Soundproofing your room
If you are building or extending a home or planning a renovation, think carefully about noise control. The best time to consider soundproofing for any room is at the time of construction when budget permitting, all possible soundproofing methods can be employed. There are wall and ceiling products and systems that allow you to control noise transfer within your home and block unwanted noise from outside. This will significantly increase your level of comfort living in your property.
Design your home for acoustic considerations
With some basic understanding of building acoustics and careful consideration of the room use and layout of your home or extension, you can have quiet zones where you need them and keep noise where it belongs.
Noise reduction and soundproofing are not as difficult as many people believe but it can require sophisticated solutions, requiring the expertise of an experienced designer, and for specialised rooms a soundproofing consultant, to determine the best options. To soundproof a home, your designer will find the noise entry points and work out how best to block or attenuate the noise as it enters.
Interestingly, noise is similar to dealing with water in that they can both easily seep into your home. To make a room completely silent from the outside world means totally isolating it, which is often not practical or prohibitively expensive. So, we work to determine the optimal level of sound reduction for each specific scenario.
Understanding Building Acoustics
Controlling noise in a home is important for a comfortable living environment. Consider the distinct types of noise issues:
Sound waves can transfer from one side of a structure through to the other side. Unwanted noise can enter your home through your walls and roof and transfer through internal walls between rooms.
This can be airborne noise such as voices, music and machine noise or impact noise such as footsteps and cupboard doors.
Loud, low-frequency noise sources such as truck engines and home theatre systems have a higher degree of transfer through solid structures.
Flanking sound transmission is the transfer of noise indirectly around structures. The perimeter junctions of walls, floors, and ceilings can cause flanking paths.
Ceiling vents, downlights, and wall penetrations are examples of where flanking sound transmission can be an issue.
Sound within a room can also be an issue, particularly in sparsely furnished rooms or rooms with hard-surface floors where noise can bounce around freely.
This is particularly a problem with higher frequencies and speech which can be the most disturbing as it is very difficult to ‘tune out’.
Using a combination of density in the plasterboard lining and bulk insulation in the wall cavity, you can reduce and eliminate noise transfer through walls through sound absorption.
Unwanted noise can be an issue in any room in a home. Consider the more typical situations:
- Large open plan areas
- Rooms with a high level of hard floor coverings
- Rooms adjoining kitchens, laundries & garages
- Between floors of multi-storey homes
- Home theatres and entertainment rooms
- Homes near busy roads, schools or day care facilities
Extreme Soundproofing Requirements
Some home situations call for high levels of sound containment and soundproofing:
- Drums or amplified musical instruments
- Home theatres with powerful sub-woofers
For these rooms, discontinuous construction including Resilient Mount frames and air cavities as well as multiple layers of high-density plasterboard with bulk insulation can be extremely effective.
Pay attention to sealing all perimeters to stop flanking noise transmission. For openings like doors, side, top, and base acoustic seals can also be effective.
It is important to maintain fresh air circulation, which may require an acoustically insulated mechanical air transfer unit.
In these situations, consider talking to an acoustic consultant.
The home’s ‘external envelope’ or the walls, roof, windows, and doors are potential sources of unpleasant noise transfer.
There are solutions for a range of different sound levels across a number of noise situations:
- Traffic noise
- Neighbourhood noise
- Rail noise
- Aircraft noise
Additional sound control techniques include the following: acoustic door seals, acoustic windows, ceiling lights, and choice of roof tiles.
Sound Deadening or Sound Absorbing – What’s the Difference?
Sound deadening or Sound absorbing? If you’re considering a soundproofing project, then understanding the difference between sound deadening and sound absorbing products will be very important and will help you get the best results.
As discussed previously, sound can be likened to water – it has no form or shape and it can mould itself to its surroundings too. Very much like water, there are a number of materials that can absorb it and others that can contain it. What you need to use depends on your project and what you’re trying to achieve.
Often, when space needs to be sound-proofed, sound deadening and sound absorbing materials help you achieve the best results.
So, is there really any difference between the two or can they be used interchangeably?
Sound Deadening Products – What are They?
Sound deadening products help contain sound in a space and prevent it from transitioning to other areas outside of the space, be it a room or a building. They also help to stop any noise from entering the space.
You can use sound deadening products if you:
- Want to block the noise coming from your next-door neighbour’s music or dog
- Live on a busy street and want to block traffic noise from entering your house
- Need a noise-free room where you can be creative and focused
- Have kids who play musical instruments
Sound Absorbing Products – What are They?
Sound absorbing products are significantly different from sound-deadening products. As the name suggests, sound absorbing products do just that — they absorb excess sound waves which bounce around in a room.
The bouncing around of sound waves result in poor acoustics, bad echo, and background noise. Sound absorbing products won’t necessarily stop sound from entering the space or prevent transmission to the adjoining rooms. However, they dramatically improve speech intelligibility as well as the sound quality within rooms, boats, cars or any other enclosed spaces.
