House & Home

5 Home Improvements That May Make Your House Noisier

Posted November 10, 2015

Home improvement is a passion among many North Americans these days ... with good reason. As the saying goes, your home is your castle, the place you go to relax and enjoy the company of family and friends at the end of the day. It's also a major investment and even though the real estate market is gradually recovering from the crash of 2008, increasing curb appeal and resale value is the motivation for many a home renovation. Be aware, however, that there may be a downside to the improvements you have in mind -- a serious uptick in the noisiness of your home. Here are potential problems and how to work around them.

  1. Building with drywall. Drywall is a convenient, easy-to-use, and inexpensive way to put up new walls when you're remodeling your home. Despite its many virtues, though, this building material is not known for effective sound absorbency. To buffer against noise, include in your wall construction a core of fiberglass batt insulation (which will also save energy by helping to control the indoor temperature) or a layer or two of special sound-resistant drywall. Cover already-built walls with acoustic panels that are a minimum of 1" thick and wrapped in fabric. Hang panels that will blend in with your wall paint color, or go bold by either selecting a contrasting hue or having your favorite high-res digital photo printed onto the fabric.
  2. Installing pocket doors. When you're remodeling in a compact condo, a tiny house, or other cramped quarters, installing pocket doors can be a great way to save on precious square footage. However, that convenience factor does come with a price tag -- there is no way to insulate the cavity that the installation will create. You're better off saving the pocket doors for a small bathroom remodel. In your brand new home office, install a conventional door (preferably solid-core) and seal the edges with weatherstripping.
  3. Removing popcorn ceilings. To many homeowners and prospective homebuyers, popcorn ceilings scream "outdated and ugly." True, scraping off the popcorn will update your home (be sure have it tested for asbestos content and lead paint, though, if your ceiling treatment predates the mid-80s) but it will also tend to turn your rooms into echo chambers. After all, popcorn became popular in the first place as a sound-absorbent ceiling material. If you really hate the look, cover your popcorn ceiling with acoustic ceiling tiles. Voila! You'll keep the noise-reducing qualities while eliminating the weird texture.
  4. Installing traditional hardwood, laminate, or ceramic tile floors. All of these popular flooring options are attractive and practical, but the "click click click" of high heels or pet claws on their hard surface may be enough to drive you around the bend. For noise-sensitive souls, floating hardwood, cork, or concrete flooring installation is a better sound-dampening choice. If you're dealing with existing floors, muffle the din in high-traffic areas with carpets or scatter rugs, backed by sound-absorbent padding.
  5. Opting for an open floor plan. There's nothing like converting to an open floor plan to promote an airy, flowing feeling in your home. Unfortunately, there's also nothing like an open floor plan to promote ... you guessed it, the spread of noise. Transform your open space from clamorous to cozy by choosing soft furnishings and sound-absorbing draperies. Install kitchen appliances with a low sone (a measure of loudness) rating, and surround noisy dishwashers, clothes washing machines, and dryers with fiberglass. Soft-close cabinets will also help to keep the atmosphere quiet and cozy.

Laura Firszt writes for

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