What to Do About Noise?


The doors are closed, the windows are shut, and still you hear outside noise in your home. The following will tell you how noise gets into your house and how it can be kept out.

Important: Please talk to a consultant or contractor before attempting any home renovation. He or she will know what acoustic treatments would work best for your home, and will also be able to account for any unwanted effects of acoustic treatment that can affect air quality in the home.

How Does Noise Get Into My House?

Noise can get into a house in two ways:

  • It can enter through cracks in walls, cracks around windows and doors, or even mail slots. Any opening through which air can enter your home is a culprit.
  • It can travel through the walls of your home (with some attenuation).

What Steps Can Be Taken To Reduce the Amount of Noise Entering a Home?

To reduce the noise entering a home, it is necessary to increase the home's Noise Level Reduction (NLR). The Noise Level Reduction is the sound level reduction in decibels between the outside and inside of a house when all doors and windows are closed. In other words, it is a measure of how much softer noise is inside a house than it is right outside. A home that is well sealed but not acoustically treated will have an NLR of 27 to 30 dB.


There are many ways the Noise Level Reduction can be increased. One of the most substantial improvements in noise reduction is made by using acoustic storm windows. Windows tend to let more noise through than walls. Therefore, larger windows will allow more noise to get into the house.

While the best noise reduction is achieved through use of acoustic storm windows, these windows can be expensive. Noise transmission through windows can be reduced by reconditioning, rather than replacing, old windows. This can be done by:

  • Re-glazing loose window panes.
  • Replacing cracked window panes.
  • Putting in weather stripping.
  • Adding insulation to weight cavities (the wells which hold the weights that counterbalance the weight of windows).
  • Installing vinyl jamb liners (strips that run up the side of the window).
  • Trimming sides of sashes (the panels which slide up and down in the window frame) to fit new jamb liners.


Adding insulation or mass to walls decreases the noise that can travel through. The more massive a wall, the harder it is for sound to move the wall. Therefore, less sound is transmitted. Installing additional insulation in walls and attic areas causes more sound to absorbed before it passes to the inside of the house.


Vents are openings between the outside and inside of a house. Therefore, they provide an easy path for sound to enter your home. This sound can be reduced by baffling vents. Baffling vents still allows air to flow but helps to deflect or absorb sound.

Central Air Conditioning

Open windows substantially increase noise's ability to enter your home. Central air conditioning helps to maintain a comfortable temperature while eliminating the need to open windows.

The modifications discussed above will help to reduce the noise that gets into a home. However, please do not attempt to install your own acoustic treatments. Contact an acoustic consultant or contractor. They can tell you what is right for your home and safely make any necessary modifications.


Fisher, Kathleen. "Window Shopping." Old House Journal. 27 October 2006.

Harmon, Jane. "What are Window Weights?" 2006. wiseGEEK. 27 October 2006.

"Tips For Insulating Your Home Against Aircraft Noise." Aviation Noise and Satellite Programs Office. Metropolitan Airports Commission. 24 October 2006.

Glossary Words:

decibel, insulation, noise, sound level

For definitions of words used in this section go to the NoiseQuest Glossary of Terms.