Is There Any Way To Soundproof My Home?

With all the loud noises that surround us day to day, it is no wonder we can't wait to escape it all.  Noise disturbs our sleep, adds to our stressful lives and infringes on our privacy.  Whether it be the sound of phones ringing, construction, traffic, airplanes flying overhead, or music, it seems the only place to get away is in the peace and quiet of your own home.
 
But is your home quiet? Or do you still hear street traffic from outside, or your children playing video games in an adjacent room, or a noisy neighbor above or to the side of you? Is noise entering your home through the windows, your walls or floors?  How can you just sit in a room without hearing anything else but your heart beat? The answer may not be as simple as you would like.
 
Open floor plans, lightweight construction, hard surfaces and high tech audio equipment play a significant part in designing a noisy home.  As such, our awareness of noise has heightened and home soundproofing has become more popular.  Not only to keep the noises out, but to keep the noise in; as is the case when building a home theater or music room. 
 
In new construction, this task can more easily be accomplished.  By adding soundproofing barriers while your home is being built, and while the drywall is not yet hung, you can save time and money on the effort.  Choices for soundproofing in new construction include using denser insulation between walls and floors, or using thicker drywall material, or adding a second layer of drywall, with a noise-proofing compound between the sheets for new construction homes that may already have drywall installed. Adding an acoustical sealant where the corners of the drywall meets, or around outlets can provide additional noise reduction.
 
Materials used for sound proofing are rated to measure their effectiveness.  These ratings are a measure of how much sound is stopped by a particular material.  They are referred to as STC (Sound Transmission Class) ratings.  The higher the STC rating, the better the soundproofing capabilities are of a material.  Windows, insulation and carpeting all carry an STC rating.
 
In an existing home, there is a limit to the amount of retrofit soundproofing you can do.  If you have older, single paned windows, you probably can hear the birds chirping, or the next door neighbor mowing their lawn. Newer double-paned, insulated windows with an acrylic frame are designed to keep those types of noises out.  They typically have a rating between 28 and 35 STCs; whereas single paned windows only have about a 20 STC rating.
 
If new windows are out of your budget, consider sound deadening drapes, like the ones used in a hotel.  These drapes help block sound waves from entering, or exiting your home through the windows, and absorb sound in your room. Or for a more effective way to soundproof your windows in high traffic neighborhoods, there are window plugs.  These "plugs" are made from 1" to 2" soundproofing boards that provide a tight barrier over and around the frame of your windows. These sound boards are highly effective in reducing noise, however, block all the light from your window.
 
With respect to drywall, the same measures can be used to better soundproof your home as with new construction.  Utilizing thicker drywall, multiple layers of drywall and using silicone caulking on the stud side of the drywall and between the layers to insulate screw penetrations, and adding an acoustical sealant, will all help to minimize noise. 
 
In some cases, adding thicker or higher rated insulation will provide better sound absorption. If you are not renovating your home, you can consult with a professional who can provide alternative options, which may include cutting holes into your drywall and blowing insulation into your walls.
 
If you don't want to damage your existing walls, consider wall coverings or acoustical wall panels that provide soundproofing capabilities. These coverings come in a variety of materials and colors, and can be customized to match your décor.  They are simply applied and fastened to your walls, and can be arranged as you see fit.
 
If your noise issue is vertical, due to noisy children, pets or tenants that run around above you, there are a few options to consider.  By installing wall to wall carpet, an area rug in high traffic areas, or placing sound proofing matting on the floors, these measures will reduce the movement of sound through the floors to the ceiling below.  If you just love your hard wood or tiled floors, consider adding soundproofing acoustical tiles to your ceiling or insulating above the drywall ceiling to lessen the noise.
 
In general, to make rooms as soundproof as possible, place absorbent materials, such as furniture, draperies and carpet in at least 25% of the room area. This will help dampen sound waves and absorb noise.  As hollow doors do not block noise between rooms, consider replacing them with solid core doors, which will reduce sound from traveling. If on a shoestring budget, you can always hang absorbent materials, like an area rug or a plush comforter on the walls to help reduce noise transmission.  
 
Making your home quiet may take a little work, or the assistance of a professional. But the effort is worth the reward, and when you can relax and enjoy the peace and quiet that surrounds you, you will know it was all worthwhile.   
 
Gary Grecco, Owner  - EnergyPro Insulation
(718) 984-7211    www.energyproinsulation.com