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Will treating the alcoves alone soundproof noise from next door and restore your peace?

When you need to soundproof noise from next door

Here in the UK, many people live in homes which are attached to another home, whether this is a terraced property or a semi-detached house. Inevitably, this can lead to you hearing noise through the party wall. While in some cases this might just be the odd banging door or the occasional piece of music played loudly, for many it goes much further than this. When you find yourself able to follow your neighbour’s conversations or listening to their TV program, you may decide it’s time to soundproof the noise from your neighbour and restore peace and quiet in your home.

Of course, when your property adjoins another, the first port of call might be party wall soundproofing – this is the wall which separates you from your neighbour’s property. However, this often comes with an additional issue. The design of homes in the UK means this wall is often the one which has a chimney breast. You may have fitted a log burner here, or perhaps you’ve turned it into a display area. How will this impact your soundproofing installation?

Visiting soundproofing suppliers

A lounge with a TV in the alcove area

When looking to insulate noise, many people will start by visiting suppliers of soundproofing material and asking for their advice. On a party wall with a fireplace, their recommendation would usually be to install soundproofing such as specialised plasterboard to the alcoves either side of the chimney breast.

If you’re disturbed by TV noise and you know that your neighbour’s TV is in an alcove, this would really make sense. Install soundproofing between their TV and your home, and problem solved, right? If only noise insulation were quite as simple. Unfortunately, it’s a little more complex than that.  

The problem with only treating the alcove

To effectively soundproof a room or a house, you need to consider all noise paths. To tackle this, Quietco created their four-step soundproofing method. The first of these is what we call the main cause. This can include factors such as holes in the wall, a hollow void, or a poor renovation technique. The second is the direct noise path. With noisy neighbours, this is the party wall that separates you. However, there are also indirect noise paths. This often includes, for example, the walls perpendicular to the party wall, floor and ceiling. Finally, we consider fixtures and fittings as these too can affect how noise travels through a home.

When you install soundproofing to the alcoves either side of a fireplace, you are treating only the direct path. Not only that, but you are also only treating a small section of it. In essence, you have a big hole in your soundproofing if you have not soundproofed the fireback or chimney stack. But if this is the case, then why do suppliers recommend treating only the alcoves rather than the entire wall including the chimney stack and fireback (area behind the fire design)?

Why ‘treat the alcoves’ advice is given

This comes down to a building regulation issue. The aspect of these known as ‘document J’ covers the safe installation of heat producing appliances including chimneys. For obvious reasons, there are strict rules on what can and cannot be fitted around the fireplace. With an open fire or wood-burning stove, there is a complete ban on using any combusting materials in this area. Most soundproofing systems would not meet these requirements, hence why someone may tell you to treat the alcoves only. There are other options available with non-combusting materials.

Does your chimney need to soundproof noise from next door?

Before we discuss ways in which you can treat your chimney, it’s worth checking whether this is something you need to do. You can do this simply by placing one ear against the chimney breast, putting a finger in the other ear and listening to whether you can hear your neighbour’s noise through it. You can also use the same test on the flanking walls to see whether these would also need soundproofing. Don’t panic if you hear noise through the chimney. There are numerous options.

Ways in which you can soundproof noise coming through a chimney

A party wall with fireplaced that is soundproofed

The first thing to consider is whether you use your fireplace. The most effective way to soundproof the party wall would be to have the entire fireplace removed (upstairs and downstairs) and to install a soundproofing system along the entire wall. Alternatively, you can leave the chimney in place and install soundproofing on the inside and outside. You could also consider installing a different type of fire, such as an electrical one.

It’s also worth noting that soundproofing measures improve the insulation of your home. It becomes very difficult for heat in the room to escape. One of our clients found their wood-burning stove heated their soundproofed room so quickly, they were trying to put the fire out before putting a second log on. If you soundproof a room, then you may well find you no longer have use for a fire.

If you are very attached to your open fire or stove, then make sure you consult with soundproofing experts. We will advise you on how to get the best noise reduction safely, without removing it.

Don’t forget the other noise paths

Of course, it’s also likely that treating the party wall alone will not soundproof noise from your neighbours. Remember, there are a multitude of other paths that noise can take around your home, with flanking walls being one of the most common.

Many of our customers have spent time and money trying to soundproof a room themselves or with the help of a builder. For some, not only does it not work, but they end up experiencing more noise than they did beforehand. What these customers all have in common is wishing they had consulted with soundproofing specialists first.

Discover how to soundproof noise in your home

If you are experiencing noise from neighbours which disturbs you, then the first step is to identify how that noise is travelling into your home. This is how Quietco starts our process. Only once we’ve identified the noise paths can we put together a plan, in consultation with you, which will get you the best results. To get started, request your FREE noise diagnosis call.

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