Sound Insulating an Historic building

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).

Fake grass

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 panels

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.

Conclusion

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

Heathrow Runway 3 noise issues

Heathrow Airport,  Runway 3 Noise

Chris “failing “ Grayling today announced the go ahead for the third runway at Heathrow. Perhaps it was to deflect his failings within the rail sector in his role as transport minister, who knows? But we here at Soundstop want to look at the implications and ramifications for all the residents who will be affected by noise. The government has announced a series of packages contained in this document, a paper that is as clear as mud. The most relevant detail is placed towards the end. It reads:

“Under the scheme, homes in the designated zone closest to the airport with higher levels of noise (the inner zone) would have the full costs of their noise insulation covered by the airport. Up to £3,000 in noise insulation would be offered to homes further away from the airport (the outer zone).

We propose that a third party assessment, free of cost to homeowners, would be made to determine the extent of each home’s needs within the eligible insulation zones. Our insulation package could include:

Acoustic double glazing in windows;
Ceiling over boarding in bedrooms; and
Loft insulation and ventilation.”

We here at Soundstop, like so many others, believe that the scale of disruption and noise to residents who live around Heathrow, will be immense. More residents than ever before will suffer. While the design of aircraft over the last few years has made them around 50% quieter on departure, the frequency of flights is going to increase dramatically. According to a government analysis, when Heathrow builds the third runway, more than 2 million people will be exposed to additional aircraft noise.

Major airports are, however, under a legal obligation to develop strategic noise maps and produce Noise Action Plans based on those maps.

BAA has signed up to a scheme that offers free double glazing to mitigate noise. Hounslow council believes it is nowhere near enough –  particularly for local schools who have already been deprived of vital renovations when Labour’s schoolbuilding programme was scrapped by Michael Gove. The cost of properly soundproofing children’s classrooms for the Borough’s 60 schools under the flight path is something Hounslow says it cannot, and should not have to, pay for.

The bottom line is that unwanted aircraft noise will cause misery to many more people than ever before.

Here at Soundstop we have experience in reducing the suffering and annoyance caused by unwanted noise. That’s our business, and we can help.

Window soundproofing

First and foremost, you need to look at your windows. Realistically speaking these will be the major failing point for most people. It is important that you think about triple glazing, not just double glazing.  But in reality, with the very heavy bass frequency sound that an aircraft produces, the better bet is to install a secondary glazing unit,ideally at least 10cm in front of the existing unit, which will cope far better with bass frequency. From a cost perspective, secondary glazing units run at around £500 per window. The drawback is that some of these secondary units mean that window opening is tricky so you will need to think about installing air-conditioning units.

Ceiling soundproofing

For residents much closer to the flight path they will also notice that sound will be coming through the upstairs bedroom ceilings. This is particularly the case where the ceiling leads onto a simple loft space that is not insulated and the only protection from the aircraft sound might just be be the tiles on the roof. In these cases, you will need to increase the mass of your ceiling.

A simple project would be to add insulation ideally dense insulation in between the joists above. Here we recommend at a very minimum 45kg mineral wool slabs, but better still 60kg mineral wool slabs. This will help with thermal conductivity leaving your house warmer in the winter as well. The joists can then be overlaid with chipboard and ideally a layer of acoustic plasterboard over the top.

Where this isn’t possible dues to access to the loft, you will need to think about soundproofing the ceilings. This isn’t as hard as one would imagine. We have a number of possibilities but the most effective and mess free method is to use the genie clip system which is described on this page. Taking up minimal space it will make a very significant difference to the sound that will be coming though what is often a very thin ceiling.

People also think that walls are an issue. In practice a well-built brick wall will offer reasonable noise protection. For this reason, we recommend the insulation of walls to be done only after addressing the windows and ceilings.

Please let us know your thoughts and any suggestions on where affected residents might turn to seek relief from the anticipated noise of runway 3.

5 Soundproofing Myths

We get asked a lot of questions at soundstop. And it has helped us create a tope five list of soundproofing myths that we wanted to share.

Five Soundproofing Myths
1) Egg boxes on the wall.
Or the modern equivalent of acoustic foam on the wall. This will only improve the internal acoustics of the room.
What we mean by this is that the room will have less echo. The foam egg boxes rugs on the wall all act to break up the hard surfaces meaning the sound doesn’t easily echo back into a room. So, if you have lots of hard surfaces and are troubled by echo then think about adding soft furnishings wherever you can.

2) Soundproofing wallpaper will fix my problem.
The science of soundproofing is much simpler than most people think. But one of the key ingredients which cannot be got around, is the need to add weight or mass. This is governed by a thing called mass’s law. All soundproofing reverts back to this simple idea. The more weight between you and the problem the better the soundproofing.

3) Injecting foam into the cavity will do the trick.
The problem with this is twofold. First foam is very light weight so although you might cut down on the echo in any void you are not adding to the mass. Which we know is very important when soundproofing. Secondly you can’t see where all the foam is actually going and hence you won’t know if the whole wall is completely filled. Even tiny gaps in soundproofing can have a very material effect on the final result.

