8 Sound Proofing Secrets for a Quieter Home.
Today’s houses can be noisy. “Paper-thin walls” were once the main culprit when it came to noise. But now, unless a house is equipped with sound proofing, it can suffer from noise generated and broadcasted by a combination of factors. In addition to lightweight construction, you can add open floor plans, a multitude of noisy machines and entertainment gear, and family members who want to form the next great rock band. Good luck trying to find a little peace and quiet without a fair amount of sound proofing.
In this article, we’ll explain how noise travels and look at the materials and the methods that can help you quiet your noisy home. To help sound proof your home, you can:
Cut down on noisemakers
Use sound-absorbing materials
Install sound-blocking doors
Weatherstrip interior doors
Design a sound system that doesn’t broadcast noise
Block street noise with your garage door
Fix floor squeaks
Silence noisy pipes
The Noisy Home Syndrome
In many of today’s homes, we’ve removed walls to create a sense of spaciousness. In addition, we’ve filled our kitchens with whiz-bang appliances and fitted our family rooms with surround-sound home theaters. Noise has become a byproduct of our busy lives, and accompanying it we’ve created noise pollution.
Sure, noise pollution isn’t like having lead in your paint or microbes in your water. But neither is it just a harmless irritant. Noise can mess up our sleep, add to our stress, infringe on our privacy, and generally compromise our quality of life.
Fortunately, you can employ a number of sound proofing or noise-reducing initiatives to alleviate the problem. The most effective of these are best done during a building or remodeling project because they involve modifying the way walls and floors are built. For in-depth coverage about these, see Sound Proofing Walls & Ceilings.
Here we look at relatively easy steps you can take over a weekend to create a quieter home. But first it helps to understand the dynamics of sound.
How Sound Works
The crash of a cymbal, the clang of a bell: All physical actions send “sound waves” rippling through the air. When these “waves” reach our ears, they vibrate a sensitive membrane—the eardrum—producing what we hear as sound.
Noise is simply unwanted sound. In the home, most people consider noise to be just about any sound other than the sound made by what they’re doing. For example, if you’re on the phone, the television in the next room is noise. Conversely, if you’re watching television, a phone conversation in the next room can be noise. Your teenagers’ music is noise, period. You get the idea.
Unfortunately, conventional walls and ceilings are only marginally effective at blocking noise because they are built like drums. They have membranes (typically drywall) on the two outer surfaces of a structural framework that’s filled with air. Sound waves strike one surface and carry through the air or framework to the other surface where they’re broadcast as audible noise.
Where there is a very thin wall surface—or no surface at all, such as an open window or door—noise has a free pass.
Sound Proofing Techniques
Controlling noise involves cutting down on noisemakers and reducing the movement of sound from one place to another. Sound proofing techniques employ surfaces that absorb sound vibrations and structures that minimize sound transference.
1 Use Sound-Absorbing Materials
Hard surfaces reflect sound waves; soft surfaces absorb them.
Materials that help control sound within a room are familiar to most homeowners. If you want to minimize sound bouncing around a room, opt for “soft” materials such as acoustic ceilings and padded carpeting rather than hardwood, tile, or laminates.
2 Install Sound-Blocking Doors
The largest opening in most walls is a doorway. One of the most effective ways to keep noise from moving from one room to the next is to install (and weatherstrip) solid doors, something you can easily do whether or not you’re remodeling or building.
3 Weatherstrip Interior Doors
But most of the sound doesn’t come through the door, it sneaks around the door. Install weatherstripping or door sound proofing to provide a seal. Usually the easiest and best material to use is adhesive-backed high-density foam tape.
4 Cut Down on Noisemakers
“Quiet” is one of the main features that dishwasher manufacturers promote.
No, “cutting down on noisemakers” doesn’t mean sending your kids off to play at your neighbor’s house, though this no doubt will help. It does mean opting for quieter appliances when it’s time to buy new ones. Manufacturers have picked up on the problem of noise and, as a result, make premium models that are very quiet. The difference between the noise made by conventional whole-house fans, dishwashers, and other typically noisy appliances and their newer, quieter counterparts can be significant. Of course, the closer appliances are located to living or sleeping areas, the more it matters to buy quiet appliances.
5.Tweak Your Sound System
If your entertainment gear is pumping sound through an inexpensive or poorly designed speaker system, it may be creating a lot of unnecessary household noise. The idea is to enjoy the sound when you’re at the television or near the media gear without imposing the sound on the rest of the house.
Similarly, quality speakers such as the ELAC Unif-fi or Andrew Jones Debut Series let you enjoy great sound fidelity and clarity without the need to crank up the volume. Another option for the household where one member likes to have the sound blasting when others want it quiet is to buy a wireless headphone set.
6 Consider the Garage Door
If your home has a room next to or above the garage, street noise can be a problem. In this situation, your garage door is also a consideration. The typical garage door is built with a open interior framework and faced with a sheet of plywood, steel, vinyl or aluminum on the outside. But you can also buy premium garage doors that are filled with foam insulation and have an additional facing on the inside. These are particularly good at keeping street noise from entering through the garage.
7 Fix Floor Squeaks
Though floor squeaks aren’t usually much of a bother during active parts of the day, they can be a real annoyance when the house is quiet. If your house suffers from squeaky floors or stairs, check out this helpful information:
8 Silence Noisy Pipes
If your home’s pipes rattle, chatter, or make loud banging noises when you turn faucets off or flush the toilet, it’s time to handle this problem. There are relatively easy steps you can take to solve these issues. The answer is usually to install water hammer arrestors, like the one shown here, on the hot and cold water pipes.
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