For those of us now working from home—corralled with our darling angels who’ve not yet returned to in-classroom learning—we wonder how we will be able to survive more months (dare not say years) of the whoops and hollers of our children confined for far too long. As though it weren’t bad enough, we parents are subjected daily to crazed screeches of bored, quarreling children, we now must also politely—and with great embarrassment—tolerate the angry stares of our neighbors.
Fortunately, in this age of great innovation, there are ways we can diminish, if not entirely quiet, the reverberation of leaping children accompanied by high-pitched shrieks and squeals emitting from the four walls of our humble family abode.
1. Dress the room
That modern look of wood and glass that was all the rage when first decorating your new home has the supernatural ability to amplify noise better than a megaphone. To create noise absorption, add soft surfaces using materials such as felt, cotton, and foam. If you’re still hoping to maintain a polished look—despite the extensive collection of children’s toys stuffed in every nook and cranny—choose decorative fabrics, large pieces of art, or big, leafy house plants. Use the material as a wallpaper or to cover frames. Affix wall tiles (cork is a magnificent sound barrier) or tapestries to cover entire interior or exterior walls.
2. Cover floors and ceilings
If the home has hard floors, consider wall-to-wall carpet as a baffle, or if that’s too extreme, giant rugs will dampen the thundering pitter-patter of tiny feet. Choose carpet or rugs with a deep pile, the deeper, the better it will be at stifling noise.
If it’s your upper neighbors suffering, suspend ceiling baffles, and this will help to keep sound from bouncing against the ceiling causing vibrations strong enough to dislodge your upper neighbor’s shot-glass collection.
3. Stop it at the door
The sliver of space below doors might not look like an amplifier, but be assured, like water, if there’s a space, the sound will find it. Place a door guard at the base of the home’s entrances and at the inner door to keep sounds from traveling outside the room. These will also help with utility expenses since they will act as insulators and maintain the room’s temperature more efficiently.
4. Close it in
Most doors today seem to be made of balsa wood, which is great for airplane kits, doesn’t offer much in the way of sound suppression. Replace inner doors with solid wood if your budget allows, but if not, a composite or particle-board door can prove to be an adequate obstacle to bouncing sound waves.
5. Create a library
If you’ve ever dropped a 500-page hardback on your foot, the density of a big book is no longer in question. These tomes provide instant insulation while adding beauty. Visit an estate sale and make an offer on an extensive collection. While built-in shelves will give the best sound barrier, if it’s not an option, kit bookshelves will do.
6. Improve the view
If permitted by the strata, upgraded windows with thicker glass or more layers of glass improve the insulation of both sound and weather. There are windows available that can block an unbelievable 95% of sound—coming in and going out. Check with an acoustical consultant to assess whether you will gain enough benefit to make this expenditure worth it before adding this to your to-do list.
7. Pack in the padding
Insulation in the walls and ceiling will bring your sound-proofing efforts full circle. Though not always possible, if renovating a room take the opportunity to upgrade the insulation to any exposed walls.
Quiet enjoyment for all
Though we love our children immensely, we cannot expect that everyone else will as well. When living in community buildings such as strata and apartments where homeowners or renters have shared walls, keeping our kids quiet and entertained to ensure our neighbors have the right to quiet enjoyment of their home is taxing at best.
By adding insulating treatments throughout your home, you not only become a better neighbor, but you also minimize the sound traveling from room to room. Your colleagues on video conference calls will no longer be entertained—or annoyed—buy the game of footy going on in the next room.