Building Options To Improve Sound Management

In largely populated areas such as London, Manchester and other large cities, there is a world of noise going on around you. From the day-to-day sounds of roadworks, traffic and dogs barking to your upstairs neighbour blasting music and stomping on their hard floors, we rely on construction practices and materials to provide a barrier from the noises around us to lessen the disruption it has on our lives.

How Sound Travels

Sound travels through air, water and solid objects. When the waves hit the eardrum and cause vibrations, we perceive them through our sense of hearing. Sound can take 2 paths:

  • Airborne paths – where the sound leaves the source and is radiated directly into the air
  • Structure-borne paths – where the sound leaves the source and travels through solid materials, just like a conversation that you can hear in the next room. This is also referred to as ‘impact noise’

Adding Sound Absorbing Materials

By using a surface or building material to absorb sound instead of reflecting it, you can deaden the sound wave quicker and prevent the sound from bouncing around the room. The absorptive materials can be super helpful in controlling sound and are most commonly used in classrooms and meeting rooms. Materials that tend to absorb sound the best include carpet, foam padding and fibreglass insulation. Adding thick carpets with padding, acoustical ceiling tiles and furnishings with thick cushioning can be extremely absorbing and will deaden the sound wave to reduce the echo.

Acoustic baffles with absorptive materials can be used in areas where sound is a major concern. Most are unobtrusive and are available to be visually characterless to allow for installation without drastically altering the room aesthetics. Alternatively, acoustic baffles can be installed to be a great design feature in modern buildings.

Reducing Sound Transmission

Airborne sound transmissions deal with how well sound is controlled from room to room, outdoors to indoors and through walls and ceilings. It is the decrease in sound energy when it passes through a certain element. Different materials control sound at different levels. Dense, heavy materials increase the mass of floors and walls and therefore allow less sound to pass through. Whereas thinner materials allow more sound to pass through.

Sound can also bend and flow around objects, or ‘leak’ through tiny spaces. Therefore, blocking airborne sounds from leaking through gaps and cracks by sealing them or blocking them is also an effective solution.

Impact Sound Transmission

An example of impact sound includes the sound of something being dropped on the floor above that transmits through the ceiling to the room you are in. Just like reducing sound transmission and absorption, building materials come into play here.

Wooden floors and ceiling systems transmit more impact sound than softer materials like carpets, but by adding fibreglass insulation, you can improve their capability of blocking impact sound. Lightweight concrete flooring is generally good at reducing airborne sound transmission, but not so well at blocking impact sound.

What Are The Best Materials For Sound Management?

There is a range of speciality construction materials available for sound control that are designed to provide strategic benefits over other more traditional materials. The following materials are the best for sound management and can be used during an initial build or installed later if it’s required.

Mass-Loaded Vinyl

This is the ultimate tool for adding mass to your walls, floors and ceiling. The synthetic materials are fairly thin so don’t add unnecessary bulk. The main purpose of materials that add mass is to reflect sound completely

Acoustic Mineral Wool Insulation

When building a house, you’ll want to include some sort of insulation inside the walls and ceilings. Even though the main purpose of this material is to prevent air from seeping through the surface, the soundproofing goal is also achieved.

Green Glue Soundproofing Compound

This is arguably the best soundproofing option for sound deadening. This type of material is most effective between two hard surfaces such as drywall or plywood. When the sound reaches one of the layers, it causes the panels to vibrate against the sound deadening compound which converts the vibrations to heat.

Mineral-Fibre Insulation

This is a denser type of insulation used to improve a room’s level of soundproofing. Its density is higher than traditional fibreglass insulation which makes it even more effective at stopping the transmission of sound from one room to another.

Adam Hansen

Adam is a part time journalist, entrepreneur, investor and father.