What price a quiet life?

A recent ‘Which’ survey found more than a quarter of UK adults have had a problem with a noisy neighbour in the past year, meaning that one in four of us will have experienced noise issues with neighbours. Loud voices and arguing topped the list of annoyances. Loud music, slamming doors and noisy pets also featured. Compared with older people, those in their 20s were almost twice as likely to say they have experienced a nuisance neighbour, according to the survey, among 18 to 24-year-olds, 33% had encountered a

problem in the past year, with the figure being 17% for those aged 65 and over. Of those who had experienced a problem, loud voices were cited by 41%, followed by loud music and TVs (29%).

Ssshhh it's not funny So noise is an issue from neighbours and external sources, but what about from within your own home, there are no reliable surveys on noise within the home but anecdotally the evidence is there, open plan living, light weight construction, more of us living together with different lifestyles, noise can easily interfere and case issue within the home. Maybe this is why some of our remedial products like dense wood fibre batts for walls and floors, wool joist strip; underlay and foam backed or silica filled overlay boards are becoming popular as this can be a simple fix to the problem.

More of us are living more closely together with differing requirements on how we use the spaces we live in, often this means that the impact of sound transmission within and between these spaces is not truly felt until actually occupied. This can also be exacerbated by the type of building, for new build lightweight construction, the use of metal web joists and ultra light thermal insulation materials may offer good thermal properties and cheaper homes but can have the unintended consequence of poor acoustic insulation. With more UK homes being multi occupancy over wider age ranges (e.g. grown up children living at home) noise can really become an issue.

See what to use where at the bottom of the page

Noisy kid At Ecomerchant we have seen a steady increase in our customers retrofitting (often to new buildings) acoustic elements to mitigate sound only discovered as a problem when they first live in the building. This can be within a single building or through party walls.

Regulations governing the transmission of sound in and between dwellings is a relatively modern creation, currently building regulations Part E for domestic properties only covers airborne sound transmission within new buildings and only increases its scope to include impact sound with walls adjoining third party separate living accommodation such as a neighbour or self-contained flat.

When a property is refurbished or converted, it will generally become necessary for it to meet the current regulations. These regulations don’t exist simply as a demand of Building Control but reflect people’s expectations regarding building acoustics, soundproofing and quality of life.

Much of the change we have seen over the last year or so tends to focus on the simpler and less disruptive solutions such as the use of carpet or flooring underlay and fitting insulation between floors and internal party walls with a higher density natural material such as wood fibre or sheep’s wool which would also include joist strips but now we are now beginning to see a demand for specifically designed acoustic products such as acoustic boards, panels, and resilient bars.

Many of the materials now being adopted for use in a domestic application are more commonly associated with commercial use; these products tend to be at the top end in terms of performance often providing very impressive improvements to a building's acoustic performance. These would include floor, wall and ceiling panels such as PhoneStar a silica filled recycled card panel that gives one of the highest sound reduction levels of any product on the market, and Joist Deck a recycled foam backed low formaldehyde board that goes straight to joist and Regupol a recycled rubber matting with market leading reduction in impact sound.

sleeping-cute-baby-kid-black-and-white As with most retrofit projects the best saving of all would be to design acoustic insulation into the original build, finding out it would have been a good idea to insulate against sound after moving in is not so helpful.

It seems that it is not easy to model the impact of installing sound insulation on the resulting quality of life for the occupants and without regulations driving performance forward it seems set to remain an ongoing issue.

The same is true of many older buildings which were created without any consideration being given to the issue of noisy occupants or noisy neighbours. What’s more, the levels of external noise around these buildings has increased significantly in recent decades, with buses and lorries, for example, often passing close to many properties.

Our experience exposes 3 clear trends

  1. Deliberately insulating against sound is definitely becoming more common especially as a retrofitted measure
  2. More and more customers are looking at designing acoustic insulation into their new build
  3. Most customers are prepared to do something rather than nothing – they recognise the benefits

What is the difference between impact sound and airborne sound?

