If you’ve bought a semi-detached house, apartment or terraced home recently, the unfortunate fact is that at some point you will hear noise from your neighbours… and they’ll likely hear you.
Any new build (i.e. constructed from the 1990s onwards) will feature modern materials and building techniques that amplify and make noise worse in your home. These common building materials are affordable and have excellent thermal and structural properties – but they’re terrible for sound!
We’re going to be looking at the 3 most common building materials and techniques that make noise worse, and what you can do to fix the problem to finally get some peace and quiet.
The 3 main culprits
Over the years, we’ve seen time and time again that customers complaining of noise in new builds can blame one or all of the following:
- Dot and dab plasterboard technique
- Lightweight Thermalite blocks
- Rigid insulation like Celotex, Kingspan or Xtratherm
In the past, it was common to use a sand and cement render to finish the interior wall. In fact, we’ve been doing this since Roman times, and the technique adds a good thickness to a wall without amplifying or channelling noise.
Today’s new builds, however, have ‘dot and dab plasterboard technique’ as the wall finish which we all paint and decorate whatever colour we choose. This dot and dab plasterboard technique is so much cheaper than sand and cement render and can be applied quicker with little skill required.
The house walls are built from light weight aerated thermal efficient blocks which can be built many courses high in a day, they have revolutionised new home building and extensions and alterations. However, they are terrible for noise and transmit structural borne noise very easily.
Rigid insulation is used in lofts, concrete floors, cavity walls, roofs, and more and more commonly now, the home builders typically place rigid insulation around the entire house, with a thin never paint again render, instead of the old sand and cement.
Your home can meet building regulations – and still be noisy
These 3 products or systems are approved for use across the board by architects and developers, despite the fact that they can actively make noise problems worse. Dot and dab plasterboard, for example, creates large air pockets and cavities that amplify sound, like a drum. This technique can channel noise across the whole house, meaning you can hear your neighbours TV, conversations, door slams and more.
Take Dave for example: He had a new build, semi-detached, 3 storey home with all 3 of these materials: his house was built from aerated thermal efficient light weight blocks, his internal wall finish was dot and dab plasterboard throughout his house. His cavity walls contained rigid insulation and the exterior of the house was covered in a never-paint-again silicone-based rendering system applied over the top of more rigid insulation. It was undoubtedly a cosy home with an excellent thermal rating. But this insulation came at a cost.
Dave’s neighbour, who had brick on the exterior wall instead of render, played music that would channel right across Dave’s house, Dave struggled to convince the builder and NHBC that the neighbour could be heard by putting his ear on the outside of his house, via the rigid insulation. The light weight aerated blocks and ‘dot and dab’ plasterboarding technique only added to the problem. Dave’s noise trouble got so bad that he even knew not to read his credit card details out loud in case he was overheard!
When he contacted the NHBC (National House Building Council), they insisted the house was built to regulations. After nine longs months of negotiating with the builder and developer, Dave finally got an acoustic test carried out. However, they only tested the places where Dave didn’t hear anything – the lounge and kitchen (the only habitable to habitable area) – and, unsurprisingly, found that his house met regulations with flying colours. Dave had learnt the hard way that a new build home can tick all the boxes but still leave you with a significant noise problem.
We’ve been saying it for years, but now NHBC have released a report that conclusively proves that dot and dab plasterboard can increase noise levels by 10 Decibels. If you have a new build, the noise problem might be your own house rather than the noise from the neighbours who are just living their lives.
- If possible, remove and replace dot and dab plasterboard with a wet plaster system like sand and cement render or similar, before applying a finishing plaster. This is cheaper than full soundproofing but only somewhat effective.
- If more reduction is required, consider soundproofing with one of our layered systems to deaden sound from the lightweight aerated block wall. Our panel systems designed for flanking walls, sound deaden a wall just like placing a hand on a ringing cymbal.
- The only way to treat lightweight aerated blocks is to isolate them from the finished surface using a resilient layer.
- Replace any rigid insulation with an acoustic mineral wool with a density of 60kgs/m3
Common mistakes to avoid:
We constantly hear from customers who’ve paid a builder to soundproof their homes only to find the attempt made matters worse. In our experience, failed attempts are typically down to the following:
- Only installing a panel system or soundproofing on top of the plasterboard on a party wall. This won’t work and will even channel noise into other areas, creating that tell-tale muffled hum or even worse now be able to make out words.
- Treating only the direct noise paths, forgetting the main cause of the problem, not treating indirect noise paths or the fixtures and fittings (take a look at the four-step method we use)
There’s always a solution
Many of our customers are so frustrated by the time they consult us that they’re ready to move home to escape the noise. The truth is, a noisy home is usually built to government building regulations. And even if the noise is drastically impacting your quality of life, you may discover, like Dave, that any sound test will inevitably pass.
But you DO NOT have to put up with the noise. Even if you live in a detached house, you may find exterior noise like traffic a problem. With a soundproofing solution that gets to the cause of the problem, you could soon be watching the cars go by silently, without hearing a thing – like some of our previous customers.
Save yourself the stress and time and get your home correctly soundproofed from the beginning.
“Soundproofing sounds like an enormous disruption – and I’ve just redecorated!”
It’s true that soundproofing, for example, your lounge, will take roughly two weeks. Your belongings will be carefully boxed up and sent to storage while we work. We’ll take care of everything, including painting, redecorating, carpet refitting, carpentry, flooring, plastering, and fixtures and fittings, so at the end of the two weeks you step into a brand-new and finished room. Soundproofing is an investment that takes time to do right, but we believe it’s cheaper and less stressful than moving house
Are you suffering from noise in a new build home? Give us a call on 01926 658 638
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We’re more than happy to answer any questions you have – get in touch and we’ll give you a call and some solid advice.