Use sound absorbing products in situations such as:
- Living in a home where voices tend to echo and the footsteps sound hollow
- Having an open plan house where you want to dull the sound of clattering dishes from the kitchen
Choosing the right product
When you are looking for a soundproofing product, it can be difficult to know whether it’s function is for sound deadening or sound absorbing.
Both types are classified as sound treatment products/noise reduction products/soundproofing products. The one way to get it right is to look at their test data:
- If the specifications include an STC (sound transmission class) number or a weighted sound-reduction index value, or a TL (transmission loss curve), it means the product is a sound deadening material. These products tend to be quite heavy/solid type materials like rubber or vinyl.
- On the other hand, if the specifications include a sound-absorption coefficient or an NRC (noise reduction coefficient), it’s an indication that the product has gone through sound absorbing material tests. These materials are typically soft, fibrous and/or porous in nature
Understanding these differences while deciding which soundproofing solutions is right for your project will help you avoid wasting time, effort and money on products that won’t serve your purpose. In many instances, you’ll achieve optimum results by employing both sound deadening and sound absorbing products, in the right context.
If undertaking an important or costly soundproofing project, we recommend engaging an acoustic consultant.
Soundproof a Room or a New or Existing home
Which Rooms Need Soundproofing?
You can soundproof just about any room in your house that you think will benefit from it. In fact, most rooms will become more comfortable to inhabit if you can successfully block outside noise. Better acoustics also add to more comfort.
The basic soundproofing actions of block, absorb, dampen and decouple will be the same, while the product options available or necessary to achieve a result will differ.
Soundproofing Between Floors:
If your home is multi-storey, it is better to soundproof between floors to prevent the travel of footsteps and other domestic noise. A heavy density acoustic batt and resilient mounts and acoustic plasterboard will help achieve effective soundproofing.
Soundproofing a Home Office:
Anyone who works from home knows exactly how vital that a study or home office is free from all distractions. When you’re trying to focus on work, things like loud neighbours, your own boisterous kids, people mowing their lawn or street noises can be a major distraction and have a negative impact on your productivity. The right kind of soundproofing can go a long way in helping you work productively.
When soundproofing a home office, we recommend taking the same steps as with a home theatre below. Whilst the level of noise inside the home office is less likely to disturb the rest of the house, (although ringing telephones and loud conversations can be annoying) for your sanity, it is wise to take every precaution against noises from the rest of the home penetrating the home office.
Soundproofing Bedrooms, Bathrooms, Laundry and Kitchen:
Soundproofing bedrooms and bathrooms are often not a priority when constructing new homes, with budgets being applied in other areas. However, once the home is built it is much more difficult and expensive to insulate these areas, so it is sound practice to give it plenty of thought during the planning and construction phase.
The cost of adding acoustic insulation between bedrooms and bathrooms as a percentage of the total home cost is minimal and soon forgotten. Your family can enjoy optimum comfort levels that last a lifetime.
This is one space where we would go so far as to say that soundproofing is a must. Peace and quiet are crucial to a good night’s sleep. The minute you soundproof your bedroom, it turns into an oasis of calm that you can unwind in, at the end of a busy day.
It’s a little obvious that having a soundproof bathroom can be a huge benefit. It’s a great comfort to know that no one can hear those embarrassing bathroom noises. Showers and flushing sounds can be an annoyance as well especially if someone uses the bathroom while you are trying to get some sleep.
The sounds of a noisy washing machine or dryer are all too familiar in many homes. Soundproofing this area to a certain degree, helps isolate and eliminate all those unwelcome noises of very loud spinning, whirring, banging and beeping noises that can disturb the peace of your whole home.
The sounds of a noisy dishwasher that is turned on at bedtime to take advantage of discounted electricity can disturb your sleep.
To soundproof between bedrooms and bathrooms, you would usually only require a medium density acoustic insulation batt in the internal walls, and a heavier density acoustic insulation batt to external walls. For rooms that share a wall with a noisy area, like a laundry room or rumpus room, utilise resilient mounts and acoustic plasterboard on the shared wall.
Soundproof a Home Theatre Room
When soundproofing a home theatre room, the typical solution is to create non-vibrating walls that contain heavy density acoustic insulation within. They should have a heavy density sound dampening material lining. It is not usually necessary to build a room within a room. The use of resilient mount clips with acoustic plasterboard is to create a vibration break between the plasterboard and stud work.
How to Soundproof a Room Post Construction
With the luxury of hindsight or having bought a home without sufficient soundproofing, you may find yourself wondering how you can soundproof a room that already exists?
