Your next-door-neighbours are having another one of their long, heated, high-pitched and highly emotional arguments; an intercity train thunders past at the end of the garden leaving a flurry of leaves and a trail of noise in its wake; a young child, all too evidently lacking any of the talent that the rest of Britain has allegedly got, forces a violin to make noises it wasn’t built to make and the banging and slamming and drilling and clanging that has been going on for months in the house next door shows no signs of abating.
Are these familiar scenes or do you know of any even more upsetting, maddening or horrific ones? What can you do if you find out that the walls of the flat that you have moved into seem to be made of rice paper, and what do you need to know, and do, to soundproof your inadequately insulated home and keep the noise and din from blighting your mornings, days and nights?
The easiest and perhaps lowest cost way of compensating for missing footfall sound insulation, for example, is to lay carpeting. Thick or deep pile carpets swallow noise most effectively of all, but even standard quality carpet floorings can muffle or dampen the sound of footsteps from flats above. Of course you may have some difficulty persuading the people who live in the flat above you to invest in an Axminster carpet in order to make your life that little bit more bearable, but if that fails you could always consider installing a suspended ceiling in the room, or rooms, that are most severely affected. The cavity between the original ceiling and the suspended one can be filled with an insulating material like mineral wool which acts as a noise barrier and not only reduces the oscillations caused by structure-borne sound, but also stops airborne sound from travelling further into your living space and bouncing off the inside walls.
The same principle applies to walls: a drywall – a simple construction made of gypsum or plasterboard – can make a real difference as far as noise insulation is concerned. There’s no need to get carried away and make the walls as thick as possible, because although the general rule “The thicker the wall, the better” rings true as far as soundproofing is concerned, the space between the brickwork and the drywall also prevents sound from travelling to the room inside thereby shielding the occupants from the noise next door. You can block out the noise even more effectively by incorporating insulation strips that isolate the building components. This may seem to be a relatively unnecessary measure, but it is highly effective and can put a stop to the phenomenon known as flanking transmission, i.e. structure-borne sound from being transmitted from one building material to another.
Another very effective, but admittedly more costly way of soundproofing your home, is to replace the existing, and often poorly insulated windows and doors with more modern ones that have double glazing and high-quality upvc frames that are ideally suited for keeping the noise out and the warmth in. Yes, this is an investment which you will have to consider carefully, but it is certainly one which will give you more quality of life.
So there are, as you can see, a variety of real options that can help you to effectively soundproof that nice old house or that stylish old flat that you loved living in so much until those noisy new neighbours turned up next door.
To find out what else you can do and what other options you have, read part 3 of our series. Coming out next week…