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Blocking Noise in the Home

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Berkeley Parents Network > Reviews > House & Garden > Blocking Noise in the Home



Soundproofing baby's room

Aug 2010

I have a room that I'd like to soundproof so outside noises won't wake my 7 week old baby. Specifically, I have a door leading to a hallway of 2 other doors...when my neighbors slam their doors, the sound travels through our door and creates a loud thud. In addition, the floorboard above the baby's room makes creaking sounds and we can hear footsteps upstairs, which also startles the baby. I'm thinking the insulation isn't quite there and the floorboard needs some nailing down upstairs? I'd like to soundproof the door and the ceiling of the baby's room if at all possible, but am not sure how to go about doing so (i.e. the best and most economical solution). My husband and I don't have a lot of handyman skills either...should I start by consulting a contractor or specialist? Are there quick and easy fixes that I can purchase from hardware stores and do it myself instead? We have permission to make changes to the door, ceiling, and the flooring upstairs. Any advice, recommendation, or referral is much appreciated. Thanks!


I know it might not seem this way right now, but I think the best thing for your baby (and you!) in the long run might be to not soundproof so s/he learns to sleep through the noise. A kid who can sleep anywhere is a great asset -- think of the times you'll be in hotels, have friends over, etc. and not want to be tip-toeing around. Just something to think about. Mom of 2 Good Sleepers
This isn't quite what you asked for, but I wonder if you've considered it? We live very close to the houses next to us, and have had issues like barking dogs, loud music, parties and so forth. So I understand where you're coming from. My son and my husband are sound sleepers, but I am not. Noise bothers me a whole lot. And the thing that has helped me more than anything has been, not soundproofing, but white noise. I actually just use an air filter (hey, two benefits for the price of one!), and keep it on all night. It blocks out almost everything, and I fall asleep and stay asleep much better. Anyway, something you might consider. Karen
Don't do it!! Your baby will adapt to sleeping through sounds. If you soundproof the room s/he won't develop the ability (that we all need) of being able to sleep through some level of disruption. Some humans sleep less deeply than others, but designing a disruption-free environment will make it harder, not easier, for your child in the future. Babies are adaptable
Maybe you shouldn't worry about it...kids are tremendous sleepers (my kids can sleep through pretty much any alarm clock...not particularly useful when directed at them). I've never inoculated my children with sound machines or music and they do fine. jan
Instead of soundproofing, you might want to go with adding white noise to the baby's room. There are gadgets you can get that do exactly that. White noise rocks!
Your baby will stop startling when he/she gets old enough. For now if you swaddle your baby these noises won't wake her/him up. I encourage you to not train your baby to sleep only in silence because it will make traveling and visiting friends much harder because your child really won't be able to sleep unless it's silent. Letting your baby figure out that external noise is normal while sleeping will help him/her to sleep better as they get older especially when the environment changes and there are other ambient noises. --glad my kid can sleep with some noise
When our daughter was an infant, I nursed her to sleep she slept in our bedroom which was a little room next to the kitchen. We lived on Hearst street which is a rather noisy street. And although we put on some classical or gentle music on the stereo, we were not especially quiet often talking and rattling pots in the kitchen as we cooked or washed up etc. The result of this is that our daughter got used to sleeping in a noisy environment. The same was true for her brother, six years later when he came along. Now, with a child of her own, her child (my granddaughter) also sleeps very well in a little room off the kitchen, a noisy environment. Think of it this way: when you were pregnant you were not in a totally quiet environment whenever your baby was asleep. So, why worry about soundproofing her environment now. At seven weeks babies may occasionally be wakeful for various reasons. They may be teething or having some little digestive disturbance. Learning to sleep through an amount of noise, will be helpful to her in her life since most of the places she'll be sleeping in will not be soundproof ones.

Window replacement for soundproofing freeway noise

March 2010

I have an old craftsman with original thin pane windows from early 1900's. I have been woken for years between 4am and 5am to the sound of Bart and freeway traffic, and so want to replace the windows as cost-effectively as possible to shut out the noise. Would love to hear from others who have done this successfully. thanks. maura


I live in El Cerrito about 2 blocks from BART and 4 blocks from the Freeway. I had my old aluminum windows replaced about 6 years ago with double-paned Milgard windows. They look SO much better, and the outside noise is reduced, especially during the winter when the windows are closed. During the summer, when I tend to keep some windows open, it' s just about as loud as before. I've learned to sleep through the traffic sounds, but some nights I just wish for good old peace and quiet! (I was thinking about moving at one point, and almost every open house I went to in Berkeley/Albany/Kensington/El Cerrito, I could hear the traffic--I almost think it's inescapable!) Jenne
I learned some more about this issue recently with a client in Lafayette, close to the Hwy 24 Freeway. We considered buying triple-glazed windows, but the research showed that dual-pane windows would be fine so long as the installation was really tight and the rest of the wall was sound-attenuated also. This means that your Craftsman House will be difficult to retrofit cost-effectively, because it is more than just the windows.

