Sound Insulating a Historic Building: Ideas and Things to Look Out For
One of the things in life that no one can be free from are noises. Unless you live in a very remote part of the countryside inside a house with very thick walls, you’d have to deal with noise pollution every day. On the brighter side, you can at least get away with the noises at home by soundproofing it.
Loud televisions, radios, noisy neighbours, vehicles passing by — these are just some of the noises that you would normally encounter. It can be frustrating when all you want to do is relax after a very tiring day. In general, people would want to soundproof their homes for two reasons.
- It can be because you want to keep or contain the sound within your home. An example of this is if you are a music enthusiast who uses instruments like drums or electric guitars. Naturally, you don’t want to bother your neighbours unless you want to be on their bad side.
- The other reason, which is very common, is when you want to keep the noise out. Noise pollution has been proven to affect one’s health negatively. In fact, a study about the noise produced around London’s Heathrow airport revealed an interesting and alarming finding.
According to the study, high levels of aircraft noise was associated with increased risks of hospital admission and death by stroke, coronary heart disease, and cardiovascular disease in the nearby area.
How sound Insulation works
What you have to understand is that you don’t necessarily need to soundproof the whole house. In most cases, you’d want to do it only where it’s applicable. For instance, you may want to soundproof your study room so as not to disrupt your focus. If you also live in a flat and you have neighbours below, you may also want to consider just sound insulating the floor.
There are only two ways that sound is generally treated— either absorb it or reduce it with heavy materials. By blocking the passage of sound waves intervening objects in the path of the sound, noise can be reduced.
On the other hand, noise absorption is done by transforming the sound wave itself when it comes into contact with certain materials. One good example of this is through the use of acoustic foams. While these materials don’t actually block sound they do reduce the echo and reverberation within a room and can make the room seem more tranquil
Soundproofing a historic building
Though non-listed buildings come with their challenges when soundproofing needs to be done, it’s a lot easier to work with them compared to historic buildings. For starters, the work that needs to be done should not alter the character nor increase the risk of long-term deterioration of a historic building.
This is one of the reasons why it’s critical to have a house survey conducted before renovating an old or listed building. Doing so will provide you with relevant sound insulation and technical information, as well as materials to be used for the work required.
That said, it is an absolute must that you obtain a listed building consent before doing work on a historic building — that includes soundproofing. Not only that, but you also have to make sure that you adhere to the conditions on a listed building consent.
It’s also worth noting that there are many design conditions and listed building constraints within this type of development. As such, it is highly recommended to get an architect involved during the design stage.
Sound Insulation ideas and things to look out for
The following can be done to soundproof any home, or a historic building for that matter. But before you begin with your soundproofing project, your first step is to find out if you need planning permission or not. You can do this by contacting your Local Planning Authority (LPA).
Many have already used fake grass in their gardens as well as the other parts of their households. However, most people are not aware that artificial turf makes excellent sound insulators especially those that come with sound absorption panels on them.
Installing fake grass on your walls will help soak up noise from traffic and passersby. Office lobbies, for instance, will benefit a lot from walls with fake grass. As a bonus, you will not only get the sound reduction benefits of synthetic turf, but you will also have a nice zen space as well.
Windows and Doors
Upgrading your windows and doors will benefit the environment and your home. You see, doors and windows are two of the most likely culprits for heat loss and energy inefficiency. At the same time, these are also two areas that are often responsible for transferring noise to and from your home. And it only gets worse for historic buildings.
Many historic buildings suffer a lot from unwanted noise because their windows are only single glazed. The good news is that double glazing can help reduce the noise level by up to 20%. Adding secondary glazing to a historic building will also not remove its original features. Then again, it’s always better to consult your local planning authority to be on the safe side.
When it comes to doors, always remember that it’s not just about how thick they are. You also have to make sure that jambs, thresholds and door heads are also airtight. Putting special weather seals around the door frames can help dampen the noise.
Acoustic curtains and blinds
If you don’t want to go as far as upgrading your windows, you can deal with much of the outside noise by using acoustic curtains or blinds. It’s one of the simplest ways to soundproof a room. However, keep in mind that they don’t significantly reduce the decibel levels of sounds that enter but are effective in reducing echo in a room.
Still, acoustic curtains are a good option if you don’t want to deal with planning permissions since they don’t require any invasive building work. The downside though is that you’d be forced to have your curtains or blinds permanently drawn so you can’t take advantage of natural light coming or even the view from the outside.
Acoustic panelling is an excellent way to absorb any sound that can be bothersome to you. These panels are made of sound-absorbing materials like foam or mineral wool contained between decorative outer panels. On the other hand, the decorative outer panels can be made either of fabric, perforated metal, or other substances.
Acoustic panels are incredibly effective, as well as being very practical. If you want to use this option of soundproofing, make sure you enlist the help of a professional. Be aware that you may also require written permission when adding panelling to a listed building, so seek advice first.
Ceilings and floors
Floors are often a bit to sound insulate than ceilings especially in listed properties. If you have neighbours below, there are two ways that you can soundproof your floor. The first method is by buying thicker and more sound-resistant carpets. The second is by having a specialised soundproof matting fitted.
If you’re the one living under your neighbour, you’d naturally want to soundproof your ceiling. This will involve installing a false roof as well as inserting mineral wool insulation or soundproof tiling. Again, don’t forget to check with your local planning authority if this work requires permission.
Aside from the obvious benefit of reducing if not eliminating noise, soundproofing your historic home has one other advantage. Many people who have done so noticed that significant decrease in their utility bills. One added benefit of insulating for sound is that you will also improve the thermal efficiency of a home as well.
This was a Guest post by Fixtures and Flowers