Making that room even quieter

Today we improve our home comfort with more strategic ways of eliminating room-to-room sound transmissions.

As mentioned last week, the most opportune time to do so is when renovating your kitchen, bathroom, or really any room in the home. Essentially, if you’re going to be moving or opening up a wall in order to redirect wiring, plumbing, or ductwork, then you might as well be taking advantage of this opportunity to create a little more privacy.

Why the need to block the transfer of sound? Because silence is golden, and after your 12-year-old has returned home with a set of bagpipes as his musical instrument of choice, silence will maintain your sanity.

What decreases sound from transmitting from point A to point B? Distance and obstacles. With the average residential building lot being anywhere from 50 to 60 feet wide, increasing the distance between the theatre room and your desktop computer is going to be a challenge.

So, we’re left with the alternative of obstacles.

Disclaimer: The following sound-blocking procedures will effectively muffle general sounds created in the home, however, the enactment of said procedures should not be used in falsehood, or as a crutch, for a person’s habit of selectively hearing.

Yes, we can reduce the sounds being transmitted by the loud operation of a television (producing about 60 decibels) being operated in room A, from entering room B, to little more than a whisper. However, a human cry for attention (producing about 80 decibels) should the lady of the home see a mouse, or be attempting to get a long-overdue chore completed, will indeed transmit through, albeit not quite in its entirety.

Regardless, if there’s no movement on the part of the person on the receiving end of this cry, know that it’s not so much the sound blanket doing its job, but the fact you are indeed being ignored.

With a regular, hollow-core wall assembly having a STC (Sound Transmission Class) rating of about 32, it would be nice to boost this wall assembly up to a STC 55, thereby muffling out most loud noises.

Step one: Fill the space in between the studs with Roxul’s Safe n’ Sound insulation, immediately boosting our wall assembly from a STC 32 to a STC 42.

Next, and before installing the drywall, fasten a sheet of 0.75”x4’x8’ Sonopan to your wood studs. Sonopan, recognized by its green colour and dimpled texture, is a lightweight fibre board that adds another 10 STC points to your wall assembly.

With both the Roxul Safe n’ Sound and Sonopan fiber sheets, our wall assembly now stands at an impressive STC 52.

Getting to our goal of STC 55 is going to require the help of a slight air space, along with a bit of solid mass. The air space will create a drum effect, further dissipating the transmission of noise, and will be provided by the addition of steel moldings, referred to as resilient channel. Installed horizontally at every 16 inches on centre, and placed directly over the Sonopan panels, the resilient channels will be fastened with 2.5-inch screws, reaching through the Sonopan, penetrating into the wood studs.

Avoid using regular 1×3 spruce strapping for the creation of an air space. The spruce’s mass will allow sound to reverberate through the wall, whereby the resilient channel’s mass is minimal, offering no route for the sound to follow.

Next, we follow up with two layers of 5/8” inch drywall, as opposed to a single layer of half-inch drywall. The 5/8” drywall provides the mass we’ll need to reach our goal of building an STC 55 wall structure. The first sheet of 5/8” drywall will be fastened to the resilient channel, but won’t penetrate the Sonopan board, while the second sheet of 5/8” drywall gets fastened to the first sheet, effectively creating a break in sound transmission.

Bonus to the 5/8” drywall is the double layer of fire-resistant product.

That’s how we keep things quiet.

Good building.

As published by the Standard-Freeholder

Handyman's Hints Standard-Freeholder Cornwall Ontario by Chris Emard

Take the ‘opportunity of silence’

One type of stone-wool insulation is this Canadian-made Roxul STEVE MAXWELL/OTTAWA CITIZEN/POSTMEDIA NETWORK

If you’re planning a renovation this winter, then don’t pass up the opportunity to make your home a little quieter.

The ‘opportunity of silence’ refers to the fact most renovations involve the total gutting of the room needing attention.

Gutting a bathroom or kitchen means removing not only the existing cabinetry, but the flooring, light fixtures, and the drywall, thereby exposing the studs— essentially bringing the room back to its original state of framing.

Gutting a room becomes necessary when basically every component in the room is being replaced.

Replacing fixtures often results in having to re-direct the electrical wiring and plumbing pipes, or updating them to today’s codes and standards.

The error homeowners make, is after all the electrical and mechanical changes have been made, the wall simply gets closed up again with drywall in preparation for the cabinetry. That’s what’s referred to as a missed opportunity of silence.

The thing about rooms, especially kitchens and bathrooms, is they create noise, noises that in most cases need not be leaked or transmitted into neighbouring rooms. So, if you were lucky enough to score tickets to the Habs game, yet unlucky in your choice of the burrito special at Senor Rodriguez’s take out Tacos, the continued tooting of your horn after arriving home need not be advertised any further than your washroom.