On the house in Lafayette, we also added sound channel to the walls, which makes them thicker, requiring deeper window jambs and other compensations. I would suggest you change to well-installed dual-pane windows first and see how much that helps. Then if more is needed take the next step incrementally. - Or - do a major renovation, getting it right all at once. AB, Architect


Sound-proofing a therapy office

Jan 2010

I'm renting a new office which has a door w/ inset glass about 2/3 length. Any experience out there in sound- proofing. We can hear muffles and would prefer to lessen the sound. We will put some kind of cloth, etc to cover, also. Thanks.


I'm a Marriage Family Therapist and had some issues with noise when I first moved into my space. You can install a rubber strip at the base of the door-you can buy this at Home Depot. Most doors have up to an inch of clearance from the floor so noise can creep in that way. You can also buy a white-noise machine to either put in the room with you or just outside the door. The property manager in my building actually installed soundproof drywall on the other side of one of my walls to help stop the sounds I heard from the office behind me-but that's a pretty expensive project. Hope this helps- Jody

Cheaply soundproofing Rock Band in the garage

March 2009

Hi, my husband has been playing Rock Band in our garage at night after our child is asleep - it's a great way to blow off steam for him. Alas, the sound is apparently not staying confined to the garage, because one of our neighbors (we're not sure which one) banged on the side of the building one weekend night and yelled ''IT'S AFTER 10!'' The garage is not insulated or soundproofed. We'd love to be able to fix it up properly, but as it is for most people these days, money is an issue. Does anyone know any cheap (and preferably easy) way to muffle the sound? Thank you! Rock On


One word: headphones. Anon
This is not directly related to the soundproofing question, but one piece of advice I will give you is to turn down the bass on whatever sound system you are using. Low frequency sound carries extremely well -- and from my point of view there is almost nothing in the world more annoying than listening to the ''thump thump thump'' of a disembodied bass line, especially if I'm trying to sleep. anonymous
Hi, My friend is obsessed with RB and also had noise complaints from his downstairs neighbor. He got an idea of how to muffle the tapping from youtube: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n4-jH916Rb8 or go to youtube and in the search box enter ''rock band drum mod marshmallow'' He also uses headphones so the music isn't audible to others. friend of rocker
I don't know, but I urge you to make sure it's safe and legal. It was cheap soundproofing that caused that horrible fire in the nightclub in Rhode Island in 2003 that killed 100 people. Sarah
Headphones.
You can find used free carpet and pad on Craigslist and that would offer decent sound insulation. anon
How about using egg cartons. Over the years I have had many requests from customers. I understand that it works quiet effectivly. Some egg cartons and sheetrock can go a long way. Rock ON anon
Easiest solution? Headphones. Get 'em wireless if that makes it more palatable to the guitarist in question. Rock on!
eggshell foam - the kind you use to top mattresses. Get them free on craigslist or freecycle and line your walls to absorb the sound. Ugly, but works.

Experience with "Soundproof Windows"?

Jan 2009

I was wondering if anyone had an experience with Soundproof Windows company (http://www.soundproofwindows.com). We are thinking of getting a soundproof window installed in my son's bedroom. I did some research and found this company. I would like to know if these windows really work. Thanks. Ayca


Of course, the phrase ''Soundproof'' is a misnomer. ''Sound reduction'' is more accurate. From looking at soundproofwindows.com, it appears that they install laminated glass over-windows. Laminated windows are the type that you have in cars - a sandwich of glass-plastic-glass. These work fairly well in reducing noise. It looks like these window-panes are non-openable, although the website doesn't really say much about this. (This might be architecturally objectionable, or violate egress building codes - I've not idea)

Their claims are not well presented, but judging from their website SPL claims, it looks like their windows typically reduce noise by 12 to 20 db. This is significant, but not fantastic. If your existing windows are single pane, loose-fitting sashes, you can probably get nearly this amount of noise reduction by replacing them with standard double-paned systems which are well caulked. In any case, replacing window units is seldom cheap!

