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Noise Control in the Home

by Don Vandervort, © HomeTips

In many of today’s homes, we’ve removed walls to create a sense of spaciousness. We’ve also filled our kitchens with whiz-bang appliances and our family rooms with surround-sound home theaters. Noise has become a byproduct of our busy lives. It’s no wonder that we crave a little quiet. Noise pollution has become a problem.

sound proofing certainteedSure, noise pollution isn’t like having lead in your paint or microbes in your water, but it’s nonetheless an irritant. It can mess up our sleep, add to our stress, infringe on our privacy, and generally diminish our quality of life.

Fortunately, there are a number of soundproofing or noise-reducing initiatives you can take to alleviate the problem. The most effective of these are best done during a building or remodeling project because they involve the way walls or other structural elements are built. Others are relatively easy fixes you can do in a weekend.

Try some or all of these noise-remediation methods:

  • Wherever air can leak through walls and around doors and windows, noise can leak through, too. Use flexible acrylic latex or polyurethane caulk or foam sealant to seal the gaps around pipes, electrical boxes, heating registers or ducts, wires, or where any other objects penetrate walls or ceilings.
  • In new construction or a major remodel, never allow switch and receptacle boxes as well as heating registers to be installed back-to-back in a wall.
  • If you’ve ever built a primitive “telephone” by stretching a string between two tin cans, you’ve learned that sound can travel along a solid object— such as a string—just as it travels through the air. When building or remodeling, keep this principle in mind and choose flexible furnace ducts rather than rigid-metal ones.
  • Where possible, use resilient pads to separate pipes from framing members, or have the holes where pipes pass through filled with expanding foam insulation. If you are adding or replacing faucets, provide air chambers to eliminate the water hammer that’s caused when you quickly shut off a faucet.
  • In new construction or a major remodel, insulate interior walls where you want to minimize the transfer of noise between rooms. Always have insulation packed around pipes—especially plastic (ABS) waste and vent pipes, which are notorious for transmitting the rushing sound of water when a toilet is flushed. When practical, opt for cast-iron drainpipes in areas where this would be a problem.
  • When purchasing new appliances, pay a little more for the quietest models. You might be amazed at the noise difference between conventional fans, dishwashers, and other typically noisy appliances and their newer counterparts.
  • If possible, isolate and enclose noisy equipment well away from sleeping areas. Dedicated equipment rooms with insulated walls and solid-core doors are a good idea. In fact, solid-core doors between all rooms can significantly reduce noise traveling throughout the entire house.
  • Choose sound-absorbing materials for floors, walls, and ceilings. Insulation tiles can cut noise greatly, as can carpeting. Limit rigid, hard surfaces such as tile, concrete, and hardwood flooring.

Achieving a home that is quiet requires a little time and expense, but when it’s done, you’ll know it was well worth it. After all, silence is golden. To get free recommendations for top-rated local contractors, call the most reliable and comprehensive referral service, HomeAdvisor, at 866-350-2983 (toll free).

© 1999, Don Vandervort,

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