Wise Product Choices for a Quiet Home

Wise Product Choices for a Quiet Home

You could try masking unwanted noise with your noise cancelling headphones/earbuds like you do when traveling. Problem is, they’re not very comfortable when trying to sleep, and just not practical for continuous use. Minimizing annoying sounds by making informed product choices for your new home sounds like a good idea.

Previously we have addressed sound deadening construction products for your home. Here, we’ll look at several other key product decisions that can contribute to a quieter home, starting in your bathroom. Bathroom exhaust fans are rated for the amount of noise they make, measured in “sones.” Though there are numerous considerations in addition to a bathroom fan’s volume when making this purchase decision, comparing various fans’ volumes is easy. Broan (a leading manufacturer of bath fans) has fans rated at .3 sones (almost inaudible) retailing for $190, as seen on one of the big box home improvement store websites. A comparable 6 sone (loud) Broan fan could be purchased for less than $40. Whether enjoying a hot soak in the tub or stepping out of a steamy shower, that $150 is a small price to pay for tranquility.

You can avoid the jolting “bang” from dropping the toilet seat by choosing a soft-close lid. And in both the bathroom and kitchen, soft-close cabinet hardware eliminates the annoying bang of cabinet doors. 

Soft Close Cabinet Hinge

As in your bathroom, your choice in a kitchen range hood exhaust fan can mean the difference between continuing your conversation or having to go elsewhere to hear each other. Your dishwasher choice also makes an appreciable difference. Unlike exhaust fans, dishwasher volume is measured in decibels (dB), and the lower the dB rating the quieter it operates. Again, using prices from a big box store, a GE stainless steel dishwasher measured at 59dB costs less than $650, while the 39dB model was a bit under $1,200. But that 20dB difference means the cheaper model is 4 TIMES as loud as the quieter model! Open to your Great Room, that can mean having to go elsewhere to be able to enjoy your favorite TV show. Pay special attention to dishwasher volume if your dishwasher is installed in your kitchen island as there is no exterior wall to help muffle the sound.

Another potentially noisy item found in your kitchen is the garbage disposal under your sink. Spend less than $100 (excluding installation labor) and you’ll pause discussions until after you’ve run the disposal. Invest $300 or so and you may not even hear the disposal operating. Revealing the Real You – Selections for Your Home has further information on how your product choices affect your new home’s price.

LG Twin Wash Pair

Having your laundry room next to your bedroom can be a great convenience, but a noisy laundry pair can quickly turn that joy into regret. With washers and dryers, the noise issue is compounded, as vibration can compound sound problems. As with the above, quieter appliances are available, but typically are going to cost more. And, if your bedroom adjoins the garage (or sits atop the garage) you’re going to want a quiet garage door opener. Belt-drive openers tend to be the quietest, and DC current models may start/stop softly, further reducing noise. (Photo courtesy: LG.com)

Finally, the location of your furnace and water heater will help determine how important quieter, pricier models would be for you. If your mechanicals are located near bedrooms or just off a living space, what are your options for minimizing such noise? Electric furnaces are typically quieter than gas, two-stage furnaces are quieter than one-stage models, and variable-speed furnaces quieter compared to single-speed units. Similarly, electric water heaters are usually quieter than gas models, and tankless water heaters typically make less noise than conventional tank-type heaters.

It’s an interesting paradox – on one hand we’re striving to achieve serenity by minimizing unwanted noise; on the other we’re ushering in sounds to our environments, typically through media. Smart solutions give you control over the volumes. Talk with your builder, quiet product options should be strong considerations. Savvy builders have recognized this and done the research for you, with some even offering a “Serenity Package,” an option bundle that includes quiet products throughout your home, making your choice easy.

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(Product spotlights are for informational purposes only.)

Achieving a Quieter Home Through Design

Achieving a Quieter Home Through Design

Shhh... someone might be sleeping.

Accessing the Cabot Terrace’s (plan #42423) generous walk-in closet directly from the bathroom means fewer interruptions if the two of you have different sleep schedules. And the door to the bathroom being next to the door in and out of your suite means less disturbance when leaving early.

