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How to "sound proof" bedroom windows ??

Discussion in 'Lifestyle Management' started by ePat, Aug 28, 2011.

  1. ePat

    ePat

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    Hi guys, just wondering what you do with regards to blocking out sounds from windows ?
    My neighbors are VERY deaf and fight all the time. Unfortunately, their main windows as well as the front door of their house are right across from my bedroom window and they wake me up all the time. (Yes, they do know that I am ill, that I sleep during the daytime and where my bedroom is). When it comes to discipline they are just hopeless (otherwise quite nice). I do have a very light sleep and already use double-earplugs and still wake from their quarrels. So I am desperate to block out the noise that is coming in through my windows - which are double-glazed and have decent shutters. I am looking for the best way to block sound on the inside of my bedroom. The windows are wide but not terribly high and I am only using one of them to air the room. So I could have something semi-permanent done with two of them. The one that I do open will need to have some removable solution. "Band aids" such as cardboard or heavy curtains would clearly not do the trick. I was thinking foamed material, but am not even sure if that would work. Would anyone have ideas / recommendations or experiences they could share ? Any ideas and brainstorming much appreciated.
    Thanks heaps !!! Pat :)
  2. Enid

    Enid Senior Member

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    Hi Epat, One suggestion if funds possible - secondary glazing. I've double glazed windows with slight recess and secondary (sliding) glazing installed on the bedroom window. It does seem to keep any street noise out better though this is a rural street. Soft overear headphones helped enormously when all sound was intolerable. Hope more suggestions come in for you.
  3. Tony Mach

    Tony Mach Show me the evidence.

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    I think a "do it yourself" solution will only help slightly. The best solution would be to replace the windows. The second best would be to put a second set of soundproof windows inside.

    If going for DIY none the less: I guess foam will not help much. You will need something a bit heavy and rigid, something that dampens the sound substantially. And it would need to be fixed to the wall, so sound doesn't get through. Big planes that that tend to vibrate (like "thin" metal or "thin" glass) are a problem, so better something like a bit thicker wood plane that dampens the sound.

    You could have a (thicker) wooden door made in the size of the window (or two or three "small" doors depending how wide or high your windows are...) with the door frame fixed to the wall. Might be cheaper than soundproof windows and keeping out light might help you sleep better during the daytime.
  4. Rooney

    Rooney

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    I sleep with a white noise machine.

    Google or Bing may help more with expert ideas. Best of luck to you with those dreadful neighbors.

    Rooney
    Allyson and ggingues like this.
  5. LaurelW

    LaurelW Senior Member

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    That is downright rude and inconsiderate. If it were me, I'd report them and keep reporting them until they stop it. I have neighbors with a yippy barking dog, and I wrote them a nice note, but they didn't listen until I called animal control--twice.
  6. caledonia

    caledonia

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  7. Tony Mach

    Tony Mach Show me the evidence.

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    To see how far foam would help, you can try this:
    Put a table under the window and lean a mattress against the window. You could maybe borrow the table and mattress, so if it doesn't work you return it. A mattress could be cheaper than foam you buy by the square-meter

    And don't use "removable painter's tape" for longer periods of time it tends to leave sticky residues if you leave it for longer times. Besides it is expensive and doesn't hold very good...

    Rather, if you want to fix foam semi-permanently to a window, let someone drill four (or more) holes and fix little hooks. Use some wire, (flexible) bands or something like that to hold the foam in place. Maybe some (flexible) bands that are used to pull down stuff on trailers or bicycle racks.
  8. Adster

    Adster Senior Member

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    I'd be looking at a frame and board arrangement built to the exact size to fit into the window frame cavity on the inside, and that would be lined with as much sound absorbing material as possible. You need the right sound absorbing material though, it needs to have very specific qualities to absorb sound energy. You need something like the felt that is under the carpet in cars, or that you find lining the inside of speaker boxes. You could order some acoustic foam from Parts Express, something like this http://www.parts-express.com/pe/showdetl.cfm?Partnumber=260-530 (not cheap though). If you wanted to experiment, get as many blankets and quilts as you can find, and see if you can find a way to stuff them into the window cavity. This will give you some idea of how successful it will be and whether it will be worth the effort. Air gaps let in heaps of sound so look for any of those. Rockwool insulation batts are used over here a lot for sound insulation, not sure what they are called in the US, maybe look for "acoustic insulation batts". They will be much cheaper than the speaker foam above. Don't use fibreglass batts as they will irritate your skin.
  9. ePat

    ePat

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    Wow, thanks for the overwhelming response everyone !

