Noise pollution at home can be caused by: loud habits of the people you live with, noisy appliances, poor sound insulation of walls, doors and windows, along with external factors you have little control over, such as noisy neighbors. My advice is to avoid settling for discomfort and long-term health issues caused by noise pollution. There are many simple and affordable ways to drastically reduce noise pollution at home. This article is a comprehensive guide explaining these methods.
How to reduce noise pollution at home? Improve the sound insulation of walls with drywall and/or soundproofing materials such as MLV and soundproof panels. Seal gaps and cracks in walls, doors and windows with foam tape or an acoustic sealant. Hang noise dampening curtains on windows. Place vibrating appliances on a soft surface and lubricate squeaky and cranky parts. Wear noise-cancelling headphones to block most sounds.
Those are just a few ways to get started. But there are over 20 methods explained in this article in some detail, so please continue reading to find the best solution for your uniquely noisy situation.
How Loud Is Too Loud?
Knowing this will help you prioritize the greatest offenders you’re dealing with. Generally, noise levels at around 70dB and lower are safe for our ears, but they start to get annoying at 60 dB. Sound levels from 85dB and above start to also be unsafe and require hearing protection such as noise-cancelling headphones, ear muffs or earplugs.
Typically, these are the sound levels you might experience often:
- Breathing – 10 dB
- Refrigerator hum – 40 dB
- Normal conversation, air conditioner – 60 dB
- Washing machine, dishwasher – 70 dB
- Lawn mower at average power – 90 dB
If you experience sound levels at around 110 dB or louder for a long enough time, you are very likely to experience hearing loss. Now think of sound levels that are this dangerous:
- Car horn – 109 to 109 dB
- Ambulance sirens – 120 dB
- Airplane take off – 140 dB
It’s also dangerous being exposed up to 100 dB for more than 15 minutes. Common examples include:
- Heavy city traffic – 100 dB
- Power tools – 100 dB
- Music player at maximum level – 105 dB
Therefore, it’s a good idea to ensure that the levels don’t exceed 85 dB at most. Understandably, you cannot escape or block some noises entirely. For example, a lawnmower operated by yourself or another person in close proximity. In such cases wearing ear protection is essential.
Shutting Doors And Windows
Sometimes the easiest way to cut off the noise in your home is by keeping windows and doors closed. Doing so can muffle the noise traveling from one room to the other or from the outside to your home. Also improve the sound blocking capabilities of your doors and windows as explained in the linked guides to block a greater amount of noise.
Sometimes a door can be a source of noise: the door knob is too loud, the latch is squeaky and poorly lubricated or the metal plate is poorly adjusted. You can make any door quieter by fixing these problems.
Putting Up A Fence Around Your Home
Installing a tall a fence or tall hedging around your home can help to reduce noise. Not only does a fence create a visual oasis, but also a veil that blocks out sound. Thick tongue and groove boarded wooden fences are the best option for noise reduction. You can also improve the noise-reduction capabilities of your existing fence by covering it with mass loaded vinyl.
Planting Thick Trees & Shrubs
If you live in an area riddled with traffic, planting trees is the best way to avoid noise pollution. Evergreen shrubs and holly trees are a perfect choice for all-round noise reduction throughout the four seasons. This is because these types of trees and plants boast thicker, wider leaves and a climber profile; allowing them to more easily dampen noises than narrower leaf plants.
Learn more: How to reduce traffic noise in backyard
Insulated Glass Window and Inserts
You will notice a significant difference between installing a regular window and an insulated one. With insulated windows and glass, you will not hear anything that’s coming from outside your home. Similarly, no sounds will escape the interior of your home. However, the drawback to this is that the windows have to be shut to experience the noise proofing effects.
Alternatively, you can install window inserts to block outside noises from entering your home. Window inserts come in the form of clear glass panes or acrylic. You can set these inserts over your existing window. The advantage of using window inserts is that you can easily and quickly pop them off the window when you want to enjoy the fresh air.
Learn more: How to stop noise from coming through windows
Covering The Windows With Noise Canceling Drapes
Good quality noise-canceling drapes work wonders for keeping your home tranquil and quiet. When choosing drapes to purchase, don’t go for the ones made with light, flimsy material.
Instead, opt for good quality, thick material such as velvet or wool core stitched fabric, to help absorb the loud noises. Try using pleated style curtains instead of flat ones as they may double the noise-canceling effect. You may struggle to keep cool in a home without air conditioning during the summertime, however.
Fixing Your Flooring
Hardwood and tile flooring add character and style to any home. However, when it comes to noise pollution, these floor types are not exactly the best option. It is easy to have squeaky flooring if you use hardwood.