In short, I have a few yellow flags about this, but can't say much more without seeing (and hearing) the effects. C.S.


Want to soundproof bedroom walls

Dec 2007

We're looking for a contractor who does small soundproofing jobs. We want to soundproof the wall that separates our sons' bedrooms, the wall shared by a bedroom and a bathroom, and possibly our master bedroom that shares a wall with a closet. Ideally, we want to inject soundproofing material into the space between the walls from the attic above rather than tear open a wall. Want to use a material that is not likely to become moldy/mildewy since one son is very allergic to molds. Any leads to contractors would be appreciated. Nancy


To be blunt, you really can't soundproof those walls without a huge expense and major remodeling. To blow in soundproofing from the attic or basement, holes would have to be made in the structural members, thus compromising the stability of your house. Even if you did this, the studs in the walls would still be touching the sheetrock on both sides of the wall, and the sound would go through that. To properly soundproof, the sheetrock would have to be removed and some kind of sound barrier installed.
Contacting a contractor that installs insulation may help your search--as what would likely be installed would be some sort of ''blown-in'' insulation. Keep in mind that total ''sound-proofing'' may not be possible, but filling the walls with insulation would go a long way to reducing sound transmission between rooms. Todd

Using white noise machine - when to stop?

Feb 2007

Living in SF, we had quite a bit of ''urban'' noise - i.e., street noise. We used a white noise machine (ocean waves specifically) with our baby. He's now almost 1 year old, and we no longer live in such an urban setting. My husband thinks we have to stop the white noise machine, so he's not addicted. Our pediatrician at his 9 mos. visit seemed to think using a white noise machine indefinitely was not a problem. Thoughts? anon


Stop when your child says he wants it off. I found it very funny that your husband says he's afraid he'll become addicted to it. What does that mean? I've never heard of a ''white noise junkie.'' My son has had the same music & moving light for six years - he loves it and now so does his two year old brother. They both go to sleep quickly, sleep well and stay that way all night. I think this is in part to the safety, similarity & security that they feel in the comfort of their own room with sounds & sights they are used to. What could be wrong with that??? -Let's see what other BPN-ers think...
I can't see how using a white noise machine can be ''addicting''. Many adults use one, and I think it definitely can help with a more restful sleep. I've used one with my 2yo daughter since she was born; we take it with us when we travel and it helps her settle down to naps and bedtime in strange places with strange noises. But she doesn't need it to get to sleep - it's just part of her familiar routine like a bath and a story. The only negative aspect I could imagine is that it does mask the normal household evening noises to some extent, so it a baby wouldn't ''get used'' to the noises so that they can sleep through them. But I'm not so sure of this - I think some light sleepers will wake up to noise regardless of how conditioned they are, and some babies will just sleep through anything. Fan of white noise
Our daughter also listened to ocean waves all night long and during naps. It was a cue for her to know it was time for sleeping. It was great at blocking out household noises and was comforting to her. My husband and I often joked that she would be dependent on the waves forever and what would her college roommate think? Well, right around her third birthday she told me out of the blue ''I don't want my waves anymore.'' And that was that. I don't know what triggered her choice. It was shortly after she had moved into a big girl bed, so maybe it was related. Amy
I personally feel that it is to your child's great advantage that he learn to sleep with noise (real noise - not white noise). We live in such an incredibly noisy environment generally that learning to sleep with noise makes for an easier life. anon
Don't stop! Why rock the boat if it helps your child sleep better? We have one in each of our children's rooms. We even have a spare one that we take w/ us when we travel. White Noise Fan
My husband uses white noise. His theory is that he got used to it when he was born premature and spent a few months among machines. He grew up in the country and still used white noise through childhood (can you imagine choosing the sound of a fan over the sound of crickets or rain?) As his wife I've gotten used to it and I only turn it off when there is rain to hear. On the rare occasion when we are away from home without white noise, He doesn't seem to have trouble sleeping - he says that's only been true recently since he turned 30. I wouldn't worry about it one way or another but if you really want to wean then just turn the volume down very gradually. anon

Decreasing street noise & increasing privacy

Nov 2006

My family and I just bought and moved into what I was certain was our dream house. However, I am beginning to regret making the purchase.

The house is on a busy street. Not MLK or Ashby busy, but still, a well-used thoroughfare. To compound matters, the house is on a corner (although there is not a stop sign at this corner, thankfully).