    Enid / Tony March: Replacing the windows is entirely out of the question. Fitting second windows is not going to work due to the style of windows. I had already looked into that before I posted my question.
    Light is not an issue. The shutters block it completely.
    The idea with the "wooden door" before the window is great but I can't see how that is going to materialize. I am not able to build it myself (if I was that well, I'd simply move out). Also, I will never receive permission to install such a construction. I might be able to think something up using wooden panels or I could even stack bricks into the window frame cavity of at least the 2 windows I don't use.

    Rooney: tried that, find it distracting and too loud if I could sleep and not loud enough to block the sudden loud noises from the outside if they do occur.

    Tony Mach 2 / SickofCFS: Tried that last night. Cut up an old foam mattress and fitted it into the window cavity. It did not require taping since it was slightly oversized. That way I could stuff it into the cavity and it did not leave leave any gaps. I waited until the quarreling started, then pulled the mattress out to compare the sound level. And quite frankly: I don't think there was a difference at all.
    Just to clarify: I do not leave the window open when I sleep. I open it after I wake in order to air the room and close it again before I go to sleep.
    Fixture is not a huge problem due to the window sill, but thanks for the great tips :)
    I hear what you (SickofCFS) are saying re: rigid foam. It's cheap and worth a try. The only question I'd have is: which kind ?? There seems to be a ton of different ones that I can order online and it's not stated which ones have the best sound-blocking qualities ??

    LaurelW: I could never report them, they have the right to do what they want as long as it's during the daytime (which is when I happen to sleep). They are not bad people, just simple and inflexible.

    caledonia: the first link looks excellent, thanks+++. The second is not an option - had found that before (see reply to Enid). I'll look into that IsoTrax-stuff, maybe I can get a hold of a sample. It doesn't say how much one unit is, but I fear it's enough to cover a whole wall (i.e. way too much for me).

    @SickofCFS 2: I LOVE Goo-Gone, they sell a huge 32oz container on Amazon for next to nothing. Un-Du is my second choice, much more expensive. Both work like a charm :)

    Adster: "You need the right sound absorbing material though, it needs to have very specific qualities to absorb sound energy." Exactly. And I had no idea where I should even start looking. Simple foam is obviously not doing the trick (see above).
    Rockwool (mineral wool) is not an option as super-messy and would require permanent installation, but the felty sonic barrier looks extremely promising - thanks very, very much for that idea. See I had never even thought about the speaker-building guys :)) It's expensive, yes, but might work well in combo with one of the other suggestions (hard-foam e.g. or even your removable frame). Plus it has an adhesive backside so I could just stick it to the window-panels (maybe with a bit of extra glue) and take it from there.
    No air gaps. Windows are new and close tightly. Great reply. Thanks heaps !!

    So: HUGE thanks to everyone who helped with this issue and offered their thoughts and ideas. I'll go and do my homework now. It's Monday tomorrow, so I should be able to get this done this week. Can't wait. Honestly. :) :) :)
  10. Adster

    Adster Senior Member

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    If you put your ear to the wall and then to the window when they are arguing, how does the sound level compare? My only concern with this is that a lot of the sound will be coming through the drywall as well as the windows. Good luck with it, let us know how it goes :)
  11. ePat

    ePat

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    Adster, this is funny, I was going to ask about that / add a comment regarding this to my last reply, but then thought it was a bit too technical. It's a brick-wall. Crappy bricks, but at least not a drywall. So it's only really the sound traveling through the air / shutters / glass that's a problem (as opposed to sound coming in through the wall / adjacent pavement). But I am wondering if it makes any difference whether whatever I end up using is touching the glass as well as the walls or whether it would make more sense to leave a gap between the glass and whatever proofing I end up using. The proofing would still touching all sides of the window cavity (i.e waves would travel.: air->glass->air->sound proofing versus air->glass->sound proofing). I was trying to figure that out, but unfortunately my physics has gone down the ME-drain :-(
    For now I followed your advice and filled a box with blankets, towels and down-coats and stuck that into one window cavity. The others I have covered with wooden boards and I'll see what that does. Of course it's quiet outside right now, so I won't know until later.
  12. Wayne

