Whether you are building a new house, or are looking to buy a new house or a resale house, you need to know few things about sound insulation and soundproofing. This knowledge can spare you of future headaches (literally) after you move into your new house.
If you are building a new house you have much more flexibility deciding what kind of acoustic environment you want, as long as you are aware of key building issues that affect sound insulation and acoustic comfort. And most people are unaware. Also, if you are doing any kind of renovations in your new house before you move in, this is the time to consider soundproofing issues.
Relying on your builder or architect for soundproofing is not a good idea. More often than not, builders do not take the time to understand client's acoustic environment needs and expectations. This leads to disappointment when the owner moves into his now house. Always consult a building acoustics consultant before the design is finalized.
Here are the key points you need to think about.
Sound insulation and traffic noise.
Your exposure to traffic noise inside the house depends on these factors:
- The amount of traffic noise you will hear inside your home is affected by distance from the road, highway or subway line. The greater is the distance the better.
- How much traffic noise you will hear inside the house is also affected by acoustic quality of windows, doors, exterior walls and attic insulation. Have your house inspector check these items. If you are replacing windows, look for windows with good sound attenuation value.
- Bedrooms should be located on the back side of the house, away from road or highway. All bedrooms should have solid doors (not hollow lightweight doors) with weather-stripping, or better, with special acoustic seals.
- Proximity to subway line (about 200 m or less) will create a low frequency rumble in your house, particularly in the basement, each time a subway train goes by. This is virtually impossible to eliminate, unless you are building a new custom house with a special foundation designed by an expert in architectural acoustics.
- If your house is located in the vicinity of an airport, or under an airport’s flight approach path, you need to expect some noise. To completely eliminate noise disturbance in such situation is possible, but it requires special features in your house that are best left to an architectural acoustics specialist to design, along with your architect.
Floor plan of your house
The design of your house has a major effect on acoustic environment. Modern open plan concept is not suitable, if you need acoustic privacy. If your recreation room with TV and surround sound music system has no doors, you must expect that the sound will be heard throughout the house. Generally, each area that should contain sound must have doors. This sounds obvious, but many people do not think about it when they look at a marvelous new open plan design concept.
Locating noisy rooms far away from sleeping quarters is also beneficial. For example, if your music room is in the basement and your bedrooms are on second floor, you may be able to get good sound separation.
Sound insulation of HVAC equipment
Ask yourself the following questions:
- How loud is the furnace?
- How loud is the external A/C unit and where is it located relative to sleeping quarters?
- Can you hear neighbour’s A/C unit in your new bedroom?
- Can you hear the furnace’s fan through air ducts?
Most of these issues can be corrected during construction or renovation with proper acoustic design considerations in mind.
Exhaust fan noise
Loud kitchen exhaust or bathroom fan can be very annoying. Make sure that you install new fan units that are quiet. Most quality manufacturers list loudness of fans in specifications. Quiet bathroom fan units have loudness of 2 sones or less.
Music room or home theatre
Building a music room or a home theatre is best done during initial construction or major renovations. If you need to prevent any sound from leaving or entering this room, special sound insulation design features need to be considered and should be done by a specialist.
Basement suite or rental apartment
If your house includes a basement apartment, you need to consider questions of acoustic privacy and sound insulation. Best approach is to locate the basement apartment away from your bedrooms (so that a tenant would not disturb you) and away from your kitchen (so that you will not disturb a tenant). This arrangement is not always possible. In any case, soundproof walls and sound insulation in ceiling/floor should be built between your quarters and the basement apartment.
Semi-detached, townhouse, or high-rise condominium
If you are buying a semi-detached house or a condominium, it is very important to consider question of acoustic privacy on advance. It is usually difficult to add sound insulation to an occupied house. More information on this subject is in my blog on soundproofing a semi-detached house and a condominium.
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