Keeping the noise out: Soundproof insulation tips for peace of mind

Sound waves displaying the blog title

A lack of soundproof insulation can affect our health in ways we may not even realise. Traffic noise for example, can cause headaches, high blood pressure, dizziness and fatigue. In the UK, the annual “social cost” of road noise in the inner cities is around £7 – 10 billion, and in 2011 the World Health Organisation identified environmental noise as the second largest environmental health risk in Western Europe.

Most of us live in heavily populated inner-city areas. One of the most troubling consequences of inadequate soundproof insulation is that the noises of the city can seep into the bedroom and disrupt sleep. Sleep deprivation seriously affects our behaviour and functioning throughout the day, and can leave us vulnerable to accidents.

Do you need soundproof insulation?

The sound quality is new builds is improving, but noise pollution is getting louder and more frequent.

More than 1.6 million people living in London alone are exposed to noise levels during the day above 55 decibels. This number is regarded by the World Health Organisation as the threshold before the noise becomes damaging to health. Worryingly, there is a link between higher levels of noise pollution and early death.

Noise complaints are more common in households that were constructed before 2003. In that year a regulation known as Building Regulation Part E came into effect: it meant that all new conversions or buildings must comply with an approved level of sound insulation, to ensure people had “a reasonable degree of acoustic privacy in their homes”.

The majority of households in the UK were constructed before 2003 but regardless, if there is noise creeping into your home and causing disruption, then soundproof insulation may be required.

How sound becomes a nuisance

To reduce or stop unwanted noises it is worth taking a moment to think about how sound behaves. Visualise the wave-like properties of sound, and tackling excess noise becomes easier.

  • All sounds are vibrations in the air: vibrations that move at certain pressures making them audible.
  • Because sound travels in waves, certain properties in the room could be strengthening these waves or snuffing them out.
  • If a room has smooth flat walls and very little furniture in it, noises can often seem louder. Sound waves will bounce off the walls and reinforce or back each other up, a phenomenon known as destructive interference.
  • Sound waves squeeze into a room using the easiest path available. Often this is a weak point such as a gap in the ceiling, near the window; or a hollow or decorative door with recessed decorative panels. This is called flanking noise.
A man holding his head in his hand.

Noise pollution has been linked with sleep deprivation and early death.

What you can do right now to reduce noise pollution

Noise pollution can be infuriating. The chances are you stumbled upon this article looking for instant remedies for unwanted noise. There are some short term solutions that are possible depending on the volume of the noise and the tools at hand.

Reposition the bookshelves

Bookshelves are good sound deadeners as they are very dense. However they only cover a limited area. If moved directly over a sound (if the source is from a TV in the neighbouring wall, for example) as a clear obstruction, then a bookshelf could be a good quick-fix solution to a minor noise localised from one source.

Cover the floor with a large rug

Sound waves move easily across laminated floors and tiles. Rugs — particularly fuzzy-topped rugs — work quite well, and some rugs are known to even have foam-rubber backings which will only further absorb sound.

Move your bed to the other side of the room

This may not be ideal for a variety of reasons, but a temporary move could notably diminish sound coming from a particular source, such as through a particular wall.

Get a white noise machine

At first this solution sounds counterproductive, akin to substituting one enemy for another. But although white noise is… well, noise, the consistency and monotony is much easier to fall asleep to than, say, a loud TV set or music player. There are plenty of YouTube videos that provide hours of sampled white noise, but some white noises are more pleasant than others.

Properly soundproofing a room: Fitting insulated plasterboard, acoustic foam panels, and other methods

Sound waves may have certain sneaky characteristics allowing them to creep into a room, but the most common — and severe — problems stem from there being little in the way to stop them. Terraced houses are a notorious example. The walls are thin and sound waves seem to pass unabated from room to room.

To solve this problem, it may be worth installing specially constructed plasterboards between the walls to absorb the vibrations and deaden the noise. There are a few methods to try that all serve to tackle the same (or similar) problems, including the installation of:

Acoustic plasterboard

Plasterboard is the lining of choice in the walls of most houses. Acoustic plasterboard is much the same, only it is much denser. Even acoustic plasterboards of 12.5mm thickness should be enough to deaden unwanted noise pollution; however it is best used in combination with other soundproofing methods in order to fully work.