I guess we didn't really notice (or did not want to notice) when we did the inspection, but this house does not block out street noise well at all. All vehicles that drive by can be heard loud and clear - sounds are barely muffled. I can also hear people's conversations as they walk by our house. The living room, dining room, and kitchen are the worst, but street noise even carries to the bedrooms.

Also, the living room has almost floor-to-ceiling bay windows, which I loved when we first saw the house. However, I'm now uncomfortable being in the living room because I know anyone driving (or especially, walking - the windows are close to the sidewalk) by can look in.

I want to fix these issues, but I have no idea how or where to begin. Two of the bedrooms have double-paned windows, but they don't seem to make much of a difference, noise-wise, so I'm worried that if we double-pane all the windows, we'll just be out of a lot of cash and still unhappy. I've heard of these things called ''soundproof windows'', which are supposedly special windows that are fitted over your original windows, but I don't know anyone who has actually used these; they would be an expensive experiment. I've thought about hiring an acoustical engineer, but I don't know of anyone who's ever used their services, and therefore don't have any referrals.

I'm also at a loss as to what to do regarding increasing privacy. I don't want to have drapes drawn all day long - I love natural light. Ironically, big windows was one of the reasons why we bought this place.

I'm just feeling so badly about all this. I'm already regretting purchasing this house, and we just moved in! I feel depressed, and foolish for falling for the staged fantasy of this house, rather than thinking about what really living here day-to-day would be like.

Any advice, especially from people in similar situations, would be much appreciated. Thank you
Buyer's Remorse


The first thing I would say is that you will probably become less sensitive to the noise over time. I have lived on busy streets and corners and what seemed like an incessant din at first faded from my consciousness as I became acclimated to it. The other simple thing I would try is gauzy drapes. These provide some privacy but still let the light in, and will probably look really nice in your lovely bay windows. At night you can pull heavier drapes over those if you like--helps with heat loss as well as noise.
Hi Buyer's Remorse: I wonder if you bought our former house; I can feel your anxiousness. We (naively) bought our first house on a busy corner in a great neighborhood in North Berkeley, were it not for being on a busy corner. We were thrilled to be walking distance to BART, a community garden, a wonderful public school (Jefferson), and some small shops, not to mention a bus line on the street. I can still remember the sound of the bus going up and down the street. After living there a few months, I realized how sensitive I am to noise, compared to my husband, whose hearing is actually very poor, so the noise didn't bother him at all. I hated my realtor for not alerting me to the disadvantages of living on a ''noisy'' and ''busy'' street, esp. with young children.

I did all that I could do to reduce the noise. I changed two bedroom windows to double paned windows, and added laminated glass on the master bedroom. It helped dull the noise but the noise was still there. We replaced all the drapes with miniblinds, so we could have light and privacy. I had the city plant a street tree, where possible, as a screen. My children were young then and I was very watchful not to let them walk out.

I could not enjoy myself in the yard as the noise was relentless. Once inside the house, the children masked much of the noise, but I could never sleep late. The one thing I did not do, was to put in a forest of tall shrubs with a front gate of some sort. I would suggest you hire a landscaper for this. Add a water fountain to the outside/inside of the house. Add some pleasant smelling lavender oils to the inside (aromotherapy).

Buy some nice wind chimes. Fortunately, when my husband got a new job, shortly after we remodelled the kitchen with custom kitchen cabinets, we looked and looked and finally relocated. I have never, ever regretted the move. We barely lasted two years at that house. While I miss Berkeley, I now live on a quiet street where I hear birds rather than cars whizzing by. I visit Berkeley often but do not miss the Berkeley traffic and politics.

Would suggest that you do all you can to bufffer the noise and if you still hate it, move. Life is too short to spend it in a noisy house that depresses you. Anonymous


