffic won’t be blocked by acoustic paint. Like we mentioned earlier, this is merely an affordable strategy you can use to block some exterior sounds. Coupled with two or more other soundproofing strategies, you can finally enjoy the silence in your college dorm room.

9. Put a Mat Under the Door

If there’s ample space under your dorm door, bear in mind that this could be the source of your noise nuisance. Any space that provides entry of air into your room also carries some other things, like sound, with it. Fortunately, the space under the door can be fixed with a mat.

Find a mat that could fit most of the space under your door and, if possible, choose the thickest one so you can add sound absorption for your room. This way, the shuffling feet of people passing outside will become negligible.

Other Ways You Can Get Rid of Exterior Noise

While soundproofing is important for blocking and absorbing background noise, you can use other strategies to dampen it. You can apply the following methods when sleeping, studying, or any other time you want to keep it to yourself.

Use Noise Cancelling Headphones

If you only want a quiet environment for studying or when you’re focusing on a certain task, noise-canceling headphones can help you. Noise-canceling headphones work by producing equal but opposite frequencies to the incoming sound waves, hence canceling them.

Therefore, with high-grade noise-canceling headphones, you can feel like you’re in a library even when there’s an ongoing party next door. The COWIN E7 Active Noise Cancelling Headphones are one of the best out there with tens of thousands of online customers.

Get a White Noise Machine

Mostly, it’s not the sound itself that irritates us; it’s the inconsistency and unfamiliarity. For instance, a washing machine running through the night might not irritate its owner, but if someone comes to visit, it may irritate them. Some sounds are downright irritating, while others are soothing.

White noise is generally soothing due to its ability to mask environmental sounds. Therefore, you may need a white noise machine to sleep or concentrate on tasks. The Dohm Classic is one of the original white noise machines you can use.

Play Your Favorite Music

According to experts, background music benefits you by:

  • Improving cognitive performance: you can do mental arithmetic and score higher in IQ tests when listening to music.
  • Increasing your concentration by energizing you to perform tasks and getting rid of background distractions
  • Boosting your mood

You can try working with certain playlists and check out how productive you are during the time. The main aim here is to dampen background noise by listening to familiar content while immersed in a certain task.

Final Thoughts

Living in college dorms may not be easy, especially if you like serene environments. However, since you’ve learned how to soundproof a college dorm room in detail, you can now be confident that you can fix your noise issues and maybe help someone fix theirs as well. However, don’t forget to work within the rules and regulations of your college.


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