How to cope with noisy neighbours: soundproof your home

Noise is a growing problem in London so more people are turning to soundproofing experts to find out how to create some peace and quiet in their homes.
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Noisy neighbours
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Noisy neighbours are irritating but can also make your home hard to sell
Woofers, supersize TVs and other home entertainment devices are proliferating in our homes. They may be great fun for those using them, but the cacophony means neighbours are tearing their hair out.

Noise is a growing London problem and with the clocks going forward and long, light nights approaching, families throw open windows and patio doors and share their noise with everyone.

Fed up with noisy neighbours, Londoners are hiring companies to soundproof their homes. Those suffering most live in older properties which have open fireplaces, cracks, holes and crumbling mortar and plaster, sometimes hidden behind plasterboard, through which sound travels. People living in flimsy, late 20th-century homes are poorly protected, too.

Noise affecting your homes property value

Concerns about noise can affect property values, says David Jubb at Savills: “Buyers are principally concerned about noise from flats above, which is why in many new developments, the top floors come at a premium.”

Concerns about the growing problem of noise in the home have inspired The Quiet House, which can be seen on display at the Ideal Home Show.

Noisy neighbours
Rubber matting on party walls can help to sound-insulate homes
As well as quieter appliances, the house has “superior acoustic protection” against outside noise compared to the average British home says Rockwool, a company which insulated it.

Depending on the level of sound-proofing required, less space can be lost. Ceiling heights can stay unchanged when reducing TV and other airborne noises from above, because filling cavity space is enough. Protecting against sounds of footfall, however, does require lowering ceiling heights.

Current building regulations mean homes built now, such as the Clapham Park apartment scheme near Clapham Common, have higher noise insulation standards than those built before 2003. Prices for these apartments start at £350,000 through Savills. However, brand-new does not mean noise-free, warns Daniel Pelser, director of Soundproofing R Us. He says that though his firm mainly insulates older properties, some clients own new homes which are not quiet enough for them. Music studio-level soundproofing provides best protection.

Mr Pelser has noticed increasing demand for his company’s services since it started up in 2006. “Seven years ago there were only a handful of us doing this sort of work, but now almost everyone who is in the building industry is doing soundproofing,” he says. Depending on the level of insulation required it can cost between £370 to £130 per square metre to soundproof floors, walls and ceilings.

Soundproofing is not always enough, because noise can enter through windows. Alan Cripps of the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors, says secondary glazing can reduce sound intrusion, and that laminated acoustic glass produces best results. “A 6.4mm piece of laminated glass will stop as much sound as ordinary glass at twice the thickness,” he says.

Noisy neighbours
Carolyn Crossley could even hear lights being switched on next door, before she spent £7,644 on sound insulation
Londoners creating their own quiet homes include Carolyn Crossley, who has soundproofed her two-bedroom, semi-detached house in Norbury against noise from next door. She does not blame her neighbours, but the poor construction quality of her 1994-built home.

Talking, television, babies crying, Skype calls and even light switches being turned on and off were among the noises intruding into Ms Crossley’s domestic peace and quiet. Music and computer games played on powerful sound systems could be heard throughout her house.

“I could feel the walls of the house vibrate with bass music,” she said. “If I was sitting in the living room, I could hear pots and pans clanging in their kitchen.”

She paid Soundproofing R Us, £7,644 to insulate party walls, flanking walls, the living room ceiling and the void under her stairs. The firm used rubber matting, acoustic plasterboard and vibration-absorbing steel planks called resilient bars, hidden in newly plastered walls, to soak up the sounds.

Insulation material has made the walls and ceilings of Ms Crossley’s home up to three inches thicker, but she said 90 per cent of the noise has gone, so the loss of space is worth it.

“I may still hear the odd thud from next door if the child is running round, but this is everyday noise and distant.

“Even if they are playing music very loud with bass it sounds like the noise is coming from across the park. Soundproofing never totally eliminates noise, but significantly reduces it, so that it no longer becomes intrusive and annoying.”

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