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My neighborhood has become much noisier over time and I'm hoping to reduce the amount of outside noise coming in.

I thought upgrading my old windows (original from the 80s which were clearly shot) to newer ones designed for reducing sound would help, but that barely made a difference. I can literally hear birds chirping as if the windows were open even when closed.

I also tried adding a row of landscaping (Junior Giant Arborvitae) on one side of the house where the majority of the noise comes from, but they're still growing and haven't made a huge difference.

I've exhausted the amount of fencing that I can to my property. My community does not allow anything higher than 4 feet past the back corner of the house.

What I'm looking for is advice on what I can do to make my home more soundproof; specifically to lower frequency noises like car doors slamming and loud exhausts / engines. I had some thoughts, but was hoping to get an idea of how effective these would be before throwing good money at ineffective ideas:

  • New siding
  • New insulation
  • New drywall
  • New exterior doors
  • More landscaping

I'm not looking for a 100% soundproof answer, but something to cut the explosive sounds of my neighbor's cars cold starting would be appreciated.

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  • This question is too broad and open-ended. Even if one were to attempt assessment of the ideas you listed, we have far to little information about your situation. Please see the help center and take the tour.
    – isherwood
    Apr 18 at 13:07
  • We need way more info - what sort of house, what construction, how many storeys, what size, how big a garden, for starters.
    – Tim
    Apr 18 at 14:35

3 Answers 3

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The unfortunate answer here is that this is going to be an expensive project.

You may have noticed that being inside of a modern house, there's often substantially less noise that comes in when compared to an older house. If your house was not built in the last decade, it's effectively a leaky sieve that allows all sorts of sound to come in to the structure. Newer house energy efficiency standards result in construction that is far less leaky, which means much less sound making it in to the house in the first place.

Unfortunately your replacement windows probably did so little precisely because they were replacement windows. The frame around the window is probably still full of air leaks, and unless you pulled off the surrounding siding and used liquid or self-adhesive flashing to air seal the windows during installation, the sound is just leaking in around the window.

The key approaches to reducing sound are to reduce air leaks that let it in, and to absorb the sound which does make it in.

The first one is going to be expensive. You will effectively need to air seal the house, which will mean residing with a laser-like focus on all the details under the siding. You will need to make sure every penetration and joint is sealed, probably with liquid flashing and air-sealing films. The end goal there is to make sure you control all the air coming in to the house, since air carries sound really well. Oh, and you will need to add an Energy Recovery Ventilator (ERV) or Heat Recovery Ventilator (HRV).

The second one can start cheaper, and go all the way up to expensive. That's absorbing sounds. The cheaper version is adding heavy draperies, tapestries, sound absorbing panels made of dense insulation, furniture, etc. This will tend to absorb higher frequency sound, but will do less for the lower frequency sound. The more expensive version is re-insulating with rockwool, adding a second layer of drywall, making cavity spaces with mass loaded vinyl, etc. All of this will be more expensive construction.

One last thing: keep your expectations reasonable for low frequency sounds. Absorbing them is hard. When doing it for locations like recording studios that need to be very quiet, you end up needing to use very expensive construction techniques such as room-within-room constructions, building on a large damped isolated floating mass, earth berm construction, and so on. None of it is cheap, and it all takes up a lot of space so is completely unsuitable for retrofit.

Good luck! It can be quite expensive and laborious to do what you are asking to do.

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  • This is a great answer, but what is an ERV or HRV?
    – Cheery
    Apr 18 at 14:12
  • I suggest you edit the answer to add that.
    – Cheery
    Apr 18 at 14:16
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    A comment that is specifically not part of the answer since we don't do pricing here: for one project I'm working on right now, we just reduced the NRR (Noise Reduction Rating) by about ten dB on a single wall. It will save over $80k in construction costs.
    – KMJ
    Apr 18 at 14:40
  • Of course 10dB is a big difference when you're trying to get to sleep.
    – Chris H
    Apr 18 at 15:37
  • If you're trying to sleep and there's too much noise, custom fitted earplugs are about $100 and you can safely sleep in them.
    – KMJ
    Apr 18 at 15:42
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Think of the task as making an enclosure without holes. Even one comparatively small hole will let in sound... so it's plugging one after another.

At first, after plugging one or two sound "leaks", the difference might hardly be noticeable. Only near the end would there be an abrupt change in overall sound level.

Decide what type of noise you find most objectionable. For example:

  • To block low-frequency traffic rumble might benefit from adding more mass to walls (e.g., a second layer of drywall).
  • To block high-frequency bird chirps, block small holes, e.g., around windows.

Consider adding material inside the house to reduce both transmission and echoes of outside noise, such as hanging rugs, carpeting and soft furniture.

If you can, borrow a sound meter (e.g., from local cable broadcasting studios) and check each place where sound could be entering. You might have someone stand outside, holding a noisemaker, where you're testing.

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With focus on the wall facing the most noise:

If the insulation in the wall is fiberglass, replace with mineral wool. It may be easier adding a layer on the exterior and facing with a dense siding material. The thicker, the better.

In addition, you can add a layer of sound deadening panel or mass loaded vinyl and cover with another layer of drywall to the affected walls in each room, but as DrMoishe Pippik mentions above, continuity is important.

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