What Is Noise-Canceling Wallpaper and Does It Work?

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Looking for attractive wallpaper that cuts down the noise? Sound reducing technology has come a long way, but make sure you know what you're buying.

Sick of listening to your neighbors talking or fighting? Worried they might be judging you for binge-watching Love It or List It all day? Maybe it’s time to soundproof your walls.

Typical acoustical sound absorption means hanging thick fabrics or installing ugly foam panels reminiscent of a college radio station. But what if sound reduction wall coverings could be attractive and thin? What if it’s as simple as putting up wallpaper?

What Is Noise-Canceling Wallpaper?

Noise-canceling wallpaper is a misnomer. Noise-canceling implies a near-complete neutralization, as in noise-canceling headphones. Noise-canceling technology requires a power source because it sends out signals to counterbalance the noise from an external source. Wall coverings offer sound absorption instead.

Sound absorption in our living and working spaces doesn’t keep out sound or counteract external noise; it keeps sound in. As sound waves move around your space, they’re absorbed by soft materials like couches and curtains and bounce off hard ones like drywall and wood tables.

Wallpaper can’t keep out external noises like street traffic. To do that, seal up cracks with caulk, tighten doors so they close all the way and add an extra layer of drywall. If you really want to block external sounds, sandwich a layer of mass-loaded vinyl between the drywall layers.

What To Consider When Buying Noise-Canceling Wallpaper

Many wall-covering products purport to be “sound reducing” or “noise-canceling,” but read the fine print. Here’s what to look for:

  • Noise reduction coefficient (NRC): The NRC rating describes a material’s ability to absorb sound. NRCs range from 0.0 to 1.0, with 1.0 the highest.
  • Thickness of material: Absorbed sound waves must be converted to another form of energy, namely heat. Thicker materials generally absorb more heat.
  • Attractiveness: Wallpaper and panels have gotten better looking over the years, so pick the one you like.

Does Noise-Canceling Wallpaper Work?

It depends. Like anything, quality can vary. Some products advertised as “noise-canceling” or “soundproof” wallpapers don’t actually provide pertinent details, like what frequencies they absorb or the NRC rating.

Read Q&As and verified reviews at Amazon before buying. Or stick to high-end wallpaper brands like BuzziSkin and Easewall, which publish specific sound absorption coefficients of their wallpapers.

Three Top Noise-Canceling Wallpaper Options

Acoustical panels provide better sound absorption than wallpaper, but technological advancements continue. Scientists in England recently figured out the absorptive qualities of moth wings could be key to improving the thinness of sound-absorbing wall coverings.

“New research has shown that one day it will be possible to adorn the walls of your house with ultrathin sound absorbing wallpaper,” said the study author in a press release.

Until that day, here are the best wallcovering options to lower the sound levels in your home.

Acoustical wallpaper

Sound-dampening wallpaper options can be difficult to find, but some companies offer attractive varieties with sound reducing qualities. As technology advances, expect to see more of these products on the market.

Acoustical wall covering

Noise-reducing wall coverings, often made of felt or other natural products, provide sound-dampening qualities. Some are made from recycled materials, and they’re good-looking. Bonus: An experienced DIYer should be able to install these coverings.

Acoustical panels

Acoustical panels absorb noise and echoes while creating a warm vibe, but they can be utilitarian. If you want to blast your tunes without looking at black foam, art-inspired acoustic panels add interest to your space and absorb the sound.

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Ally Childress
Ally Childress is a licensed electrician and freelance writer living in Dallas, Texas.