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How to Soundproof an Office

Grainger Editorial Staff

Most work and office spaces are inundated with sound transmissions coming in, which can interfere with workflow and productivity. Besides being a general annoyance, unsolicited sounds in the workplace may also cause anxiety and other serious health problems.

Noises from afar can contribute to loss of hearing if they are loud enough. A busy office or workspace should not induce problems that grave—or any at all.

The solution is office soundproofing, which intends to block out extra sounds that cause disturbances. Learning how to soundproof an office begins by determining what the goal is. Half of it deals with keeping sounds from escaping an office while the other deals with preventing sounds from entering an office. Understanding the nuisances between the two will give a clear idea as to how to soundproof overall. There are also necessary actions that must be taken to completely soundproof an office.

Step 1: Measure

To fully comprehend the soundproofing tactics and products needed to employ in a noisy space, the first step is to measure the space in question.

  • Start by measuring all the dimensions of the room, to see what will work best for soundproofing.
  • Places that vary in size and scope vary in the efforts to block out the sounds surrounding them. Keep that in mind.
  • Once you've recorded the dimensions of the space, measure the noise levels by using a Sound Pressure Level or SPL. This type of device measures the decibel levels in a room.
  • Before you begin any sound-preemptive measures, understand how sound and space relates in your office with this thorough measuring.

Step 2: Recording the Sound Transmission Class

Taking measurement one step further, you must tap into the Sound Transmission Class, or STC. This is a rating that helps determine the amount of noise reduction needed to satisfy business requirements.

STC ratings denote the number of decibels that a wall, partition, door or other interior configuration can reduce in a given space. This is important, as knowing the sound reduction capabilities of dividers will guide you in making a decision about what to install in your office to keep the noise out.

  • Larger STC ratings entail stronger noise reduction. For example, an STC of 30 doesn’t block the sound of speech when a wall is placed in between. However, an STC of 60 offers full blockage of speech.
  • Measure the STC of the walls of your office space to help determine what to use for soundproofing.
  • Use an amplified speaker to produce a broadband sound in a room according to a well-known standard, like ASTM E336.
  • Then measure the sound level in said room and the adjoining room.
  • Calculate the reverberation time in the first room to find the sound absorption.

Step 3: Applying Noise Reduction Materials

After measuring the space and sounds of an office, then measuring the STC of office walls and ceilings, it is time to consider noise reduction materials and applications. However, it is not solely the measurements from which you will be choosing materials. As the intro suggested, soundproofing is a two-way street with one-half concerning the prevention of noise from entering an office while the other deals with stopping sound from leaving an office and going onto others. The two methods require different applications for soundproofing, as the former mandates noise reduction, while the latter, noise absorption. Noise reduction stops the sound while noise absorption modifies it, reducing reverberation.

Noise Reduction vs. Noise Absorption

For Noise Reduction:

  • Place partitions within a room. These dividers insulate the room into smaller areas.
  • Air space between the partitions helps reduce noise by physically blocking it. When seeking out partitions, measure them for STC like the walls that make up the office themselves.
  • Also, installing carpets, upholstered furniture and ceiling tiles can help reduce the sound in an office.

For Noise Absorption:

  • Start with the windows; if they don't sufficiently block out sound, consider attaching another window pane, which keeps out the noise with the added density of more glass.
  • Plug in the windows with acoustical drapes, (widely used in the hotel industry).
  • Cover the ceiling and walls with acoustic panels and absorption products.
  • Acoustic panels can be used on horizontal and vertical surfaces; they are potent for absorbing sound, making them impenetrable to sound, so that the sound stays within the confines of your office and does not disturb nearby ones.

Further Considerations for Soundproofing an Office

When lining walls and ceilings with noise reduction or absorption materials, it is best to pay most attention to the ceilings, as they often bounce off the sound, simulating the origins of sounds to nearby walls. However, if you sense a sharp sound emanating from one particular region, inspect it, and if it appears to be the source of noise, that area should also have generous amounts of tiles, carpeting and the like.

Use dense materials that add a high mass and weight to walls and ceilings. Strong materials include drywall, lead, concrete, sandbags, sheetrock and even bricks. It is vital to keep out gaps in soundproofing, such as fissures, cracks and holes, as they will undermine the efforts. Noise control accessories such as wall insulation are great options for soundproofing, keeping noise at bay and work at hand.


The information contained in this article is intended for general information purposes only and is based on information available as of the initial date of publication. No representation is made that the information or references are complete or remain current. This article is not a substitute for review of current applicable government regulations, industry standards, or other standards specific to your business and/or activities and should not be construed as legal advice or opinion. Readers with specific questions should refer to the applicable standards or consult with an attorney.


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