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.”
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
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
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.
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.
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,
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.
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!
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
From the Desk of
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
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.
proud to offer FREE Continuing Education Courses in Real Estate Offices!
Call Tina to schedule one of our educational seminars, for additional
information, or to schedule our services at 800-822-7200 or