Building peace-and-quiet into your home

August 21, 2012

Boomers want outside volume turned down

Sound will play a key role in the coming decade as aging baby boomers look to home building materials that block unnecessary outdoor noise.

An aging population combined with the economic reality of smaller lot sizes, attached homes and multiple-family apartment buildings means that the need for an effective sound barrier from neighbourhood noise will only increase.

“When it comes to smaller lots the problems will always be ‘the neighbours’,” says Don Campbell, a Canadian real estate expert.  “But there are many new building technologies that suppress sound and even though they can cost more, they are worth it in the long run as they become a real selling feature.”

Campbell, a real estate investor and researcher who’s written four best-selling books about the industry, predicts that noise will become a major issue for home buyers over the next 10 years. Compounding the issue within single-family neighbourhoods, he adds, is the absence of any type of ‘condo rules’ that impose sound restrictions and the fact that police today have little time to enforce noise complaints.

Here are suggestions for reducing outdoor noise:

  • Ask about STC (Sound Transmission Class) ratings when choosing products.  STC ratings measure a product’s ability to withstand the transfer of airborne sound at different frequencies and is equal to the number of decibels a sound is reduced as it passes through a material. Generally, the higher the STC rating the more noise that is blocked.
  • Masonry products – block, brick and stone – perform exceptionally well in blocking low-frequency, airborne noise such as plumbing, heating and air conditioning systems, elevators, amplified music, traffic and aircraft.

“The high density properties of masonry provides superior sound control because it resists the passage of airborne noise,” says Jack Prazeres, president of MasonryWorx, a trade association representing brick, block and stone masonry professionals. “In addition to being an attractive cladding for your home, masonry offers not only sound protection but also greater fire protection, more energy efficiency and a higher resale value.”

  • Triple-pane windows also help to reduce noise levels.  Another way to keep out the din is through laminated windows that do-it-yourselfers can install over top of existing windows.
  • The type of insulation you choose is also important if you are looking to reduce outside noise. Again, the density of the insulation is a key factor to reduce airflow and noise. The denser the insulation the lower the sound transmission. Stone wool products have higher density and because the fibre is non-directional, they provide good sound barriers.
  • For multi-units buildings concrete block dividing walls can significantly reduce noise from neighbouring units as do concrete and block floors and ceilings.
  • The design components of new homes can also mitigate sound. A trend towards having the master bedroom suite created in the basement will also become more prevalent in the years to come as the population seeks a quieter living space, says Campbell.  The design will include silent floors installed above, great ventilation, good light, fireplace and high ceilings.
  • For outdoor living space, consider building a courtyard, a design known to provide acoustical privacy.