A decent nightsleep. A practical guide to noise insulation (Part 1)

Sound insulation

Yes, Spain is sunny, people are friendly (sometimes), food is fine, (if know where to eat), but I have to admit it, we are noisy, very noisy.

Yes, Spain is sunny, people are friendly (sometimes) food is fine, (if know where to eat), but I have to admit it, we are noisy, very noisy.

Everyone living here knows that there is a high degree of permissiveness with regard to noise and

high volume activities that undermine and violate the right of others to have a quiet home or even a quiet culinary get-together at a restaurant.


As in so many other cases, there is an excessively lax attitude about offenders. Take for example the general attitude of a supposed "right to party". The idea of eat, drink and be merry for tomorrow we die, is culturally accepted so that the only way for young people to enjoy themselves is drinking till they drop semi-unconscious. The problem is that when this occurs is at early hours of the morning and that is of course totally against the "right to rest" of other citizens. Not to mention the needs of especially vulnerable people such as young children, the elderly and the those in poor health, or simply those who has to prepare a piece work or has an important exam the following morning or simply those who just want to benefit from a straightforward night sleep.


Noise or high volume tolerance must prevail to the right of others to rest.

In this country it is has been assumed a somewhat strange cultural principle: Noise or high volume tolerance must prevail to the right of others to rest, to have silence at home or just want to have a quiet reading or a calm conversation. As a result, today that right to rest or to have a calm life depends on the whims or motivation of our neighbours and passers-by.

Noise in building
Noise in building

Obviously not all activities that produce noise are the same, some are necessary, for example to have shower (without interpreting Pavarotti), put on the washing machine or dishwasher, or the crying of a child etc.


However, in the case that a particular deep impulse an unsurpassed need to switch on a very loud music there is an alternative easy and inexpensive way so as not to annoy your neighbour and that is to do it with the headphones on.


Insulating the noise source.

The reason I mentioned this is to let you know that the cheapest method of noise insulation is insulating the noise source. Let me clarify that. The cheapest method to insulate against the deafening noise of a motorbike without a proper exhaust pipe is not insulating all houses along the road where that motorbike tends to thunder on, but to install a good silent exhaust pipe for the damn motorbike!!


The cheapest and most efficient method to insulate your home against a noisy neighbour with very large loud speakers with amazing subwoofers is to obtain a magnificent pair of earphones and stick them with superglue to his ears. However this is not a technique that I can recommend if only because the neighbour could be as large a wardrobe with both doors opened (Spanish joke) and he might not agree with that sophisticated technique, so instead I would recommend to use one of the methods of wall insulation that you will be able to see on my following weeks articles.


The adverse effects on health.

The World Health Organization ensures that a high ambient noise has adverse effects on the health of the people. Noise pollution is the source of many physiological dysfunctions, disorders of sleep, decrease in work performance, among other pathologies.


With these data in mind, is no surprise that The Technical Building Code (Spanish Building Regulations) compulsory on all new dwellings from 1997 reserves a whole chapter to noise protection and do try to limit the risk of noise discomfort. In this regulation it sets the noise insulation level that must be provided for façades, roofs, floors and internal partitions by law. The systems and materials proposed are varied. Laminated plaster, mineral wool, boards are most common. Another solution is to combine these materials to take advantage of each other so as to absorb different sound frequencies.


The combination of laminated plaster and mineral wool is precisely one of the solutions which can provide the greatest protection.


We will see practical cases.

This solution is perhaps the most practical method to insulate let’s say an existing party wall which does not comply with a standard noise insulation.


European legislation includes the acceptable limit to withstand noise and it is marked at 65 decibels. The daily environment of a normal office opened to the public would come within this ratio. If you look at private homes, almost all the autonomous communities in Spain have established a maximum of 35 decibels during the day and 30 decibels during the night.


A good soundproofing will prevent suffering discomfort caused by the incessant traffic of the city, aircraft that fly over a building, trains running close to home, neighbours who switches the radio or television to a considerable volume, etc.


In our next article we will continue with practical cases to install good noise insulation, efficiently and economically.


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