Sunday, December 29, 2013

Loud neighbors and old drafty houses

Back in the spring (of 2013) I bought an old house in an old neighborhood.  Ordinarily I would never even consider living in this particular neighborhood but this house was WAY cute and WAY cheap.  I convinced myself that having a mortgage payment of $200 a month outweighs any/all other concerns.  I can live in it for a year, update it and sell it for a profit.  I mean, anyone can withstand anything for a year.....right?

While this house is super cute.  Actually it's just under 2,000 square feet so it's not a cracker box house but from the street it appears to be so.  It's just way longer than it appears to be from the curb.  Below is a picture of it that was taken just before I bought it.
What I didn't count on was the noisy neighbors to my right (if you're looking at the house from the sidewalk).  I need to stress that - - NOISY NEIGHBORS!  The two houses are divided only by the width of my driveway.  Anyone who has ever lived in an old neighborhood knows that the driveways in these areas are about the width of a sofa (not a sectional)..just a sofa.  Also, these neighbors appear to have a few windows that have fallen out and they elected to replace the glass with clear plastic rather than actual glass.  Now my house has newer windows on that side of the house so I actually thought they would dampen the noise....I was soooo wrong.  While they are indeed newer windows - they were cheap single pane windows.  When I'm in my bedroom, I can literally hear their conversations in my bedroom.  These folks love love love to sit on their porch at all hours of the day and night and play cards, loudly chat on their cellphones and visit with their friends.  I can hear it all while I lay in my bed trying to sleep.

Something must be done.

So I began my research on soundproofing.  During the course of my research I have discovered that 90% of the noise that creeps into your home gets in via windows and only 10% via your walls - even if your walls aren't properly insulated.

So let's talk about how to reduce the outside noises while insulating your home in the process.  After all, if noise can't enter your home - neither can pollen, dust and the outside weather.

The first places I visited were the "everything done for you" merchants.  Like anyone else, if I can pay someone else to do the job for me - I'm a happy girl.

The link below takes you to my wishlist site.  I really really liked this one!  But at an overall cost of about $1,500 per window (after crating fees, shipping fees and price of window) BEFORE the cost of installation was tacked on - this was considerably out of my price range.....but I really really liked them.  At any rate, I did learn a bit from watching the informative video on their home page.  Also, when I asked for a quote late on a Friday night, I received one from a very nice man within an hour.  Really good customer service there. So not a total waste of time.

Since the company above was out of my price range, I continued searching.  The great thing about checking out different options is that you learn so much in the process.  Who knew that there had to be at least a half inch (minimum) gap between the glass of your window and whatever you put over them for the noise reduction to work effectively?  I didn't.  I actually thought it would work better if it was laying flat against the window pane.  Hmm.  Who knew that acrylic is FAR better at soundproofing than either glass or plastic - even the pricey laminated glass?  I didn't.

Next I found the site below.  Far more affordable and appears to be an easy self install, but it worried me a bit when the site kept stressing that it really doesn't do much in way of noise reduction.

Now if your noise problem isn't that bad and your main concern is weatherproofing them, sometimes just reglazing the windows (don't forget the sill and frame) will do the trick.  If there is the smallest of gaps between the outside and the inside - noise will enter your home.  Also, make sure to buy the right kind of caulk.  Owens Corning makes a specialized acoustic sealant that I've heard does a great job at both weatherproofing and reducing outside noise.  A lot of folks feel intimidated by caulking.  It's not fun but it's not hard.  It's like icing a cake.  Make sure when you are applying the caulk that you have an old rag that is damp with you so you can quickly wipe away any stray bits of caulk before it dries.  However, if you go back later and find some errant caulk - use your putty knife or a razor blade to gently scrape it off.

Sometimes you want the energy savings and noise reduction but you don't own the home (or apartment) so what do you do then?  Sound proofing blankets.  I found some for sale that are supposed to be professional grade used mainly for recording studios at this site:  While they aren't exactly cheap - they might be worth a try.  Also, the site has some really good information on it.  Also, they aren't exactly the most appealing things to look at so if you were to go this route, I'd highly recommend putting curtains over them.  The down side to going the blanket route is that once you put those babies on your window - goodbye sunshine.  I would recommend installing a tie back and when you aren't trying to sleep or just want to brighten the room, pull them back.  But then that will also mean that whenever they are pulled back - no energy savings.  Slippery slope.

If you want to try the blanket soundproofing idea without spending $200 for a pack of 3, try this site:  These are super affordable and if they don't work?  Use them to cover the furniture you have stored in the basement, put in the car or sofa to keep the dog hair off or some other similar function.  At these prices, you can afford for it to fail.

