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From Living Hell to Sleepy Haven: Soundproofing Two Rooms in an Everyday Semi-Detached Home

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Happily ever after in a semi-detached home without soundproofing?

 
Imagine you’re living in your ‘forever’ home. It is in the perfect neighbourhood, convenient for shops and work, and has outstanding local schools. Your neighbours are lovely and despite your initial concerns about noise in a semi-detached house, you hear nothing but the occasional bang of a door a few times a month. Soundproofing a room has never even crossed your mind. Then, overnight, everything changes. Your home becomes a place of stress rather than your peaceful sanctuary.
 

That’s exactly what happened to Jason and Catherine. For years, they had lived happily in their 1930s semi-detached house. They built a friendship with their elderly neighbour, Mary, who shared the party wall with them. They popped in for a cup of tea now and again, as well as doing the occasional bit of shopping for her. Mary was a quiet neighbour, and Jason and Catherine could sit and relax in their home whenever they liked, undisturbed by any noise. Little did they know that when Mary suddenly had a fall and sadly died a few weeks later, everything was about to change.

The noisy neighbour nightmare begins

 
For a year, Mary’s semi-detached home lay empty while the property went through probate. Waiting for new neighbours to arrive can be an anxious time. It’s perfectly normal to feel a little worried about who your new neighbours might be and whether they’re going to upset your little sanctuary. But with the house empty for so long, Jason and Catherine continued with their lives as normal… until the builders arrived.

Mary’s son had decided to renovate the home and rent it out. However, out of consideration to Catherine and Jason, he instructed his builder to install ‘soundproofing’ to the party wall. Relations were good, and while Jason and Catherine expected to hear some noise during the renovations, they were looking forward to the return of their peace and tranquillity when the wall was sound proofed.

But it soon became clear that something was not right. During the renovations, Catherine and Jason went from hearing the muffled voices of the builders and their radio to being able to follow their conversations and recognising songs. They spoke with Mary’s son, who instructed the builders to improve the soundproofing. The builders soundproofed additional areas and added a layer to the work already completed.

Soundproofing that makes things… noisier?

 
But the situation only worsened. Their home acoustics completed changed. Rather than reducing the noise, Catherine and Jason could now hear sounds from next door throughout their entire property. They could even hear gushing water, flushing toilets, and taps running. Eventually, their relationship with Mary’s family and their builder broke down.
 

Four months after the start of the renovations, a young family rented the property and moved in, installing a TV on the party wall. After a tricky conversation with them about this, things settled down, and Jason and Catherine hoped things would be okay. But it didn’t last. Soon, they were lying in their bed during the week, listening to their neighbour’s late night TV playing downstairs. At weekends, they endured the noise of their neighbours having their friends around. Then there were the unusual shift patterns. The peace and tranquillity they had enjoyed for years was shattered.

Modern building methods and soundproofing are NOT friends

 
But what went wrong? How did soundproofing a party wall lead to Jason and Catherine experiencing more noise in their home? As Jason himself said:

“What I don’t understand is why I hear the bathroom noises even though their bathroom is not even on the party wall.”

The problem here was two-fold: modern building methods and a lack of understanding about soundproofing.

Let’s go back to the work the builder did. To soundproof the wall between the properties, the builder had used blue SoundBloc board which he fixed to the wall using a ‘dot and dab’ technique. It is also likely that in renovating the property, the builder also used this same method to plasterboard the party, window, and perpendicular walls. It is also probable that the builders boxed in the toilet and waste pipes.

‘Dot and dab’ and ‘boxing in’ are modern techniques that builders now use in most builds and renovations. Unfortunately, they also make noise levels worse.

How sound travels in new and renovated homes

  
Because the builder only fixed the boards to the wall with ‘dots’, he created a hollow void between the wall and board. These voids can then channel sounds and noises around an entire building. Even worse, as the builder had also fixed the SoundBloc board with the ‘dot and dab’ technique, it was now channelling noise into the structure of the building. While noise travels well through air, it travels even better through the structure of a house. In other words, the ‘dot and dab’ building technique not only caused the soundproofing to fail, but actually amplified noises.