In addition to squeaky floors, if you live in an apartment complex, hardwood floors facilitate the movement of sounds – think of them as water waves sneaking through leaks. To fix this problem, you must:
- Insert shims into gaps (in the basement or crawl space below) where the floor squeaks
- Fill long gaps with construction adhesive glue
- Cover a holed frame space/joist underneath the floor by nailing a wooden plank on it
- Lubricate the floorboards by placing lock lubricant or powdered graphite between them
- Use the Squeek No More kit (aff Amazon link) to stabilize the top side of the flooring
- Replace old or damaged hardwood flooring with a new installation
Alternatively, you can choose to cover hardwood flooring with wall-to-wall carpet tiles, regular carpeting, vinyl floor, or rugs to help further dampen noises. Fluffy shag rugs and Persian style carpets are perfect for dampening noises.
Learn more: Top 3 Ways to Soundproof a Floor
Soundproof The Ceiling
You can also reduce noise pollution in your home by soundproofing your ceiling. Do this by investing in acoustic ceiling tiles or drop ceiling systems. There are some good quality acoustic ceiling systems that don’t have office style design, such as molded plaster style ceiling tiles.
Fix Sound Leaks
Your home might have gaps and cracks that allow air and sound waves to penetrate. Check around your home to ensure there are no sound leaks. For small leaks areas to check include door casings, switch boxes, and overhead lighting fixtures. If you notice any leaks, use a good acoustic sealant like Green Glue to effectively cover the gaps.
Also examine the areas around your window frames, doors and ventilation to ensure there are no cracks or holes. Use an acoustic sealant or replace the given structure in case of irreparable damage.
In case of ventilation areas like an above-door air vent, consider covering the vent when it’s not in use or when the noise is too bothersome. You can also make a range hood quieter with various methods to reduce noise pollution while it’s turned on in the kitchen.
Also consider that the range hood and a chimney can expose you to wind noise. Cover your chimney opening with a chimney balloon or a plug while it’s not in use. You can also install a chimney cap or a cowl on top of the chimney to reduce its exposure to wind.
Install Soundproofing Panels
Installing thick panels and room dividers is often enough to see a major difference. For example, if your partner enjoys the football game during the weekend, you can invest in an acoustic room divider, so you don’t have to deal with the loud TV commentary or victory chants in the kitchen or home office.
Additionally, certain rooms in the house such as the laundry room tend to be noisier due to the loud appliances. To tackle this problem, invest in thick panels to soundproof the walls. Keep in mind that these types of insulations may be expensive if you try to cover the entire room or multiple rooms. Therefore, you want to evaluate which rooms (or walls) need insulation the most before investing in one.
Learn more: Best Soundproofing Panels for Walls and Doors
Place Heavy Furniture Near The Walls
This is especially useful when you line furniture along shared or outside walls to really help dampen the noises. Additionally, you can invest in the sound-absorbing wall décor.
Hanging décor such as regular photograph frames and paintings will simply add aesthetics to your wall. However, mounting fabric hangings and thick canvas paintings aids in noise dampening as the fabric absorbs the noise.
If you are too attached to some of your artwork, you don’t have to remove them from your wall. Instead, you can modify them through DIY foam stitching. Simply attach a piece of foam using glue or stitching to the back of the wall art before mounting it to the wall.
Use Soft Furniture to Reduce Echo
When you are furnishing your home, whenever possible replace hard furniture with soft furniture. Sound waves are known to bounce off hard surfaces but absorb through soft and thick ones. Therefore, adding soft furnishing in your living space as much as possible will help to absorb the sounds.
In addition to soft carpeting on the floor, you can add items such as upholstered dining chairs or padded ottoman instead of a hardwood dining chairs or glass coffee table.
Turn On a Fan or White Noise Machine
To mask noise pollution in your home, you can also opt to invest in a running fan or white noise machine. White noise is a constant sound frequency that provides relaxation and conceals other, unwanted noises.
Install Drywall & Double Pane Windows
If you own the home or decide to stay in the residence for a long time, consider investing in long-term soundproofing solutions that are even more effective.
Drywall is a dense material added to the walls of the house to add an extra layer of noise-dampening insulation. Depending on your needs and budget, you can opt for a single or double drywall solution. A double drywall solution is a more potent option for extremely noisy areas.
To further maximize the soundproofing effect of double drywall, you can add a caulk sandwich to separate the two layers of drywall. The caulk helps to dampen vibrations that travel from one layer of drywall to the other.
In lieu of caulk sandwich, you can use mass loaded vinyl (MLV) as well. The benefit of using MLV is its versatility; you can hang it between wall insulation or install it between floor insulation to further dampen sound vibrations. Here’s a full guide on MLV and 12 ways to use it.
Double pane windows on the other end offer extra noise dampening effects compared to regular, flimsy windows. It also helps to learn Sound Transmission Class (STC) ratings. STC ratings measure how many sound decibels the product can reduce. Having this information allows you to choose the ideal product for your home.
For single pane windows, the STC Rating is generally between 26 and 28. The difference is the glass thickness and how air-tight the window is. Louvered windows can be less than STC rating 18 in many cases.
