A Beginner’s Guide to Soundproofing & Building Acoustics

There are two different types of sound; Airborne sound & Impact Sound. They both act quite differently in terms of how they travel around the rooms and spaces of your house or a building.

What is impact sound?

Impact sound is the noise created when one object comes into contact (impacts) another. Typically this might be the sound of footsteps on floorboards or hammers on walls for example. These impacts create sound vibrations that can then pass between floors and walls from one room to another.

How can you reduce Impact Sound?

Even with a solid airborne sound insulator wall, impact sound can travel from one room to another through a concrete floor. It is very invasive and difficult to control once it has begun. In order to control or reduce the sound you need to stop it from occurring at source. This means applying suitable soundproofing materials to your floors, walls and ceilings.

What is airborne sound?

Sound waves travelling around a room or internal space accounts for airborne sound. It can rebound off the surrounding floors, walls and ceilings causing vibrations in these surfaces that will then re-radiate these sound waves to other areas within the ‘receiver space’.

How can you insulate against Airborne Sound?

Often the condition of doors windows, poorly fitted sockets or any cracks in a wall will considerably reduce its insulation of airborne sounds. To reduce the amount or loudness of this noise you need to insulate it using appropriate soundproofing materials on your floors, walls and ceilings.

How do you deal with nuisance noise?

Large, open plan spaces in your home or office are not always best placed to deal with the levels of unwanted noise that we can sometimes be surrounded by. People shouting, animal noises, low flying aircraft and other invasive sounds can often disrupt concentration in the workplace and peace and quiet at home.

Rooms that are subject to echoes (or sound reverberation) are usually large and their wall surfaces are not able to absorb enough of the sound, therefore bouncing it back across the space in the room. To lower the amount or loudness of this sound you need to absorb it with proper soundproofing materials on your floors or ceilings.

How do you control noise?

Before considering soundproofing a building it is worth considering the quality and methods of construction of the building.

There are two main ways to reduce and control noise:

Increasing Mass – the more mass (weight and density) a floor or wall has the less sound will make it vibrate. As a general rule of thumb doubling the mass will give a 5 decibel reduction in the sound transmitted.

Additional Layers – adding several layers to the construction of a wall or floor can greatly improve the control of noise. Each layer will be made of soundproofing materials, slightly separated to reduce airborne and impact noise transfer.