Use carpet, rugs, drapes or curtains to absorb sound bouncing from hard interior surfaces. Shades that rise from the bottom of the window UP, not from the top down, don't need to completely cover the window. The mottled, blurry glass that is used for bathroom windows? Could you install that on some of the windows? Use white paper or sheer fabric shades, which allow light through, and at night draw more opaque curtains in addition to the sheer shades. Another option is a Japanese- type paper screen to place in front of the largest or most exposed-feeling windows. For the largest window, or the window facing the noisiest direction, maybe try the soundproofing windows. For some physical distance or screening, grow shrubs or vines that block a direct view into your house. A trellis outside or even trellised houseplant inside might help you feel more screened from passersby. I think also better insulating your house (more expensive but helps with heating bills too) is supposed to help. Would a white noise machine or interior fountain/bubbler help block the noise too? I used to live on a freeway-type street in SF, and eventually I just got used to the rattles and noises and retreating conversations. don't be afraid of your home
We added a second story, which gets a lot more BART noise than downstairs, and there's a very noticable difference with our double-paned windows open and closed. So I think going with double-paned may really help your situation. Regarding privacy, have you thought about the up-down/down-up honeycomb blinds? You can lower them from the top, so the top half of your windows are exposed and the bottom half are covered. They're great for street-level or slightly higher windows because you can block people's line of sight and create privacy, while still being able to see trees and sky at the top. We used Budget Blinds to install blinds throughout our house and love them love the view
We also moved into a house with wonderfully large windows in a neighborhood that is unbearably noisy. Because I felt so exposed due to the large windows, I bought horizontally pleated, double cellular shades with the top-down feature. I got Bali brand. They are fairly expensive but you can find them on the internet about half price of what you can buy them for at a store. I'm able to lower the shades from the top, allowing lots of sunshine into the house while still keeping the lower half of the windows covered. I have privacy, we can see the trees and get plenty of sunshine plus I've found that the double cells are also good noise insulators .. especially when they are fully closed. And they keep the house warmer in the winter.

We replaced all the windows in our "dream house" with noise- reducing, double pane vinyl windows and they have had a significant effect on lessening the noise. Of course, they work best in the winter when all the windows are closed. In addition, we insulated the attic with blown in insulation, which also reduces noises.

And to offer you a ray of hope, after two and a half years in this house, I'm finding that my sensitivity to the noises is lessening. I'm the one that responded to the request for info about anti-barking devices. Not only does the next-door dog bark but also there are young adult males across the street who have huge boom boxes that fill the trunks of their cars. Our windows rattle when they drive by with stereos blasting. And everyone in the neighborhood has an alarm on their car and they go off at all hours of the day and night. Its miserable. I used to wonder how other folks in the neighborhood could stand all the constant noise. Everyone but us has lived here at least 25 years and the noises just don't bother them. But just recently I've noticed that, while I still hear all the noises, they don't cause me to self-destruct like they used to. Its like my nervous system has grown callouses or something and I can tolerate the auditory assault better. So, if you can stand it long enough, you may find the noises affect you less and over time, maybe they won't bother you at all. The human body can adapt to all sorts of horrors. Belinda


Your post really resonated with me, bcs we live in a similar house-- on a busy street with big windows facing the street. We have been living here a couple years now though, and one thing I can tell you is that it simply doesn't bother me as much as it used to. When we first moved in, I was obsessed with the issues of noise and privacy, was sure we had bought the wrong house, etc. Now I think SOME of my reaction was just getting used to a new house, neighborhood, life, etc., and all the little things loomed very large. However, that said, I am indeed a very private person and what has helped me is getting translucent film to put on some of the windows which lets in light, but makes it impossible to see in. Other windows i do still want to see out of so we are planning to eventually construct a higher fence between our yard and the street (having people walk by and look into our house drives me crazy also-- although other people seem not to mind at all. I think it's a very individual thing). Previous owners did replace the downstairs kitchen windows with double-paned glass which does seem to reduce noise quite a bit in our house; maybe it depends on type. Upstairs in my son's bedroom (facing street) however, there are original windows and when I lie next to him at night as he falls asleep, I can also hear conversations on the street. I looked into replacing them but to get a similar custom-made wooden window was going to be in the thousands of dollars, so for now we are just living with it. I am thinking that wooden blinds or shutters would help alot, but so far have not gotten them. Based on my experience, I would suggest not to rush into a very expensive or irrevocable solution, as you may find after a bit of time passes, it feels differently to you. Or another solution presents itself. noisy street homeowner
I would get new windows - all double-pane with extra thick glass. This will help some! We live on a corner too, near a school, and often have a lot of kids playing outside. This has helped a lot to reduce street noise and I no longer hear conversations out on the sidewalk. They work best to reduce ''steady noises'' like traffic but it is not a cure-all for ''one-off noises'' like dog barking or basketball bouncing. Still, that's your first step! New windows in our house (about 18) cost us around $12k. Good luck! Go for the windows!
For privacy but still letting in some light/view, you can get shades that can go up and down from the bottom or the top. So you can cover the bottom half of your bay window if you want, but still let in light in the top half. And you have the option of covering the entire window. Check out Smith and Noble, which does custom shades & curtains via the internet: www.smithandnoble.com.