Impact sound arises from impacts directly on the floor above e.g. footstep noise or moving furniture, which send vibrations into the floor deck, the timber joists or concrete floor and then down into the plasterboard downstairs.

This can be reduced by the addition of a quality resilient layer on top of the floor to absorb the impact. Choosing what to use is relatively simple, for the highest level of performance a loose laid hard high density board will be best such as PhoneStar a loose laid silica filled recycled corrugated cardboard, for simple direct to joist applications (excellent for retrofit) a foam backed board such as Joist Deck will work well, and for a thin but super effective answer especially where the floor cannot be lifted then a mat such as Regupol for largely impact sound control or Acoustilay for impact sound and airborne sound reduction.

When using a softer product you should be aware that for high impact areas foam and rubber products can flatten and harden over time and lose some of their effectiveness. Decoupling the ceiling downstairs is also critical to significantly reduce vibrations between the floor/ceiling structure and the plasterboard. Decoupling the ceiling using a pressed thin steel profile (normally called a resilient bar) at right angles to the joists (or wall studs) into which you fix the plasterboard is a well-established mechanism for controlling sound transmission. Using resilient bars is very easy and inexpensive. Consider using acoustic plasterboard to complete the effect.

Airborne sound arises when sound waves from television, music, talking or traffic pass through the air and then vibrate the wall or floor so that they pass through to the other side. This noise can only be significantly reduced by the addition of a dense product with mass, but it must also be soft. PhoneStar is heavy (18kg/m²), is very dense (1200 kg/m3) and has a compacted but loose soft sand filling contained within an engineered, fluted cardboard carcass, and these are the critical characteristics required for airborne noise reduction. Soft and lightweight insulation products e.g. a thermal insulation quilt will not reduce airborne noise in any noticeable way – it may reduce reverberation within a cavity though. Heavy and dense, but hard, products will give better results but they vibrate a lot within themselves and so are still not ideal. PhoneStar very significantly reduces airborne sound through masonry and timber structures, whether they are floors, walls or ceilings, due to its unique characteristics.

A quick note on Flanking

Flanking is where sound is transmitted indirectly between one room and another through adjoining parts of the structure rather than directly through the separating wall or floor. Often this will be through walls or a floor joist, which means that direct contact in areas where sound can bypass the insulation need to be identified. Even the humble concrete block so common in modern construction can effectively transmit sound form one floor to another so it is important to identify all potential flanking paths in advance as they can reduce the performance of the acoustic floor, wall or ceiling treatment. Typically this is why we suggest associated products such as perimeter strips and the use of caulking or sealant when laying boards.

Soundproofing tips for walls

  • Do not let anything bridge across the wall linings (incl. mortar droppings on the wall ties).
  • For twin walls ensure no connection between the two leaves except where ties are necessary for structural reasons.
  • Ensure all blockwork joints are fully filled with mortar.
  • Ensure all cavity stops/closers are flexible or fixed to one frame only.
  • If using cavity insulation, ensure a snug and accurate fit between studs without sagging and without gaps.
  • Keep chases for services to a minimum and fill with mortar. Avoid back to back chases.
  • Where electrical sockets are absolutely necessary pack behind them with insulation and caulk with a flexible sealant. Do not place sockets back to back.
  • Seal all gaps in the original wall especially at the perimeter edges before work commences. Remember sound passes through gaps!
  • Ensure the resilient bars and plasterboard DO NOT TOUCH the adjacent walls, floor and ceiling as they are rigid and will send vibrations into these other structures. Caulk the perimeter gap around the plasterboard with flexible sealant, and tape and seal the plasterboard joints.
  • Ensure that insulating boards DO TOUCH the adjacent walls, floor and ceiling with no gaps between or around the boards. This can be prevented by using a perimeter strip, caulk or running the insulation matt (e.g. Regupol or Silent Floor) up the wall to create a barrier
  • On walls stagger joints between boards to avoid air paths.

