Everything You Need to Know About Soundproof Windows
Last modified: 2019/03/27 | Approximate reading time 7 mins
Sound pollution is a reality of living in an urban area and dealing with the noises of the city. Even in more rural environments, sounds can leak into your home in a variety of ways. Windows are fairly essential features of the home, offering a way for light to pool in as well as a gaze into the outside world. Your windows play a major role in controlling more than just the light leaking into your home.
In fact, windows have a direct impact on sound both finding its way into and escaping from your interior. This is why it’s important to know the specs and details of your home windows. When it comes to soundproofing, one of the most crucial features is your windows' level of impact noise reduction.
Of course, a big window is beautiful but what about a big window with better acoustical control? Soundproof windows can greatly reduce the noise coming into your home from an outside world. If this is what you’re looking for, we’re going to cover the best types of windows and glass for soundproofing and sound control.
Everything you need to know about soundproof windows!
Noise pollution is a real thing that affects lives of many every single day. Although noise is a subjective term, it is generally used to describe sound that is unpleasant as well as that which the receiver doesn’t want to hear. Noise pollution generally disturbs or intrudes on the listener as it’s too loud, too high pitched, too low and so on. As many of us live in an urban environment, noise levels can be bothersome and in severe cases, harmful. There are many types of noise pollution, and the type that most affects you will obviously come down to where you’re living. Some examples are as follows:
- Traffic or road work;
- Social noise including that from bars, restaurants, nightclubs, etc;
- Transit noise including airplanes, trains and subways;
- Neighbourhood noise.
After prolonged exposure, some of these forms of noise pollution, such as that from trains or airplane, can cause permanent hearing damage. In other cases, noise pollution is simply annoying. Regardless of your situation, let’s move on to look at some materials and window styles that are best for soundproofing.
Soundproof windows: how do they work?
In the most straightforward explanation possible, soundproof windows and doors reduce noise by muffling and dissipating soundwaves, causing them to lose power. This is carried out through the use of materials which have the ability to absorb or reflect the sound waves in a different direction. Windows that are built with soundproofing properties optimize their materials to specifically take on the noise.
Soundproof windows will not be able to completely rid of all sounds but will reduce up to 90% of noise. Higher frequency sounds are easier to block out as opposed to low-frequency sounds, so birds chirping outside will be harder to mask than cars driving or garbage trucks collecting trash. Therefore, when choosing a soundproofing window model, you’ll need to think about what sounds you’re looking to block out.
There are a few ways in which windows can reduce noise, and for it to really work, it will need to have two of the following factors:
Glass thickness: as a good rule of thumb, the thicker the glass, the more soundproof they”ll be.
Space between the panes: Gaps between the sheets of glass will aid in noise reduction. Plus, the larger the gap, the bigger the sound eliminating impact.
Lamination: Certain windows are designed with a layer of material between sheets of glass. There is no effect on how the glass appears, but there’s a noticeable reduction in sound.
In most cases, you won’t actually be looking to replace your windows. Instead, you’ll want to go with improving the ones already in place with three of the most common options:
- Replacing your current window glass with specially-made noise reduction glass;
- Replacing both the frame and the glass with soundproof windows, which includes frames and sealing materials;
- Secondary glazing, which will involve adding an extra layer of glass and is the lowest cost option.
Choosing soundproof windows
For soundproofing windows to work, they must create a barrier between a sound and the listening ear. The walls, insulation and roof of our home already work to block out sounds, but naturally, windows are not as resistant as these materials. The most important factor when choosing a window for its sound reduction is to look at the STC rating or its Sound Transmission Class.
This measures the rate of how much sound can travel through the window. These ratings are based on decibel levels in relation to 18 different frequencies. For a window to become soundproof and increase its STC rating, there must be mass added to the glass, or the distance between window panes should be increased.
Windows can have an STC rating between 18 and 38, with an average single-paned window coming in around 26-28 STC. A double-paned window is generally between 26-32. In contrast to this, soundproofed windows average STC rating is between 48-54, nearly double. When it comes to the sound entering your home, there needs to be a substantial or noticeable improvement for any real difference to be made.
It’s important to distinguish that the STC rating of the glass is not the same as the STC rating of the window itself. If you’re buying new windows, make sure to clarify with the manufacturer before you install them.
Other factors affect the transmission of sound through a window, but this is mainly determined by the thickness of the glass and the amount of space between window panes. Furthermore, as mentioned, laminated glass can be used, as combining a plastic layer with two layers of glass creates additional soundproofing qualities. Inserts can be installed inside existing windows, and these add sound-reducing air between the original window and the insert.
What are the best windows for soundproofing?
For soundproofing that is superior, most experts suggest going with laminated glass. The plastic inserts between the glass work to reduce noise levels as well as vibrations that would otherwise move through your windows. Not only is laminated glass soundproof, but it has increased safety features, as it is more difficult to shatter than your average glass window. However, laminated glass is expensive, and may be considered high-end for the average homeowner.
It would be worth thinking about a laminated insert made for a standard double-paned window, as this won’t be as costly as a new laminated glass window. Triple pane glass is another option, offering better soundproofing than double pane glass and costs significantly less than laminated windows. However, some experts would argue that triple pane glass does not work to reduce outside noise moving into the home. Others would argue that they do in fact reduce noise. Triple paned glass windows noise-reduction is likely based on outdoor sounds.
Are soundproof windows energy efficient?
Most energy efficient windows depend on coating and gas between thermal panes to reduce the transfer of heat and thus increase their energy efficiency. Soundproof windows use thick or laminated glass, and the large air gaps between panes are used to hinder the passage of sound. Soundproof windows can be made energy efficient with the addition of a low-E coating.
However, windows that are primarily energy-efficient are much more difficult to make soundproof. Homeowners who are looking to own both energy-efficient and soundproof windows should aim to find a manufacturer who can create a combination of the two initially, as this isn’t the simplest of DIY projects to take on.
Will soundproof windows make a difference?
As mentioned, for soundproofing you can replace your current windows for those with another pane, a layer of material (such as PVB) or add a soundproof glaze and depending on which of these measures you take, the end results will vary. Simply replacing the glass with one with a higher STC rating should improve sound reduction up to 25-50%. For those living in high traffic areas or places with a significant amount of surrounding noise, simply changing the glass will not be enough.
If you’re dealing with a need for a significant soundproofing job, then you might want to get in touch with a professional. Regardless of the measure you take, it’s vital to install soundproof windows correctly. Especially if you’re going to be replacing both the glass and the frame, which is a tricky install job since they’re more secure in their design and involve a few more moving parts.
Other options for sound reduction
Bear in mind that sound doesn’t only seep through windows, and there are several areas of the home where noise can escape in and out. If windows are not sealed correctly, sound can travel through gaps between window and frame. To reduce the noise in your home, patch up the holes around windows and even around door frames, caulk around light fixtures, receptacle boxes and door casting.
Insulation is another crucial factor that will determine how soundproof your home is, and the more insulation in your walls, the less chance of sound passing through them. Fabrics also deaden sound, so hang curtains, lay rugs on the floor or make sure to have your home furnished. But, if your heart is still set on soundproof windows, contact a professional who can install them for you!
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