We live close to the freeway and the minute you step out of our house you hear freeway noise. All of our windows are double paned, and it does cut out the noise. But who knows, maybe there's different sound dynamics with our situation versus being close to the street anon


Wow. I feel like you are telling my story. We bought a house on a very busy street last year. Once we got moved in we realized how noisy, and dangerous it was living on our street. We also have large 6X6 windows throughout the house and the street traffic can see everything we do.

What I did to make the situation liveable was I purchased bamboo shades. (there are also roman style shades and blinds that do the same thing) You still get light and can see the views but it makes you less visable to the street. I still don't change in my bedroom I go to the bathroom for that but I feel like it has definitley made the situation a lot more bareable and I don't feel like I am missing out on my view.

As for the noise we purchased a honeywell HEPA air purifier that makes a nice white noise and that has enabled my family to sleep better. It totally drowns out the traffic and bus noise fron the street.

Most of all you just need to give it time. It is all new now but you will get more used to it in the future. I hardly think about it now.

Wish you the best! Grizzly Peak Blues


I just uploaded a response to your post about decreasing noise levels in your new home but just thought of something else that might help you. I was an RN for 15 years.

Be sure you are taking adequate amounts of calcium. Calcium will help your nervous system be less sensitive. If you are not able to reduce the noise levels, with adequate calcium, the noise may not bother you as much. Calcium has such an effect that it even raises people's pain threshold. And after all, that's what you're dealing with; the pain from all the noise is more than you can tolerate. So up your calcium intake or start taking calcium suppliments if you don't already.

And not all calciums are the same. Take one that offers several sources of calcium (calcium citrate, calcium malate, calcium carbonate) plus trace minerals. (I take Nature's Life ''Cal-Mag- Zinc Complex with trace minerals'') Belinda


Hi, I sympathize with your privacy and noise issues. Many of us enjoy living in this area but are not in love with the housing density! I don't have any suggestions about noise, but have some ideas about privacy. For the windows, consider sheer cafe curtains or bottom-up pleated blinds. This allows light to come in from the top but blocks the street view. You might also consider very sheer fabric panels (ones that are flat, not gathered) or rice paper attached directly to the window. Sometimes you have to test a few fabrics before you get the right balance between too opaque to see through but sheer enough to provide daylight. I live next to a large condominium and our bedroom windows look directly into their parking area - not a pretty or private view. We have sheer fabric panels under the venetian blinds and they let in plenty of sunlight without giving a view to the neighbors. Venetian blinds can often be used alone in a more public room - tilted the right direction they allow light in from the top while blocking the street view. There are also opaque window films that can be installed - one brand is Gila window film.

Outside the house you may want to try some privacy landscaping if you have the space to plant. You don't need to plant a fifteen foot wall of evergreens in front of your windows. A few well-placed large shrubs or small trees with a light, open branch structure can do wonders for your feeling of privacy. Lots of things will grow tall in a year or two in the Bay area. If you're not already a gardener I'd recommend the Sunset Garden guide for information about good screening plants, and you can always talk to someone at your local nursery.

You might also want to walk around your neighborhood and look at other houses that are situated in a non-private way and see if you see any other good ideas.

Hope you find some solutions that work for you - it's hard to feel like you can't relax in your own home Also crave privacy


We have a simlmiar situation but perhaps not as busy a street. For us new windows did make a huge difference. Also consider trees/shrubs etc -- evergreens are good as you don't have the bare branches in winter. Trees also seem to absorb some sound. Consider an indoor fountain of some sort - may help create a white noise environment. for drapes we just got these from smith and noble that you can see out (to see view) but people don't really see in. also consider posting on home/garden forum to get other info and ideas. And, dare I say it, consider moving. I mean, we learned so much from this house -- and while we still have sound issues, its very managable. yes, I know it will cost a bundle but will you ever be able to get the new house to be where you want it -- and what will that cost? And, one more downer - on our not so busy street in five years the traffic has increased signficantly -- various reasons I guess but keep that in mind as well Good luck
I can empathize with you - I really am sorry. We purchased our first place in SF which we thought was ''perfect''. I think that every house purchase, especially in the Bay Area, brings on some level of buyer's remorse. I think it is very common - if not the noise, something else. The first month, the distant street noise and co-eds hanging out on our street in the evenings really bothered us. In the evenings/night, I was most sensitive to the ''new noises''. We had a sound engineer come out which I would recommend. Also, our place is old (1920s), so another suggestion we received was insulation. We have double-paned windows too. We bought a sound/white noise machine for our bedroom. Frankly, we grew to love our place - the other traits that we did and still love about it and have become more used to the noise, etc.

