How to Soundproof a House
Whilst the most common reason to improve levels of soundproofing in a home is to muffle the hustle and bustle of the outside world, there are many other reasons why one would look to soundproof their living space. Making your home quieter has a number of health benefits, including lowered stress levels, which can be a cause of many illnesses and the suppression of our immune system. What’s more, in the age of home working, a boost in your ability to concentrate wherever you may be working is supremely advantageous.
If you’re not convinced by the benefits to health or work, soundproofing a home can add value to properties in busy areas such as town centres. Even the British Government has gotten onto the soundproofing bandwagon, adding minimum requirements for both new builds and refurbishments to reduce the amount of noise complaints received by local councils. These requirements have been specified in the Building Regulations, or more specifically in Approved Document E.
We all know that sound is measured in decibels (dB), the more decibels the louder the sound. However, they’re a little more complicated than that. Decibels are not measured on a linear scale, and a small increase in decibels can result in a far louder sound than before. This is why the Sound Reduction Index (SRI) was created, which measures the impact of soundproofing itself. For context, you can refer to the estimates in this table:
Normal speech can be heard
Loud speech is muffled
Loud speech is almost entirely blocked
The regulations set out in Approved Document E state that new builds should have a base noise reduction equal to or greater than 45dB, whilst conversions should have a base noise reduction equal to or greater to 43dB. If you have limited soundproofing and/or are not sure what you should be aiming for, these are great benchmarks to keep in mind.
The Problem of Modern Design
Modern building and interior designs are fantastic in so many ways. They’re stylish, easier to clean, and when done correctly can fill your home with beautiful natural light. However, one caveat to many modern innovations is that they are a nightmare for internal noise. Open plan living, hard flooring, and ceiling downlights are just three contemporary examples which can cause even the smallest sound to echo throughout your home. All the soundproofing in the world may not help in these cases, so it’s imperative to first identify the problem areas before you open your wallet.
How to Soundproof a Home
Finding the Sound
If you’re unsure, the best way to find the source of your sleepless nights is to turn off all appliances and simply listen. Try to do this at different times of the day to help you figure out exactly how much noise you’re dealing with and where it’s coming from. This will be vital for determining exactly what sort of soundproofing is right for your home.
The most common entry-point for outdoor noise is undoubtedly the humble window. Noise pollution is all around us, particularly in urban areas, so it’s vital to have windows that are up to the task. Old fashioned single-glazed windows are especially poor at keeping sound out, but these are generally only found in older homes these days.
The best solution would simply be to install double-glazed windows with insulated frames, and/or invest in a stylish set of acoustic curtains to further block sound. If you’re looking for a roof window that will effectively combat sound, then we’d recommend FAKRO, which are available with innovative options such as noise-reducing glazing, and many more.
As well as window glazing, another thing to watch out for are cavities between your windows and external walls. Often overlooked, these can provide an easy entryway for sound to invade undeterred. In most cases, a cavity closer can be used here to great effect. We’d recommend Timloc’s Thermo-loc, especially as it will also provide thermal insulation, killing two birds with one stone.
Walls, Ceilings, and Floors
Thin drywall will let in a lot of noise, but if done right there are a number of incredibly effective solutions to this. Acoustic insulation is what you’ll want here, the Rockwool Flexi Slab is just one example that meets part E of the building regulations, but we offer a wide variety of insulation products to suit your budget and needs, which can be installed in walls, ceilings and floors. These include traditional glass mineral wool insulation, innovative multifoil insulation, and even natural insulation made from sheep’s wool and recycled plastic, so you’re guaranteed to find something to suit you.
However, if you’re dealing with a party wall, traditional insulation may not be a viable option. But fear not, the increasing demand for effective soundproofing for homes with party walls has led to a number of innovative products such as acoustic panels or soundbreaker bars, which will help to limit the amount of noise that can penetrate. Both have been designed to dilute unwanted noise, whilst taking up the minimum of space. These can simply be adhered to walls and ceilings for a much-needed solution that can be installed by anyone, even a DIY novice.
So, you’ve dealt with external noise, but as anyone who’s spent much time in an older home can tell you, just as much noise can be caused inside as out. Loose floorboards, creaky pipes, and dirty extractor fans are all causes of noise pollution that soundproofing a home will not fix. This is why it’s so important to identify the source of any unwanted noise before you pay out for solutions, or waste time fixing what’s not broken.
Whilst this final tip may seem obvious, it’s worth noting that improperly sealed or fitted doors are a common source of unwanted noise. Installing doors correctly and ensuring that they seal well will aid in soundproofing your home tremendously, especially if your doors are made from solid wood. Threshold seals can be a massive help here, and will make your door extra airtight, further absorbing unwanted noise and preventing draughts.
If you’re soundproofing your home yourself, it’s always worth erring on the side of caution. We’d recommend spending the time to clearly identify problem areas and plan the solutions that best suit your DIY abilities and budget. If needed, focus on key living spaces first, such as bedrooms, living rooms, or anywhere else you spend a significant amount of time. Investigate simple, cost-effective soundproofing methods before you decide to invest into a more heavy-duty solution.