Picture by: Sound Zero

The Truth about Soundproofing

I was flipping through TV channels the other day and as I tuned in to a home improvement related show the show host pointed up to the underside of a ceiling in an old Vancouver home and cried out that “there was no soundproofing in there”. What did he mean by that I wondered? Was the ceiling cavity uninsulated? Was the ceiling put in without resilient channels? Would viewers think that, if those elements were put in, the room would be “soundproof”? Within the context of typical construction, I find the use of the words “soundproofing” or, more accurately, “soundproof” to be misleading.

And so, the truth about ‘soundproofing’ is that there is no such word as “soundproofing”

Firstly, let’s start with the word “soundproofing”. A quick search in an English dictionary will reveal that the word “soundproofing” is nowhere to be found. And so, the truth about “soundproofing” is that there is no such word as “soundproofing”. The word is, however, used colloquially as a noun. Undoubtedly, the word “soundproofing” is a derivative of the word “soundproof”, which can be found in the dictionary. The Webster-Merriam dictionary defines the word “soundproof” as both an adjective (i.e. “impervious to sound”) and a verb (i.e. “to make soundproof”).

By definition, if a room is soundproof, you would not be able to hear any sound from the outside.  Rooms that can properly be described as being soundproof exist, but are quite rare. Examples would include acoustic laboratories, and high-end recording studios. Basically, if you have experienced absolute quiet in a room you can be assured that tens of thousands and possibly millions of dollars had been spent on engineering and construction. Therefore, for the average home owner and builder, the expectation of having a soundproof unit, room or home is, generally speaking, unrealistic. This does not mean, however, that the average home owner or builder cannot improve or enhance the control of sound between rooms. It can be done, and in many cases it may result in not hearing too much from the neighbouring spaces. This, of course, depends on the specific activities going on in the neighbouring spaces.

The improvement of a separating partition to better attenuate sound is best referred to as a “sound insulation upgrade” or “sound insulation enhancement”. Individuals taking on such work should be aware that ALL construction elements comprising the separating partition (i.e. wall or floor/ceiling assembly) in combination influence the ability of the partition to attenuate sound. In the case of a wall, this includes the thickness and number of layers of gypsum wallboard, stud type (metal or wood), stud depth, stud spacing, stud arrangement (single, staggered, double), the incorporation of resilient channels/clips and insulation type and thickness.  Therefore, the home owner and builder should exercise extreme caution when selecting specific construction elements simply because they are marketed as being “soundproof”.

Recent Post

Starfish Communications

Destination: Acoustical Consulting Career

A number of UK and EU-based universities offer Acoustical Engineering degree programs at levels from undergraduate to PhD. If you live in Canada or the US, however, you’ll find that those highly specialized degree programs aren’t offered on this side of the Atlantic.

But if a career in acoustical engineering consultancy sounds like it might be your cup of Earl grey, take heart. Your journey needn’t begin overseas. Here’s how you can get there from here.

Read More »
Starfish Communications

WELL done acoustics with a side of Green

The fact that I’m wearing noise-cancelling headphones as I write strikes me as both ironic and illustrative of how much and how insidiously noise can affect us at work, rest, or play. With all the construction underway in my neighbourhood, I’m relieved to discover that the sounds of recorded waterfalls, surf, rain—or even Drum & Bass—are far more conducive to cognitive focus than, say, the dulcet tones of jackhammers or chainsaws. Though currently home-based, I have worked in conventional office environments, researching and writing amidst colleagues engaged in activities and conversations sometimes no less, um…dulcet, and I suspect wearing headphones to tune them out would probably have been construed as rude.

Read More »
Starfish Communications

Something sounds fishy: mitigating noise aboard small industrial craft

I’d never before pondered that fish and noise might—even indirectly—have anything to do with each other. Little did I know! Sure, fish do tend to be quiet, but the process of harvesting them most assuredly does not.

With high casualty, accident, and injury rates, fish harvesting ranks as one of the world’s most dangerous industries. Occupational Health and Safety (OH&S) and Workers’ Compensation Board (WCB) literature from coastal communities not only confirms this; it also highlights noise-induced hearing loss (NIHL) as a primary health hazard among fish harvesters. What these regulatory bodies haven’t addressed is the noise-induced fatigue caused by insufficiently sound-attenuated crew quarters. Cumulative health effects of noise exposure over time also include cardiovascular stress, which can lead to high blood pressure and dizziness.

