Soundproofing can go both ways

When a homeowner wants to talk about soundproofing, it usually is in response to a desire to keep noise out.

We can all relate to wanting a quiet space when you return home and want to unplug from technology and social interaction. Sometimes, it is  surprising what true silence is like because we have become immune to the electronic sounds of today‚Äôs lifestyles.

Of course, there are many ways to do this, starting with the exterior shell of the home. Increased insulation, use of brick or stone and triple glazed windows are effective barriers to typical sources of noise such as trains, highways or neighbours.

Within a home, there also are numerous methods and materials to mitigate or soften sound transmission, including:

  • Resilient channel (metal strips that separate drywall from wood studs)
  • Mineral wool sound insulation
  • Acoustic foam panels
  • Light-density spray foam
  • Sound dampening drywall
  • Solid versus hollow-core doors
  • Soft surfaces such as drapes, fabric wall hangings, rugs, carpet and plush furniture

Sound abatement has become a priority for manufacturers of refrigerators, dishwashers, washing machines and dryers. Appliances now include a noise rating among their specifications. Replacing old appliances with new ones can make a big difference in the noise level within your home.

But what if the objective is to not to keep sound out? What if a family wants a media or theatre room for relaxed private viewing? Or what if the family includes one or more budding artists and what they need is a dual space to nurture and show off those talents?

While the same construction methods and materials could be used, there also would be other considerations specific to the location within the home. Decor elements, lighting and design all need to work together to support the artist and create an atmosphere that lets his or her performance shine.

Acoustics becomes the first element of importance on which the size and configuration of the space are a big influence. The more space or physical volume, the better. Vaulted ceilings in an attic or garage or other room are preferable to one with a consistent flat ceiling. Choosing a basement might seem convenient, but it will provide much more of a challenge to prevent sound from bouncing off the walls and ceiling and creating an echo. Specialized acoustic panels will need to be carefully positioned.

Lighting also plays a critical role in creating the right atmosphere. Placement of a combination of pot and spot lights needs to be compiled into a fully designed system. The choice of light bulb, exterior light from windows or skylights, and the use of blinds or drapes all need to be considered as well as dimmers to be able to take the space from lower light for viewing to higher energy for performances.

Draping the sides ends of a stage can make for a more intimate performance. Placing the stage in front of the movie wall can allow for special effects with backgrounds aligned to the type of performance.

Lastly, the audience needs to be comfortable. Typically this means padded reclining theatre-style chairs or couches, either set in rows or groupings. But since we are talking about artists and a creative pursuit, this is where a little more thought could stretch the use of the space and its atmosphere. What about putting casters on the chairs to allow them to be moved to a more casual arrangement. Or what about a combination of bistro tables and chairs with a bar behind, for a full cabaret experience?

Use your imagination to enhance the enjoyment of your home.

Sue Wastell is the president of the London Home Builders' Association and Owner of Wastell Homes in London.     

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