IF YOU WANT TO really know what your home buyers are complaining about, or soon will, spend a night with your family in one of your newest two-story move-up homes ... ideally, one in that cluster you developed a stone's throw from the highway.
While you're there, settle in with a book in the cavernous, volume-enriched great room or get some work done in the den while one of the kids cranks up a DVD in the home theater upstairs and your spouse walks across the hardwood-finished hallway to throw a load of towels in the washer while a neighbor fires up a leaf blower outside in counterpoint to the constant din of passing traffic.
Noisy, huh? Admit it: You had no idea. Now imagine spending the next 30 years in that environment, paying off your mortgage. It's no wonder “noise” comes from the Latin word “nausea” and that, according to one study, more than 70 percent of new-home owners would be interested in noise-control products if their builder offered them.
There were warning signs, you know. “There's a convergence of factors driving greater demand for an amenity called quiet,” says Marc Porat, Ph.D., chairman and founder of Quiet Solutions, makers of new-age, sound-deadening drywall and subflooring, among a growing number of innovative sound-abatement solutions for residential construction. “We've got more environments that are more challenging,” he says, from the popularity of hard-surface flooring and cathedral ceilings to surround-sound home entertainment systems and dedicated home offices, not to mention infill development, zero lot lines, and even wind-resistant construction.
Multifamily and attached-home builders are at least riding the curve, if not necessarily ahead of it, thanks to stricter (albeit dubiously enforced and rarely field-achieved) code standards for higher sound transmission class (STC) ratings than those for detached dwellings. More so, perhaps, from mounting lawsuits and seven-figure settlements from condo and townhouse owners harried by ambient and impact noise traveling between units and from the outside environment.
Single-family detached builders, meanwhile, seem ambivalent at best ... so far. “Noise is not a life safety issue, so [single-family] builders don't typically pay a lot of attention to it,” says Nader El-Hajj, a project manager at the NAHB Research Center in Upper Marlboro, Md., which conducts third-party testing on a variety of materials, including noise-abatement products. “If people complain enough, builders will react.”
But how? Traditional methods—such as staggered or double-stud walls, resilient channels, and sound clips—add labor and materials costs, reduce valuable square footage, and/or have a high instance of field failure. While Porat and his peers refine material science to meet the need with newer and better solutions, El-Hajj and other experts implore builders to simply get smarter. “It doesn't take much to have a ‘soundproof' home,” says El-Hajj. “Materials and methods are available to builders who want to make it a priority. All they have to do is pay attention to details.” Here are some how-to tips and techniques to get you on board.
Reduce sound transmission into the entire room.
SOUND RESOURCES Noise Pollution Clearinghouse www.nonoise.org
National Council of Acoustical Consultants www.ncac.com
Institute of Noise Control Engineering of the USA www.inceusa.org
The Acoustical Society of America http://asa.aip.org