With the popularity of today's more open floorplans, what can be done to help control unwanted noise in the home? Start by figuring out where the unwanted noise comes from. Ignoring sounds which infiltrate from the outdoors, there are basically three areas that can be addressed:
Sound originating within the area.
This is primarily sound waves bouncing back and forth against hard surfaces (flooring, walls, windows, ceilings). Materials such as rugs, carpet and carpet pad, upholstered,
padded furniture and soft, lined window coverings help absorb sound.
Noise echoes in tall ceilings. Design Basics lead designer Carl Cuozzo notes that even in big custom homes he's designing today, buyers are opting for 11-foot high ceilings rather than 2-story high spaces. According to Cuozzo, "You still get the drama and taller doors and windows without so much echo and energy loss."
Soft close hinges for cabinet doors and drawers virtually eliminates the sound of these closing. Similarly, soft-close toilet seats eliminate that "bang". Having a dishwasher in a kitchen island introduces more noise than if the dishwasher backs up to a wall. And of course quieter dishwashers, refrigerators, laundry pairs, exhaust fans, food waste disposers, and furnaces will reduce noise at its source.
Sound traveling into areas from other areas.
Solid core doors block significantly more sound than hollow core doors. For walls themselves, there are products such as Quiet Rock and SoundBreak which are special drywall products which absorb considerably more sound than standard drywall. George Auen at Fougner Engineered Sales suggests, "If you want the best sound isolation, use the acoustic drywall over sound isolation clips. The resulting sound transmission is so good you could swear you were deaf! Auen also recommends using an acoustic caulk around the perimeter of the walls, lid, and any gaps need to be addressed (like electrical boxes, pipes, etc.).
From the perspective of the home's layout, having a separate entertaining place for the kids when entertaining other adults is golden. That way their Xbox games or even loud conversations don't have to disrupt the adults.
Sounds transmitted through the structure of the home by vibration.
A portion of sound waves turns into vibration which is actually amplified as it passes through walls and floors. When possible, locating items which create noise and vibration (i.e., big screen TV, clothes washer) to exterior walls rather than adjoining interior walls will help.
Here again, product choices can go a long way in minimizing noise and vibration. An excellent example is your choice of garage door opener, especially if there is a room over the garage! Acoustiblok® is a 1/8"-thick, flexible sound proofing mat that can be glued, stapled, nailed or screwed to floors and walls. According to the manufacturer, Acoustiblok actually transforms acoustical energy into inaudible friction energy. So if your home buyer's son is a drummer...