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Soundproof Your Home, Or At Least Your Home Office

In this age of stress and too much work, there are many more of us who are schlepping work home just to make ends meet. While this means you get to spend more time with the family, how can you possibly find a quiet spot?

Finding peace and quiet has become the mantra of the day. Whether it is turning off the ambient noise to get some work done or trying to create the perfect environment for your fantastic home theater sound system, finding ways to deaden everything you don't want to hear is a hot topic.

But how can you create a soundproof room? The best way is the traditional way-through your walls and doors. Here are some helpful hints to create a quiet haven within your home.

Step 1: Insulate

The key to getting some peace and quiet lies in reducing the noise between rooms. This means you need to look to your walls. Too many people don't think about the insulation in their homes unless it's to consider the energy bill. But insulation is one of the biggest ways to reduce sound too.

To get the most sound reduction within your home, you need to completely fill the space between walls. This means insulation-it's not just for your attic!

The problem with insulating is that most people are sloppy. They hate dealing with the batting and rush to get through the job. Unfortunately, in their haste they miss areas. Missing even 6 percent of the space can reduce your sound proofing efforts by 35 percent! This means you must take your time to do the job right.

The best way to insulate between walls is to carefully cut the batting to fit. Be sure that spaces behind wires and around electrical boxes are filled. You want to fit the insulation as completely as humanly possible for the quietest results.

Step 2: Choose the Right Insulation

Of course, there is more than one choice when it comes to insulation. This is good news for you.

There is a soundproofing insulation available. It is a thermal insulation with a new "soundproofing" wrap. These work great. But they can cost more than normal batting.

The good news is that insulation used to be a standard R-11. Today's code mostly calls for R-13. This means that manufacturers are looking for ways to still sell the R-11 insulation. Since it can't be used it for exterior walls (in most areas), manufacturers are now selling it for soundproofing. You can normally pick it up a little cheaper than the special soundproofing insulation and it works the same.

Step 3: Framing

The biggest thing that conducts sound from one room to another is vibration through the walls. If you want to decrease the sound, the best way is to decouple the wall surfaces. This means that you want to separate one room's wall surface from the adjacent wall surface. Here's how you can do that:

If it's new construction, you can stagger the wall studs. You will want to build the wall on a traditional 2 x 4 base plate then build the wall with 2 x 3 studs. You would stagger the studs so they would only secure one wall surface at a time. One stud would connect one wall surface and the next stud would connect the other wall surface and so on.

If you are trying to decouple the wall surfaces in an existing wall, it takes a little more work. You will want to separate the drywall from the framing with resilient channels. These channels are fastened to the studs horizontally and will absorb the sound vibrations instead of the wall itself. The best way to do this is to use drywall screws that only penetrate the drywall and channel, not the stud. This will prevent the sound from traveling through the existing stud to the other room.

Step 4: Holes Are the Enemy-Eliminate Them!

Any holes in the wall will decrease your soundproofing measures. This means you must be vigilant in looking for spaces around electrical outlets and other spaces within the wall itself.

You will also want to avoid placing cutouts in the same place within the wall (i.e. cutting a space for an electrical outlet opposite a cutout on the other side). This creates a space from one room to the next that will be nearly impossible to plug. This creates an invitation for sound to travel from one room to the other without any barriers at all.

If you do find space around cutouts or anywhere within the wall surfaces, caulk them. You can also use rubber gaskets, the same ones you would to reduce heat loss, to dampen sound travel.

Step 5: Your Doors

The only other barrier to the sound is in your choice of doors. A hollow door will allow far more sound through than a solid core door.

You will also want to consider the amount of space around and under the door. You may want to consider adding a seal around the door and a high threshold underneath. However: Be aware that adding a high threshold can be a hazard and is not recommended in any home with elderly persons or with those in wheelchairs.

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