How to insulate yourself from teen noise

  • A sound-proofed room shown in "Green Design: A Healthy Home Handbook."

    A sound-proofed room shown in "Green Design: A Healthy Home Handbook."

Published2/21/2009 12:01 AM

Noise in the home can be a maddening problem, but it's seldom adequately addressed in plans for renovations of older houses. And that's an unfortunate oversight.

While noise can always be reduced by means of structural adjustments, it's much less expensive and easier to build acoustical improvements into the beginning of a makeover than to try to add them as an afterthought.


Q. We've moved our teenage children to the newly renovated third floor of our house. The reconfigured space includes two bedrooms and a so-called breakout room for their shared use. We knew that noise would come thudding into our second-floor bedroom so we installed densely woven carpets with underlayment in all three of the rooms above us. The racket into our room would probably be deafening without the carpet. However the problem now is between their bedrooms and the breakout room.

A. Acoustics certainly qualifies as a science, as does meteorology. Both are often accurate in their projected outcomes - but not always. Some concert halls, for example, have spent millions of dollars to enhance sound quality a few years after the buildings opened with supposedly superb acoustics.

The good news, comparatively, for homeowners is that they're usually not seeking a perfect balance between bass and treble. In your case the much more modest aim is to sound-proof two bedrooms that has one teen and friends romping and stomping directly next to a sibling sleeping or studying.

One possibility is to install sound-absorbing panels on the walls of the breakout room. Also, some improvement would probably be achieved if you were to add cabinetry or closets for clothing to one of the adjoining bedroom walls.

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Another option proves most effective when the cabinets are built into a wall, as you see in the photo, and when the source of the noise is in an adjoining room. Double-studding a wall will also produce results, though that can be an expensive undertaking once a wall is already in place. Adding the sort of enhancement that will prove to be the best sound barrier is always less costly during the home-construction process.

Excessive noise is, of course, an environmental issue and a potential threat to health. That's why the illustration for this column appeared originally in "Green Design: A Healthy Home Handbook," written by Alan Berman and published by Frances Lincoln. And here's one final suggestion that may not especially green but might prove quite effective: Tell your kids to be quiet ... or else!

• Readers with general interior design questions for Rita St. Clair can e-mail her at

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