Yes, the design of your suite has numerous implications when it comes to peace and quiet. Where your suite is positioned in relation to other rooms, especially bedrooms, matters. The Cabot Terrace showcases the popularity of “split-bedroom” layouts, wherein your suite is well-separated from secondary bedrooms for maximum privacy at night. But the Cabot Terrace’s suite bedroom doesn’t share a wall with any public spaces inside the home, delivering true tranquility.

Cabot Terrace - #42423

Which “floor” of your home your suite is located on has further significance. In a two-story home, not having living space over your bedroom will help with noise. Conversely, if your bedroom is on the second floor, what space(s) are beneath it? (You might not want your bedroom directly above your media room!)

Hanna - #4081

Or consider the option of a “mid-level” suite such as that found in the Hanna (plan #4081). Ascending one-half flight of stairs brings you to the landing where double doors lead to your suite that’s on its own level! First and second floor noises tend to be less problematic for layouts with mid-level suites.

Popular for keeping everyone together and for their feeling of spaciousness, open floorplans do present challenges when it comes to sound control. Sound waves bounce back and forth against hard surfaces (flooring, walls, windows, ceilings). Noise also 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 10- and 11-foot high ceilings rather than cathedral and 2-story high spaces.

According to Cuozzo, "You still get the drama and taller doors and windows without so much echo and energy loss."

Focus on solutions that help control sound in such spaces – floor coverings such as carpet and pad or Luxury Vinyl Plank (LVP), upholstered furniture, and drapes (as opposed to blinds) for window coverings.

As with bedrooms, the location of your home office (or area when your kids will be remote learning) is important. Up front near the entry may be convenient, but what about street noise? An adjoining bathroom is great, until clients and colleagues get to listen to the toilet flushing. If the laundry room is next to your office/learning center, will that restrict when you run the laundry? Locating the home office away from frequently used areas of the home or loud areas such as a media room is important. And, as described with the Hanna, there are designs such as the Manning (plan #2207) with mid-level dens accessed off staircase landings! Read more about home office design considerations in Take the Stress Out of Working from Home.


The Sunflower Creek (plan #42371) has the sink and dishwasher against the rear exterior wall; the big TV will likely go against the exterior wall of the Great Room; and upstairs, the washer and dryer set against an exterior wall to the front – all choice locations for reducing noise in your home. 

Sunflower Creek - #42371 ML
Sunflower Creek - #42371 UL

When considering home design, listen for how your home will live. What adjoins your bedroom? Your office? Our desire for serenity has lowered volume ceilings. Noise-making appliances and your media entertaining – where are those located? Know also that once you’ve identified the home design that works best for you, our Customized Home Plan designers can help you with any desired plan changes to achieve the peace and quiet you seek.

Be sure to catch the next blog post in this series on how quiet products complete a quiet home.

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Building a Quiet Home – Construction Aspects

Building a Quiet Home – Construction Aspects

Aesthetics… price… livability… there are many competing priorities when building a new home, and unfortunately, building a quiet home isn’t atop very many people’s lists. Yet, with many of the most effective solutions for reducing noise best undertaken during your home’s construction, consideration now can help avoid regrets later.

Essentially, noise either comes from outside of your home or within. There may be little you can do to minimize traffic or neighborhood noises such as lawn mowers, barking dogs, and children playing, but better windows and doors, air sealing, and insulation all contribute to reducing external noise entering your home. Double- and triple-pane windows block noise better than single-pane. Reduce air (and, therefore, sound) infiltration through extensive use of caulking, or opt for expanding spray foam insulation to seal joints and penetrations in and around exterior walls. Once the home has been well-sealed, you can specify sound-deadening insulation between the studs for a much more serene home. Alternatively, homes built with concrete exterior walls, and especially insulated concrete form (ICF) walls are inherently more peaceful regarding external noise than typical wood construction.

Equally important is reducing unwanted noise created within the home. We will deal with home design issues and choosing quieter products for the home in upcoming posts. For now, we will consider approaches for blocking unwanted sound, and for absorbing those irritating noises best addressed when building.

