In the past few decades, lifestyles have changed to include more noise-producing activities. Children now play video games inside and more people are working in home offices rather than in commercial settings. Plus, more homes include home theaters, multiple TVs and computers with speakers. These changes are driving home builders to find ways to eliminate noise transfer from room to room, and manufacturers are responding by engineering new products that can create quiet atmospheres inside a home.
Sound control might be a new topic to some single-family home builders because for so long this was an issue only for multifamily residences. Builders were focused only on how to prevent noise from being transmitted from one condo to another. The idea of transitioning this concept to single-family residences is still gaining momentum.
“There is a lot of unmet consumer need for products that control noise,” says Portia Ash, business manager for residential noise control products, Owens Corning. “It’s not talked about or brought up when planning or building a home. We are working with builders to raise awareness for the need for these products and make them more readily available.”
Because these products are required in only multifamily buildings, manufacturers are trying to find ways to educate and support the single-family home builder. “For the commercial builder, sound control has been a standard for 40 years,” says Glenn Singer, manager of building science for CertainTeed. “Residential home builders are behind the curve. There is an education process for builders and homeowners.”
To compensate for the need, but also for a lack of knowledge about utilizing noise control products in single-family homes, Owens Corning is launching its Quiet Down America Tour this fall. “Our Quiet Down America Tour is to raise awareness around noise control products,” Ash says. “Most (homeowners) say that they do things to compensate for noise but don’t connect the need for noise control, such as using home theaters only at certain times. They are trying to find quiet areas in a home that aren’t readily available.”
Because these products aren’t visible like a light switch, it’s harder for builders to be aware of them, says Stan Gatland, manager of building science technology for CertainTeed. CertainTeed is also taking a proactive approach at bringing these products in front of builders. Its website, mysoundchek.com, includes an in-depth explanation and assistance on what sound control is and how to utilize products in regard to reducing noise.
Temple-Inland takes a different approach to introducing sound control to single-family builders. “We have someone that travels the country, working with architects and field salespeople that call on builders,” says Gary Keeling, product manager for fiber products operations, Temple-Inland.
Not Your Mother’s House
Houses built today include more open spaces and hard surfaces which encourage noise transmission from room to room. “Trends in hard surfaces have changed. Hardwood flooring is more popular than it used to be compared to carpet. This contributes to increased sound transmission,” says Andy Pattenden, business development manager, NRI Industries.
Lifestyles are also much louder. “Fifteen years ago there was one TV in the home and now there is an average of four or five TVs. Technology brought into the home now includes video games and computers,” Ash says. “In the meantime, we build interior walls the same as we did 15 years ago. Homes are louder and wall design hasn’t kept up. Architectural design has also changed as more homes are more open. These features impact how noise works in a home.”
Manufacturers are focusing on certain frequencies when they engineer sound-deadening products. “Traditionally we focus more on low frequencies because common building products do a good job of eliminating high frequencies. We focus on impact isolation such as noise caused by footsteps or a ball bouncing,” says Sean Bowman, senior applications specialist, Auralex Acoustics.
Quiet Solution offers different products depending on the type of sound being eliminated. “We have a THX-certified product that is great for noise reduction with home theaters. Other products are good for loud conversations and floor/ceiling products that eliminate noise from high-heel shoes,” says Kevin Surace, CEO, Quiet Solution.
To eliminate noise, the American Society for Testing and Materials regulates products with a Sound Transmission Class rating. According to ASTM, STC is a single number that rates partitions, doors and windows for their sound control abilities. The International Code Council recommends that sound insulation for walls, floors and ceilings should include an STC rating of 45 or higher. This is only a recommendation because single-family buildings are not regulated as strictly as multifamily buildings.
Noise can be controlled by adding sound-deadening products in a few key places, such as the floor, wall or ceilings. NRI Industries offers a flooring product that is installed under the flooring surface. “QuietDown is an impact sound membrane for use with hard-surface floor coverings such as laminate flooring,” Pattenden says. “It’s manufactured from recycled rubber tires and includes the natural frequency of rubber. When it is laid below the flooring, it absorbs sound waves and reduces transmission of sound to rooms below.”
Another sound-deadening product for floors is the U-Boat Floor Floaters from Auralex Acoustics. “It’s a decoupling material that physically floats the floor above the existing floor,” Bowman says. “It’s made with rubber which is a decoupling agent. Decoupling is a separation of layers so vibration doesn’t have a direct path to follow.”
CertainTeed manufactures an acoustical batt called CertaSound. “It’s a light-density fiberglass insulation batt product,” Singer says. “It’s installed between studs and held in place by friction or staples. There is also the loose-fill fiberglass called Optima. You put a mesh sheet across the whole wall and blow in Optima in the hole which fills the cracks and crannies.”
Georgia-Pacific manufactures Hushboard, another option for wall vibration control. “It’s a low-density product designed to go up on the stud of interior walls and partition walls. The gypsum or drywall is installed on top of it. This system would then help control noise transmission between living spaces as it traps and diffuses frequencies that drywall doesn’t block,” says Rod Slate, sales manager specialty products, industrial wood products division, Georgia-Pacific.
QuietRock from Quiet Solution is another acoustical product for walls. “It’s an internally damped drywall product,” Surace says. “It doesn’t vibrate or let sound through it. QuietRock is hung like regular drywall and can be used in retrofit applications. There’s not much else on the market that is easy to use in a retrofit as well as a new construction application.”
Temple-Inland manufactures its SoundChoice, a sound-deadening fiberboard to be used on walls, ceilings or floors. “SoundChoice is a ½-in. thick 4-by-8 panel of wood with a density of 16 to 18 lb.,” Keeling says. “It either blocks the sound waves or it absorbs them.”
In regard to ceilings, Owens Corning offers its QuietZone Solserene fabric system. “It’s designed to deal with four principles: blocking sound, absorption of sound, breaking the vibration path and isolation,” says Harry Alter, senior engineer at the Owens Corning Science and Technology Center. “The track is put into place around the room and a fiberglass core is screwed into gypsum or the ceiling joist. The fabric is tucked into the track that was installed to frame the outside of the ceiling.”
Searching for Acceptance
A brand-new trend to the single-family market, sound control can set a proactive builder apart from the competition. “It offers builders differentiation. Their reputation will be one of quality,” Singer says. “Salespeople now have a way to raise the level of their homes in relation to their competition. And some builders are offering it as an upgrade.”
Noise will continue to be a part of everyday life as home theaters and other technologies remain commonplace in today’s homes. Codes and standards will start to move to the single-family market as more manufacturers educate builders about what these products can offer them and their businesses. “The future of sound control relies on education and awareness. People will ask for a high-end faucet but not a quiet home because they don’t know about it. The technology is there, they just don’t know to ask for it,” Surace says.
Homeowners can be unaware of how much they restrict their living based on the lifestyles of other family members, and don’t realize the benefit that these products can offer them. “Utilizing sound control is a huge value to homeowners. Most homes have rooms with home theaters, common spaces and bedrooms, and they might not be able to use these rooms as they need,” Bowman says. “If they have a room that’s not functional because of noise, it defeats the purpose of having that room.”