We’ve all spent a weekend or a long night trying to mentally block out the screeching siren of a neighbour’s alarm. This kind of noise pollution has an impact on our day-to-day lives especially when it disrupts sleep, leisure time or work. There are ways that help safeguard our homes – and us – from these nuisance interruptions.
To combat external noises such as house and car alarms, traffic and leaf blowers install the best windows you can afford. Changing from single to double glazing for example is going to make a significant difference to what you can hear from inside your home.
If you live in a particularly noisy area or on a busy road I would highly recommend installing triple-glazed windows. They have come down in price in recent years and are fantastic at blocking outside noise. I remember snagging a home where we had installed triple-glazed windows and only realised there was someone cutting wood with an electric saw outside when I opened the window. When the window was closed, you could hear a dull hum if you listened very carefully.
If replacing windows is outside your budget, a quick fix is to fit curtains with an acoustic interlining. This will help deaden any outside noise and is great for blocking draughts too.
Noise from neighbours
Sound travelling through the walls can be a real issue if you live in an apartment or a terraced or semi-detached home. There are a couple of ways to combat this kind of noise pollution.
Adding a layer of sound board to shared or party walls will make a difference to sounds coming from your neighbours. This is similar to internally insulating your home in that a layer of acoustic plasterboard is fitted to the shared wall. You do not need a specialist to do this work and it is something that can be done by a good contractor. Bear in mind that you will need to replace skirtings and cornicing once the work is complete and you will also need to decorate the room, so may need to hire a painter too.
If this all seems like too much disruption you could think about rearranging your furniture. Built-in wardrobes in a bedroom along the party wall will help to block noise. And for book lovers bookshelves are fantastic at absorbing sound, as long as they are filled with books.
Noise within the house
Think about the layout of your home. For example, is your bedroom positioned directly over a noisy part of the house? Could you move things around so this isn’t the case? If not, consider installing insulation in the floor between your bedroom and the room below.
Make sure your internal doors are good and solid. Hollow-core doors offer little noise protection and switching them to solid doors will make a huge difference to the amount of sound travel within your home.
If you have timber floors on an upper floor you can have an acoustic underlay installed. This is what is used in apartments and does help with dampening the sound of footsteps. For an additional measure lay rugs in the upper rooms to further minimise noise.
Another place to consider some sound-proofing is a utility space, particularly if it is next to an open-plan family area. A good option here is to opt for building the walls in blockwork rather than timber stud if you are starting from scratch. Alternatively you could add a layer of sound board, which is an acoustic plasterboard to dampen noise.
Noise from appliances can cause disturbance, especially in an open-plan space. The good news, however, is that there are quiet options now for most appliances, large and small. Everything from dishwashers to washing machines as well as silent coffee machines and kettles are now available. Not surprisingly, these quiet appliances are at the upper end of the price scale but they are well worth the investment if you find yourself turning up the TV to hear what’s going on over the sound of someone making a cup of tea.
Water pumps for showers or pressurised water systems can also cause disturbance depending on where they are located in the home. The pressurised system which activates the pump every time a tap is turned on, or a toilet is flushed can be a real problem if the pump is housed near bedrooms.
Ideally the pump should be positioned as far away from the bedrooms as possible. Somewhere like a utility room is ideal and again make sure the room is sound insulated.
And if all else fails buy a pair of noise-cancelling earphones which are a great investment and terrific for travelling. A white noise machine can help mask any night-time noise that might otherwise disrupt your sleep.