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Acoustics - Reducing noise inside & outside the home

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Noise transmission

Recent studies have shown that living in a noisy home that endures constant erratic noises can reduce your life span. Not only does it affect longevity but living in a noisy home generally provides an unrelaxing atmosphere.

Reducing noise or poor acoustics in and around your home isn’t difficult, especially if you‘re building a new home. All that is required is a little planning during the design phase to ensure the acoustics inside and outside the home have been considered and addressed.

So what is noise?

Noise is defined as a loud or unpleasant sound that causes disturbance. Noise around the home is often caused by sound bouncing off one surface to another (reverberation). There are three essential rules to reduce reverberation:

  1. Minimise opportunities for reverberation
  2. Introduce sound soakers
  3. Incorporate noise distractors

Generally, the more a surface of a space is flat, continuous and unperforated the more sounds will be bounced around within that space. These types of surfaces will increase noise.

Below we describe how you can incorporate the rules mentioned above to minimise noise in your home.

Inside the home

Reduce the size of open spaces

Open plan areas that contain smooth and continuous surfaces are excellent at reflecting internal noise around the home as well as amplifying external noises into the home. Try reducing the size of open plan areas not only in actual floor area but also in ceiling height as well. Read more about reducing open spaces.

Incorporate perforated panels

If you already have a large open space you can reduce noise by incorporating perforated panels to items like cupboard doors, kitchen cabinets and stair balustrades for example.  This will offer internal spaces more absorbent and irregular surfaces for noise to dissipate in.

Relocate noisy spaces

To reduce house born noises it is very important to locate noise producing areas in well thought out spaces. Halls and stair wells for example can act as noise conductors or speakers. Don’t face TV’s, kitchens, WC’s or stereo systems onto a stair well or hall, as the noises created in these spaces will be transmitted and often amplified into areas close by.

Walls – reduce hard / reflective coverings

There are other options to products like plasterboard. The options are a little more expensive but if you really need to reduce noise try these options.

3D wall lining

3D Wall Linings

Wall lining system with built in air purification

Acoustic sheets & batts

  • 3D walling
  • Cedar battens
  • Decorative mouldings
  • False curtains

All these products reflect sound in an irregular pattern while absorbing sound at the same time. Even wallpaper absorbs sound much better than a hard flat uncovered wall surface. See more about wall linings.

Acoustic sheet & batt insulation

A timber stud wall that contains either batt or sheet acoustic insulation will transmit far less noise than an uninsulated wall. Installing insulative wall products around private areas like bedrooms, bathrooms and toilets, reduces noise transmission into and out of these spaces. Read more about insulation.

Not all plasterboards are the same

New age plasterboards are designed to deaden noise while offering a higher plaster finish, compared to standard pasterboards like Gyprock. Knauff's OPAL plasterboard wall sheeting has been design specifically for in home use. It's a sandwich type product (similar to standard plasterboard) containing a high density gypsum core with heavy duty external paper. It not only has much better acoustic abilities but also has superior impact performance.

Detailed windows

Windows that have detail included such as transoms’, mullions and multiple operable parts will also help to reduce noise reverberation. For example a window that is large and has one fixed glazed panel will reflect noise much better than a bank of glass louvres of the same size.  See information on window types.


Gyprocked ceilings are the most economical ceiling option but if you need to further reduce noise reverberation there are other options that can help greatly. Take a look at options like coffered ceilings, perforated ply panels, fabric panels and acoustic sheeting. All these options can greatly reduce sound in a space. See more on ceilings.


Use hard floor surfaces sparingly. Noises on surfaces such as tiles, concrete & stone floors reverberate amazingly well. Try replacing these noisy floor coverings with options like rubber, new age vinyl, carpet or cork flooring. Most modern composite floor coverings also offer acoustic underlays to reduce reverberation.

New age composite products are also available. Products like Knauff One Pro are a sandwich type product available in loose-laid tiles. They are easy to clean, have excellent acoustic abilities, come in on-trend large tile formats and are stone like finish.

Ensure you ask about this option before you purchase your flooring product.

Double glazed windows & doors

To ensure your home can be a quiet home if you choose, the entire building envelope needs to be constructed to keep out noise. Windows are a common source of noise transmission, even when they are closed. There are different levels of window quality and most window companies will have an economical range and a high end range. It should be noted that all windows are manufactured to keep water out but it’s only the higher end windows that have better frame and glazing construction and materials that also keep out cold air, hot air as well as noise. Double glazing for example has an air gap between two pieces of glazing and the frame is also enhanced in design to ensure noises are kept outside.

Incorporate soft furnishings

Adding soft furnishings to a space is probably the easiest and most cost effective option when trying to reduce internal noise, great for people that are renting their home. Items like fabric covered privacy screens, cushions, fabric covered lounges, paintings, curtains, large rungs and blinds work a treat in reducing hard surface areas and absorbing noise. These ideas also have the added bonus of keeping your home warmer in winter. See more interior design.

Outside the home

Choose the right fencing

Avoid introducing hard and reflective fencing surfaces into your yard. These fence types will definitely help bounce on site & external sounds around your yard. If you’re looking to reduce the reflective noise quality of your existing fence, add an irregular surface to the fence or build a new fence that has an irregular surface and that can soak up the invasive sounds. Using treatments like Willow fencing and laser cut screens not only reduce the reflective abilities of an existing fencing but also offer visual relief to a plain fence surface.

You can also purchase specialised acoustic fencing product that will help keep out external noises. "ModularWalls" supply a modular fencing system that is simple & quick to install and reduce traffic noise greatly, they even have a DIY pack.

Reduce hard landscaping

As we discussed earlier very flat surfaces reflect the most noise, so large areas of smooth paving and concrete are not a good idea if you’re trying to reduce noise in your backyard. If you must have a large hard landscaped area, try using course stone bitumen instead. This mix uses larger pieces of blue metal which helps absorb and reflect noises in different directions, unlike concrete that reflects noise very well and does not absorb noise.

Plant plants

  1. Plant lots of variety - Generally adding any type of plants to your yard will offer lots of irregular surfaces for sounds like traffic noises to bounce off. The more plants you introduce the more noise will absorbed and not reflected back onto other surfaces. If you plant different types of plants at different heights and structure types, noises will be reduced further as there will be lots of irregular surfaces.
  2. Plant noisy plants - There are quiet plants and noisy plants. By choosing a noisy plant, like a native Casuarina or a dwarf Eucalyptus you can help muffle traffic noise with rustling and whistling sounds that are also very calming.
  3. Plant bird attracting plants - If you’re going to the effort of planting to improve reverberation in your yard choose varieties that will also attract birds. The sounds of birds chirping will not only help to muffle external sounds around your site but it will also offer another historically relaxing sound to users. See more on plants that attract birds.

Water feature

Adding some kind of water feature into your yard will add another distraction to external noises. Whether it’s a pond with a trickling feature or a pool with a waterfall feature, it’s just another item that will help muffle sounds.

Noise pollution in your life can shorten your lifespan and can also create an unrelaxing environment in and around your home.  Reducing reflective surfaces in your home and introducing noise soakers and distractors will reduce noise in your home. Trying just a few of the ideas above will make a difference in reducing noise pollution in your home.