Architectural Design Soundproofing Materials

When it Comes to Soundproofing Materials, What Really Works?

Architectural Design Soundproofing Materials – There are as many reasons to soundproof a room or building as there are rooms and buildings that leak noise. Whether you’re building a home theater in your house or just looking to keep noise out and enjoy some peace and quiet, determining which of the different types of soundproofing materials available will work best for you isn’t easy.  Some companies offer tiles and other materials that can be attached to the walls and ceilings, others manufacture sound abatement material that is installed under the drywall and floorboards where it isn’t visible.

It’s important to understand what kinds of materials absorb and dampen sound. The way the building and room are constructed also plays a role in how noisy the room is. If there is plenty of insulation and space between the inner and outer walls, you might experience a slight amount of noise reduction or muffling. If you cannot make structural changes to the building, acoustical sound panels may be attached to the walls to absorb sound.

Architectural Design Soundproofing Materials

Irregular surfaces can prevent sound from transferring, while flat, smooth walls and ceilings do just the opposite. Sometimes, hanging heavy drapes on the walls can have an impact on the amount of sound transferred into and out of a space. Heavy carpeting also helps to dampen sound. You can install wall-to-wall carpeting, or you can use remnants over the whole area of the floor. Carpeting can be tacked onto the walls as well to dampen sound, but considering the aesthetic drawbacks most people are not willing to sacrifice the appearance of their living room for a moderate (at best) level of sound abatement. Sound abatement  material such as Acoustiblok 3mm attaches to wood or metal studs under drywall, floors and ceilings and reduces more noise than older methods of sound abatement including poured concrete. Since the Acoustiblok material goes under the drywall, it needs to be installed either during construction or renovation, or it can be attached to an existing wall and a new later of drywall installed over it.

Noise is often transferred through doors and windows.  There are sound abatement measures you can take that are designed  just for doors and windows. Weatherstrips and other draft guard materials can help eliminate sound in these areas. Double-pane glass in the windows will also provide a buffer zone that can reduce sound. For further soundproofing of windows, hang heavy drapes or sound abatement shutters developed specifically for noise problems that are unique to windows and doors. Mixing two or more methods of soundproofing – for instance, layering heavy drapes over sound abatement shutters — will more dramatically affect the sound levels in your room.

When Noise Reaches Unbearable Levels: Where is the Sound Proofing?

Architectural Design Soundproofing Materials – Edward L. Sadowsky of Long Island City complains that officials have not muffled the fans in a building visible from his 39th floor apartment. Below: The fans seen from Sadowsdky’s window.

In New York City, industrial fans that clean subway airspace when workers are making repairs are driving people to distraction – and sleepless nights. In fact, for some residents of Queens the noise from the fans makes sleep virtually impossible.

They have been in place for decades and sound like a giant rattle shaken at great speeds, unrelentingly and with no set pattern. One weekend they might run for just an hour, the next weekend for 24 hours straight. At a subsidized housing complex for the elderly that sits right next to the fans, the sound became so intense and lasted so long,  people approached the building’s superintendent crying because the noise prevented them from sleeping.

The fans are necessary for maintenance crews to do their jobs. However, the sound that one neighbor compares to “a blender running at full speed on the pillow next to him,” and another to the roar of a jet engine just before takeoff, the potential for serious health effects is high. .

“I wear earplugs, I put a pillow over my head, but I still can hear it,” said Nancy Haitch, who lives on the 11th floor of the building, Citylights, the first residential high-rise built in what was once an industrial wasteland.

Area residents affected by the fan noise have lodged complaints through the city’s 311 system and with the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, but to no avail.

Architectural Design Soundproofing Materials

Transit officials say that it would cost $300,000 to muffle the noise, but that money would be hard to come by with the agency facing serious financial problems. The authority offered a reprieve last weekend: It instead turned on fans in Manhattan, on the eastern edge of Tudor City, according to a transit worker stationed by the fans in Queens.

