Can Subway Noise in Your House be Reduced?

subway noise

Clients often ask me: can subway noise that I hear in my house be reduced? The answer is not simple, and usually not what the client wants to hear.

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Subway noise can often be heard in homes that are located close to a subway line. The noise and vibration can travel up to 200 m or more from the subway tunnel. The noise is usually loudest in the basement.

Cause of subway noise

​Subway noise is caused by ground vibrations transmitted from the subway tunnel to your house. This causes your walls to vibrate and then re-transmit vibrations into air, creating noise.

​Ground vibration noise is difficult to completely eliminate. Best approach is to address the source of the problem that only TTC could do, by modifying their rails. As I understand, the new subway cars are somewhat quieter than the old ones. All complaints that I get are from clients who live near Bloor – Danforth line that uses mostly old cars. Their noise may be reduced when TTC introduce the new cars on that line.

Reducing subway noise​

There are some measures that can be taken to mitigate the problem of subway noise in a house​.

​If you are building a new house, or underpinning an existing house, proper foundation design using neoprene dampers can be beneficial. This treatment will reduce vibrations in the entire house; however, the benefit is proportional to the extent of excavation and underpinning being done. This is a specialized job best handled by a consultant experienced in dealing with this problem.

​If you are planning a major renovation without foundation underpinning, installing all wall surfaces (floor, walls and ceiling) to studs/joists by means of mechanical decouples will reduce the noise in each room treated, but not in other rooms of the house. However, the extent of the benefit is difficult to predict because of the low frequency nature of the ground-transmitted noise.

​There are several ways how mechanical decoupling can be accomplished for floors, but all methods go by the name “floating floor”.

For installing drywall on walls and ceilings there are attachment products that provide the necessary decoupling function. The product with the best low frequency noise attenuation should be selected. The interior drywall treatments are best done as part of a major renovation projects. All wall/floor assembly details should be provided by a competent architect or acoustical consultant.

I know that the discussed solutions are not what my clients want to hear, but there is no easy solution to the noise caused by subway in nearby homes.

Couple of additional articles on this subject​:

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About the Author Ivan Koval

The author is the publisher of the Soundproofing.Expert website. He is a soundproofing and building acoustics consultant working in Toronto and GTA, Ontario, Canada. Telephone (416) 471-2130

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