Knowing how to soundproof windows could lead to a notable drop in noise levels of up to 48 decibels (dB) and a huge increase in your living comfort. Especially if you live near a busy street or railway. We all know how disturbing and annoying street noise can be.
The purpose of soundproofing is quite obvious: the window should absorb or block noise and prevent it from entering your room, it’s as simple as that. But, choosing and installing a soundproofed windows may not be as easy as you may think.
Why You Would Want To Soundproof Your Windows?
Noise pollution is a common reality of modern urban life. Even in more rural areas, loud external sounds can seep into your home and that will really make you wonder how to counter the issue.
As you probably already know, windows are one of the essential elements of your home, as they allow for daily light to enter your house, while filtering more or less the annoying noises from outside world.
But, your windows play a role in controlling many more aspects than just the entry of light inside your home. One of them is heat retention and another one is sound transmission and noise blocking respectively, which we’ll look at a bit deeper below.
In fact, windows have a direct impact on how noise enters and escapes from your house. That’s why it’s important to know the specifications of the windows in your home. When it comes to soundproofing, one of the most important aspects is the noise reduction ability of your windows.
To properly understand the issue you should know the main aspects of a noise polluted environment.
What Is Noise Pollution?
Noise pollution is a real problem that affects most of us every single day. Although noise is a subjective term, it is mostly used to describe a sound that is unpleasant and one that the receiver doesn’t want to hear.
Noise pollution can be quite disturbing or intrusive to the listener and although we see it as something pleasant and relaxing, even music can fall in this category in some cases.
No wonder sound has been used as a torture method in history.
Since many of us live in an urban environment, noise levels can be quite disturbing and in the worst case, even dangerous. There are several types of noise pollution and the one that affects you the most obviously depends on where you live. Here are some examples of common noises:
- Traffic and construction work noise
- Social noise including that from bars, restaurants and nightclubs
- The noise of vehicles like planes, trains and subway
- Noise from neighbors
After prolonged exposure, some of these forms of pollution, such as that from trains or airplanes, can cause permanent hearing damage. An airplane taking off can reach sound levels of 150 dB, which can cause severe damage to your eardrum. So, loud noise isn’t something innocent, really.
In other cases, noise pollution is simply an annoyance. And depending on your situation, it could be quite easy and straightforward to solve the issue by just buying the relevant products for your windows. But sometimes it could require a full renovation of your house.
So, now let’s take a look at the best materials and approaches for soundproofing your windows.
How Do Soundproof Windows Work?
The simplest explanation is that soundproofed windows and doors reduce sound by muffling and dissipating sound waves, thus leading to a reduced strength of the sound. This is possible due to the use of materials that have the ability to absorb or reflect sound waves in a different direction.
Windows that are built with sound-absorbing properties are made from specific materials, so that they can effectively absorb external sounds.
Soundproof windows will not be able to completely eliminate all sounds, but could reduce noise by up to 95% in some cases. High-frequency sounds are easier to block than low-frequency sounds, so birds singing outside will be easier to block than cars driving nearby or dump trucks collecting garbage next to your house.
So, when choosing a soundproof window, you will need to identify the common sounds you are looking to block and that are most problematic for you.
Windows can reduce sounds in several ways and for this to actually work, you will need to take into consideration two of the following aspects:
The thickness of the glass: This is a good rule of thumb, the thicker the glass, the better the soundproofing will be.
The space between the windows: The space between the glass layers will greatly contribute to the reduction of noise. In addition, the wider the space, the greater will be the sound blocking ability of the window. This can make your windows quite thick in the end, so have that also in mind when choosing your new soundproof windows.
Lamination: Some windows are designed with a transparent soundproofing layer between the glass layers. This has no effect on the appearance of the glass, but allows for an apparent reduction in sound levels.
In most cases, you won’t really be looking to replace your windows. Instead, you’ll want to upgrade those that are already in place.
The most important factor to consider when choosing a window for its sound reduction power is the sound transmission class. This measures the level of sound transmission through the window. These ratings are based on decibel levels, which are linked to 18 different frequencies.
In order for a window to become soundproof and increase its rating, an additional layer should be added to the glass or the distance between the glass layers of the window must be increased.
You may want to buy a decibel meter if you are really determined to solve your excessive noise problems.
Windows can commonly have a Sound Transmission Class (or STC) between 18 and 38, with a single-glazed window being between STC 26 and STC 28. A double-glazed window is usually between 26 and 32.
In comparison, the average sound transmission class of soundproof windows is between 48 and 54, i.e. almost double that of normal windows. When it comes to the sound that enters your home, it is necessary to have a substantial improvement to the window rating for a real difference to be made.
It’s important to distinguish the STC rating of the glass from that of the window itself. If you buy new windows, be sure to clarify the issue with the manufacturer before installing them.
Other factors also affect the transmission of sound through a window, but this is basically determined by the thickness of the glass and the amount of space between the window panes. In addition, laminated glass can be used, because combining a plastic layer with the glass layers amplifies the soundproofing qualities of the window.
What Are The Best Windows For Soundproofing?
