Article: Speak Easy

The Truth  About  Soundproof with Michael BoturThe Truth About Soundproof with Michael Botur

I think I’ve finally figured out why my house cost less than $300,000: noise from the busy road outside makes my place less than desirable. 

The noise coming from Kiripaka Road is a huge bother some nights. What happens is people accelerate as they go up Kiripaka Road because it’s so darn steep. They begin their acceleration right outside my home, so the noise of car, truck and motorbike engines invades my space. I can’t do anything about the road, but there are a few things I can do to better soundproof my place.

This week I organised for a home insulation expert to visit to recommend potential soundproofing options. In between joking about how I should move house and offering me a $6000 wall interior insulation package, he did give some good, free advice about the two places through which sound enters a house. Those two places are 1) Cracks and 2) Everywhere else. You name it, it’s a conductor of sound, pretty much – concrete, glass, wood, all of it.

Yes, sound will travel from outside to inside a house via soffits, rafters, eaves, windows, walls, foundations and gaps in all of the aforementioned.  If you can afford it, here are some of the remedies:

- Interior wall insulation: you can have insulation added to your walls long after
your place has already been built. Tradies simply put holes in your wall and
inject/blow in foam, wool, fibreglass or polystyrene. This isn’t possible for
drained/ventilated wall cavities, especially brick veneer.

- Double glazed windows: Because noise can get past cracks in poorly installed
windows, or can come into your house thanks to vibrations, good quality installed
double glazed windows will take away some of the noise problem because of the
thickness of the glass and the way in which the trapped air between two layers of
glass insulates.

- A screen of trees: The thicker and denser the tree, the more effective it will be
in reducing incoming noise (hedges have too many air gaps in them to be very
effective). Don’t be tempted to plant bamboo, though. It grows incredibly quickly,
but bamboo leaves nodes in the ground and is very hard to remove.

- If you have rooms situated next to the garage door then that door, if made with
steel and aluminium, is likely to be bringing sound inside your house thanks to
vibrations

- A nice high wall or fence can help reduce noise, but only if the noise is originating
from a level lower than the barrier. Noise coming from above isn’t going to be
blocked (hence I get loud noises coming down the hill from properties further up)

- Ceiling and underfloor insulation: you’re likely to have fibreglass as your
insulation. This is full of air and gaps, so it helps if you can put a layer of MDF
(fibreboard) on top of the insulation in your ceiling.

- Adhesive weatherstripping foam tape to fully seal all doors can block noise in the
same way it blocks heat from escaping

- Investing in noise-reducing curtains means buying triple woven ones which also
keep light out and heat in.

- Carpeting absorbs sound coming through wooden floors – so naked wooden
floors unfortunately let some noise in.

- Hollow core doors (the common, cheap ones) are packed with air, and conduct
noise.

Back to the initial issue, though: is it reasonable to get fed up with the noise from the road? What should we put up with in a house? Unfortunately, to get away from a busy road would mean living further away from good transport infrastructure. I wouldn’t want to live far from a dairy, supermarket or petrol station. If there is a medical or fire emergency at my house, I’ll have neighbours to count on. Noisy neighbours sometimes, sure, but neighbours nonetheless. 

Michael Botur has published journalism in NZ Herald, Herald on Sunday, Sunday Star-Times and Mana and he writes a lot of fiction. He moved to Whangarei in 2015 and was ecstatic to be able to afford a house here.


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