The sweet sound of silence

After a relaxing few weeks together my husband must once again travel for work. I was tidying up the house today realizing how very different our home environment is when he is away, things are very quiet. Besides me chatting with our pup, the house is barren of most ambient noise which is the complete opposite of my husband’s preferences. He likes the radio and TV on (usually at the same time) and also doesn’t mind the white noise of ceiling or bathroom fans running in the background.

Noise reduction is a multi-layered thing – literally! It begins with construction and the layering and positioning of drywall, studs and insulation. The more layers you employ, the harder a sound wave must work to penetrate. If a room is full of reflective surfaces the sound waves will bounce off and create a boisterous room, but if it is finished in layered surfaces sound wave vibrations will be absorbed and converted into heat energy.

My current home and my last home are night and day comparing noise reception. Both are townhouses with a shared wall and an outside wall. My former condo received quite a bit of sound from the neighbours as they travelled up and down the steps and my new home is as silent as a tomb. The difference is mass and interruption. The loud condo had nothing but a bare wall separating me from my neighbours’ noisy children and the new condo has cleverly placed closets, bathrooms, cabinets and all sorts of interrupting layers on either side of this shared wall. The sound waves have difficulty travelling through all the interrupters which creates a much quieter environment, except when my husband is home.

If you are searching for quieter spaces you can try to increase the interruption in your room, the easiest and most economical solution is material. Soft folds in drapery can reduce noise in a room by 10 decibels and area carpets and fabric covered furniture further help to absorb sound waves. Mass is a great way to absorb sound if you have a specific problem area like a shared wall. Use a large bookshelf filled with books against the problem area to help absorb noise reception or to prevent noise transmission from sneaking into your neighbour’s home. The depth of the books (usually 8”) and the multiple layers are an excellent choice for sound absorption. An area rug hung on a wall can also provide a sound absorbing barrier for that large shared stairwell wall or used on the floor to give your downstairs neighbours some peace.

When choosing flooring and interior finishes for your home be mindful of the sound absorbing properties of each item. There are many options for underlayment for all types of walls and floors that can improve the ambiance in any room. Consider both the received and produced noise in any room and plan ahead for additional layering where required. Homeowners often neglect to add extra sound proofing to a bedroom which faces the street and then find themselves hearing every rumbling motorcycle and car driving past. Additional layering, window choices and drapery will help to muffle out the world and help you get a restful night sleep.

Wrap up your home in quiet and comfort -it makes us well rested, calm and hushed neighbours.

Kim Meckler is an interior designer in Red Deer with Carpet Colour Centre.