Soundproofing tips for floors

  • Seal all gaps in the original floor especially at the perimeter edges and between floorboards, if applicable, before work commences. Remember sound passes through gaps!
  • Lay floating boards on the floor in a brickwork pattern tightly butted together – no need to tape or caulk joints. Ensure the boards DO TOUCH the adjacent walls with no gaps between or around the boards.
  • Perimeter strips are not necessary around PhoneStar soundproofing boards. However if an 18-22mm floating top surface is installed above PhoneStar, insert flanking strips around the perimeter of this flooring board to isolate the floor from walls and/or skirting boards. Alternatively a 5mm (min) perimeter gap may be caulked with flexible sealant.
  • If using thermal insulation, lay snugly between all joists ensuring no gap remains.
  • Ensure ceiling battens or resilient bars are fixed at right angles to the joists below and they must NOT TOUCH the adjacent walls.
  • Screw ceiling plasterboard into battens or resilient bars only – not the joists. Ensure the plasterboard DOES NOT TOUCH the adjacent walls as it will transfer noise into the walls. Caulk the perimeter gap around the plasterboard with flexible sealant, and tape and seal the plasterboard joints.
  • Butt planks or blocks in block and plank floors tightly together and grout all joints.
  • Fill all voids between walls and floors to enhance soundproofing.

Try not to use downlights in an acoustic floor and ceiling structure but if required use special fire and acoustic rated downlights. Alternatively the lights can be boxed in with PhoneStar sound insulation. A better acoustic alternative is to install a suspended metal framed ceiling using resilient bars) a minimum of 100mm below the upgraded acoustic ceiling so that the downlights will not interfere with the acoustic integrity of the ceiling this is called a resilient or decoupled ceiling.

woman covering head with a pillow

What and where

See all the products here

Between joists vertical, pitch or horizontal – all suggestions will achieve similar results

Directly onto joists

Onto floorboards (existing or new)

  • PhoneStar – high end super effective against impact and airborne sound: NB Phonestar was previously branded as Phonewell lay loose as a floating floor
  • Overlay 23 – a simple to fit loose lay board for retrofitting and new build, good for airborne and impact sound reduction. lay loose as a floating floor.*
  • Overlay (Plus) 26- thicker board gives improved performance over Overlay 23 lay loose as a floating floor*
  • 100% sheep’s wool carpet underlay – perfect for use under carpet helps exclude drafts too
  • 100% sheep’s wool silent floor – for use under laminate floors
  • Wood fibre matt Underfloor – for use under laminate floors*
  • Acoustilay – combined impact and airborne sound insulation
  • Regupol ( Multi & Eco) – impact sound insulation – market leader

Onto concrete floors

  • Phonestar – high end super effective against impact and airborne sound
  • 100% sheep’s wool silent floor – for use under laminate floors
  • Regupol ( Multi & Eco) – impact sound insulation – market leader
  • Overlay 23 – a simple to fit loose lay board for retrofitting and new build, good for airborne and impact sound reduction*
  • Overlay (Plus) 26- thicker board gives improved performance over Overlay 23*
  • Wood fibre – Steico Underfloor wood fibre panels with profile timber connectors*

Carpet Underlay

Under laminate floors

Under wooden floorboards

  • PhoneStar – high end super effective against impact and airborne sound
  • Overlay 23 – a simple to fit loose lay board for retrofitting and new build, good for airborne and impact sound reduction*
  • Overlay (Plus) 26- thicker board gives improved performance over Overlay 23*
  • Acoustilay – combined impact and airborne sound insulation
  • Regupol Eco – impact sound insulation – the market leader

NB * Overlay 23 and Overlay Plus 26 and Steico Underfloor are available to buy from stock, data sheets etc available on request, these products will be available to buy online soon.

Further reading

Read the Part E Regulations

Read the Part E Regulations Frequently asked questions

FAQ’s on noise, regulations and testing from the NHBC




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