“These are real people, and it’s real lives being affected,” said Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer, who represents the neighborhood affected by the fan noise and organized the meeting. “We’re talking about sleepless nights here, not just an inconvenience.”

Charles F. Seaton, a spokesman for New York City Transit, which operates the subway and bus service, could not say when the fans would come on during this period.

“I don’t have the schedule in front of me,” he said in an interview. Mr. Seaton added that while the agency has been considering a couple of alternatives to address the problem, “It would be a little bit premature to say what they are and how they would affect the fans’ noise.”

At Citylights — which has 42 floors and offers breathtaking views of the city — the noise has become the topic of conversation among neighbors who bump into one another in the lobby, in an elevator or at the lounge next door. And in some ways, it has brought them closer together. Mr. Christie, an office manager who has lived in the building since 1997 when it welcomed its first residents, said that though he welcomes the camaraderie, he is more concerned with how the noise might be affecting his health.

“I find myself going to bed at night wondering if the fans will come on and wake me up,” Mr. Christie, 44, said. “This unpredictability is psychologically draining, and after a while, it really gets to you.”

Excerpted from an article by By Fernanda Santos, New York Times

How Can I Reduce City Noise in my Back Yard?

If you live anywhere near an arterial or collector street, you know that traffic noise is one of the greatest generators of noise in cities and suburbs. In fact, if your home is on a busy street, or close to one, traffic noise can actually become a quality of life issue, making it difficult to enjoy time spent outdoors and even inhibiting sleep. Add to that the fact that most municipalities have laws in place that prohibit the construction of walls and fences tall enough to provide an effective sound barrier, and you’ve got a real challenge on your hands.

Tall hedges, effective landscaping, smart backyard design, and natural sources of soothing white noise can all make a huge difference when used together effectively. Talking to a quality landscaper about developing the right landscaping for reducing city noise on your property is the best way go. Nevertheless, here’s some tried and true ideas for combating that urban din.

One popular way to both provide an effective noise barrier and comply with city building codes is by planting hedges. Tall hedges aren’t subject to height limitations, and when cultivated and planned properly, and in combination with high-quality sound abatement fencing, they provide beautiful and effective sound barriers between your yard and busy streets.

Architectural Design Soundproofing Materials

Hedges and trees are also an excellent way to provide your yard and home with more privacy, another common concern for those living on busy thoroughfares. Be sure to talk a landscaper or nursery about choosing the right plants for your situation, space, and climate. Ideally you want a hedge that grows up without growing out, and the faster it grows the better. You can enhance the soundproofing effects of this type of berm landscape by incorporating acoustical fence into the foliage. Acoustifence is easily hidden within foliage, providing a much more effective sound barrier than the foliage alone without, interfering with aesthetics.

 Avoid plants that put off fruits or berries since they can make more mess than they’re worth, and always look for vegetation that won’t demand much upkeep or watering on your part. Choose low maintenance acoustical fencing as well; the best noise abatement fencing should be easily cleaned simply by hosing it off,

Besides vegetation and acoustical fencing, there are other options for landscape design that can help make dealing with city noise easier. Building a deck on the opposite side of the home from the road, for example, can seriously reduce the amount of city noise you deal with when you’re grilling, entertaining, or just enjoying a good book on a warm spring day. If that isn’t an option for you, building a privacy wall or hanging acoustical fence on the street-facing side of your deck can work wonders. And while height restrictions can limit their effectiveness, an acoustical  privacy fence or a rock or brick wall bordering your property can still make a difference when used in conjunction with tall hedges and other sound reducing strategies.

Excerpted from an article by Matt Goering on

Hard Surface Interior Design Calls For Serious Noise Abatement

Let’s talk about hard surfaces. Today’s home and commercial interiors embrace hard surfaces in their design like nobody’s business. We love open spaces, high ceilings, and hardwood floors, granite, stone, stainless steel. Who even installs carpet anymore?