How to make a wall increasingly more sound proof means first understanding a few terms.

A wall assembly will have a STC (sound transmission class) rating, based on how effectively the wall prevents sound from moving from one room to the next. So, the higher the STC rating, the better that wall will be at blocking sound.

Decibels (db) are simply a measurement of how loud something is, based on a sound pressure scale. For example, a casual conversation will register at 40 db, a large truck driving by at 80 db, and your home’s fire alarm at 100 db.

Frequency is measured in hertz (Hz), and relates to the tone, or time cycle of a sound. So, the low sound created by a tuba would register 30 Hz, whereby the clashing of two cymbals might register 10,000 Hz. Humans can only hear sounds that occur between 20 Hz and 20,000 Hz, with the capability of registering and effectively translating sound frequencies, and range of frequency, declining with age.

This might explain why after 25 years of marriage, men can still effectively receive and translate the low frequency sounds being emitted from the television, yet have difficulty registering the higher-pitched sound of their wife’s voice when asking them to take out the garbage.

With the wall cavity opened up, now’s the time to make your soon-to-be renovated bedroom, bathroom, or kitchen, a little more sound proof.

A standard 2×4 wall with half-inch drywall on both sides has a STC rating of about 30. If casual conversation creates about 40 db, a standard wall assembly will somewhat muffle the room-to-room sounds of regular conversation passing through, but will do little to impede the decibel frequencies created by any loud music or television sounds.

Muffling this noise transmission, or creating a transmission loss, will mean having to slightly modify and beef up our regular wall assembly with a number of sound-absorbing products.

The easiest modification one can make to a wall assembly is the addition of Roxul Safe n’ Sound insulation. At 3.5 inches thick, the Safe n’ Sound batts conveniently fit into any 2×4 or 2×6 wall, and bump up the STC rating by 10 to 12 points. Now you’ve got a wall assembly that’ll at least muffle out most regular low sounds.

Bonus to the Safe n’ Sound’s ability to block sound, is its ability to limit the spread of flames, somewhat creating a safe room, at least for a few key minutes.

So we’ve managed to block the sound of casual conversation, now what about the clash of cymbals? That’ll be next week.

Good building.

As published by the Standard-Freeholder
Handyman's Hints Standard-Freeholder Cornwall Ontario by Chris Emard

The nose knows when to bail on this cottage

Expanding polyurethane foam in spray cans is an essential ingredient when insulating and an excellent adhesive for fastening rigid foam insulation. It is indispensable for air-sealing around the edges of the sheets. POSTMEDIA NETWORK FILES

Today we continue our following of famed local home inspector Jack Nailbucket, aka Insp. Clouseau, as he meticulously examines a peculiar waterfront home that is for sale.

Bill Granite, the potential buyer of this home, and the one responsible for the hiring of Nailbucket Home Inspections, will not be continuing the tour. Unfortunately, our Mr. Granite is clearly dejected by the revealed failings of this home so far, including a cracked foundation, negative sloping landscape, and decking platforms that require a complete reconstruction.

With his dreams of cottage life fading, he’s found himself a comfortable spot down by the water, and for the past few hours has been true to his nickname, passing his time quaffing ale, then crushing the empty tins against his forehead, followed by unceremoniously tossing these tins into Lake Ontario.

From this point on, Crushers’ contribution to the inspection will regrettably be unintelligible babble.

At present, we find ourselves in the home’s basement, with our Clouseau scenting a problem. Besides the obvious moisture issues, evidenced by two dehumidifiers running full-blast, our inspector was detecting a further, potentially more serious problem.

Due to Jack’s rather large schnoz, a hereditary trait passed on by generations of Nailbuckets and Clouseaus, our inspector is capable of discerning odours and smells in the range of one part per million, placing him second only to the American bloodhound in scent detection.

After only a few minutes in the basement, Clouseau noted the presence of mould. Was the mould severe? No, but the 2×8 joists and plywood flooring were in some areas the same colour as the area’s native speckled trout, while being somewhat cool and moist to the touch, which isn’t good.

For some unknown reason, the basement floor was unfinished, having only a gravel base. In a poor attempt to somewhat control the moisture coming from the soil, and concrete block walls, a six-millimetre plastic had been spread and taped over the gravel floor and walls.

The basement housed the furnace, water purification systems, and other electrical units, so this was indeed an area that saw semi-regular human activity.

The problem was this basement was more designed as a cold storage, with an environment better suited to house this year’s batch of pickled beets, than human life. What to do?