Read More »

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Join Our Mailing List

We would like to share our stories and news with you

Denny Ng, M.A.Sc. P.Eng.

Senior Acoustic Consultant

Denny is a locally trained and licensed Professional Engineer specializing in environmental noise modelling, architectural acoustics and mechanical noise control. His career as a consultant began with an internship at BAP Acoustics in 2016 while completing his graduate studies in acoustics at the University of British Columbia. Working closely with Eric and Mark, Denny has had the privilege of working on numerous post-secondary education and infrastructure projects including Emily Carr University of Art and Design, UBC Gateway and Brock Commons Phase 2, Stuart Lake Hospital Replacement Project and Nanaimo Correctional Center. His approach to consulting is communicating acoustical concerns as they arise in order to reach cost effective solutions. 

 

Qualifications

B.A.Sc. Mechanical Engineering – Thermofluids Option (with distinction), University of British Columbia, 2014

M.A.Sc. Mechanical Engineering – Acoustics Group, University of British Columbia, 2019

P.Eng. BC

Leanne Farmer, B.Eng.

Acoustic Consultant

Leanne Farmer began her career in Adelaide, where she gained four years of experience providing acoustic design advice across Australia. She possesses extensive technical knowledge in both building acoustics and complex environmental noise assessments. Demonstrating her capabilities in multi-disciplinary coordination and project management, Leanne effectively managed large-scale measurement campaigns and contributed to major infrastructure projects. After re-locating back to Victoria, BC in 2023, Leanne joined BAP Acoustics. She is excited to be working on local projects, applying the experiences and insights gained from her diverse international work.

 

Qualifications

B.Eng. Mechanical Engineering, University of Victoria, 2018

EIT, BC

Alex Mendes, B.Eng. EIT

Acoustic Engineer

A graduate of the University of Victoria, Alex has contributed to an array of computerized acoustic modelling projects during his tenure with BAP Acoustics. His passion for music lends itself to a particular focus in room acoustics modelling, where he has applied creative approaches to navigate the unique challenges posed by varied architectural designs. His expertise extends to outdoor sound modelling, where he has lent his skillset to initiatives ranging from shooting noise control studies to public alert system performance evaluations. Alex’s ardent curiosity and his analytical, pragmatic approach to consultation have served him well in providing sensible, practical solutions to a host of acoustic challenges.

 

Qualifications

B.Eng. Mechanical Engineering, University of Victoria, 2018

EIT, BC

Kathryn Gulewich, B.Eng. EIT

Acoustic Engineer

Kathryn is a Mechanical Engineer who graduated from the British Columbia Institute of Technology (BCIT) with a Bachelor of Engineering degree. She pivoted to the field of acoustical consulting upon joining BAP Acoustics in 2022, embracing a transition marked by rapid expertise accrual—particularly in outdoor noise monitoring and HVAC noise control. Kathryn’s solid engineering background supports her technical approach to acoustic challenges, blending mechanical engineering principles with the specialized demands of acoustic consultancy.

 

Qualifications

B.Eng. Mechanical Engineering, BCIT, 2011

Nicole Yeung, M.Eng. EIT.

Acoustic Engineer

An Honours graduate, Nicole earned her M.Eng. degree in Acoustical Engineering at the globally renowned Institute of Sound and Vibration Research founded 60 years ago by the UK-based University of Southampton. Nicole’s project experience encompasses acoustic design, implementation and testing at all stages of work. Her project contributions include examining and optimizing: sound insulation between spaces; room reverberation time; and mechanical noise emissions. She is also experienced in outdoor noise propagation simulation and environmental noise study for: new residential developments; fitness facilities; office buildings; and industrial developments. Nicole has a strong foundation in outdoor noise propagation software Cadna/A. In addition, she is experienced in using programs such as Insul for sound insulation prediction and ODEON for room acoustics. 

 

Qualifications

M.Eng. Acoustical Engineering (Honours), Institute of Sound & Vibration Research, University of Southampton, UK.

EIT, BC