Of course, I'm not saying that it's just a matter of getting used to - seek out professionals (sound engineer) - look into insulation, etc. or talk to your neighbors about how they cope.. Good luck! anon


I also live on a busy street with a lot of foot traffic, and we have found that using top/down/bottom/up (I don't know thee official name for this but go anywhere that sells Hunter Douglas type blinds and they will know what I mean) blinds provides enough privacy while giving me natural light that I crave. I leave the blinds situated so that they are in the lower half of the window only; the top half of the window is open to light. (also, the lighter color of blind you buy, the more light will be reflected into your house from the part of the window that is covered by the blind). People walking by may be able to see the top of my husband's head if they stand in front of the house and look hard, but I figure so what. I have come to realize that most people walking by don't actually turn their head and look to see in, they are usually occupied with their dogs/children/cell phones/worries/etc .

Also, during the day, unless you have lights on inside of the house (or the view is backlit by another window on the opposite wall), there is a mirror effect such that our double pane windows reflect/mirror outside light and you can't see inside the house that well. (this is not the case when lights are on or where there is another light source) So, if you want to open up the blinds more during the day, esp. with double pane windows, its likely that people walking by won't be able to see in that much.

As for noise, yes, new windows will probably help, but they won't completely eradicate all traffic noise. Its likely that you will just get used to the background traffic noise once you stop stressing about it. Enjoy your new home, don't worry, you can make this work!! Words from the Street


I can't help with noise (other than to suggest a fountain for white noise to mask it), but we also have a big front window and I don't like the feeling of people seeing in.

My general suggestion is to allow partial privacy in the day, but go for complete privacy after dark. I find it easy to see into people's homes when their lights are on and it is dark out, but when it is light out it is harder, especially if there's any sort of thing between you and them. So when it is dark I'd go for full blinds/curtains/etc.

Daylight options to allow you some view out and light to come in, but retain your privacy:

1- sheer curtains that you can still see through
2- hang a large piece of lace in the window
3- vertical or horizontal blinds adjusted so you get the most view and outsiders 
the least
4- blinds that are at the bottom of the window and pull up, so you can have the 
bottom half closed and the top open, giving you more of a view and outsiders less. 
Sorry I don't know the special name for these
5- plant something outside the window (a vine on a trellis?)
6- hang something (stained glass piece?) it the middle of the window to break up 
the view in from outside
To feel more comfortable, test out your option by going out while someone else is moving around inside and see how much you can really see in. - want my privacy too

Best soundproof windows/airport noise help!

Sept 2006

I have not seen any recent posts about recommendations for sound- proof, or more likely, sound reduction windows. We live near the Oakland airport, but not close enough to qualify to have them pay for new windows. In any case we desperately need a company that would install these double (triple?) paned windows in our bedroom. We are much more concerned with their performance than their appearance. Please help. Thanks


I recently had my windows replaced by Sinan's in Oakland. They told me that all of their windows could be coated with some type of material (I don't remember what) that greatly reduces noise, even beyond double pane. I would think that most window places could do that, or you could call Sinan's and ask about it. valerie
Perhaps American Vision Windows could help. I haven't used them, but they claim to have tripled-paned windows and windows that reduce noise: http://americanvisionwindows.com/avw/win2.html Good luck
We also have a big sound problem at our home. We have neighbors who are doing construction during the day (an addition on their home) and also have two children (12 & 5) who bicker (often yelling/screaming) outside not far from our baby's window. As a result, his naps are just going out the window, which isn't good since he's just 9 mos. old. I did a lot of internet research, and just settled on ordering a sound proof window from http://www.soundproofwindows.com/ The people there were very helpful, and the order takes about 4-5 weeks because they custom make the window. Ours is still in production, but should be arriving in 2-3 weeks. If you'd like, I'll let you know how it works out once it arrives, just drop me an email and I'll be sure to follow-up with you once it's installed. In the meantime, good luck, I know how difficult it can be! Melody

White noise or CD so adults can talk in small crowded house

Sept 2006

Our house is small and full of people! I feel any conversation I have with my husband can be heard by my children. I am wondering if a white noise machine or some CD of rain would work...I am thinking of playing it at bedtime, when the kids are in bed and we just want to talk. Has anyone tried using the white noise to create some privacy? crowded house mama


