Soundproofing walls

If you live close to a busy road, or you are unfortunate enough to live under a busy flight path, the noise can really grind on you and can make your home life pretty intolerable. There are some things you can do however to make things better, and while you may not be able to block all noises out completely, it is possible that you can reduce them to levels so they are low enough to live with.

Sound Insulation

Soundproofing your room(s) can help combat noises by pressure waves caused by vibrations in sound. A lot of materials in your house cause sound waves to echo and the noise is either reflected or transmitted through materials such as ceramic tiles and plastered walls. Also, gaps, holes or imperfections in walls, doors, windows, ceilings and floors can all allow sound waves through easier, in turn making your house noisier and more vulnerable to outside noises.

Soundproofing walls

If you live in an attached house, whether it be a terrace or a semi-detached, noise can penetrate the shared walls. There are a few things you can do to reduce the ease at which the sound waves are transmitted before you undertake more drastic measures.

Fill gaps and clad

Filling any gaps that may exist in party walls is a great first step to reduce noise. You should remove skirting and if necessary floorboards so that you can easily add more mortar to the brickwork, taking care to check where joists fix into the masonry. When you put the skirting and floorboards back use mastic to seal any gaps in them.

The partition walls between rooms in your own house can let noise through, so adding more sound insulation here could be useful. You can line both sides of your stud walls with plasterboard and fill any gaps between them and the skirting. If you are building a stud wall from scratch add insulation material between two layers of plasterboard.

Soundproofing a party wall between you and your neighbours house

soundproofing walls
Figure 1 Constructing a soundproof wall. 1=Head plate; 2=sole plate; 3=stud; 4=insulating blanket; 5=nogging; 6=plasterboard layer 1; 7=plasterboard layer 2.

To add some real sound insulation between yourself and your neighbours you can build your own insulated lining, which in effect is a stud wall type construction fixed at the shared wall. While this does take away some space in your room, it is minimal. The insulated lining is fixed to the floor, side walls, and ceiling, but not actually to the shared wall itself. The gap in the lining wall is filled with some kind of insulating material, such as glass-fibre or mineral-fibre blanket insulation. 2 layers of plasterboard are fixed to the insulated lining for added sound resistance.

To fit the lining layer you should remove the skirting (carefully because you will want to reuse it). Mark a 100mm line from the shared wall on the ceiling, and then drop a plumb line so that you can make a perfectly opposite line on the floor. Nail a 75mm x 50mm softwood piece of wood into the floor and ceiling, aligning the front edge of the wood with the line you drew earlier. Next, nail vertical struts of wood all the way across the walled area, leaving around a 600mm gap between them. You may want to measure the width of your fibre insulation and make the gaps perfect to fit this between the vertically aligned struts.

Put your fibre insulation sheets into the wall (get 100mm thick sheets), and then cover with plasterboard (12.5mm thick plasterboard). Fill and seal every gap with mastic, and then nail a 2nd layer of plasterboard for extra thickness. Stagger the joints when you add the 2nd layer to remove gaps in the wall. Fill gaps in the plasterboard and attach the skirting again. Seal all around the skirting and your sound proofed wall is finished and should reduce neighbour noises noticeably.

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