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Soundproofing strategies can be all bark, no bite

Gene Austin McClatchy-Tribune

Q. Is it possible to soundproof a bedroom to keep out the noise of a dog barking next door? Would it help to pump fiberglass insulation into the walls?

A. It is very difficult to soundproof a room in an existing building against outside noises. Pumping fiberglass insulation into the walls will improve the energy efficiency, but will probably do little to screen out the noise, most of which is probably entering through or around windows.

If the room has old, single-pane windows, it should help a little to replace them with tight, double-pane windows – and again the energy efficiency would be improved. In any case, check the windows for cracks that can be closed with caulk or weather-stripping, since even a tiny crack can transmit a lot of noise. Heavy drapes over the windows will also help.

There is also a space-age product called mass-loaded vinyl barrier, which has proven sound-deadening qualities if properly used on surfaces such as floors, ceilings and walls. This product is expensive and wouldn’t be fully effective on a wall with windows.

There is a great deal of information about this product on the Internet; use a search engine and the phrase mass-loaded vinyl barrier.

I think the best bet, by far, is to try and block the noise at the ears. Earplugs sold at some drugstores can dramatically cut noise penetration. I like Flent’s earplugs, which are small foam cylinders that can be inserted into ear channels without discomfort. I wore them for hours every day when I worked in a noisy newspaper office.

Another strategy, which can be combined with earplugs, is to use inside “white noise” to counteract the outside noise. White noise is simply a recorded pleasant sound such as a babbling brook or waterfall.

For equipment and information, use an Internet search engine and the words White Noise Equipment. Soft music on an ordinary CD player can also provide distraction from outside noise.

Q. A salesman at a home show recently recommended that we remove the insulation from our attic floor and have his foam-type insulation sprayed on the underside of the roof, also sealing all vents in the attic. What do you think?

A. I think this makes sense only if you plan to finish your attic, heat it and use it for living space. Converting an attic to living space is impractical in many newer buildings, where the roof is supported by trusses with many cross-members that make access very difficult.

It is true that some spray-on foam insulations are quite energy-efficient. The spraying is best done by an experienced contractor and installation can be expensive. When foam is used in an attic, moisture production in the building must be kept to moderate levels to avoid condensation and mold formation.

Unless you are planning to convert your attic, and it is the old rafter type that makes it possible to do so, I would leave the attic-floor insulation in place and the attic vents open. If you want more energy-efficiency, add to the floor insulation and make sure it is up to the standards recommended for your area.

Q. An area of my asphalt driveway several feet round has sunk more than three inches and has some cracks. What is the best way to fill the sunken area?

A. I wouldn’t attempt to fill the depression with the old asphalt in place. Instead, dig out the sunken, cracked asphalt and fill the hole with blacktop mix, which you can buy in bags at any home center.

A heavy digging bar, which has a wide blade and long steel shaft, is a good tool for digging out the old asphalt. Cut the edges of the hole as neatly as possible. Fill the hole to slightly above the surrounding asphalt, then tamp down the new asphalt to a level surface.

Questions and comments should be e-mailed to Gene Austin at Send regular mail to 1730 Blue Bell Pike, Blue Bell, PA 19422.
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