7 Soundproofing Secrets for a Quieter Home HomeTips

7 Soundproofing Secrets for a Quieter Home HomeTips

7 Soundproofing Secrets for a Quieter Home

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Today’s houses can be noisy. Though “paper-thin walls” were once the culprit when it came to noise in the house, today’s houses suffer from a combination of open floor plans, lightweight construction, and a multitude of machines and high-tech audio and video gear. Good luck trying to find a little peace and quiet.

In this article, we’ll look at the materials and methods that can help quiet the noisy home.

The Noisy Home Syndrome

In many of today’s homes, we’ve removed walls to create a sense of spaciousness. We’ve filled our kitchens with whiz-bang appliances and 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 it’s not just an irritant. It can mess up our sleep, add to our stress, infringe on our privacy, and generally compromise our quality of life.

Fortunately, there are a number of soundproofing or noise-reducing initiatives you can take to alleviate the problem. The most effective of these are best done during a building or remodeling project because they involve the way walls or other structural elements are built. For more about these, see Soundproofing Your Home During Construction .

Here we look at relatively easy steps you can take in 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—and we hear them as sounds.

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, phone conversations are noise. Your teenagers’ music is noise, period.

Unfortunately, conventional walls and ceilings are only marginally effective at blocking noise. 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.

And where there is a very thin wall surface (or no surface at all, such as an open window or door), sound simply travels from one area to the next without the need for transference.

Soundproofing Techniques

Controlling noise involves cutting down on noisemakers and reducing the movement of sound from one place to another. Soundproofing measures employ surfaces that absorb sound vibrations and structures that minimize sound transference.

Achieving a home that is quiet can take a little work, but when you’re ready to relax in a quiet room and enjoy a good book, you’ll know it was well worth the effort. Silence is golden.

Here are 7 helpful techniques for making your home a quieter place:

1 Cut Down on Noisemakers

Quiet is one of the main features that dishwasher manufacturers promote. Photo: GE

No, this doesn’t mean sending your kids off to play at the neighbors, though this no doubt will help. It does mean opting for quiet appliances when replacements are needed. Manufacturers have picked up on the problem and, as a result, make premium models that are very quiet. There is a significant difference between the noise made by conventional fans, dishwashers, and other typically noisy appliances and their newer, quieter counterparts.

Keeping appliances working properly is also part of the equation. Listen for rattles, vibrations, buzzing, and other noises made by your home’s appliances and equipment. If something seems unusually loud, fix it or get it fixed. Just jump to the DIY Home Repairs page of HomeTips and use the Search box to find instructions.

2 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.

Companies such as Armstrong World Industries have a wide range of acoustic ceiling materials that are particularly popular for cutting down on noise transference to and from basements and other activity areas. Acoustic tiles and drop-ceiling systems offer excellent acoustical properties; people who think the conventional styles are a bit too institutional will like some of the newer styles available.

Acoustic ceiling panels dampen sound significantly. Photo: Armstrong World Industries

For example, Armstrong offers 2-by-2-foot panels that have a step-edged detail or look like embossed or molded plaster. “These are very good for blocking noise generated in the basement and keeping it from invading upstairs,” says a spokesperson for Armstrong’s residential ceilings. “They will give your basement ceiling an STC [Sound Transmission Class] rating of about 35 and even better performance if you install batt insulation between floor joists,” he adds. (For more about STC, see Soundproofing Your Home During Construction .)

With ceilings, as with the entire house, the most effective way to minimize noise is to combine a number of different sound-blocking and sound-reduction methods.

3 Install Sound-Blocking Doors

A solid-core door helps block the transference of sound by eliminating the drum-like construction of a hollow-core door.

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.

Most interior doors are of hollow core construction. They are very ineffective at blocking sound. According to a spokesperson for the National Wood Window & Door Association, “Any one of the particleboard-core, composite-core, or solid-wood doors would work much better at providing a sound barrier than a hollow-core door.” Of course, solid-core doors are more expensive, but they are also available in a much broader selection of elegant styles. For more about interior doors, see the Interior Doors Buying Guide .

Door Weatherstripping Types

4 Weatherstrip Interior Doors

But most of the sound doesn’t come through the door, it comes around the door. It’s important to install weatherstripping to provide a seal.

Rubber bulb weatherstripping gaskets and a weatherstripped threshold should seal the gaps around the perimeter.

If you were to replace a hollow-core door with a solid one and weatherstrip the perimeter, what would be the result? According to the NWWDA, “If you did all of this, you could probably end up with an STC [Sound Transmission Class] rating of 34 to 36.”

5 Consider the Garage Door

Sound-minimizing garage doors have internal foam insulation and interior panels. Photo: ISO

Your garage door is also a consideration if there is a room next to or above the garage. Though the typical garage door is built with a open interior framework and a sheet of plywood, steel, vinyl or aluminum on the outside, you can also buy premium garage doors that are filled with foam insulation and have an additional covering on the inside. These are particularly good at keeping street noise from invading through the garage. For more, see the Garage Doors Buying Guide .

6 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: How to Fix Squeaky Stairs and How to Fix Floor Squeaks .

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