There’s something incredibly appealing about the clean lines of hard surfaces, until they’re installed and you move in to the house only to realize you’ve built an echo chamber. Turn on an appliance or two, and the noise is amplified as it ricochets all over the place with no absorbent surface to be found. What may once have been the cute little voices of preschoolers playing, or the subtle background sound of music playing has become an inescapable capsule of noise that should have been taken into consideration during the design phase.

Luckily, there are post-construction fixes for different types of noise, which is the usually the most pressing noise problem hard surface spaces face.

In a recent Wall Street Journal article titled “Airy, Sleek, and Really Loud,” writer Anne Marie Chaker talks about the conundrum so many modern home owners find when they’ve built their dream home without taking acoustics into account. We’ve actually seen this problem play out for decades in hospitals, where hard surfaces are abundant and patients’ medical problems are compounded by the resulting high noise levels.

Restaurants too; when was the last time you ate in a moderately busy restaurant and didn’t have to raise your voice to carry on a conversation?

Hard surface noise is a tough one to address too, especially since most noise absorbing materials like carpeting and heavy drapes simply don’t work with the design aesthetic of today’s hard-surface homes. Architects are beginning to address the issue, and more and more of them are discussing noise abatement solutions that can be worked into the home’s design and installed during the construction phase – under drywall, under flooring and in ceilings. There are some great after-the-fact noise absorbing materials that can be incorporated into these spaces as well.

We are tactile creatures. We love not only the look of our hard surface living spaces, we love the way they feel. From the concrete or granite countertop in the kitchen, to the natural stone and tile in the bath, we get a feeling akin to serenity when we run a hand over a lovely marble surface, or walk across cool tile in the summer, which becomes heated tile in the winter thanks to the miracle of radiant heat. But serenity is not lasting in a home that has little to no noise insulation or soundproofing.

Architectural Design Soundproofing Materials

In Chaker’s article, she quotes Princeton, New Jersey Architect T. Jeffrey Clarke on the subject saying: “If you have a large room with big windows, a high ceiling and a minimalist kind of look, you’re going to have a problem, guaranteed.

“Homeowners and architects are sometimes so focused on the nitty-gritty of a construction project that something intangible, like the acoustics, often gets ignored.”

The science of acoustics is an extremely sophisticated one, and understanding the nature of different noise has helped engineer some insanely effective soundproofing products for indoors and outdoors, and for different noise sources.

Sometime a noise barrier is necessary to keep the offending noise out of a space, or to contain it within. For instance, a home office can use a noise barrier material installed under the drywall, or on top of the drywall.  Noise absorbing materials are the ticket to peace in hard surface spaces where reverberant sound is a problem. Home theaters can benefit from noise absorbing panels just to keep ambient noise levels to a minimum so that the sounds you want to hear from the theater’s sound system come across crisp and clear.

But noise absorbing material can become a necessity in other rooms, particularly in large, open spaces with lots of hard surfaces. Sound absorbing material can be worked into the décor of a room quite nicely – The R-Lounge in Los Angeles, for instance, hung fabric-covered panels of noise absorbing material in its ultra-chic, hard surface outdoor smoking patio with amazing results.

And when Reno, Nevada-based Decorative artists Bryan Melillo and Bruce Czopek were called in to create some space-appropriate, noise absorbing panels for a home theatre in Lake Tahoe, they created a series of original movie poster-style paintings directly on top of four large QuietFiber panels that addressed the home theater’s subtle reverberant noise issue that was interfering with the room’s acoustical performance.

Interior designers and architects are learning all they can about new soundproofing and noise abatement solutions to keep up with the growing demand among homeowners to resolve noise issues within their residential space.  And as in anything else, an ounce of prevention…

When noise abatement material is worked into the architectural design of a home, solutions can be addressed before the house goes up, and this is where the most cost-effective noise insulating and noise barrier solution is going to take hold.