For proper soundproofing, most experts suggest the use of laminated glass. This type of glass will reduce the intensity of the noise as well as vibrations that would otherwise pass right through your windows. Normal windows that have a rather thin glass, often just intensify sound waves and vibrations instead of decreasing them.
Not only is laminated glass more soundproof, but it also has improved safety features, as laminated glass is really difficult to break compared to that of a standard window (car windshield is made of laminated glass). Nevertheless, laminated glass is quite expensive and can be considered a high-end product by the average homeowner, so bear that in mind.
It would be worth considering a double-glazed window, as this is less expensive than a new laminated window. Triple glazing is another option, offering better soundproofing than double glazed windows and costing significantly less than buying laminated windows.
Will Soundproof Windows Make A Difference?
For those who live in an area with high ambient noise, simply changing the glass layers will usually not be enough.
If you need to carry out a large-scale soundproofing project, then you should call a professional. It’s essential to install the soundproof windows correctly, especially if you are replacing both the glass and the frame, which is a delicate job due to the complex design and the fact that they often contain a few extra moving parts.
Other Options For Sound Reduction
Keep in mind that sound does not only seep through the windows and there are several places in the house from which sound can enter or exit. If the windows are not insulated properly, sounds can pass thru the space between the window and the frame.
Insulation is another crucial factor that will determine the degree of soundproofing of your window and the more insulation in your walls, the less chance you will have of sound passing through. Thick fabrics can also muffle the sound, so hang curtains, spread carpets on the floor and make sure your home is furnished properly.
But if your heart still leans for soundproof windows, contact a professional who will be able to install them for you!
It doesn’t mean you have to build a bunker, thou you may sometimes feel like you need one. Most of the time you will be fine with just a well built thick window frame.
Benefits Of Soundproofing Your Windows
As mentioned earlier, the main advantage of soundproof windows is the sound insulation of your home. In the same way, soundproofed windows will prevent the noise you make in your house from reaching your neighbors, thus keeping your privacy.
Thermal insulation goes hand in hand with sound insulation. It’s a great additional effect of soundproofing your windows. The same goes for any other surface like doors, walls and roofing. The materials and glazing used to reduce noise in your home also significantly reduces your energy consumption. Poor insulation can make you lose up to 40% of the heat of your home. Thus, soundproofing windows will save you this loss of energy and also save you money in the long run.
Heat retention and thermal insulation is an important factor in modern homes nowadays and you will get that extra benefit when you soundproof your windows properly.
People often judge the quality of a house, in addition to other things, by the look and quality of its windows. So, if you renew your old windows, the value of your home will increase significantly too.
Generally, the glazing of soundproof windows is thicker than that for standard windows. They have to protect against someone breaking in, but also against the forces of nature. If you opt for this type of windows, it’s even possible to also benefit from a discount on your house insurance.
Other Options To Soundproof Your Windows
Other options you may consider if you don’t want to fully replace or renovate your windows are:
Shutters Or Blinds
Roller shutters and blinds (they are very similar, but are not the same) can be really beneficial to the thermal and/or sound insulation of your house. Both are great options and one of the most common choices for soundproofing windows in your home.
Before you buy, make sure you have all the correct measurements of your windows and that you know which type you actually need to properly soundproof your windows.
Using thick, heavy curtains could also be effective in reduction of external noise in some cases. It’s an option that requires the least work and hassle as you only need to attach the curtains above the window.
Though, keep in mind this is a partial solution to the issue. If you really want to soundproof your windows look for some of the other options, like window inserts or shutters.
Soundproof Window Inserts
Acoustic inserts, when installed on windows, work quite well and are one of the best options for noise reduction in your home or workplace. You just need to attach them to your window frame as an additional sheet or layer of glass. This will effectively improve the noise canceling quality of your windows without having to replace them or make a full renovation of your house.
Some window insulation kits include self-adhesive magnetic strips as well as other options with double-sided adhesive tape. The glue strip extends around the outside of the window opening to the inside of the trim, so you can easily add them to the window frame even on your own.
Use Caulk On Your Windows
Adding caulk to your windows is inexpensive and can be done easily by your self. No need to be an experienced handyman to properly insulate your windows.
The main idea of window insulation is to improve the comfort inside your home and limit heat loss as much as possible. You may heat your home with the best heating systems, but if your home, its windows and doors are not properly insulated, your energy bill will be affected.
The additional effect and benefit is an improved sound damping of outside noises. There are several types of caulk sealants made of expanding foam, silicone, latex and butyl rubber. Each has its own pros and cons, so if you are going to use them, make sure you choose the proper type for your windows.
Rearrange your furniture
Moving your furniture may also play a role in lowering or mitigating external noise. Though, the effect will be rather small. If you are really looking to squeeze out these extra few decibels of silence go for it. But generally we recommend investing mainly in other proven soundproofing methods, like the few mentioned above.
When it comes to soundproofing your windows, it’s essential that you do your research on materials, type of windows, sizes and which noise you mostly want to get rid of. After you know what to look for, it will be much easier for you to make the right decision and choose the perfect window soundproofing methods. So, you can finally enjoy the peaceful silence and comfort of your home with your family.