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Controlling Sound

By Jim Sulski

Summary: Noise does not have to be a problem in your home. Quiet inside and outside noise pollution with these tips.

It is no secret that life seems to be getting noisier.
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There's more people in a more mechanized world out there and when people live closer together, there's a lot more things we can do to make noise.

As a result, there has been more of a focus on noise, as witnessed by bans by certain communities on leaf blowers and wave runners.

It's impossible for homeowners to think they can muffle all sounds. If you open a window on a nice day and you live on a busy street, you're going to get noise bleeding into your home.

There are ways, however, or minimizing the amount of noise that bleeds into a house or that originates in a home - from the footsteps of the neighbor in the loft above you to the drone of airplanes high in the sky to the noise of the bathroom down the hall. What follows are a number of techniques for controlling those sounds and many others in just about any home.

The first step is to determine which sounds are annoying, isolate those aggravating sounds and take whatever steps you can to tone them down. For example, a noisy refrigerator may need servicing. A barking dog may require a talk with a neighbor.

Then, you can move onto to the mechanical phase of soundproofing. The best time to address such acoustical concerns is during new construction - of an entire home or during an addition or remodeling project.

Cost-wise, that is when it makes the most sense.

Here are a few techniques that work best during new construction:

A sensible layout is the first step in controlling sounds. You don't want to put a bathroom right next to a living room or dining room because you don't want those sounds to be broadcast to the rest of the party in your house.

Also, don't put laundry rooms and utility closets next to bedrooms, where they will distract those trying to sleep. Nor do you want to put a noisy family room or kitchen next to a first floor bedroom.

On the plus side, try to separate bedrooms with wall-to-wall closets. The clothes and other materials packed into those closets will also help suppress sounds from bedroom to bedroom.

Inside insulation: You can muffle sound transmission between walls simply by adding insulation in the cavities between those walls.

For example, a typical two-by-four-inch frame wall with a hollow wall cavity provides a sound transmission class or STC of about 33. A 30 STC is when you're going to start to hear bathroom noises and other noises you don't want people to hear through the walls.

Add a standard three inches of insulation to that two-by-four-inch wall cavity and you'll raise the STC to about 40.

On exterior walls, insulation that's added to conserve heat in the winter and cool air in the summer will also help deaden outside noises from leaching into a home. Rigid 1/2-inch foam board insulation on the exterior of the house will also do the same.

Larger frames, deeper walls: Another simple step is to build bigger wall frames using two-by-six-inch framing versus the standard two-by-four inch framing. The larger frames will allow you to pack more insulation into the cavities, doing a better job at muffling sounds from room to room.

A bonus here on exterior walls is that increased insulation adds to your home's energy-efficiency.

You can also reduce sound-induced vibration in a wall by building a staggered wall frame with two-by-four-inch studs in a two-by-six-inch frame. Place two-by-six-inch joints at the top and bottom of the frame and then stagger the vertical two-by-four-inch studs so that every other stud touches the opposite edges of the top and bottom joints.

That prevents vibrations from traveling through the wall.

© by Jim Sulski. All rights reserved. March 23, 2005.

NOTE: This column is distributed by Real Estate Matters Syndicate, PO Box 366, Glencoe, Illinois, 60022. This column may not be resold, reprinted, resyndicated or redistributed without written permission from the publisher. 

2005 by Ilyce R. Glink. Distributed by Real Estate Matters Syndicate.




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