If noise outside of your home is causing you stress, it can feel like an impossible problem to solve as you can't stop the source of the noise. However, there are things you can do including soundproofing walls, doors, windows and using acoustic hangers. We'll look at these different forms of soundproofing and also consider how you could tackle the noise at its source as well.
Read on for our full guide on soundproofing against outside noise.
How sound travels between rooms
Sound is an unseen energy force that rapidly moves through the air, passing into and through any objects around it.
Vibrations made by an object create soundwaves which ripple through the air, with the occurrence of each wave slightly lessening the strength of the sound energy. This essentially means the further the distance the soundwave has to travel, the less audible it becomes.
Travelling through denser objects will also dampen the strength of the noise. It should also be remembered that sound also reverberates off some objects, which is dependent on the type of material the wave is coming into contact with. Rather than reduce the sound, this can have the opposite effect of increasing or ‘resetting’ the soundwave as it bounces off into another direction from a new starting point.
Objects, such as walls, contain particles that are tightly packed together, making it more difficult for the full strength of the soundwave to pass through. Hollow items allow far more space for the movement of sound, which is why an echo is heard in empty rooms for example.
There is nothing worse than being disturbed when you are trying to relax at home either in the living room when watching TV after a long day at work, or even worse, when trying to get some much needed sleep at all. Noisy neighbours are a nightmare and can easily affect the quality of life you have at home.
One of the best ways to reduce the impact of external noise coming into your house is to use acoustic insulation to soundproof the walls. This can either block or absorb the sound, significantly lowering the amount of sound travelling through.
Installing acoustic insulation into walls increases the density of the dividing space making it harder for soundwaves to travel through at their optimum level.
Air bricks typically used in housing construction do not provide much of a barrier against travelling sound. The most common soundproofing measure used is to create a new false wall in front of the existing structure. The space in between is then filled with acoustic insulation. What has to be taken into consideration when insulating a wall is the space taken up by the new wall, which will mean losing anywhere between 45-100mm of room space.
Similar to the construction of walls, the thicker the door, the less likely it is that sound will be able to pass through it with much clarity. Solid wood or composite doors are typically more expensive to purchase but they offer a far more robust method of sound insulation.
The additional benefit that comes with increasing the density of any structure is that it improves the retention of heat in the room, which will enable you to see a return on investment through the reduction of heating bills over a longer period of time.
Placing weather stripping around the edges of the doors and the gap at the bottom, will help to seal any spaces which allow sound to travel though.
Windows are usually one of the easiest entry points for external noises that travel into your home. This is because standard glass – even those used in double glazing – does not contain the correct properties to completely block out sound.
However double can really help reduce the amount of sound heard inside, along with secondary glazing. Where double glazing features both panes as part of one window, secondary sees a secondary pane attached to the existing single-paned window from the inside. Both are every effective with the general rule being, the thicker the glass, the better the sound insulation.
There are other methods that can reduce sound travelling through windows:
- Thick curtains: This alone will not be enough to lower the sound significantly, but used in conjunction with glazing it will help to dampen the sound as it travels into the room.
- Weather stripping: Weather stripping the window frame will help to seal any obvious gaps. This works more effectively alongside other sound reducing techniques.
- Shutters: Shutters are typically made-to-measure, which means they fit the shape and size of the window perfectly. Once closed, they also provide a solid protection barrier, with the wooden material absorbing more of the travelling sound.
- Window plugs: These may not be the most attractive option but they can prove to be very effective. They are solid cuts of wood that fit snugly into the window, put into place using metal handles in the centre. However, they do block the window completely so are best used at night and removed in the morning.
A good product to consider for this is Rockwool Acoustic slabs which can be used in either floors positioned above the noise source, or in the ceiling below. The type of acoustic insulation you install will depend on whether it is for a suspended or ground floor.
For suspended floor insulation, Rockwool Slabs areconsidered one of the best products available for use in domestic buildings.
Alternative solutions include applying direct-to-ceiling panels which can be screwed through to attach to the joists, before sealing, plastering and decorating. These panels typically include rubber, which helps to absorb the sound being heard from above.
Using acoustic hangers
Acoustic hangers are positioned into place to reduce the intensity of the vibrations made in suspended ceilings above the living space. They act as a bridge between the suspended ceiling wire and the ceiling itself, attached to either metal of timber joists, depending on the fixings being used.
Tackling the source of the sound
Before you decide to invest in acoustic insulation in your home, you may want to consider approaching the sound source to see if you can find a way to stop it.
This will often mean finding the right time to speak with a neighbour to make them aware that the noise generated in their property is affecting you. Speaking to them in a calm and friendly tone is often all that is needed to resolve the problem. In most instances they are not even aware they are impacting your life at home and will often be very apologetic and take steps to reduce the noise.
In the worst case scenario, you may need to escalate things further by lodging an official complaint with the local council, but this should always be the last resort.