Retrofitting after construction is complete can be messy and expensive, but it is definitely do-able. There are new noise barrier materials that can go on top of an existing wall to avoid messy drywall tear-outs and the associated expense, this solution can be pricey too.

There’s probably no turning back from our love of hard surfaces in our living spaces, not only for aesthetic value but also because they’re hypoallergenic and easy to clean. And, thanks to some amazing noise abatement solutions available today, they’re getting much quieter.

Installing Soundproofing Materials Recommended by Realtors

Whether you’re planning to sell your home this year or in five years, installing effective noise abatement material in your home can be a valuable selling point, particularly if a noise issue creates an obstacle to selling.

Depending on the noise source and the layout of your home, effective noise insulating material can offer various levels of sound blocking and absorption. If potential home buyers are walking through your house and the next door neighbor’s dog is barking throughout the entire tour, there’s a good chance that buyers are going to look elsewhere.  Same thing if you can hear your neighbor’s dinner conversations, or a plumbing how-do-you-do every time someone uses the bathroom next door; potential buyers are turned off by noisy neighbors and noisy environments.

For any home seller unfortunate enough to live in a less-than-serene environment, loud noises can be deal breakers. The problem can be compounded if your home is in an urban area, although most city residents expect to hear some noise. However, peace and quiet is an extremely attractive option for any home, particularly when the home happens to have a crying newborn or argumentative couple on the other side of a thin wall.

More realtors are recommending that homeowners invest in high quality soundproofing material either attached to the studs under drywall, or installed directly on top of the drywall in condos, duplexes, townhouses and apartments along the shared wall.  In cases of a problematic noise source being external, such as roadway traffic, a noise barrier product along the wall facing the noise source can make all the difference to potential buyers who may fall in love with the place, but base their final decision on the noise levels inside the home.

Architectural Design Soundproofing Materials

No noise reducing material is going to create a completely soundproof environment – it’s impossible to achieve 100 percent quiet in any room or structure, but high quality noise barrier and noise absorption materials can achieve a serious drop in audible sound depending on the noise source, the structure of the home itself, and the soundproofing materials you choose.

In some condos, apartments or duplexes, there may be restrictions on disturbing existing drywall, so tearing it out to install noise blocking material to the studs may be out of the question unless it’s new construction or a refurbish. In that case, a proven noise abatement material that goes up directly over the common wall’s drywall (just one side is all that’s needed) can provide the same amount of noise deadening as the under-drywall options, and it can be finished to match the original wall in texture, ready to paint or wallpaper to match the rest of the room.

The beauty of the second option is that it is a fairly easy installation that can go up almost anywhere and can even be a weekend project for a few handy people. So, a bedroom that is getting a little too much noise action from the adjacent laundry room, or a home office or home theater that really need high levels of quiet to function their best is going to benefit from installing high quality sound abatement material.

For homeowners living next door to a dog that barks non-stop, noise blocking fencing material can be hung directly on an existing chain link fence or other fencing structure to create another layer of quiet between the property and the noise source.

It’s a noisy world, and it’s growing noisier all the time.  Homeowners in urban and suburban communities have much to consider when it comes time to staging their properties to sell, and in the past a problem like exposure to external noise could easily send potential buyers running.

Today, high tech noise blocking material is becoming a sought after perk among new home buyers nationwide.

But why wait until it’s time to sell to install noise abatement material? Like installing a swimming pool or upgrading the kitchen, installing soundproofing material in your home is a perk you can enjoy while you’re living there, and one that will make the home that much easier to sell when the time comes.

Blocking Sounds in Floors and Ceilings

Blocking noise from neighbors above or below – whether it’s heavy footsteps, a loud television or stereo, or active children that keep reminding you that you’re not alone when you’re home, the best approach is to slow down or block sound waves emanating from the ceiling or floor.