    Wayne Senior Member

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    Hi ePat,

    I haven't read this entire thread, and I don't know if this has been mentioned: Custom made windows made to fit on the inside of your current window. A cheaper route would be what we have done; measure the windows, go to Lowes or Home Depot, and have them cut a piece of thick strofoam that will slide in and out of the window. Blocks out light besides doing a pretty good job with noice; and it's relatively inexpensive. Good luck!

    Wayne
  13. Valentijn

    Valentijn Activity Level: 3

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    I have no idea where you are, but some cities have noise ordinances, especially at night. Also, if your neighbors are also renters, calling their landlord may be an option.
  14. Andrew

    Andrew Senior Member

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    My recollection is that an air space will help.
  15. Adster

    Adster Senior Member

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    Sound proofing can get really complex, I'm not sure how much trouble you want to go to here. Feel free not to read all this!

    Whatever you fit into the window cavity has the potential to retransmit sound into the room, or even make it worse. So if you were to fit a frame into the existing window cavity, it would be better that any two touching surfaces were covered with something that will absorb rather than transmit any sound. You could use some of whatever you end up using for the main sound insulation, or some thinner felt or spongy foam material. Be a bit careful with rigid white polystyrene type foams as these will transmit sound very well. This will also allow you to use less precise tolerances when building the frame if you go that route. It's hard to say whether doing this is necessary, it assumes that there is some sound coming from the window frame.

    As for whether you are better with an air gap between glass and sound insulation, my ME brain is struggling with the answer, but I'll try! If the window pane is the source of your problem, there are 2 ways of making it quieter. One is to stop the glass from picking up the sound, which it does by vibratiing basically, because it is a rigid material. You can't make it "floppier" so you need to add mass, ie stick a piece of bitumen or lead sheet to it(you can buy this from car audio parts dealers). Changing it's mass(even slightly) can also move it's resonant frequency(think wine glass or bell ringing) to one that isn't that of the screaming from next door. You are then left with absorbing the sound that comes from the glass, which you are trying to do with the insulation. This basically dissipates the sound energy through millions of floppy fibres(think string & can telephone - string must be tight to work) so that there is less energy to "excite" the air and then your ear drums. I didn't really explain the air gap thing there did I lol. I'd say most likely yes, air gap would be better.

    The potential to make it worse is if you used a board that was resonant at the frequencies of the human voice and was very light and rigid. It could act as a big loudspeaker. Also, if you are chemically sensitive, watch out for buying products that are offgassing like foams and bitumen sheet.

    I hope that all made sense. It could be full of mistakes, brain is a bit confusable today!
  16. Tony Mach

    Tony Mach Show me the evidence.

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    That is a good idea that might reduce the sound, but I see some problems with bitumen sheets. The stuff is a bit expensive and it is difficult to remove.

    Furthermore, there are two pathways for sound to travel through a window:
    1. Through the window pane (sound reaches the window pane, brings it into vibration and the window pane retransmits the wound)
    2. Through the gap in the frame (the better and tighter the seal, the less sound comes through)

    Bitumen sheets could help with number 1, but I think number 2 is really the problem with any old (non-soundproof) windows. With my windows, which are relative soundproof, I hear how much more sound comes through if I loosen the handle just a bit (without opening the window!). Sound is really sneaky.

    Maybe replacing the seals in the frame (or adding some if there aren't any!) and making sure there are no gaps in the seal will do the trick. But it could be difficult to add thicker seals to an old window. Plus, it could make it difficult to close the window
  17. ggingues

    ggingues $10 gift code at iHerb GAS343 of $40

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  18. ePat

    ePat

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    Hi, thanks again for all your suggestions.
    Just to clarify: the windows I have are modern, new, absolutely tight, double-glazed windows.
    So it's not the windows that are the real problem. It's the combination of sound right in front of them and the fact that I am terribly noise sensitive and have light sleep.
    I guess a lot of the suggestions would work for someone who is struggling with old single-glazed windows, possibly with a wooden frame etc. But they don't do a thing for me.

