Enhanced Window Acoustics Can Shut Out Noise

Different thicknesses of glass create different vibrations that deflect sound waves.
Vacant apartment, New York City, New York, USA


Vacant apartment, New York City, New York, USA

Photo by: Jupiterimages


By: Craig A. Shutt

Related To:

If your clients complain that they're tired of hearing the next-door neighbor mowing his lawn at 7 a.m. Saturday or are sick of his barking dog, they're offering you a great opportunity if you are up-to-date on the acoustic control benefits of new window designs and window-installation techniques.

Window manufacturers are well aware of the increasing demand for enhanced window acoustics. Marvin Windows & Doors, for example, has recently gone through an extensive education process with their front-line people to help them explain acoustic benefits, says Anthony Head, regulatory product planner for Marvin Windows & Doors. "We want to be sure contractors understand the key ingredients when they ask us about sound improvements for their clients."

Two key factors affect a window's sound transmission coefficient (STC): the window's design and its installation, Head says. Windows, as with other materials, are rated with an STC, which indicates how well the window blocks sound waves. A typical double-pane window with 2 1/2-mil, single-strength glass provides an STC rating of about 28 to 32. The higher the STC number, the better the sound control. Airport locations often require windows with a 35 to 40 STC rating.

The good news is that excellent acoustic control works hand in hand with high energy efficiency. The same air that brings in noise also brings in air that must be cooled or heated, reducing energy efficiency. When you select high performance windows that lower energy costs, you gain the added benefit of less noise intrusion, Head explains.

Proper sealing during installation is also vital. The best way to reduce noise infiltration is through a high-quality weatherstripping system, Head says, since the weather stripping is usually the weak link in the system. "It's easier to penetrate than wood or glazing. Weatherstripping both the frame and the sash creates additional points of contact to reduce infiltration of anything -- dust, water, air, sound."

Window manufacturers are working to create window designs that do more to foil noise infiltration. The key is to disrupt the sound waves as they pass through the window. This can be done by using different thicknesses of glass, creating different vibrations that deflect the waves. Additional layers, such as with a tri-pane system, also can be beneficial. Vinyl-window makers achieve this acoustic disruption by creating baffles and catacomblike systems in their hollow extrusions; that also creates thermal breaks that aid energy efficiency.

Laminated glass may aid noise reduction because it is a thicker product. The additional cost for laminated glass is significant, but the product also provides enhanced safety levels.

Noise is encroaching more and more, Head adds. "We're becoming more urban, with higher density in home construction. That creates more need for us to block out neighbors and traffic." Selecting windows with higher STC ratings and insisting on tighter seals during installation can go a long way toward keeping out this noise pollution.

Next Up

How to Soundproof a Room Including the Doors and Windows

Find tips, techniques and cool products that make it possible to soundproof a home theater or recording studio, or to simply block out noise from a busy street.

8 Ways to Fix Drafty Windows

Save money and stay warm this winter with these DIY ways to insulate and weather-strip windows as well as doors.

How to Repair a Screen in a Door or Window Frame

Buying new door or window screens can be expensive. Save money by learning how to repair a screen in an existing frame.

How to Make Exterior Wood Window Shutters

Refresh your home's curb appeal with these easy-to-build board-and-batten-style cedar window shutters.

How to Cut Glass

Replacing a broken window pane? Making a picture frame? Learning how to make your own stained glass? Wanting to cut glass bottles? With a few simple tools, anyone can learn how to cut pieces of glass.

Acoustic Windows

Many homes are built with basic unlaminated double-paned windows. The problem is that sound passes through these windows very easily. Learn how acoustic windows help reduce the amount of sound that can enter the home from the outside.

Installing Acoustic Insulation

Soundproofing the space between the walls helps reduce a home's noise level.

Finding the Source of a Window Leak

Here are some tips on keeping windows watertight.

Window-Term Glossary

Decipher the ratings with our handy list.

How to do a Door-to-Window Conversion

Got a door that gets little usage? Why not turn it into a window?

Go Shopping

Get product recommendations from HGTV editors, plus can’t-miss sales and deals.


Follow Us Everywhere

Join the party! Don't miss HGTV in your favorite social media feeds.