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March 2007 Newsletter         
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Love the House
Hate the Noise

A recent question from a reader of my Gazette Newspapers’ Ask Mr. Home Inspector column raised an interesting question about how to solve a problem with excessive traffic noise heard in the house. When a new subdivision was constructed, along with the removal of most of the trees, Jan wrote, “It sounds as if Rt. 270 runs through our living room.”

The choice of construction materials for a home and the quality of installation determines the sound intrusion characteristics of the property. Sound travels thru openings, including pinholesized openings, from one space to another. Also, sound travels through materials because of vibration where materials are in direct contract with one another.

Each assembly of materials has been tested and given a sound rating, called its Sound Transmission Characteristic (STC). Townhouses built with block party walls are quieter than townhouses with double layer masonry boards. A block wall has an STC of 45, while the gypsum firewall has an STC of 34. Higher the number, quieter the assembly. After much research, here are some suggestions to help quiet a home:

Exterior Improvements. Major exterior improvements are most effective, but also expensive. If a home is 20-30 years old, it is most likely ready for new siding and windows. This is the appropriate time to contract for noise attenuating exterior siding, windows and doors.

Single pane windows transmit noise almost as if there is no barrier at all. Double or triple glazed noise control windows have been developed especially for building noise reduction. Even noise reducing storm windows are an improvement. Replacing hollow core doors with solid, denser wood doors will eliminate the door opening as a source of serious noise transmission.

In most cases, however, the owner will be making repairs, rather than expensive replacements. Some home inspectors have infrared cameras that will dramatically show where air leakage is occurring. Where there is air leakage, sound leakage follows. For a masonry home, having a masonry contractor repoint any missing or eroded mortar joints will eliminate pinhole openings. A paint contractor can seal all openings in siding and recaulk door and window joints.

Interior Improvements. The first suggestion is to deal with the major openings of the exterior skin of the home – the doors and windows. Acoustical drapes, curtains and blinds are commercially available and much less expensive than replacing older windows with acoustical reducing windows.

Replacing older hollow core doors with solid core doors help. Also, glass slider doors are awful from the standpoint of noise control. The least expensive measure would be to install a second set of slider doors on the inside framework. For the noisiest side of the home, install noise rated interior windows on the inside framework. The least expensive and easiest correction to accomplish is to cover the windowpanes with clear acoustical sound dampening plastic film.

An infrared survey of the interior walls will show the location of air leaks. Air stopping around areas of air leakage with expanding foam or insulation will also deaden sound transfer.

If the noisiest side of the home also shows significant air infiltration, laminating an additional layer of drywall with insulation between the two layers on the interior walls of that side of the home will significantly deaden sound transmission.

Wherever possible, installing additional wall insulation will help reduce the noise level. The same applies to attic insulation, which can cover pinhole openings from the top ceiling into the home. If basement walls are open and can be insulated, this helps.

Acoustical tiles installed on ceilings will absorb sound. Studies have shown that any room with 25% or more of its surface area covered with noise absorbing materials will substantially quiet a room. A room with carpeted floors, acoustical ceiling tile and sound absorbing drapes should be a quiet room.

If there are one or two particularly noisy rooms and the desire is to block the noise from the remainder of the home, soundproof doors are available. Also, installing a sweep, called a transom seal, at the bottom of the room’s entrance door will close that opening.

Also for a noisy area with no door, such as a room with a cased opening, install strips of 16 mil plastic two feet wide, secured at the top with a 50% side by side overlap to deaden sound transfer from one room to another. “Ain’t” pretty, but it does kill sound movement!

For transfer of noise from level to level vertically, a layer of Homosote compressed paper sub-flooring deadens sound transfer. Suspended acoustical tiles work, as do suspending ceilings or walls with “Z” channels to eliminate direct transfer through vibration.

Homeowners can pick and chose among the suggestions proposed. Each step helps. Cumulatively, a few steps may be enough to make the situation tolerable.


From the Desk of
Arthur Lazerow

Alban’s chief lead-paint inspector, Quintin Satterfield, and his wife Marie, joined my wife Tina and me for an evening at the Music Center at Strathmore to hear Ramsey Lewis, the noted jazz pianist. There were two special bonuses for the evening. The Smithsonian Gospel Choir joined Ramsey Lewis to perform two of his recent Grammy Award winning songs. Then, at the post- concert reception, Quintin (on the left) had the opportunity to discuss politics with Montgomery County Executive Isiah Leggett.

One of the highlights of the Alban holiday party in January was the award to the most productive home inspector. For 2004 and 2005, Rodney Shull had performed the most home inspections and carried home the prize (Iron City Beer). However, with mold inspections counted, Marty Blackwood made a dash to the finish line and the actual numbers were so close that both Rodney (on the left) and Marty were recognized for their outstanding work during 2006. Both are clearly HOT SHOTS!

I was unexpectedly featured in the Spring 2007 Strathmore Newsletter as the principal of a small business supporting the Music Center at Strathmore. They wrote “ ‘Small businesses have an obligation to give back to the community and to improve the quality of life in the area,’ explains Lazerow, who has been impressed with Strathmore’s convenience, top-notch programming, and first-rate acoustics.” Here I am sitting on the conductor’s podium in the main concert hall. Thankfully the hall was empty, since I can’t carry a tune in a bucket. At least now I have the performer’s perspective.

Lead Paint Law Alert

Sandy Watkins, chief of Alban’s lead-paint inspection division, was recently alerted to a catch-22 that many residential investment property owners, managers and leasing agents are not aware of. We had not previously focused on this twist in the law that results from application of both the Maryland HB 760 and Federal Title X to a rental unit that had been previously rented. Maryland law requires that the pre- occupancy lead-paint inspection report be delivered to the tenant prior to occupancy, together with the EPA/HUD pamphlet and the Maryland lead disclosure notice. However, Federal Title X compliance involves another form, and the law requires delivery of ALL leadrelated reports on the building and that dwelling unit. Consequently, if the dwelling has turned over eight times since 1996 when the law became effective, there are nine reports that should be delivered. HUD/EPA has recently issued a memorandum regarding this, allowing the manager to deliver a summary of those reports, so long as the inspection company prepares the summary. All reports must be easily available to the tenant and, if requested, copies of the reports must be physically given to the tenant. For clarification or additional information about Alban preparing summaries, call Sandy Watkins at 301-662-6565 or 1-800-822-7200.






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Call Tina to schedule one of our educational seminars, for additional information, or to schedule our services at 800-822-7200 or 301-662-6565.


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