At some point in most people’s life they will be annoyed by unwanted noise. Either within or outside their home, disturbing their privacy and peace. It could be noisy neighbours, busy traffic, landing aircraft or very often their own children, whether babies, toddlers or teenagers
There is a plethora of information out on the internet but it’s often conflicting and confusing. It doesn’t need to be!
Here are some top tips that work to soundproof your home:
Soundproofing a wall
This is the most common form of noise problem and usually involves sound coming across a party wall. The key thing to understand is that the wall is not performing as it should.
In the case of older properties it might be that the wall is just a single brick thick, with poor mortaring between the joists. In order to combat this problem you have to increase the weight of the wall in a smart way. Just adding a sheet of soundproof plasterboard onto the wall simply won’t work.
Ideally, and for the best result, you should think about creating a new stud wall in front of the problem wall. However most people don’t want to lose room space.
So another option, and a smarter way of soundproofing, is to add the weight in a springy way. There are various clips and bars that can be used to do this or even very heavy rubber mats topped off with acoustic plasterboard which lose just 45mm from the wall. Soundproofing professionals, such as Soundstop, can provide the solutions and the products.
Some of these options can even give your home insulation a boost, helping to maintain an optimal internal tempurature.
N.B. Beware- adding widely advertised products such as egg boxes, acoustic foam or even acoustic wall paper just won’t work.
Soundproofing a ceiling
Many people move into a new flat or apartment and their heart sinks. On the first evening they hear the ominous click of heels on hard wood floors from above. Or worse, they can hear the upstairs neighbours chatting or are woken by their snoring.
Having spent £1000’s on your new property this can all be very disheartening. Especially if you had big ideas for planning your perfect living room or bedroom.
However the problem is often just a lack of simple protection between you and what or who lives above. Sometimes all that divides you is some thin carpet, a gappy set of floor boards and a single layer of plasterboard tacked onto the ceiling. This is often further compounded by spotlights which have made holes in this already thin layer, letting sound seep through.
Don’t panic there is hope!
Sometimes the recommendation is to remove the old ceiling and in some cases it can be left in place. A new ceiling will either be suspended from the joists (if ceiling has been removed) or just below the existing ceiling (if the ceiling remains in place). In both cases, instead of materials being attached hard to joists, acoustic clips known as Genie Clips are used. These spring load the ceiling, meaning much greater protection from impact sound (footsteps) and airborne sound (such as tv and talking).
The most straightforward ceiling solution is quick and easy to install and can improve the acoustic protection by 70-80%. The space loss can be minimal depending on the solution you choose, the slimmest losing just 15mm or so, while the standard most popular ceiling hangs just over two inches (61mm) below the exisiting one.
By introducing multiple layers, the level of acoustic protection is tripled over a normal basic ceiling.
Soundproofing a floor
Of all the areas that people try to soundproof, floors present most challenges. Not least of all due to the very confusing marketing that many of the rubber mat and underlay companies promote. Lines like ” reduces sound by 30dB” can seem very encouraging. However the figure is completely misleading.
When soundproofing a floor the main aim is often to stop sound transference like TV and talking as well as reducing the sound of your footfall.
The 30dB figure refers to a highly controlled laboratory tested figure and only to the reduction of impact (footfall) sound. Any good carpet will give you 30dB. These mats will provide no airborne sound protection whatsoever.
So what will work for you if you have noisy neighbours below you?
The key, as with all other soundproofing solutions when renovating your home, is to add weight to the floor and, ideally, add mineral wool under the floor (like loft roll but much denser). The cheap way to add weight is simply to lay plasterboard down onto the floor. This will work reasonably well. There are, however, many other space saving solutions which are more expensive, but really effective. These include acoustic membranes and very high performance silica filled boards.
Soundproofing a window
Many people are troubled by noise coming from outside the home:
- Building works
- And so on
A common misconception is that sound might be coming through the walls. However, inevitably it’s the windows which are the source of the problem.
Whilst installing double glazing will make a huge difference, professional soundproofers have found that a far more effective and often cheaper method is to add secondary glazing. Ideally it should be 4 inches in front of the existing windows. This is really effective for those sounds which are tough to eliminate such as train noise and aircraft noise
Alternatives To Soundproofing
Sometimes, for whatever reason, soundproofing might not be for you. This may be because it proves to be too expensive or that you are in a temporary rented situation.
So what are your alternatives?
White noise is a great thing to drown out unwanted noise pollution, especially at night. This can easily be created by running a fan by your bed, or using a white noise app on your phone. You will soon get used to the constant sound and it will neutralize a great deal of the sounds that may be invading your sleep.
Good old fashioned earplugs. We prefer the use of wax ear plugs over foam for decibel reduction. The draw back with earplugs is that there may be some sounds you want to hear like a phone ringing or a baby crying so they are not for everyone.
Negotiation. This is arguably the most important solution of all. Talking to your noisy neighbour can nip the problem in the bud. In many cases, people are unaware that they are disturbing others. If there has not been previous confrontation, a quick chat can be the simplest thing to do.
When approaching a noisy neighbour its best to be polite and non confrontational. A gentle indication that there might be a problem in the first conversation is a much better route than the first words being “turn your TV down!”.
However you want to go about soundproofing rest assured there are a few options out there for you. Everyone deserves a little bit of peace and privacy in their own home.
Chief Executive of Soundstop.co.uk