With more of us working from home nowadays, whether it is running your own business, freelancing or because your company has a flexible policy, you need to look at how to make a family-friendly home into a work-friendly office.
So, you have installed your ergonomically friendly desk and chair, plugged in your laptop and are ready to roll. Only then do you realize how noisy your room is.It could be the herd of elephants you call your family, ambient noise from the street, aircraft flying low, birds tweeting happily or the local bus route.
Depending on how loud the sound levels are, there are different steps you can take to make your home office the center of calm it needs to be.The most important thing to realize is that sound travels through air and is blocked by solid matter so the idea is to replace the air spaces with solids.
Firstly, identify where the noise is coming from.Is it street noise? Your lovely family and friends? Neighbors? Machinery nearby?Once identified, you can look at fixing those areas.
1. Holes and Gaps
You would be surprised how many holes and gaps there are in many rooms; around the sockets, electrical boxes, skirting boards, walls etc. Fill these with insulators like fiberglass and caulk. It may take time but will solve a lot of your problems.
Many doors, especially internal ones, are made of hollow wood which transmits sound very well. If it is an option financially, you can consider replacing a hollow door with a solid wood door for optimum soundproofing.
Noise can also enter the room as a result of poorly fitted frames. So, start by ensuring the frames have no gaps around them by caulking or using fiberglass to fill the gaps. Then, use a weatherseal strip to make sure there are no gaps where the door fits into the frame. (Make sure you buy a soundproof weatherseal strip as they are not all the same.) Finally, attach a draught excluder to the base of the door.
If the door is one of your biggest problem areas, you can look at the option, costly as it is, of putting in a second door.Alternatively, you can hang a heavy blackout fabric curtain closely against the door, from floor to ceiling, as an extra level of protection.
Ideally, doubleglazing soundproof windows will solve your problems.These need to be fitted professionally and are an expensive but effective way of soundproofing and insulating your room.
If this is beyond your budget or needs, you should firstly ensure the frames are well fitted, caulking or using fiberglass insulator in any gaps, and then you can try hanging heavy soundproof curtains from floor to ceiling in front of the windows to dampen much of the external noise.
4. Air Vents
Clearly, air vents are designed to move air around your home and sound will travel with them. Unless you want to block them off completely which is probably not ideal if you need your air-conditioning or central heating working, you can use the option of a sound maze.
A sound maze is where you fix foam or cotton covered wood pieces at regular intervals throughout the vent, thereby dampening, but not silencing, the sound.
Air vents above doors are there to allow the flow of air around your home but you might want to consider blocking these off using acoustic board and caulk.
5. Floors, Walls and Ceilings
Hard floors, wood or tiles, can cause a sound problem.As your family walks next door or as you move around, this can be noisy. Plush carpeting or thick rugs, both inside your office and outside, can help solve this problem. If there is noise coming from beneath your office, you can install acoustic panels on the floor underneath the carpet for added soundproofing.
I am sure we have all had upstairs neighbors at some point who sound like they are tap dancing whilst wearing cement shoes. Check out https://aquietrefuge.com/types-of-loud-neighbors/to see how you can deal with them in other ways. This sound can travel directly down through the ceiling and drive you nuts. In this case, more structural changes might be needed whereby you install and extra layer of drywall or acoustic ceiling panels. The acoustic panels come in a variety of colors so can actually enhance the décor of your home office.
If your walls are particularly thin or hollow, you can try adding a second layer of drywall to the inside to prevent structural sound vibrations passing through.This might take an inch or so away from your room space but the reduction in noise levels will be well worth it.
Also, using floor carpeting and ceiling tiles will also help prevent your home office from echoing too much, as will canvas prints on the walls and curtains.There are also, believe it or not, soundproofing paints that claim a 30% sound reduction when the whole room is painted, as well as acoustic foam panels for your walls which reduce the sound waves even more.
6. Cover the Noise
If all of this is too much or not enough, you can also try a white noise machine.The concept of white noise is that a consistent sound, be it the hum of a fan or even waves breaking on the shore, block out other distracting sounds.These are often used as sleep aids but, in the case of your home office, you might find it helps dampen the sounds coming from outside.
So, should you rush to your local building contractor and start tearing down walls? No.Look at where your problems lie and fix those areas first. You might just find that a couple of the above points will solve your problems and lead you to uninterrupted, focused and peaceful work in your quiet home office.