Home soundproofing is on the rise as homeowners confront a variety of outside noises that disturb their peace and sleep. Fortunately, there are a number of accessible solutions including sound-insulated windows, acoustic panels, heavy carpets and drapes. Such techniques for soundproofing homes can make your space a refuge from the outside world. So the nearby train doesn’t sound like it’s in your living room. And the traffic under your windows doesn’t make it hard to read or think.
Before starting your home soundproofing project you need to understand how noise is penetrating your home so you can keep it from entering your space.
First Step: Understand How Noise Penetrates Your Home
Noise can penetrate doors, walls, ceilings and other openings in your house. How does this work? Well, sound is energy that’s created when something vibrates. When someone strums a guitar, the vibrating strings make the surrounding air molecules vibrate too. That sound energy then travels outward and penetrate solids.
Insulated walls will work to block sound better than uninsulated walls. A solid wood door will transmit less sound than a hollow one. One key principle is if air can penetrate through the cracks in your home, sound can too. So effective seals and gaskets around doors and windows are important barriers to outside noise.
Windows are typically the primary entry point since noise travels easily through glass and windows typically have many cracks through which noise (and cold drafts) can enter. Insulating your windows from sound isn’t as difficult as you may think. Was your home built before 1950? There’s a good chance you have single-pane windows and those are going to allow more sound to enter your space than new double-panes. But even new double-pane windows, can welcome noise right in with a big “Howdy do!” Never fear: sound-insulated windows are within reach.
Now, what if your noise problem is mainly caused by upstairs neighbors or the people living in the condo below you? That can be a harder soundproofing problem. It can involve building drop ceilings and floating floors. If you have the budget for it, you might consider hiring an acoustical consultant to come to your home and assess your noise situation. A good resource is the National Council of Acoustical Consultants.
Next Step: Identify Solutions
If outside noise is your main problem, there are several ways you can soundproof your home including caulking cracks in your window frames, installing heavy, sound dampening curtains or installing window inserts that can block 50 to 70% of the noise coming through your windows. Much like window inserts, insulating and air sealing your walls and ceiling will save you money, make your home more comfortable, and reduce noise. Once you reduce the sound coming through the windows of your apartment or house, you can work to absorb what’s in the room to improve acoustics, everything from upholstered furniture to acoustic panels that absorb noise.
Keep in mind that not all noise is the same. Insulating your windows against sound will work best for higher frequency noises like honking horns, sirens and squeaking brakes. But lower frequency noises like the thumping bass of a passing car or the earth-trembling rumble of a powerful motorcycle can penetrate walls. Lower frequency noise dampening is a bit more tricky.
Set your expectations: you may not be able to eliminate all sounds. But you can hush the outside world to a large extent, making your home a more comfortable place to be.