Noise. It’s a common problem for an ever-increasing number of households with a mix of open-plan living, hard flooring, tall ceilings and the fact that children are now staying at home for longer periods of time – and it’s one that needs to be addressed.
Every single one of us, unless living somewhere isolated, are susceptible to the same noise pollution from varying sources. Whether it’s the unrelenting hum of technology, dishwashers clanging, tumble dryers churning or simply just an audiophile neighbour that loves The Clash just a little too much – we’ve all had noise complaints at some point in our lives.
Soundproofing, although on the face of it isn’t intrinsically exciting, is the key to reducing these problems and averting angry neighbours who probably don’t appreciate the noise as much as you do (or your children do!).
The Science of Soundproofing
There are many things that are simple to figure out if you approach them scientifically – and noise definitely falls under this umbrella. If you fundamentally understand the science of sound, then you will know what you need to do to stop it.
In basic terms, sound is a type of energy that’s only produced when things vibrate. The energy from these vibrations must go somewhere – so it tends to go outwardly – away from the originating source, making the air and objects around us vibrate which will then eventually reach our ears – this is noise. The vibrations continue even when they reach our ears, banging on our ear drums and stimulating small hair cells within our heads which in turn – finally registers as sounds by our cerebrums.
To stop this process and to fundamentally stop sound, this chain must be interrupted.
Probably the first and inherently simple step to take is to reduce noise by blocking off the paths that sound is likely to take within a room. There’s obvious things you can do here like extra double glazing (only if they’re tightly sealed though around the edges – even a tiny gap can render this point as almost useless, if air can get in, so can sound).
Even things that you probably hadn’t thought of such as ducts and electrical power outlets provide access points for sound – so there really is a multitude of ways your noise reduction efforts can be foiled.
At this point, it’s probably prudent to point out that heating insulation and soundproofing aren’t the same solution. Heating insulation will help with soundproofing but would be nowhere near as effective as purpose made soundproofing materials.
Dampening and absorbing sounds
Although two different techniques they work together hand-in-hand to reach the end goal of reducing sound and noise. Absorption would entail using rubbery materials that essentially ‘soak up’ incoming energy which means there is less energy (noise) to move past it – making things quieter. Dampening on the other hand is using solid and what we call ‘acoustically dead’ wall – which means that it doesn’t vibrate, thus the noise stops at the wall as it can travel no further.
In practice, absorbing would be things such as using neoprene rubber, mass loaded vinyl or viscoelastic foam – whereas dampening would be fitting extra-thick doors rather than hollow ones etc.
Probably the best way (however, most expensive) is to build a smaller room within a room and inside the smaller room ensuring that it is completely air-tight to the outer room. This is sometimes referred to as acoustic decoupling and is undoubtedly the most effective form of soundproofing albeit not entirely feasible for most situations.
Paying for soundproofing
Thanks to continual evolvement of acoustic technology – and the soundproofing industry in general, there are cost effective solutions for pretty much everyone at varying budgets. A quick Google search will bring up lots of different results to suit your needs whether it be for an office, or a music room ready for that new drum kit to get mercilessly struck without angry neighbours on your tail.
The Soundproofing Store is a great place to start.