There are things you can do. Depending on the level of soundproofing you desire and the budget available, here are the steps you can take:
- To simply decrease sound bouncing around and make a room quieter, the use of soft furnishings, carpets and rugs is a cost-effective starting point. Adding heavy drapes will help to minimise external noise from entering through window areas. Ensure the drapes go all the way to the floor and close well for maximum benefit.
- A next step would be to add sound-absorbing ceiling tiles and externally mounted sound absorbing acoustic panels to walls. The addition of acoustic underlay with a superior quality carpet will also go a long way to improving acoustics within the space. It also works effectively in reducing sound transmission through the floor.
How To Block Noise Coming From Outside
In the case of unwanted sound entering an existing space from external sources, things get a little more difficult.
The solution is to increase the mass of all the walls and the ceiling in the room. This will add to the physical structure that sound must travel through.
There is no simple or cheap way to do this, but you do have some options:
- Simply affix another layer of acoustic plasterboard to the existing wall. This will go some way to improving the problem and in many cases, sufficient.
- A little higher up the effectiveness scale is to remove the existing plasterboard and fill the cavity between the studs with decent quality acoustic wall insulation such as Fibreglass, Polyester or Rockwool. When replastering, the use of an acoustic plasterboard to further increase the wall mass, and resilient mounts to break the vibration path will greatly improve the reduction in sound transmission through the wall.
- Finally, if a high degree of soundproofing is required, you can effectively create a ‘room within a room’ as in soundproofing a sound studio. Employ the services of professionals to construct an additional internal wall frame, one that can be detached from the existing walls. High-performance Acoustic insulation in Polyester, Rockwool, Fibreglass and Mass Loaded Vinyl (which is a heavy density, sound dampening material) can then be sandwiched between the two walls. Once the ceiling and walls have been modified in this manner, you can then finish these surfaces to match the rest of your room.
- Consider soundproofing the floor. It’s true that adding a thick carpet can be effective in dulling sounds, but the addition of an acoustic underlay will further reduce sound transmission through the floor. You also have the option to increase the floor mass with the addition of acoustic insulation mass loaded vinyl. This reduces sound transfer under floors. This specialised underlay is fitted just below the carpet and elevates the amount of soundproofing.
How to soundproof a room?
When you go through all these details, soundproofing a room may seem like a large task. This is true to a certain degree, as it’s important to choose the right materials for the right application and ensure that the installation is carried out to perfection.
In the end, the easiest and safest way to get it right is to have a professional handle the job for you. You will need a designer for your renovation and as well as an acoustic consultant. They know exactly how to soundproof a room, and it may not cost as much as you think.
Here are some sound insulation tips:
Seal Cracks and Holes
You might think that cracks and holes don’t matter and in the grand scheme of things. But they wouldn’t make much of a difference. Consider sound insulation a step-by-step process. If you follow all the steps, you get excellent soundproofing and sealing cracks and holes is the first step. Make sure to be very thorough here and inspect your home carefully.
You can use caulk or flexible polyurethane to seal them. You should also seal gaps in doors and windows. Putty or expanding foam can be used to fill any holes through which wires enter your property. You’ll be amazed by how much noise is blocked by doing this.
Apply foam gaskets just behind the facing of electrical outlets. This removes the outlets through which sound can escape the room.
Check Doors and Windows
If air can come in, sound can as well. You need to make sure that your doors and windows seal shut when they’re closed. You can do this by adding weather stripping to them or adding a door sweep. This device will allow the door to open seamlessly, but it automatically falls in place once you close the door. Use door and window seals to ensure that when they close, no noise from outside can come in.
Solid wood doors would keep out the noise better than foam/glass doors; if you can, add the former to your home. You can also install storm-windows with toughened glass and solid frames. The idea is to seal the entry points in your home to enhance sound insulation.
In addition to adding acoustical linings, absorbent materials, barriers, and soundproofing panels for walls, ceilings, and floors, you can also get double-glazed windows installed. The latter greatly minimise the transmission of sound. However, if you don’t want to go into the expense of replacing your windows, hang sound absorbent drapes or make prefabricated absorbent material covers for them.
Thin walls can let in noise, no matter how well you seal the house. You can prevent this by insulating the walls carefully and thoroughly. This can be done by installing affordable insulation or fibreglass/polyester batts. These solutions would filter out the noise, but they will have to be expertly installed by a professional. Every 1% of the area not covered can result in a 5% loss in sound insulation effectiveness.
At least 25% of the room should be devoted to other absorbent materials, including draperies, carpeting or furniture. These complement the insulating properties of the other insulation materials that we just discussed. These materials absorb sound and dampen sound waves.
One of the more logical solutions for effective sound insulation is to thicken your walls. You can do that by adding mass to them. Aside from insulation, you can add plasterboard. This would not only stop the outdoor noise but also dim the noise coming from within the house.
If you follow all these steps, you can soundproof your home and keep the noise out. This will give you a lot of relief and let you catch some much-needed rest in the peace and quiet of your well-insulated home.