Whether it’s toilets flushing, the washing machine, media entertainment, or loud discussions, unwanted noise from adjacent rooms in your home spreads freely until those sound waves run into something. Think about the difference just closing your home office door makes. But did you know a solid core door will block approximately twice as much sound as its hollow core counterpart? Solid core doors are more expensive, so you may want to carefully choose where to opt for these. Additionally, weather-stripping around the door and adding a sweep at the bottom of the door to fill the gap between the door and the flooring will make noticeable differences.

The drywall on your son’s bedroom wall and the drywall on your bedroom’s side of that wall muffle noise significantly but that may not be quiet enough. Fortunately, several fixes are available. A double layer of drywall is one of the more common approaches. Rather than standard drywall, noise-deadening drywall such as Quiet Rock® and SoundBreak® XP® can be used. Between the studs and drywall, SOUNDSTOP®, a ½” soundproofing fiberboard tacked to the wall and/or ceiling framing studs and then covered by the drywall, is highly effective. 

SoundBreak XP - bedroom

Photo courtesy: Ask for Purple

Acoustiblok®, an 1/8"-thick, flexible sound proofing mat, which transforms and dissipates sound and vibration into inaudible friction energy, according to the manufacturer. Insulating standard interior walls with a sound-deadening insulation is another option. Along with any of these approaches, seal wall penetrations and drywall seams with an acoustic caulk such as QuietZone® Acoustic Sealant.

Sometimes the sound is coming between floors. Home theatres are popular in basements, which naturally tend to be darker environments. In a two-story home, it may be hard for your kids to get to sleep upstairs while the party’s still going on in your great room. And if there is living space over your garage, the sound of the garage door opener operating can be disruptive.

Some of the solutions used for reducing sound coming through walls, such as insulating the cavities, sound deadening drywall, or SOUNDSTOP and Acoustiblok sound barriers, can be used for diminishing sound travel between floors. And, as with walls, acoustic caulking around penetrations and cracks will help. Additionally, sound-dampening glue can be used under floors. Flooring material is also one of the more obvious areas where sound absorbing options come into play. Within a room, sound waves bounce off hard surfaces such as tile and hardwood, while carpeting and luxury vinyl products are much quieter. An acoustical underlayment can be added for an extra measure of quiet. Similarly, acoustical underlayment, carpeting plus pad, or luxury vinyl products, help absorb sound transmission between floors. If you do opt for hard surface flooring, heavy area rugs may help reduce sound.

Having the opportunity to consider spending a little more to achieve serenity is just one of the many benefits of buying a new home rather than a resale house. As we learned during the COVID-19 outbreak, peace and quiet in our homes is truly a blessing. Talk with your builder about the various soundproofing measures they recommend. You’ll be glad you did!

Next time – Achieving a quieter home through design!

Last week's post: Quiet Homes - Your Health Depends on It!

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Cover photo: <a href='https://www.freepik.com/photos/book'>Book photo created by Racool_studio - www.freepik.com</a>

Perhaps the Most Overlooked Facet in Building Your Dream Home

Perhaps the Most Overlooked Facet in Building Your Dream Home

There is an under-appreciated aspect of our homes that is a critical component of our overall physical and mental health. One that can contribute to, or adversely affect, our enjoyment of our homes. It is the embodiment of caring for our families, or when ignored, can cause us great embarrassment.

No, we’re not talking about what your home costs or your mortgage payment, though both might be affected. This isn’t about cooking healthy, having a place for everything and everything in its place, or thoughtfully designed outdoor living space, even though each of those is a worthy goal. We’re not even talking about building a stronger/safer home or integrating the latest technology to make out lives better.

No, this is something far simpler and more obvious. Something to be carefully and thoughtfully considered in our home’s design, in how our homes are built, and in product choices made throughout the home. And it’s not something new. Perhaps you heard (or are old enough to remember) the Simon and Garfunkel singing about it in the mid-1960s?

The Sound of Silence

We long for our homes to be our retreats. We yearn for sanctuary, for extended moments of peace and quiet, for an escape from all that life is throwing at us. We want our kids to be healthy and successful. We treasure time spent in our homes with good friends. Still, amidst the myriad of competing goals and decisions to be made when building a home, scarce attention is paid to what we can do to achieve the freedom we seek from unwanted noises.

