Design Dilemma: Cultivating The Sound of Silence
No matter how beautifully-appointed your condo or apartment, if your nights and days are filled with loud music, voices and television noise from abutting apartments, your fabulous pad is still likely to feel like a living hell.
Are there design solutions to too much noise? The answer is yes — to a point. A few design changes at home may help ameliorate noise somewhat, but in the end, the most effective strategy may be to invest in earplugs or talk with your neighbors about how they can cut back on the noise level.
Here’s what you can do at home:
- Furnish your home with noise-absorbing upholstery. You may hanker for the sleek minimalist look but a sparely-furnished apartment is more likely to create echoes which can be heard in other units. Also, sparely-furnished units do not provide much opportunity for sounds coming from other units to get absorbed. So lay down carpets and area rugs, put up heavy draperies, add textile wall-hangings, hang lots of paintings on canvas. This won’t solve your noise problem completely, but it can help.
- Install cork flooring or cork covering on walls. Cork is one great sound insulator. And the virtue of cork is that it can be used as a flooring or wall material by itself (see the picture above) or can be used underneath other materials, such as wood, vinyl or tile flooring. It is an ideal material to use because it is water and mold-resistant.
- Caulk wall-floor junctions. Careful caulking of the joint under the baseboard may reduce airborne sound transmission.
- Add wall-to-wall carpets. Again, carpeting is unlikely to totally alleviate noise, but it can help muffle.
- Insulate. You may not be in position to retrofit your ceilings and floors, but if you are, consider glass fiber, mineral wool and cellulose insulation are often in the walls and floors between apartments to dampen noise.
- Add additional layers of drywall or denser floor materials.
- Decouple. Decoupling separates parts of the wall and floor structure so they do not touch, thus eliminating a direct path for sound to follow. Resilient channels are flexible metal strips commonly used to decouple drywall from the wall or floor structure. Resilient channels and drywall should not be installed directly over existing drywall or plaster, because this may create a sealed chamber that amplifies the sound and makes the noise problem worse. If plaster or drywall is attached directly to the wall or ceiling structure, consider removing it and installing one or two layers of new drywall on resilient channels attached to the framing.
- Place gaskets behind electrical outlet cover plates. These will help cover the spaces that noise move through.
- Replace your windows. Double-paned, glazed windows can significantly cut back on noise you hear from cars, leaf and snow-blowers and other assorted street noise.
Unfortunately, there is no perfect design solution to noise problems but a combination of measures is likely to lend you some noise relief, so take heart!