4) Sticking on a layer or two of acoustic plasterboard !
Now you would think that you are on the right track here. Plasterboard is heavy so if I stick it on the wall it will do the trick. Unfortunately, wrong! Plasterboard is heavy but so is the wall. So another absolutely key thing you need to know is that the plasterboard needs to be added to the wall but not directly to the wall. Your need to add it in a springy way. But more of that later.

5) Installing a built-in wardrobe or cupboards this will do the trick.
The wardrobe might work providing it was well fitted floor to ceiling leaving no gap at the top filled lots of clothes and the doors were nice and heavy and fitted well. This would reduce the sound. Book shelves with books sadly wont do the trick as the sound will leak all around them.

So what should you do instead?

Well first and foremost you can purchase ear plugs or noise cancelling headphones.
These are great things and don’t cost an awful lot to buy. Silence is now golden. The only real drawback is that you can’t hear anything else or if you want to chat or communicate in any way you will hear the dreaded noise again. Earplugs at night  are a real winner.

Try some white noise.
This is especially effective if you are trying to have a decent night’s sleep. Running a fan by the bed will drown out all other sounds and you get used to the sound of the fan quite quickly. There are other fancy white noise machines on the market but a fan seems to the trick for many people.

Finally you could try negotiating with the neighbours.This can often be a great way to get to know them. It’s a good idea from the outset not to open with the line” turn your bloody music down” This will just open up battle lines and its doubtful you can get back on good terms.
More tactful lines might be. I didn’t realise the walls were so thin. I hope I didn’t disturb you last night. A conversation will follow and you might come to an agreement without any finger pointing.

Direct to wall Genie Clips

After careful consideration, we can confirm that Genie clips “direct-to-wall” are a great soundproofing solution for those who can’t afford to lose too much room space.

https://www.soundstop.co.uk/solutions/wall_solutions/wall_solution_1.php

 

 

 

 

 

At just 66mm ( 68mm with the optional Tecsound50 membrane upgrade ), this solution provides great acousic performance in a slimline package, and is well within the capabilities of the average DIY enthusiast, should the mood take you. As with all our solutions, full instructions can be found on our website, and you can of course ring us if you need any advice.

The Genie Clip System

We have recently been a lot of good things about the Genie Clip system. This is a new product in the UK. Designed in Canada it is a product that competes with resilient bars. From the look of them they feel like they should be very effective. Rather than relying on the springy nature of corrugated metal as used by resilient bars, the system relies on a rubber washer to keep metal components apart from each other. The manufacturers claim substantial improvements across the noise frequency spectrum particularly at lower, more tricky to deal with, frequencies. The system that works with a bespoke “furring Strip” is less mistake prone when doing a soundproofing job.
Image of Genie Clip

 

Here, at SoundStop, have recently begun selling Genie Clips for ceiling soundproofing and wall soundproofing applications, and the feedback we have had from customers is very good. Continue reading

Soundproofing a thin wall

A customer writes,

I have looked at your website and need further advice.My family and I have bought a 1928 semi-detached property in a “nice” area of Leicester, but the neighbours enjoy their music at different times of day and there is a substantial content of bass, which has driven my wife to her mother’s house, with our 2 very young children. This is an unacceptable situation for all concerned. The council’s noise pollution team have done all they can but 2 issues appear insoluble, from an enforcement perspective.  Continue reading

Sound proofing in the Highlands of Scotland

Hi,
we are really needing to sound proof our semi dethatched home. We live in Inverness in the highlands and wondered if you would be able to recommend a good company up here who could help? any info appreciated,
thanks mary

Hello Mary and thank you for your email,

I can only imagine you need to soundproof your house because of noisy neighbours, that is usually the problem we find.

We have no one we can recommend by way of a company specialising in soundproofing in your area. What we tell potential customers who do not feel like undertaking the job themselves is to use local craftsmen such as carpenters and plasterers who are used to handling the materials used in soundproofing. No disrespect to general builders but they do tend to think soundproofing is something they know all about and go and leave the important bits out. Continue reading

Fitting soundproofing- Fitting Service

We are often asked about local fitting services outside london

Hello Terry and thanks you for your email. We are frequently asked for the names of installers of our soundproofing systems throughout the UK but it is impossible to service all areas.

What we suggest is that having chosen one of our Soundproofing Solutions, be it for a Wall, Ceiling or Floor, you print out from the Web page for that Solution the Application Instructions that can be found by clicking on the application button.  Continue reading

Cinder Ashblock

Hello

I have been reading your website with interest – we have a 1983 Bryant-built semi detached home, and although our neighbours are relatively quiet we hear lots of everyday noise (talking, laughter, radio, hoover etc) through the walls.  There are 4 rooms which attach to them, and it doesnt matter whcih room i stand in, I can hear then just as clearly – making me think that noise is maybe transmitting though the floorboards or maybe we have flanking transmission problems described on your website.  Continue reading

Soundproofing in a 1930’s property

Hi
Hope you can help/advise on best option. ( we have answered in Blue)
I live in a 1930’s semi detached house and have problems with noisy neighbours, although I don’t believe they mean to be noisy, I feel the party wall itself is rubbish, as I can hear them just talking in the room adjacent, and can understand their words (not muffled).

My living room consists of a fireplace and two alcoves.  The sound seems to be coming through both alcoves. Continue reading