Different types of plasterboard, for example cement particle boards, are very dense and have are suitable for most acoustic performance demands.

Acoustic mineral wool (acoustic insulation)

Acoustic mineral wool is a sound absorbing infill that is usually inserted into cavity or partition walls to increase density. It is very commonly used throughout commercial and residential buildings because it can be used to meet new building regulations; is easy to cut into shape, and generally has low insulation costs. It also has the added bonus of greater thermal and fire insulation.

Sound mats or ‘acoustic matting’

Sound mats are ideal for reducing airborne sound and impact noise transmission through floors. Despite being dense, sound mats are also thin — consisting of a single layer around 5mm thick. Sound mats are usually made of a rubber bonded to layer of acoustic felt; and are commonly used on concrete and wooden floors. The sheets are easily cut into and glued to almost any specification.

Insulated plasterboard or acoustic plasterboard?

It is worth remembering that insulated plasterboard is often sought to prevent the loss of heat in a property as well as the intrusion of sound, given that the word ‘insulate’ can refer to both. In that case it is best to make sure that the plasterboard chosen is best placed to do the job. If keeping sound out is the only reason behind the purchase, read the fine print to be sure.

Installing Soundproof doors, or: How to soundproof a door

More than 1.5 million Britons work from home, a number that is rapidly increasing every year — and it is estimated that in at-home offices, the biggest culprit for noise pollution is through the door.

That makes doors a very big problem. Here is what you should do if your door is the weak spot, letting in so much unwanted noise:

Place acoustic curtains over the door

Acoustic curtains will soak in some noise and may be the only real option in some rental properties. Although they may only reduce the sound; not prevent it. There is also the cosmetic issue that having curtains over the door presents.

Fill in the cracks with an acoustic sealant

Sound often seeps into a room through small cracks and crevasses in the wooden surface of a door, as a form of flanking noise. A good way to spot particularly fine cracks is to shine a torch on the door and look where the light penetrates. Then, once the likely sources of the flaking noises have been determined, apply a good acoustic sealant to cover over the cracks — such as Rockwell — to keep the sound out.

Fit a rubber door seal or ‘door bottom seal’

Similarly, sound will circumvent the perimeter of the door frame. In this case, acoustic door seal kits can be fitted to the edges of the door to keep out sound. This is often a low-cost but effective alternative to fitting a full acoustic door set and frame. Rubber door seals are a common feature in most hotel rooms.

Install solid-wood-core or ‘acoustic doors’

Unsurprisingly a thick, solid, wooden door is an extremely effective sound-dampener; the sheer density will do well to stop sound dead in its tracks. Most doors, unbeknown to most, actually have hollow cores. This combination — of a thin wood veneer with an air-filled core — is essentially like a drum for sound waves. Decorative doors are often the worst offenders because of their recessed decorative panels: although they may be aesthetically pleasing, these hollow indentations further reduce the density of the doors they adorn.

How much does it cost to soundproof a room?

This is a common question with no straightforward answer. It all comes down to a variety of factors, including:

  1. What structure it is that requires soundproofing (for example, a solid brick wall or a stud wall).
  2. The severity of the noise (i.e. a train rumbling past, or noisy neighbours).
  3. The size of the project that requires soundproofing.
  4. What type of surface needs soundproofing, such as the wall, ceiling, or floor.

NMN Soundproofing offer prices starting from £60 per square metre for labour, material, and VAT.

How much does it cost to install a soundproof door?

The act of soundproofing a pre-existing door (and not replacing it with a dense, solid, acoustic door) is fairly cheap. For example, one perimeter seal will cost only about £10.

Saving money and soundproofing

Before a commitment is made to any company or project, it is worth shopping around for a better deal. The most reputable soundproofing companies should always be willing to offer FREE advice and quotations, saving you money.

NMN not only offer free advice and quotations, but guarantee to beat any written quotation from a competitor if similar materials and systems are offered. Contact us today and find out more.

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