Soundproof The Garage
It is easy to overlook and forget to soundproof your garage when reducing noise pollution in your home. To prevent noises from the streets, invest in a good quality garage door. Instead of using regular garage doors with an open interior framework, opt for a sound minimizing door with internal foam insulation and interior panels. Don’t forget to add drywall to the walls as well.
Wear Noise-Cancelling Headphones
Sometimes, noise pollution may be inevitable. You might have invested in a quiet lawn mower, nevertheless, it still produces substantial noise. In this case, it is a good idea to invest in noise-canceling headphones to wear when you are operating the lawn mower. Of course, you can wear them anytime that noise pollution becomes bothersome or you need to concentrate more on your work, reading etc.
Different noise-canceling headphones work differently – some release sound waves to cancel the noise whilst others simply insulate your ears from outside noises. Alternatively, if you are not a huge fan of hauling around a large piece of gadget on your ears, you can opt for noise-cancelling earplugs.
Earplugs are smaller and less noticeable. However, always avoid pushing them deep into your ears and risking damaging your eardrums. Additionally, never use earplugs excessively as this may lead to the build up of ear wax and cause ear infections.
Learn more: Top 10 Noise-Cancelling Headphones in 2020.
Use Soundproof Wall Paint
Whilst its benefits are somewhat minimal, sound-reducing paint contains sound absorbing resins and fillers that will help reduces sounds in your room.
Typically, these types of paints come in a 2-step system you can spray on to any existing surface or with new construction. Keep in mind however that soundproof paint can be up to three times more expensive than regular interior latex paint.
Overhaul Your Pipes
Have you ever experienced a raw squeaky or knocking sound coming from your water or gas pipes? There may be several reasons why you experience this noise. If the sound is coming from your water pipes, it may be due to water hammers caused by imbalanced water pressure, trapped air bubbles, or the pipe materials (ABS plastic doesn’t do a great job at insulating the noise).
If the pipe material is the problem, you may have to change the pipe system and use different materials such as cast iron (if you can afford it). Alternatively, you can put up sound-absorbing panels on the wall surfaces adjacent to the pipes.
If the noises are caused by pressure problems or trapped air bubbles, the pipes may either need cleaning or repairing – either way, it’s a good idea to call a professional plumber to ensure quality work. If the noises are coming from the lines, this may be an air and gas mixture problem. Recognizing that gases are dangerous to deal with; call a professional to help fix this problem.
Learn more: 5 Noise Reduction Tips for Noisy Drain Pipes
Service or Replace Noisy Equipment
Equipment such as lawn mowers requires regular servicing and maintenance. Doing so eliminates the risks of producing annoying and loud clenching sounds that may be caused by moving parts due to friction. Friction is normally perpetrated by parts that are not lubricated, and using a simple lubricant on those parts is often enough to fix the problem.
Appliances such as washing machines and air conditioners can become noisy over time as many components lose their optimal performance. In that case, perhaps the best solution is to replace it with a new and quieter model. Check out the Product Guides section or simply use the search function to find quietest home appliances and other products.
Block Out Noises From Outdoor Equipment
Outdoor equipment such as air conditioning units, pool pumps and generators can be very noisy. If you can’t place the equipment further away from the house, build a noise reduction enclosure like a generator box. Keep in mind however that this type of equipment relies on airflow when running – so ensure that the enclosure doesn’t fully block airflow.
Choose The Right Exterior Surfaces
In the exterior of your home, using hard surfaces such as concrete or block paving enhances sound reflection rather than absorption. Particularly in high density homes, you want to use a softer surface which absorbs sound. If this is not possible for areas such as the driveway, try to cover much of the rest of your outdoor space with soft surfaces such as flower gardens or turf surface.
Become A Noise Pollution Control Advocate
Consider becoming a noise pollution advocate and contribute whenever possible. To do so, start by learning the laws and regulations on noise pollution in your area.
Check out your local government office, health and environment agency sites, and even the EPA website to find as many resources as you can. In cases of excessive noise you can use your knowledge of laws and regulations you will have an upper hand when dealing with other noise perpetrators.
Treat Noise Sensitivity
You must also consider that sometimes, the problem with noise pollution is not always about the environment but rather your own heightened sensitivity. Sometimes, you may simply be suffering from noise sensitivity.
If you are extremely sensitive to car engine noises or easily get annoyed by loud conversations, you may be suffering from a condition called hyperacusis. It’s a good idea to consult an ENT physician. Hyperacusis is treated through sound desensitization which incorporates listening to quiet sounds for certain periods of time. This ultimately builds up to louder sounds to strengthen your tolerance.
Other treatment options for noise sensitivity include acupuncture and auditory integration therapy (AIT) – an experimental treatment. In addition to the treatment, you should also adopt a diet with valuable supplements and nutrients to improve your overall bodily functions.
Knowing how to reduce noise pollution in your home goes a long way. After all, you are not just protecting your hearing ability but your overall physical, mental, and emotional wellness. Implementing some of these tips will definitely help you keep loud noises at bay.