Consider it the cost of urban density. As people continue to move into city centres and live in closer quarters, the list of annoyances can add up: clattering feet on the hardwood floors above you; honking horns in the traffic below; or the neighbour who plays Rock Band on his Xbox 360 until he masters the drums on Black Sabbath’s “Paranoid”.
“People can get extremely frustrated with their neighbours, and get to the point where they want to sell their home just because of noise,” says Anthony Mauro, marketing manager for Dryco Building Supplies (www.dryco.ca/ ), a Langley-based company that specializes in dry-wall products that dampen noise. “It can create a lot of sour grapes.”
Mauro recalls one client who was driven crazy by the rambunctious young children that lived above him. “He felt so bad, because kids are kids and he didn’t want to tell them to shut up,” he says, “so he would walk around his place with noise-cancelling headphones.”
Dryco produces QuietRock, a soundproof dry wall with two layers of gypsum surrounding a viscous elastic polymer that converts sound vibrations into heat and disperses it. One four-foot by eight-foot sheet of QuietRock is the noise dampening equivalent of eight sheets of regular dry wall. Prices range from $60 to $250, thicker sheets of QuietRock retailing for more.
Another of the myriad DIY soundproofing options is Green Glue, a gooey substance that causes vibrations to dissipate before they spread throughout the building structure. The compound is applied to a sheet of dry wall with a caulking gun, placed into position on the existing dry wall, and screwed in place. Distributed by Ontario-based Wilrep Ltd., the product is relatively cheap, at around $15 for a 28-ounce tube, and is particularly good at stopping low frequencies.
Soundproofing walls is just one part of the battle. Noise from above can be dealt with by installing a drop ceiling, which consists of dry-wall panels in a metal frame hung by wires from the main ceiling. For an added layer of defence, the dry wall can be attached with resilient sound isolation clips that cushion vibrations.
If you’re concerned about sound radiating from beneath you, add rubber layers under floors or install Sonopan, a soundproofing mat made of recycled materials that can be laid under carpets or hardwood floors.
Doors and windows are often the weakest links in a soundproofed room. Hollow-core doors should be replaced with solid ones, and acoustic seals installed around the frame. Replacing windows with double- or triple-glazed windows can create a strong sound barrier, although a better choice might be a second, soundproof window behind an existing one, creating a layer of air that acts as a buffer.
Mauro says that while most clients focus on keeping noise from entering their homes, others are concerned about their noise affecting their neighbours. Most try their best to walk gingerly and to configure their sound systems away from walls and windows that can carry noise. Drapes and well-placed shelving units can also prevent sound from escaping. Many homeowners who play musical instruments or own elaborate home-theatre systems buy soundproofing materials to shelter their neighbours from the noise they generate.
Ensuring that your nightly jam sessions—be it in a real rock band or a video-game simulation—don’t bother others around you may come with a price tag, but it could pay off when it comes time to sell your home. In future, buyers might consider good soundproofing to be as valuable as hardwood floors and marble counters. Until then, soundproofing will provide you with a sense of calm—one that you can’t get from a pair of noise-cancelling headphones.