    Wayne: custom made windows out of the question (see my second post), styrofoam doing nothing for me (tried a thick 10" / 15cm block). Glad it worked for you though :)

    Valentijn: I have an inversed sleep pattern. Everybody is well-behaved and quiet at night (when I'm up), but not during the day (when I need to sleep). Yes, they do rent, and their landlord is entirely disinterested in whatever happens in that house. Everything is managed through an estate agent. So I don't even have contact details for their landlord.

    Andrew: 3 people (yourself, Adster, myself) can't be wrong :)

    Adster: "Sound proofing can get really complex". I would correct that to "is really complex" :))
    "screaming" - if it was at least that. Surprisingly, the majority of it is more like "barking" (coming from him), i.e. low frequency, which is much harder to block than high-pitched sounds.
    Chemical sensitivity is not a problem, thank heavens.
    I think your brains got it pretty right (see below) :)

    @TonyMach: I know exactly what you mean with "gaps in windows", however that really is not a problem in my case (see beginning of this post).
    Excellent English for a "Kraut" btw ;-))

    So, what I found out today is the following (just in case someone else ends up in my type kerfuffle):
    Builder-kind guys are pretty useless when it comes to acoustics. They'll just try to sell you anything (e.g. ordinary foam) claiming that it will work. (Although from my experience clearly it does not).

    Those speaker-building guys are great. They basically confirmed what Adster and Tony Mach are saying and added a few more infos:
    - sticking that dampening material mentioned in one of the previous posts to the window is not going to do a thing. It would merely muffle some of the lower frequencies, but that effect would hardly be noticeable. So I can save myself the effort and cost of that.
    - bitumen sheet: would stop the glass from vibrating. But I was warned that I would not be able to remove it again. So not really an option.
    - dissipating material: needs to contain sufficient air, so needs to be fluffy but not too tightly packed
    - this needs to be followed by something that would reflect the sound waves back (towards the window), so e.g. a wooden panel. To this, a bitumen sheet could be added (to the side facing the window).

    BUT - and here is the real problem: I was also warned that whatever I did could actually amplify the sound (see also Adster's post) and add as a loudspeaker. I was told that it is impossible to say what would actually happen unless the whole setup would be calculated. I was warned that I could spend ample time and money on a really nice arrangement only to find that it made things worse if this wasn't worked out beforehand. Needless to say that I cannot do these type of calculations.

    Last night I tried that setup I described beforehand: boxes filled with various materials.: No effect. Not even between different fillers (down versus fleece e.g.). Wooden panels: no effect, regardless of thickness.
    So the only thing left to try is a combination of the two, and if that isn't going to have a noticeable effect I might just have to give up. The only other option that came to mind was to stick wooden panels between the windows and the shutters on the outside, but I'd really have to have a good look at the whole system to see if / how that would work (size of panels, thickness, accessibility etc). But from a physics point of view that would be the most elegant solution, since blocking the waves outside would prevent the glass from starting to vibrate in the first place.

    I just find it amazing how complex this whole subject is. One would think light = waves and sound = waves, easy-peasy. Well: not. Want to block some light ? Just use a bit of aluminum foil, available in every household, problem solved. Try to block sound ? Obviously near-impossible, at least with ordinary means. Boy, one learns new things every day, even when stuck in bed.
    Well, thanks everyone for the ideas & suggestions and especially for the explanations (Adster & TonyMach !!!).
    Pat
  19. ePat

    ePat

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    Hi GG, thanks for those links. These are great products you found, but I doubt they would do much sound blocking just by themselves. The first one could maybe be used instead of a wooden panel in combination with other materials, but one would really need to have a look at what exactly it is. I love the second product, which basically seems to be a sturdy aluminum foil. So it's mainly for heat reflection / temperature insulation, not so much a sound muffling material. Great stuff anyway, I could think of quite a few things to use it for... :)
  20. Adster

    Adster Senior Member

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    Let us know how it goes if you do go ahead with anything. Bummer the trials didn't work. You need a Japanese sleep pod! ;-)

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