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Dealing With Road Noise That’s Disrupting Your Precious Sleep Every Night?

Road noise and disrupted sleep

Sleep is precious. But a 2017 study found that 67% of adults are dealing with disrupted sleep, and almost half admit they do not get the right amount. There are a variety of causes for this, but one of them is noise. If your bedroom faces onto a road, you may well be dealing with road noise that makes it both difficult to fall asleep as well as stay asleep.

Even if you live on a quiet road, other noises can disturb your sleep too. For example, there are shouts, coughs and loud music from next door. Or the neighbourhood dog that seems to spend his life yapping in the garden. Or the local lads with their “baked bean can” exhausts backfiring as they squeal their tyres around corners somewhere in the distance.

What about soundproof windows?

One of the first moves someone might make when dealing with road noise is updating their windows. They may install secondary glazing or purchase specialised soundproof windows. Often these come with a decibel rating. Decibels are the measurement used for the volume of noise. Manufacturers use these decibel ratings to guide you on how much noise level reduction you can expect. 

For example, windows with a 50 decibels rating should reduce the noise you experience by 50 decibels.

As well as tackling the windows, some people will also purchase soundproof plasterboard to treat walls in their homes. This is especially true if they are experiencing noise from neighbours. Again, these will also have the same sort of decibel ratings. However, all may not be as it seems. Many people find road noise still disrupts their sleep, as Dave discovered.

A dog looks out a window that needs soundproofing

Dave and his ‘soundproof’ windows

When Dave moved into his new property, he soon realised that he had a noise problem. Cars were zooming past the house all night, keeping him awake. He would wake up each morning feeling exhausted. Inevitably, this affected both his work and his health.

That’s when he decided he needed to do something about the road noise. After diligent research and careful consideration, Dave chose to replace the old double glazed bedroom windows at the front of the house with ones that had a 36 decibel sound reduction rating. These windows had thicker glass, more panes, and gas filling the gaps between the panes. All of these measures absorb sound vibrations and dampen the transmission of sound waves. Therefore, while Dave knew this wouldn’t totally block the noise, he expected there to be a significant reduction.

You can imagine Dave’s disappointment when his new soundproof windows made no difference. Despite spending money on a solution, he was still dealing with the same level of road noise. But undeterred and desperate to find a solution, Dave installed acoustic secondary glazing to his main bedroom window. This reduced the road noise a little. But not enough to give Dave the peaceful night’s sleep he craved. He could still hear the drone and whoosh of cars passing. Despite investing in two improvements to his bedroom window, he still needed earplugs to get any sleep.

And Dave is not alone. Many homeowners with the same problem contact us, looking for a solution. They’ve installed soundproof windows or added secondary glazing but haven’t got the improvements that the decibel ratings suggested. This is particularly the case in newer homes, usually those built during this Millennium.

The problem with soundproof windows and decibel ratings

But what’s going on? Why are so many people still stuck dealing with road noise, even though they’ve updated their windows? The issue comes down to indirect noise paths. In other words, the noise is often not just travelling through the windows. Effective soundproofing requires more than just applying sound insulation materials to a wall or installing new soundproof windows.

You see, noise can travel exceptionally well through building materials. In fact, it can travel ten times faster through materials such as steel, aluminium, glass, and wood than it does through air. This means noise enters the structure of your home and transmits through ceiling joists and brickwork. Any hollow voids that are present then make this noise even worse. These voids are all over modern homes because of the building methods used.

Soundproofing windows does not stop the noise that’s entering the structure and travelling through walls. The same principle applies when treating the party wall you share with your neighbour. You’ll still hear their children crying because there are usually at least four flanking areas still transmitting that sound. In fact, these indirect noise paths count for roughly 50% of the noise you experience.

If you want a soundproof room, you need to consider isolating walls, the ceiling, and floor spaces from the structure of your home. You may also need to consider sound deadening the structure too. This is why those decibel reduction ratings used by soundproofing material manufacturers really mean nothing because often, the sound you are experiencing comes from other sources.

The real cause of road noise in Dave’s bedroom and the solution

A photo of the bedroom where Dave was dealing with road noise

In Dave’s case, there were numerous other indirect noise paths. Our soundproofing consultation discovered that road noise was also coming from the sloping roof sections which were insulated with aluminium coated rigid insulation. In addition, the window wall, ceiling, and headboard wall were also transmitting noise – the headboard wall was right next to where David was lying and trying to sleep. No wonder he was struggling.

Quietco tackled each of these noise paths. First, we isolated the ceiling using our road traffic noise TPS50C ceiling system. Next, we deadened the sound coming through the walls with our TPS65W wall system. 

Plus, we applied our thinner TPS30W to the window reveals, which maximised the integrity of the new acoustic window.

This soundproofing work took two weeks to install, but with the painting and decorating, the entire process took four weeks from start to finish. The soundproofing was so effective, the secondary glazing was no longer needed, meaning Dave got his window sill back and could finally sleep in peace.

An image of the window after soundproofing installation

Tips for you to follow from soundproofing installers

If you are dealing with road noise in your bedroom, here are a few soundproofing tips from installers and the author of The Noise Free Home:

Soundproofing walls
  1. Remove any ‘dot and dab’ plasterboard from the window wall, window reveals, and walls perpendicular to the window wall.
  2. Replace any recessed down lights with single light pendants or spotlight bars. Recessed down lighters require holes in the ceiling, which in a bedroom often go straight into the loft, providing an easy path for noise to travel.
  3. Insulate the loft above the main bedroom with Rockwool slab. Traditional loft thermal insulation used in the vast majority of homes does very little for sound attenuation.
  4. Remove any standard, off-the-shelve coving from the bedroom ceiling. These only channel noise around a room.

As you can see, there is a lot more to soundproofing than just replacing a window. There are all kinds of matters that can affect how sound is travelling into and around your home. If you would prefer professionals to carry out this work for you rather than taking the DIY soundproofing route, then simply get in touch to arrange your FREE noise diagnosis call to discover how we can help.

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