The same thing happens when builders box in toilets and waste pipes without insulation. It creates a huge void that is then covered over with tiles. Any noise then resonates and travels into the structure of the building.

We can guess what you’re thinking: if these are the standard techniques used by builders today, does that mean we’re doomed to living in noisy homes? No, not at all. But you need to do more than just soundproof the direct path of the noise, in this case the party wall.

How to soundproof a room?

 
Let’s return to Catherine and Jason. They were now living with daily noise from their neighbours and we’re sure that you can appreciate the stress this caused. For many, when noise from neighbours disturb their sleep, they can become tired, more short-tempered, and unable to focus. All this can have a negative impact on our relationships and health.
 
Catherine and Jason recognised they couldn’t go on living this way. But what other option did they have? They didn’t want to move – they loved the village and their home. It was just the noise that was a problem. Plus, there was no guarantee that moving would solve the issue. They could find themselves in the same situation again. So, as soon as relationships with the builder broke down, they started researching soundproofing a semi-detached home. Could some simple home renovation and soundproofing solve their problem of noisy neighbours? Was there an easy soundproof solution that could magic away the noise?

Through their research, they soon discovered that soundproofing materials focused solely on the party wall. Catherine and Jason knew that this wouldn’t be sufficient as they had already heard noise transmitting down the window walls and the wall separating the front and back bedroom.

Best way to soundproof a room SUCCESSFULLY

 

But, at the same time, they also realised they couldn’t afford to soundproof all the walls, floors, and ceilings in their semi-detached home. As an alternative, they considered a halfway point – get a professional to soundproof a room and see what difference it made. But eventually, they decided to wait until someone moved in before making any decision.

Once the new neighbours moved in though, and they could see what affect their noise was going to have, they decided it was time to get the experts involved. They were interested in soundproofing their lounge and bedroom, so they could have a peaceful haven, day and night. They filled out the simple contact form on our website and agreed to a soundproofing consultation.

During this, Catherine and Jason learned that dealing with the indirect noise paths was going to be the most important investment in soundproofing their home. Dealing with indirect noise paths is just one step in our four-step soundproofing method and is the difference between getting a 30% reduction in noise from your neighbours to experiencing an 80% or more reduction.

Solving Catherine and Jason’s sound problems

 

The main problem was with the flanking walls – these are the walls attached to the party wall. In Catherine and Jason’s case, this meant dealing with the:

 

·         Bay window wall

·         Wall between the lounge and dining room

·         Window wall in the front bedroom

·         Wall between back and front bedroom upstairs.

 

Putting their ear to these walls was enough for Catherine and Jason to appreciate how valuable it would be to treat these walls as well as the party wall. Think of the flanking walls as a ringing cymbal–put a hand on them and the sound vibrations stop. We use the same principle to offer a 65% to 80% noise reduction in flanking walls. This involves losing a tiny amount of space (35mm-50mm along the flank wall), and costs start at around £2500 for each of these walls. This includes plastering, carpentry, and any windowsill and finishing trims.

Catherine and Jason went ahead with the work. We used our four-step method and our trademarked soundproof wall systems to soundproof their lounge and bedroom. Their result?

The result of their soundproofing

“The lounge and bedroom are fabulous and if we did not have the soundproofing installed, we would have moved a long time ago… I don’t know what we would have done through the lockdowns without the soundproofing.”

Over the years, different tenants have come and gone next door to Catherine and Jason. While they may hear their neighbours’ different routines and music preferences in some rooms of their house, they hear nothing in their lounge and bedroom. 

These soundproof rooms offer them the peace and quiet they were so desperately missing. They no longer need to resort to earplugs to get a good night’s sleep and they can always find tranquillity when their neighbours have friends to visit. In fact, they’re so impressed with the results that they are now considering getting two further rooms soundproofed “after the pandemic has blown over.” But above all, they’re grateful that Quietco’s work has allowed them to stay in the home and village they love.

Got a problem with noise from neighbours?

 
If you’re dealing with noise from neighbours and can relate to Catherine and Jason, please know that you don’t have to live with it. If you want to explore soundproofing, simply fill out our form and book a free noise diagnosis. Alternatively, you can purchase the book The Noise Free Home to find out more.
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