Leaf blowers, trucks or noisy neighbors driving you berserk? These sound-reduction strategies can help you hush things up.
There are 3.1 million people in the United States who now work from home, and this number is increasing. Do you know what they do for at least a part of their day? Get distracted by a noise: music blaring, a bus passing or a neighbor’s conversation about what’s for dinner.
These sounds seep into a room through those pathways known as windows and doors, as well as floors, walls and ceilings. To decrease sound you must obstruct or dampen the sound wave. The good news is that many newly constructed homes and multiunit buildings have noise-blocking requirements. Just like there’s a fire code, there’s a noise code, says San Francisco Bay Area architect Andy Morrall.
But let’s say you don’t fit into this new-build category, or your landlord has somehow managed to escape city ordinances. There are two main ways to create more quiet at home: 1. adding surfaces that absorb the sound, or reverberation, before it gets to your ears, and 2. blocking it entirely.
Sound Absorbers for the Home
Blocking sound and absorbing sound are two different things, says Matthew Boughan of Acoustical Solutions in Richmond, Virginia. Absorbing it is easier. Some ideas to try:
Add 1-inch-thick acoustic panels - Sheetrock, a terrible absorber of sound, can be the culprit of that tinnyness you hear when talking on the phone. To remedy this, cover your walls with materials that have a noise reduction rating (called NRC, or noise reduction coefficient) of 0.85 or above. Acoustic panels come in a range of colors and fabric styles and can be designed into your interior decor. You want to spread out the absorption evenly among all walls and even place panels on the ceiling. Panels can even be turned into a gallery wall.
Carpets, rugs and padding - If your floors are sporting hardwood, tiles or linoleum on subfloor concrete, you may want to try rugs or carpet coupled with a sound-absorbing padding. Cut-pile carpeting, with its fuzzy top, tested better at absorbing sound than loop pile. Also helpful is a foam-rubber backing, according to the Carpet and Rug Institute.
Draperies - They can be both sound absorbing and sound blocking. For sound absorption, look for heavy materials such as velvets and wools. And if there’s a mass-loaded vinyl layer, even better.
Now for the More Difficult Problem of Sound Blocking