Does noise bother you?
Whether we live in a house or an apartment, noise, from neighbours or nearby businesses, can ruin not only our sleep, but our daily lives too.
Surveyor Guy Alexander Bell discusses and explains solutions for soundproofing houses and flats in a sustainable way, to provide a better quality of life for us all.
It could be something as innocent as an elderly lady in the flat below, deaf as a post, with the TV up full blast, and there is nothing more annoying than a muffled TV sound in your home, especially if you just want to chill out and have a bit of peace and quiet after a hard working day.
This is in fact one of the most common forms of neighbourly animosity and strife and if this sort of thing affects your home, the Citizens Advice Bureau offer quite a bit of very helpful advice, which should be investigated as disputes with noise can sometimes boil over into a situation that you, and in fact next door too, really don’t want or need.
Once again, it’s innocent and the old dear probably doesn’t realise that you know all the words to songs of praise now, or you are well aware of the views of the current “Z list” guest sat opposite that nice man Alan Titchmarsh, but…….
There may be noise from dogs next door, especially if the neighbour goes out to work each day and leaves their incessantly barking dog all day on its own.
OK, it’s the owners fault, not the dog, but nevertheless, it causes frustration when we do not have sound proofing installed and can’t do anything about it.
Or can we?
Turn it down!
We have all wanted to shout that at some point, in fact I myself have done so, along with a few choice other words I could not possibly write on a “family” website, but as we said above, it’s not always the neighbour actually being inconsiderate but could well be a flaw in the design of the property.
It could be a lack of care when the place was built, or in many cases, it could be quite simply when the building was built, TV’s, hi-fi’s and extra wide surround bass home 3D cinema, 8 gigawatt TV’s …….er…… hadn’t been invented then.
So if you live in an older house or flat and you are suffering from noise pollution, what can you do about it?
A common problem is noise from music instruments.
This is especially if your neighbours “child prodigy” takes up the drums (!), or if your neighbour has a piano. Gone are the days when the whole street would think “oh well” and join in with a good old sing-along, oh no, if your neighbour decides to practice their scales at 4am, what do you do?
I once lived next to a classical Pianist in Plymouth, and they played brilliantly, but it soon got on my nerves, however I didn’t have the heart to go and complain, however if it was Hardcore techno, I may have done!
There could be cultural elements at play too.
People in the UK seem to be quite selfish people and feel it is their “right” to play loud music whereby they like, however go to France or Spain, and you can see many more of the population living side by side in apartments quite happily and without sound proofing!
How? Because they are more neighbourly and have a “live and let live” attitude, whilst respecting their neighbours. In fact you would hard pressed to actually FIND a loud stereo for sale in Spain, honestly, I’ve looked myself.
Insulation from noise.
Modern building regulations do specify a certain amount of acoustic insulation when being built, but that doesn’t help older homes, however there are steps that you can take to minimise the intrusion of noise into your dwelling, some are easy and quick to implement, some require additional building works.
A cavity, with an insulating material is often best, and many products can be bought and fitted, in some cases, with little effort, by those with the skills to do so.
Building regulations regarding noise insulation
The government in the UK are keen to promote the sue of acoustic insulation and Approved Document E (ADE) (From the Building regs 2000 as amended) sets out guidelines for developers of new houses, to increase the level of noise suppressing materials they use in construction, and in conversion of existing dwellings.
The document states…..
Good sound insulation depends on combining multiple layers of building elements that are isolated from the structure by proprietary resilient products.
Between the elements there should be clear cavities or voids with the combined mass of the separating wall or floor being equal to, or exceeding the recommendation by Approved Document E (ADE)
SO although these are guidelines, adherence to them when converting a house into flats, for example, can make the difference between happy residents or stressed out people living there, but how many of today’s builders really adhere to this, or are just out to make a fast buck?
What can the “average Joe”, do to reduce noise entering the home?
First and foremost if your home does not have double glazing then install it!
The air cavity between the glass panes can cut out a lot of noise from the outside, entering the home, and is especially handy if you live near a main road, for example, although vibrations caused by traffic or loud music will continue to enter the building. Make sure that all joins around the windows are good because if not, some noise will still enter your home.
It’s certainly worth noting that not ALL noise can be suppressed, no matter what steps you take to combat whatever is irritating you.
Carpets and rugs can be a quick and simple way to reduce noise, especially if you have chosen a house with bare floorboards, not everyone cup of tea now is it?
Loft insulation will cure not only escaping heat from the house but can also suppress noise from overhead such as birds or aircraft.
Internal walls can be insulated form noise by using an internal acoustic wall coating such as drywall with insulation (gyproc) or also special wall coverings made from polystyrene, cork or polyurethane.
External walls are somewhat trickier and more expensive to insulate from noise, although a good quality rendered external wall coating from NEVER PAINT AGAIN UK can help to suppress at least some noise. There also exists wall insulation for solid walls, also available via our website.
Thick curtains can help absorb noise too, as can draught excluder’s around doors, plus if the noise is coming from ONE wall in your home, (e.g. the neighbours lounge and their huge TV), then consider moving furniture against the wall and hanging large pictures, which can also help to absorb any noise.
Interior thermal wallpaper is another thing you can use, although it is designed to keep heat in the room, it also keeps the noise out too!
NPA’s Top Tip:
Noise comes in waves of differencing frequencies and acts like an acoustic liquid, meaning that if you plan on insulating the walls from noise, or the floor from noise, then EVERY INCH must be covered, because if not, sound, like liquid, will find another route into your home, so be thorough in whatever insulation you choose.
What else can be done to combat noise from neighbours?
It is worth noting that you could always TALK to your neighbour and explain the problem to them, however I know from my own experience, this can suddenly backfire on you, especially if you are dealing with a young person in England, who seem to think the world owes them something, so take that advice carefully.
If you don’t want to approach them, you can always speak to your local council or authority who will have an environmental protection dept, and they can serve a Noise Abatement notice, however once again, using this can cause more aggro and hassle which sometimes isn’t worth it.
In addition, and as a closing thought: think about this for a minute. Maybe YOU also make noise, but YOU don’t realise, and your neighbours are too polite to complain to you?!
If you hear some banging and drilling going on next door, maybe THEY read this and are having insulating wall coatings fitted?
The very Last resort?
This is an original article by surveyor Guy Alexander Bell. Bsc.(hons.). Pg.Dip.