Making Your Home Quieter
Whether a bang here or a thump there, a crying baby, a couple arguing, a blaring television, a stereo or an intimate exchange, there are some things that are best left unshared.
Sometimes the disturbing noises come from your teenager’s stereo in the next bedroom. Other times from a stereo in the bedroom in the home that is attached to yours.
If you’re frequently the guest of honor at parties to which you weren’t invited, it’s time to take action. You don’t have to move. There are things you can do that will minimize the amount of sound that is transferred from room to room or, from home to home.
In the days when the interior walls of most homes were constructed of large studs (vertical framing members), covered with wood lath and several layers of plaster, the noise problem was less an issue than it is today when most interior walls consist of nothing more than a 2 by 4 stud.
The worst has to be having a two-story home or downstairs flat where you are privy to each and every move above. The most effective solution to this problem, short of moving, is to increase the density of the material between floors. One of the simplest ways is with a thicker, denser carpet and pad. A five-eighths inch, 7-pound rebond foam pad is probably your best bet. Again, a thick carpet will assist the pad in holding down the noise.
A more effective way to control noise from above is with an acoustically engineered sound-deadening underlayment. Simply put, these products consist of recycled wood fiber that have been treated to resist moisture. The material comes in half-inch and five-eighths inch thicknesses and is applied directly over wood or concrete subfloors with construction adhesive and nails or screws. Conventional pad and carpet are then applied over this.
This solution is great if the upstairs belongs to you or if you have a sympathetic neighbor willing to make such a home improvement. If not, there is another alternative:
If you can’t increase the density from the floor above, you certainly can from the ceiling below. Or in your case the ceiling above. One of the simplest ways is to install a resilient metal channel acoustically engineered to reduce vibration and hence the transfer of noise. This lightweight metal channel which is filled with holes can be attached with wallboard screws over an existing wallboard-clad ceiling. The channel is applied in a direction perpendicular to the framing and should be attached to the framing in all cases.
A fresh layer of wallboard (preferably five-eighths inch thick) can then be attached to the resilient channel with drywall screws. Light boxes, heat registers and other ceiling related devices will need to be extended to align with the new ceiling surface. And, needless to say, the wallboard will need to be finished and painted.
Due to the complexity of the project you may want to engage a professional drywall contractor.
The solution for dealing with noise another room is not unlike between floors. Again, the secret is to increase the density or thickness of the material separating the spaces.
One of the most effective ways is to apply an additional layer of wallboard over the current wall finish. Again, five-eights inch thick material works the best. And, as with the ceiling, electrical outlets, switches and other mechanical components and finishes will need to be extended. Electrical box extenders are inexpensive and are readily available at a hardware store or home improvement center. You may find that crown mold, baseboard, and window and door trim will also need to be replaced.
The new layer of wallboard is attached to the framing through the existing wallboard with drywall screws. The wallboard must then be finished and painted, paneled or papered. Once again, consider a drywall contractor.
A simpler, more cost-effective alternative to applying an additional layer of drywall exists that is especially suited to the do-it-yourselfer. Fiber-board panels (similar to the underlayment mentioned above) covered with fabric can be applied directly over the existing wall finish using nothing more than a tube of paneling adhesive. These decorative panels, which come in various colors, not only increase the thickness of the wall, but absorb sound as well. And, as an added bonus they are fully tackable so all sorts of things can be hung on the wall without damaging the finish.
These handsome panels, which are one-half inch thick and come in 4-foot by 8-foot sheets, are great for family rooms, home offices and even for the teenager’s room where walls frequently are covered with posters.