We live in a society where our lives are fast paced and noisy. From the moment we wake we are constantly subjected to a barrage of clamour and clatter. The hustle and bustle of traffic, the din of the city, busy workplaces where telephones, fax machines and email alerts bombard us constantly can leave us feeling weary and longing for a more bucolic life. When we finally settle down in the lazy boy to relax and enjoy some longed for peace and quiet at the end of a long day, the last thing we want to hear is the racket from modern day conveniences.
Intensification and maximization of land usage is environmentally beneficial but it results in subdivisions with homes on small lots and the neighbour’s noise often becomes your noise. While there is not much you can do about that there are certainly many ways to minimize the noise inside your home. New home construction has evolved over the years to include increased levels of insulation and a continuous air barrier. Although these improvements were implemented with energy efficiency in mind, the end result has dramatically reduced the amount of sound transmission from exterior to interior. Brick or stone veneer and triple glazed windows also add to the reduction of noise transfer. These innovations make it possible to have peace inside even when homes are built near railroad tracks, highways or any other source of noise.
Many homes are now built with an open concept design. Although this concept is very popular it can pose problems with noise transmission. Kids being rambunctious, the constant hum of appliances, the thunk of the washing machine’s automatic water shut off, the furnace fan and air conditioning unit going off and on, and even the sound of the sump pump are examples of typical noises that fill our homes. Appliance manufacturers are constantly improving their products to run more efficiently and quietly. Sound abatement has become a priority for the manufacturers of dishwashers, washing machines and dryers and replacing old appliances with new ones can make a big difference in the noise level of your home. The decor and interior finishes you choose can also have a significant impact on the noise levels in your home. Soft surfaces such as drapes, fabric wall hangings, rugs, carpet and plush furniture will help absorb sound while hard surfaces such as hardwood floors, plain wood furniture and bare walls can send sound reverberating through a house.
Sound transmission between rooms can be minimized by a variety of means. Standard hollow core interior doors can be replaced with solid core doors. The use of resilient channel (metal strips that separate drywall from wood studs) works very well in walls and ceilings to reduce sound transmission. Other techniques to reduce sound transmission between rooms or between floors include the use of mineral wool sound insulation, acoustic foam panels, thicker drywall or light density spray foam. With the popularity of main floor or second floor laundry rooms these areas have become prime locations to implement noise reduction techniques. Home theatre or media rooms also benefit from this technology.
When finishing a basement consideration should be given to noise reduction. Normally the reason for finishing a basement is to create a space to “get away” from the main part of the house. It can be a space for kids to play, to entertain friends, or a separate living space for a growing family. In any event the noise level between the floors can vary greatly and some sound attenuation measures should be contemplated in the design.
If your goal is a comfortable, calm and serene oasis, sound attenuation is an important consideration when building a new home or renovating an existing one.