Let's say you have done the windows and still there are noises keeping you from sleeping at night.  The only thing left to do is to soundproof your walls.  I seriously doubt there is one centimeter of insulation in any of my walls so this is probably something I want to attend to anyway.  But do I have to rip out all the plaster walls down to the studs in order to insulate??  That's not gonna happen.  Actually the answer is a surprising no.  You don't.

What you do is add sheetrock over your existing walls.  I hate my plaster walls anyway.  They are the Devil to try to get a nail in to hang a picture.  They are cracked in a few places.  There are some walls that are as wavy as a rippled potato chip.  I am not a fan.  However, I have discovered that plaster over lathe (which is what I have) has a much better soundproofing reputation than regular drywall by itself.

There are actual soundproofing drywalls out there.  They are made specifically to deaden noise.  They cost a bit more than the regular kind but if you're going to go through the trouble and expense to add a layer of drywall - why not do it the right way first rather than go through all this only to discover that the cheap drywall you used just isn't doing what you wanted.

Here is a link to a site that will give you step by step instructions on how to get this done.

Warning.  When you add the drywall over your plaster, it will take anywhere from 3/4" to 1" off the size of your room where ever you added the new drywall.  This means you will have to remove any baseboards, molding and/or window/door frames and then reinstall them once you've finished hanging the drywall. However, in the grand scheme of things, losing an inch of space isn't really an issue if your room is quiet and insulated.

Back to the renters.

If you rent, you really can't go around replacing windows, adding sheetrock and some of the other suggestions listed above.  Earlier in my blog, I discussed covering cardboard in fabric and making a feature wall.  Cardboard is an excellent noise reducer and weather insulator.  Add to that a thick fabric and you've got yourself a soundproofed and weather proof wall.

All it takes is some fabric, tape (or staples), a few nails and maybe a couple of hours (I work slow) and you have not only a soundproof, weather proof wall but a great feature wall as well.  Use brad nails to affix them to your wall and when you move they will come off easily and leave virtually no trace of them ever having been there.  Another added bonus is if you clean the wall well before you apply the squares, when you remove them, you will have a clean wall with no marks on it which will help tremendously in being able to get your deposit back without having to paint - that wall anyway.  This trick is especially great if you aren't allowed to paint your walls.  Below are a few examples of how great this can look.  Remember, if you tire of the look, slap on new fabric and it's a whole new room!

This wall is extra finished because they framed it out with molding.  Stunning.  In order to get this "puffed" look, you will have to add a layer of batting between the cardboard and the fabric.
The one below is my favorite only because it's quick and easy while looking great!
To make the panels simply find cardboard boxes.  They can be any size at all, they don't have to be free of blemishes such as ripped or torn places.  You can take the time to find all the same size boxes or you can mix the sizes whichever suits your tastes.  If you want them to be uniform but can't find enough of the same size boxes, then use duct tape to stick two (or more) boxes together to get the size you're wanting.  Once you cover in fabric, no one will ever know that they are taped together.

Tip:  Every box will need to be folded in half in order to get the full effect of the insulation/sound proofing properties.  If you lay them flat, it's just a pretty wall.  The thicker the box, the better the insulation/sound proofing.

Once you have the boxes sized to satisfaction, do a dry run on the wall.  Tape them on the wall to see if you have enough or too many or maybe once you get them up there you might now like the configuration.  This will save you a lot of time down the road.

Now that you have the boxes you need, all you have to do is wrap them in fabric and hang them on the wall.
I don't like to staple the fabric to the boxes because I want as few holes in my fabric as possible so I can reuse it later somewhere else if I choose.  I use heavy packing tape to adhere fabric to the boxes.  After all, once I nail the boxes to the wall, the fabric isn't going to move anyway.

I only use 4 brad nails per box except for the outer boxes.  On them, I use as many as it takes to prevent gaps between the walls and the boxes.

My last tips on this subject are when you are dry fitting your boxes, make sure to mark where any outlets and light switches will be so you can cut those areas out before you begin wrapping the fabric.  Also, be careful not to get the fabric so close to the outlets that a loose string or even part of the fabric might get pushed inside the outlet.  The fabric should never cover the cover plate for the outlet.  Then you should be protected from this happening.

So my News Years resolution (one of them anyway) is to hang in this house until I have made it fabulous enough to turn a profit and in the meantime - insulate and soundproof!!

But that's just me....