Let’s start with noise penetrating the ceiling. If you already have a drop ceiling, use sound blocking material that fits easily under the ceiling tiles, within the grid pattern. If you do not have a drop ceiling and the noise is particularly bothersome, consider installing one. Since it is situated below the original drywall ceiling, the plenum space can accommodate noise abatement material to take care of residual sound before it penetrates your living space.

If you don’t want to install a drop ceiling, there are other options for installing sound deadening material, depending on the type of ceiling. You can discuss your options with an acoustical expert to determine the best application and cost consideration for soundproofing your ceiling.

If noise from your downstairs neighbor is leaking through your flooring, or if they’re complaining that they can hear you walking around or playing with your children, there are a number of options to deaden noise penetrating floors.

Carpeting and padding are rarely enough to prevent sound from emanating through the floor to the apartment downstairs or room below. Noise blocking material placed under the carpeting, hardwood flooring, or tile is your best bet for soundproofing floors.

Architectural Design Soundproofing Materials

Noise is Unhealthy

Living with noise is unhealthy. It increases stress level, disturbs sleep, and can erode one’s health over time. There are excellent options for dealing with ceiling noise, floor noise, and wall noise that can be tailored to your particular unwelcome sound problem and source, with installation options that will suit your budget and the limitations of your living space.

Do you have any nightmare memories of neighborly noise from above or below? Tell us about them, and what you did (if anything) to resolve the problem.

Clamoring for Quiet: New Ways to Mitigate Noise

On a typical day in an American suburb, the steady whoosh of traffic on a nearby freeway drowns out the rustling of leaves in the wind. From across the street comes the nagging whine of a leaf blower, accompanied every few minutes by the deeper roar of a jet taking off from the airport. The cacophony of noise in the modern world is annoying to many and literally enough to make some people sick. Fortunately, new technologies are emerging to combat noise pollution.

Quieter Airports Take Off 

Sound levels are typically measured in decibels (dB). Humans hear sound within a limited frequency range, reflected in a value known as A-weighted dB, or dBA. According to community noise guidelines published in 1999 by the World Health Organization, for a good night’s sleep background sound levels should not exceed 30 dBA. In outdoor living areas, sounds above 50 dBA are annoying to humans. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) requires employers to provide workers with hearing protection if they are exposed to an 8-hour time-weighted average of 85 dBA or more. For those living or working near flight paths of major airports, the noise of aircraft taking off and landing can exceed 100 dBA.

Seven years after the passage of the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) adopted the Aviation Noise Abatement Policy (ANAP), which among other things, sought to reduce aircraft noise at the source—the aircraft itself. Under ANAP, airlines have retired or replaced noisier aircraft in three stages. But while aircraft are now significantly quieter than they were a few decades ago, many airports have added new runways and increased the number of takeoffs and landings. And urban sprawl has resulted in more people living around airports than ever before. The result is continued public pressure to reduce aircraft noise.

Architectural Design Soundproofing Materials

The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) is spearheading research in reducing aircraft noise through its Quiet Aircraft Technology program. The FAA standard for aircraft noise is the EPNdB (or effective perceived noise dB—a measure that is weighted to reflect the particular range of sounds generated by aircraft). NASA aims to develop the technology to reduce commercial aircraft noise by 10 EPNdB by 2007 and another 10 EPNdB by 2019.

“Our goal is to provide the technology to contain all annoying aircraft noise within the airport boundary,” says Dennis Huff, chief of the Acoustics Branch at NASA’s Glenn Research Center in Cleveland, Ohio. “It will be up to regulations and the marketplace to decide when the technology is used before the noise reduction benefit is realized.”

Jet engine noise comes predominately from two sources. An approaching jet creates a high-pitched whine as the fan pulls air into the engine. As the jet passes by, a low-pitched rumble is created by exhaust leaving the engine.

Working with the major aircraft engine manufacturers, NASA has been able to reduce the former sound by designing engines with larger fans. Larger fan blades turn at a slower tip speed, which reduces both noise and fuel consumption. The turbo fan engines introduced in the 1970s are much quieter than the turbo jet engines they replaced, and engines being designed today are quieter still.

