Remodeling projects typically focus on updating finishes and improving energy performance, but it's also a good time to consider another key element to quality of life: peace and quiet. In a major renovation, steps can be taken to help block out unwanted outdoor annoyances like traffic, and to better handle indoor noise like the dishwasher or Monday Night Football.
To accomplish this, the professional remodeler understands how sound travels and how to muffle it. Sound can travel through the air (from the television, for example) or through the structure (as with the knocking of hot-water pipes). Quieting each type requires its own set of products and strategies.
Doors and Windows
Parents who have teens rocking to their favorite music in the bedroom across the hall can help confine that sound by installing solid core doors. Outfitting those doors with weather-stripping and a threshold with a door sweep will make them even more effective. This approach will also help muffle equipment sound from a laundry room or furnace closet.
Noise from outside the home can be dampened by replacing older windows with newer, dual or triple-pane models. Sealing gaps around window and door frames with acoustic caulk or low-expansion polyurethane foam will also help.
Sound travels through a wall assembly by vibrating the studs and drywall -- much like a speaker. Creating an air space in the wall or adding vibration-dampening materials will help reduce noise transmission between adjacent rooms.
The best opportunity for room-to-room soundproofing is when the drywall is being replaced. A menu of options is available, depending on budget. These should be used on the home's interior walls.
• A second layer of drywall will reduce wall vibration by increasing its mass. (A second layer can be added even if the drywall is not being replaced.)
• Sound deadening drywall has come on the market in recent years. It's expensive, but it can outperform multiple layers of standard drywall.
• Sound-deadening insulation is usually sold in batts (often made from mineral fiber), but spray foam is also an excellent choice.
• Resilient channels can be installed between the drywall and framing. These metal strips create a half-inch space between the framing and drywall. They can reduce sound transmission dramatically.
Carpet and under pad can help dampen sound from the floor above, but have no effect on sound transmission coming from below. When Top Gun is blaring from the downstairs media room, it may feel like sonic booms emanating from under the bed. Some of the same approaches used on walls will also work here, in particular two layers of drywall, sound deadening drywall, and resilient channels.
If the offending speakers are buried in a wall or ceiling, a technical product called "mass loaded vinyl" can be draped over the backside of speakers, or sound-deadening insulation installed around and above them.
These create a vibration-absorbing barrier between ceiling drywall and framing.
When considering appliances, pay attention to the "sone" ratings; the lower the sone rating, the less noisy the appliance. And a lower sone rating generally indicates a better-built appliance. These usually have better bearings, more insulation and a more efficient motor.
Addressing noise reduction during a remodel will go a long way towards making the home a more pleasant place to live. Properly done, it can create a tranquil living environment that the homeowners will enjoy for years to come.
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