Sound Proofing


Dear John,

I read one of your recent articles in the “What makes Xalo Different” magazine when we last visited Jalon a few weeks ago and although we do not live in your area I wondered if you could help.


We purchased our apartment approximately three years ago but have only recently moved here to retire after living a very full and active life in Scotland. Now we are living here permanently we are a little dismayed by the amount of noise coming through the walls from our neighbours and the fact that if we can hear them they can probably hear us.  We mentioned this to our friends who live in the apartment below us who then went on to tell us that they can hear us walking about above. Is there anything that can be done to overcome this problem or do we need the think about moving on?

Kind regards


John and Jenny H. (DENIA)


The lack of adequate sound insulation is a common problem that many people need to either accept or overcome when moving to Spain.

There are basically two types of noise, AIRBORNE NOISE and IMPACT NOISE.

  • AIRBORNE NOISE - Televisions, talking, loud music, telephones ringing etc.
  • IMPACT NOISE - Children running, foot steps, furniture being moved and items falling onto the floor etc.


AIRBORNE NOISE is usually associated with apartments and town houses with noise passing through walls - a neighbour could be playing loud music or has the television volume too high, external traffic noise etc. This is a common problem in Spanish houses; the external and party walls are of the same construction which is usually only one hollow block thick, therefore there is vey little wall density to stop any noise passing through. Even in new housing very little is done at the construction stage to overcome this problem.

 

In England we have the building regulations which dictate the minimum standard of constructional detail required to achieve a satisfactory level of sound insulation; because of this there are a vast amount of sound insulating products on the market which can be used to achieve this minimum standard. Most of these products are fiber based mineral wool slabs or acoustic foams, the sound waves are forced to change directions many times and travel greater distances before the sound passes completely through the absorptive material.  Each time a sound wave changes direction, a portion of the energy is absorbed by conversion to heat. Here in Spain the building regulations have not developed to this degree and these products are not readily available and when found are very expensive. Therefore to achieve an acceptable reduction of airborne noise passing through a wall we need to revert back to the basic principles.

 

By far the simplest way to reduce noise passing through the wall is to increase the density of the wall - the heavier and more solid the wall the less chance there is of noise passing through it. This can be achieved in several ways but the most common and cost effective way would be to make the party wall thicker using a very dense material - concrete is a very good insolent as is several thicknesses of plaster board. Making the wall thicker will of course make the room smaller and this also needs to be taken into account.

IMPACT NOISE is normally associated with floors – as the majority of Spanish homes have tiled floors anyone simply walking about on the floor above can usually be heard in the room below and we have all stayed in hotels where the occupants of the room above suddenly decided to re-arrange the furniture at 3am in the morning. Impact noise is therefore the most common problem when there is someone above you; this may be in a separate dwelling or simply your own home. In our villa we are very conscious not to walk about in shoes when friends and family come to stay in the apartment below.

 

When trying to overcome the problems associated with impact noise you need to do the opposite to the action taken overcoming airborne noise. The material used needs to be soft and absorbent, that is why simply laying fitted carpets to the floor above would dramatically reduce any impact noise heard below. However, the majority of Britten’s do not come to Spain to have fitted carpets and prefer to see the floor tiles in all their glory and that is where it all gets a little complicated.

 

To reduce impact sound we must reduce the density of the floor which is usually impossible, therefore we need to construct a new floor above the existing floor in an absorbent material. These floors are called floating floors or composite floors and in Spain usually consist of 3 - 4cm. of absorbent material laid directly above the existing floor tiles before laying a cement screed and new floor tiles above. The edges of the screed and tiling must not be in contact with the walls as any impact noise would simply bypass the absorbent material and travel along the screed and down the walls. Any increase in floor height would mean that doors would have to be reduced in size; staircases would need to be adjusted etc. and a great deal of thought needs to be put into the equation before any work is started.

 

Before embarking on any structural improvements to reduce noise both airborne or impact I would suggest that a full structural assessment of the existing structure is carried out, there is little merit in overcoming a noise problem only later to find out that you have created a potentially dangerous structural problem because too much weight has been added to a floor.

John Phillips (F.I.A.S. F.A.B.E. M.I.B.C.O. F.F.B. M.R.S.H. C.M.W.O.B.O. M.B.I.M)
Construction Buena Vista

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Buena Vista Villas s.l.

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