Noise travels faster through water than through air. We offer that as a note of optimism to homeowners because, for all your struggles with street noise, loud neighbors, and blaring sirens, at least you don’t live under the noisy seas. If reducing noise is your goal, you have two choices: replacement windows or storm windows you have a contractor add to your existing windows.
Sound Transmission Classification (STC) is built into the International Building Code (IBC). A single-pane window, for example, has an STC value of only 26 to 30, meaning a normal conversation can easily be heard through the glass. That’s no good!
To get to the IBC-required STC 50, exterior walls should be insulated, windows should be at least double-pane glass with an inert gas between the panes, and insulation should fill all voids around every window (between the window and the roughed-out opening).
Storm windows or replacement windows cannot solve problems with noise transmission if the building envelope itself is not at least STC 50. You may need additional services, from improved insulation to upgraded siding, to help muffle street noise and distracting, irritating siren blasts.
Either choice — replacement windows or storm windows — is an investment, so you should do plenty of research before spending money on a home improvement project. For noise problems, storm windows may not be the solution if:
- Your existing windows are more than 10 years old.
- Your existing windows are single-pane, uninsulated glass.
- Your home’s building envelope has a Sound Transmission Classification (STC) of less than 50.
- Your existing windows have broken panes, dislodged or broken grilles, or deteriorated interior or exterior trim.
- You feel hot or cold drafts near your existing windows; sound travels through solids and through air, so if you feel a breeze coming in, sound is coming in, too.
Select a local, reliable contractor who offers quality replacement windows from leading manufacturers. Explain that you need replacement windows not only for energy efficiency, but also for sound insulation. Many older homes had windows installed with no insulation around them, which allows sound to travel by conduction through your solid walls!
Sound energy moves by shoving particles of matter around. The energy moves outward in waves from whatever is making the sound, and those waves make particles — of air, water, walls, windows — vibrate and oscillate. To stop sound transmission, you have to either reflect or absorb the energy. Change the density of a material (add fluffy insulation behind brick, for instance) and change the sound energy’s ability to transmit through the wall.
Single-pane glass is denser than air, which actually makes the windows act like drums. Double-pane glass sandwiching inert gas inside (argon, for example) totally alters sound waves. The sound wave gets to the inert gas after vibrating through the hard glass and immediately loses energy (gets quieter). It can then barely vibrate through the second glass pane.
Can storm windows reduce noise? Almost certainly in every application, yes, they can bring your Greater Cincinnati home closer to the International Building Code’s requirement of STC 50 or higher.
Storm windows installed outside your existing windows can cut sound because they are an additional layer of changing density. They provide a buffer of air between them and your double-hung windows.
With storm windows expertly installed by your neighborhood exterior services contractor, you can opt for interior storm windows retrofitted to your current windows. You can also choose sturdier, more noise-reducing exterior storm windows.
Storm windows work very well to reduce noise, but they also offer energy-saving benefits. They can transform your cold, drafty rooms into cozy, comfortable spots to relax, snooze, or have family time together.
To truly battle noise and win, you need to consider replacement windows, interior or exterior storm windows, and these other remedies in combination:
- Heavy drapes or other window treatments.
- Position bookshelves against exterior walls; the books act to absorb sound energy.
- Consider positioning televisions and sound systems on exterior walls; their pleasant sounds can overcome harsh street noise.
- Display heavy, soft wall hangings on exterior walls.
- Install white noise generators in especially noisy rooms.
- Position seating away from exterior walls.
No single remedy will completely silence the noisy streets of the Greater Cincinnati area, but a great way to start fixing the problem is to consult your local window contractor. Set out your goals — noise reduction, energy savings, increased interior light, improved safety — and work together to decide if replacement windows or storm windows are right for you.
Contact us today at Titan Siding and Roofing for more information about storm windows and other exterior home services in the Greater Cincinnati area!