Essentially, this area needs to be humanized, which means switching the basement environment from wet and damp, to warm and dry.

First, we’ll need to quash the basement floor humidity issue by installing a layer of two-inch pink rigid foam board, providing R-10 of thermal value, over the existing gravel and poly.

The floor should then be covered with four inches of concrete, spread directly over the foam. This modification would raise the floor about six-to-seven inches, which will also involve raising the furnace, likely affecting the ductwork. With the present basement height being a simply adequate 80 inches, this raising of the floor isn’t devastating news, since 80 per cent of the population will still feel comfortable navigating the area.

Next, the furnace’s ductwork system, now feeding only the living spaces above, will need to accept further venting and cold air returns in order to service the basement.

If we’re creating a living space out of the basement, or at least making it comfortable, then we’ll need to keep the heat in the space by installing a rigid foam board against the block walls, followed by 2×4 framing, then the appropriate levels of fiberglass pink insulation.

Or, forget the whole basement idea, move the furnace and mechanical systems to the main floor, insulate the floor, then seal the basement off altogether.

Simply put, this was a home that required a lot of work, but was fortunately situated on a beautiful lot. Essentially, a situation where all it takes is money to make things better.

With that information, our Mr. Granite accepted the report of our Clouseau, then graciously poured himself into a cab. Case #823 closed.

Good building.

As published by the Standard-Freeholder
Handyman's Hints Standard-Freeholder Cornwall Ontario by Chris Emard

Insp. Clouseau looks for clues at the cottage

Getty Images/iStockphoto

Today we’ll be following home inspector Jack Nailbucket, aka Insp. Clouseau, due to Jack’s genealogical connection with his French cousins, and a preference of wearing a white fedora and trench coat while performing his home inspections.

The inspector will be passing his magnifying glass over a potential cottage for purchase by a Mr. Bill ‘Crusher’ Granite, the subject of last week’s column.

Now to be clear, the use of the term cottage in this case is purely subjective. What’s for purchase here is a standard 1,600-square-foot home with nearly a full-height basement, and not an 800-square-foot hunting lodge raised up on cement blocks. There’s no way we’ll be closing this baby up for the winter.

In order for this cottage to remain healthy, general maintenance, a few upgrades, and providing heat for this home year round, regardless of occupancy, will be absolutely necessary.

Our Clouseau was also suspicious of the sales person’s repeated mention the sellers of this cottage are a physics professor and his wife who are looking to retire to the city. Very good, the home has been lived in by someone capable of splitting an atom.

Unfortunately, this same fellow was befuddled by the soggy state of his loafers as he walked the perimeter of his home, and failed to recognize the fact the home’s landscape was working in a negative manner, directing water towards the foundation.

So, be leery of trusting all is good simply because a home has been lived in by persons of means or intelligence. It should be viewed as little solace or guarantee your future dwelling has been well cared for, or built to code.

The home had several little decks that permitted seating on the east, west, and north sides of the home, allowing the homeowners to view the water and strategically follow the sun, or the shade, throughout the day.

A lovely idea, except for the fact each deck was in its own stage of decay. This was due largely in part to the puddles of water and moisture-filled soil that lay beneath these decks, and the fact all three decks had been framed perilously close to the ground.

Further to the deck issue was a relatively significant crack in the corner of the foundation wall that supported the garage. Our Clouseau suspects rainwater and snow melt had been allowed to pool in this area, with this moisture infiltrating the concrete, then expanding during the freezing periods.

We haven’t even entered the cottage yet and we’re facing a foundation repair, dismantling the existing decks (which thankfully are of treated lumber, as opposed to composite, and represent no great loss), a total re-do of the landscaping (which may or may not include replacing the weeping tile, if it ever existed), then re-building the decks once again.

Properly grading the landscape is going to be a challenge because there’s little to no foundation left to work with. It’s as if the house had sunk into a hole. Built on bedrock, this cottage has never sunk, but its foundation was probably two or three rows of concrete blocks too short, a strange error considering the age of the home and the general guidelines of building.

Next, we visited the basement, which was for some reason only accessible from the outside. Our Clouseau was at a loss as to why the professor forfeited a standard stairwell to the basement, in exchange for added closet space.

His thought was that should an explosion occur in the basement as a result of the professor experimenting with a new rocket fuel, the main living area would have been shielded, with the ensuing damage limited to the basement’s block walls blowing out. With the basement walls gone, the home would have simply crashed down upon the rubble, which would have unfortunately included the professor, but on a positive note, saved on the cost of internment.

Next week, the inspection continues.

Good building.

As published by the Standard-Freeholder
Handyman's Hints Standard-Freeholder Cornwall Ontario by Chris Emard