Loud and annoying noises bring about stress, and stress is a contributing factor in many physical and mental health maladies. Couple that with the difficulties in getting to, and staying, asleep, brought on by interruptive noises, and you have a glimpse into how noise affects our health, well-being, and quality of life. In fact, we at Design Basics discovered that “de-stressing” was one of the four primary lenses women use when evaluating a home’s suitability for her and her household and design our homes accordingly.

feet sticking out of bed

Since the majority of us retreat to our bedrooms for maximum privacy, lots of attention is paid to not only the location of bedrooms but also which areas adjoin the bedrooms, in terms of noise potential. Sound isolation can at least partly be achieved through good design, with further steps including additional sound-deadening measures undertaken during construction as well as selecting quieter products such as solid core doors, bathroom exhaust fans, and even cabinetry hardware.

Noise distracts from concentration, learning, and performance. With so many households involved in remote learning and working from home, this benefit’s importance should not be understated. Kids doing homework at the kitchen island or table? Maybe not if you have a loud dishwasher. Do you foresee the sound of Fortnite infiltrating your home office and competing with your ZOOM call? There are multiple ways to help soundproof that wall shared with your family room.

It’s Thursday, and you’ve been looking all week toward having friends over tonight. Dinner’s coming along nicely, but you can’t quite hear what’s being said over the range hood’s whirr. Tomorrow is the big presentation, and you need that blue shirt that’s in the wash. You find yourself wishing you had a quiet, relatively low-vibration laundry pair. You find yourself becoming quite self-conscious when you seemingly hear everything when guests excuse themselves to use the bathroom.

Our relationships are enhanced by the attention we pay to sound deadening in our homes. We make better decisions when we’re not stressed out. Life is good when we get a full night’s sleep. From reading to meditation, pursuing hobbies, connecting on social media, and even taking classes, the absence of irritating clamor is music to our ears. Now you know – taking a little extra time and perhaps shifting your new home budget a bit can help you achieve serenity.

Sound like a plan?

Read more about the importance of quiet homes: Your Health Depends on It!

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Quiet Homes – Your Health Depends on It!

Quiet Homes – Your Health Depends on It!

Builders and home buyers alike have been putting a higher priority on healthier homes, in no small part due to increased time at home because of COVID-19 and its long-term ramifications. In fact, one of our recent blog posts (Healthier Home = Healthier Household) discusses this very topic. But all too often, “healthy” focuses on indoor air and water quality, overlooking the impact of noise on our health.

Though they don’t receive lots of press attention, numerous studies have linked unwanted noise to poor health. In, Decibel Hell: The Effects of Living in a Noisy World, published in Environmental Health Perspectives by the National Institutes of Health, Ron Chepesiuk identifies, among noise’s adverse effects, elevated blood pressure and increased heart rate, which increase your risks of heart disease, stroke, and heart attack.

Chepesiuk also cites the July–August 2002 issue of the Archives of Environmental Health, wherein a team of government and university researchers concluded that exposure to sound “acts as a stressor.” Stress also makes your heart race, and the Mayo Clinic links stress with headaches, fatigue, and stomach upset. Stress is also known to negatively affect your immune system and can aggravate diabetes and breathing problems such as asthma and COPD. The American Psychological Association suggests stress can also adversely affect cholesterol levels.

Obviously, noise can impact our sleep, and lack of sleep has its own detrimental effects. From sluggishness and fatigue to irritability and heightened aggression, sleep deprivation is bad for our physical and mental well-being.

Many of our environments we can’t control. Restaurants can be noisy. Same with our workplaces. And with our modern-day concessions to always-on cell phones, computers, and other electronic devices, we’ve actually invited more noise into our environments. So, we retreat to our homes to be our havens from all the noise. Like the flip side of a coin, quiet places help our bodies relax, decrease stress and anxiety, promote concentration, learning and productivity, and improve sleep. Medicaldaily.com reports quiet environments can even help to improve memory.

Man sleeping with laptop on floor

Working from home, noise affects our performance. Ditto for our kids who are learning remotely from home. For our general well-being, for our relationships, for our overall outlook on life, we must focus on noise issues in our homes – noise from the outside and noise generated within our homes. In our next three posts we address steps to creating a more serene environment for your home, starting with how the home is built; then addressing design-related opportunities; and finally, smart product choices for creating a quieter home.

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