Can Temporary Walls Provide Soundproofing?

Solo sofa with partition on a office setup

It’s fair to hope that the temporary wall you got installed last week will save you from the visual distractions of the office. But can it also drown out that annoying buzz from your noisy coworkers, the constant hum of air conditioner, the whirring of printers, and the worst - those incessant calls?

Whether it’s in the workplace or at home, temporary walls can indeed offer the visual privacy you desire in order to manage an open-plan space better. The real challenge though is dealing with the noise. Do temporary walls fare well when it comes to providing sound privacy too?

Can temporary walls provide 100% soundproofing?

Temporary partition walls can provide soundproofing, but only to some extent. It’s a good idea to adjust your expectations right from the get-go – temporary walls and dividers can never offer 100% soundproofing. The element of ‘temporary’ just does not allow for complete noise insulation.

How much soundproofing can temporary walls provide?

While they cannot completely sound-insulate a space, acoustic temporary walls can provide a decent amount of sound privacy. A good acoustic partition can stop about 40%-70% of outside noise. In most situations, that’s all that’s really needed!

How does soundproofing work in temporary walls?

Temporary walls cannot aim to reduce impact sounds – sounds that occur as a result of impact - for example: people walking, moving furniture etc. These sounds get carried through the structure of a building. Reducing impact sounds requires more complex soundproofing techniques such as decoupling and dampening that are only possible with permanent walls.

Soundproofing in temporary walls primarily aims at reducing airborne sounds – sounds that are carried by air, like that of people talking, music, TV, etc.  They reduce noise either through the absorption of the sound waves into the material of the temporary wall, or by blocking noise transfer with their mass.

Limitations of temporary walls in soundproofing

The very fact that they’re portable and ‘temporary’ limits the extent to which temporary walls and dividers can soundproof a space.

A good temporary wall is one that’s light in weight so that it can be assembled, dismantled and moved around easily. This means reduced mass which in turn means temporary walls cannot rely on blocking sound waves. They must focus almost entirely on absorbing them instead.

Dark-colored portable partition

Dark-colored portable partition

Portable partitions also don’t go all the way up to the ceiling. Plus, they usually come with wheels which means there’s also a gap between the panels and the floor. The absorption of sound waves is limited to the extent of the panels while they feely transmit through the gaps.

What to look for in soundproof temporary walls and room dividers?

If you’re looking to divide a space with some degree of noise privacy, here are some factors worth considering in your acoustic temporary walls:

Material

As mentioned earlier, temporary walls depend almost entirely on the absorption of sound waves for soundproofing a space. This means that the most crucial factor to consider while buying your temporary walls should be its material.

Depending on the amount of sound waves absorbed, each material is given an NRC or a noise reduction coefficient. NRC is a numerical value that ranges between 0 and 1 – 0 for a material that absorbs 0% of the sound waves that come in contact with it, and 1 for 100%.

For example, this VersiPanel Acoustical Partition is made of a fabric that has an NRC of 0.65. This means that it can absorb 65% of the sound waves in the space it encloses.

Acoustic Partition

Always check the NRC of the material that makes up the panels of your temporary walls, and opt for one with a higher NRC. Here are the approximate NRCs of different partition wall materials. Do keep in mind that these values could change depending on the specific characteristics of a material. 

  • Fabric: NRC 0.40 to 0.70. Fabrics are the most effective at absorbing sound.
  • Foam: NRC 0.30 to 0.60. Because they’re light and offer a good NRC, many portable acoustic partition walls are made of foam panels. Typically, the best acoustic panels are those made of some kind of foam coated in fabric.
  • Metal: NRC 0.05 to 0.15. Many partition walls are made of metal, but they offer very low sound proofing because of their low NRC.
  • Glass: NRC 0.1 to 0.05. While they’re extremely popular for aesthetic reasons and because they let light in, glass partitions offer the least amount of sound absorption.

Weight

Generally speaking, the heavier a temporary wall, the more noise reduction . However, heavy partition walls defeat the purpose of portability and their ‘temporariness’. 

For ease of use, it’s best to go with light-weight partition walls. Do make sure that they have a solid footing though! You don’t want them to get knocked over at the slightest nudge. For soundproofing, it’s always better to depend on the high NRC of a material rather than its weight.

Size

When it comes to acoustic partition walls, size matters. Look for a size that covers as much of the area as possible in order to absorb as many sound waves as possible. Modular partitions come handy in such situations since they’re customizable and can be adjusted to fit into any space.

Portability and flexibility

While looking for the perfect acoustic temporary walls, don’t only focus on the sound insulation, but also look for features that make them easy to use. The most important feature for portability is wheels - partitions with dual caster wheels will allow for the smoothest movement. 

Also, look for partitions and dividers that come with folding panels so you have flexibility in demarcating your space. For even more flexibility, consider modular options that allow you to customize your partition wall size exactly as per your needs.

Partition with foldable panels
Partition with foldable panels

Where can you use soundproof temporary room dividers?

Acoustic temporary walls are great in places where you need the flexibility of space division and sound privacy at the same time. Here are some potential areas where you might find them not just useful, but even indispensable

Offices

Offices that have an open-plan can get more buzzy than busy, and this can affect collaborative efforts and productivity negatively. Temporary soundproof walls can be used to create discreet meeting rooms as well as quiet focus areas amidst noisy settings.

Home office

If you’ve set up a home office within the living room or bedroom of your house, you know how challenging it can be to get work done when you have other members of the household determined to distract you.

A mom remotely working with her kids on the background

Acoustic temporary walls and dividers can be the saving grace to block out much of the noise and allow you to focus. Plus, because they’re temporary, you can set them up on weekdays and get rid of them in the weekends when you need more space to spend time with your family.

An office space with partition

Temporary recording studio

While recording videos, audios, podcasts, etc., it’s crucial to restrict background sounds for better sound clarity and quality. But setting up a professional studio can be expensive, especially if you’re looking only for a temporary setup. Soundproof temporary walls are a quick and inexpensive solution in such scenarios.

Two people recording while inside a recording studio made out of partition walls

Home theater

So what if you don’t have a dedicated home theater? With an acoustic temporary partition, you can convert your living room into one within seconds. The sound-absorbing panels also reduce the reflection of sound waves, thereby improving sound quality and therefore your viewing experience.

Schools and education spaces

Education spaces often need their spaces divided temporarily to set up smaller activity areas and study spaces. More often than not, they also need some amount of sound insulation to encourage focus and learning. Acoustic temporary walls can be saviors in such situations.

A partition located on a children's school which is also used as a wall to hang artworks

Here’s an example of how an acoustic partition wall can be used to enhance an educational space.

This SoundSorb 360 Folding Acoustical Partition comes with foldable fabric panels, 360deg hinges and dual caster wheels that allow you to create a quiet zone of any flexible shape within seconds. The panels are made of a fabric with an NRC of 0.6, which means it will effectively absorb 60% of the sound waves that strike it. The panels are also tack-able, which means you can use them as a bulletin board to display art, charts or other visuals. When you want to get rid of the partition wall, simply fold the panels over each other, and put it away.

Create flexible soundproof spaces

Soundproofing doesn’t necessarily have to involve cumbersome installation or complicated sound engineering. Sometimes, we just need to able to create a quiet zone amidst the din, a focused area amidst the distractions and some sound privacy amidst a crowd. More often than not, we need flexibility over perfection- the possibility to orchestrate our spaces the way we want them, temporarily. That’s where soundproof temporary walls and dividers undeniably emerge as ultimate winners.

Need help with temporary walls to soundproof your space? Contact us! We’ve got just the solutions for the effective space division and sound privacy you’re looking for.