Different approaches are being used to reduce the noise produced by exhaust leaving the engine. Researchers have found that notching chevrons into the rim of the nozzle allows hot engine air to mix more thoroughly with the cooler ambient air. This decreases turbulence and reduces engine noise. Chevrons have been used so far on aircraft flown by America West and USAir. New engines with larger fans also slow exhaust air speed, for even more noise reduction.

Incorporating Noise Abatement in Universal Design to Prevent Noise Related Hearing Loss & Health Problems

Ten percent of the world’s population has some degree of hearing loss,  making it the most widespread and chronic disability in the world. Hearing loss caused by noise pollution has been rising steadily since the advent of the industrial revolution in 1750, with no relief in sight. In the upcoming decades, noise-related health problems and hearing damage are expected to rise exponentially unless serious changes are made in the way noise is addressed.

The acoustical environment of most residential, commercial and industrial space is typically given little or no attention during project planning and design. Instead, functionality and aesthetics are the primary focus of the architect, builder, and interior designer. This unwillingness or inability to design and construct buildings with sound absorbing, sound blocking and sound deadening qualities to address different types of noise pollution in today’s clamorous world has led to a global population living unnecessarily with permanent hearing damage.

Hearing loss has enormous social, economic and emotional impacts, affecting individuals, families and all members of the community. The impacts are far-reaching in terms of healthcare costs, loss of economic stability, and reduction in quality of life. The ability to remain self-sufficient is undermined when one’s hearing is damaged, as is the basic well-being of everyone exposed to the levels of noise that fill the airwaves of everyday life.

Society loses out when a significant portion of its members are unable to communicate and participate effectively; this affects not only the quality of life, it also affects the economic viability of the community.

Architectural Design Soundproofing Materials

Applying the principals of universal design – also called “accessible” or “healthy” design – as a preventative measure by incorporating soundproofing and noise reduction materials into the design of all new construction and renovation projects – from a single room in a residence, to the largest industrial manufacturing plant – may be the ticket to averting noise-related health problems, including hearing loss.

Interior designers are educated in the principals of Universal Design, which arms them with the the knowledge necessary to create spaces that incorporate a level of accessibility for people with disabilities. Today, demand is growing for interior design that adopts these same principles to living and working spaces as a preventative measure.

Below are some tips that anyone can incorporate when creating a quiet environment within a space:

  • Background noise from heating and air conditioning units should be addressed with the right noise blocking/noise absorbing materials.
  • Hard surfaces (wood, tile, stone) and high ceilings are notorious for causing problematic reverberation and echo. Designers should be familiar with standards of reverberation and available materials to buffer this type of noise. Every room design should include some sound-absorbent materials.
  • Room adjacency is always an important consideration in good design. No designer should abut a room meant for quiet, such as a bedroom or study, with a bathroom, kitchen, or other noisy room without an intermediary closet or soundproofing material in between, unless the “cheap motel room effect” appeals. A poorly sound-proofed dishwasher or washing machine on a wall adjacent to a living room, or a noisy HVAC unit in a room or closet adjacent to a conference room or office can seriously undermine the usefulness of a space.
  • When it comes to noise HVAC and plumbing, if you can’t change the layout of an acoustically inferior building or room, make sure that the noise source is treated properly with the right noise abatement material.
  • Rule of thumb for hearing safety in any environment: If you have to shout to be heard three feet away, then the noise is too loud and is damaging your hearing. (Sound systems with headphones can produce sound levels as loud as 105 – 110 decibels. Children who listen to this much noise for several hours a day face an inevitable hearing loss.)

While these pointers apply to all kinds of interiors, some places and functions require special consideration. A doctor’s office or law office may require a special noise barrier treatment to protect the privacy of patients and clients. Classrooms need special attention to prevent reverberation and background noise. Even ordinary workplaces can benefit from noise reduction measures.