We have used a white noise machine since our baby was about a month old after watching ''Happiest Baby on the Block''. We initially used it because newborns seem to respond well to white noise and it has a bit of a calming effect. Later we used it for when we have guests or when our baby is having trouble napping. I looked around at various ones. There is a pretty affordable one by Homedics for around $30, but I heard some so-so review on that one. Sharper Image has one with lots of options (more than we needed) for $80, but that seemed pricey. We finally decided on the ''Tranquil Moments Sounds for Babies'' from Brookstone (price was $60). It has sounds specifically for infants (womb, car driving, heartbeat, a simple lullabye, ocean and white noise). We used the lullaby one when he's having trouble sleeping sometimes, but primarily we use the white noise to just help minimize the disruption of other noises in the house. It's also great for travelling. We've used it every day for the past 8 months, and it hasn't failed us yet. I highly recommend it
We have problems with noise... living on a busy street. We bought a Honeywell air purifier to try and cut back on dust and were pleasantly surprised that it doubles as a white noise maker too! It drowns out all the noise and I can't sleep without it now. When guests come we put it in the guestroom to drown out the noise of our baby crying in the night. You can't hear a thing when it is in the room with you. I would suggest getting one (or maybe two) and putting it in your children's room ( I can guarantee that they won't hear a thing) and maybe put one in your room too. Not only will you have clean air but you will sleep better and be able to talk freely too. I highly recommend it. You can purchase the Honeywell HEPA air filter at OSH and Home Depot. My dad enjoyed it so much after staying at our house that he went out to buy one. He got a different brand though and it doesn't make the same noise so he took it back and got the Honeywell. Hope that helps anon
We have the same problem due to an open floor plan w/ loft. We use a Hepa filter in my son's room to help with noise as well as his allergies. Ours creates a pleasant sound that blocks the noise from downstairs, even with his door open. My daughter's room has a small white noise machine we bought from Target (HomeMedics is the brand, I think). It has many different sound options to suit your needs and was under $20.00. We take it w/ us when we travel too Good Luck!
We love our Marpac ''Sleep Mate'' (aka ''Sound Screen''?) It's the only one we could find that is a _real_ white noise machine, i.e., a mechanical device, not just a looped recording. It's the same kind they use in therapists' offices for privacy, and it works much better than the ''nature sounds'' type of machine. They cost about $50
My daughter has the ears of a bat. Since she was born, we've used some kind of white noise device in her room to keep her from waking up every time we opened a drawer on the other side of the house. First, we used a humidifier but that got, well, too damp.

For the last 3 years we've used a nifty little travel white noise machine from Sharper Image. And, yes, it also travels with us to drown out hotel noise and the like. It has 20 ''sounds'' in case you get sick of one. She now likes to make a ritual of choosing her sound before bedtime. We're big fans: http://www.sharperimage.com/us/en/catalog/product/sku__SI601TNM

Good luck! Lisa


Yes, a white noise machine is a wonderful thing, no matter how big or small your house is. We've been using ours for two years straight, every single day. We even take it with us when we travel. We got it at first because we were in a one-bedroom with a baby, and she seemed to respond to the ''womb-like'' sound for sleeping. Now we are in a bigger house, but still turn it on whenever she's asleep - naps or nighttime. We're all quite attached to it (*I* sleep better with it on!).

It is not a magic bullet; a loud, sudden noise might still wake her up. But it's nice to be able to talk in normal voices in another room when you have that precious adults-only hour between your kid's and yours.

Lots of the white-noise machines on the market are made by Marpac. Ours is one of their smaller models, a bit pricey at $75 or so, but so worth it.
Lizzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz


White noise machine for toddler's bedroom

Feb. 2004

I need a white noise machine (or ''sound conditioner'') for my toddler's bedroom and I'm wondering if anyone can recommend one and tell me where to get it. I'd prefer one with ocean noises and that sort of thing, but I wouldn't mind just a basic machine (I'm not sure how much they cost). I've tried static on the radio, but it's too inconsistent and harsh, and I don't have a portable CD player, so I can't use a CD. Ellen


Hi -- We use the HoMedics SoundSpa Acoustic Relaxation Machine (a big title for a simple sound machine), which is advertised for $12.99 at Drugstore.com. It sounds a little electronic, but it has a number of sounds, including a heartbeat. We have turned on the ocean waves sound whenever we put our daughter to sleep (or back to sleep in the middle of the night) since she was about 9 months old (she's now 22 months), and I think it relaxes her and drowns out ambient noise that might distract her. Best of luck
Ellen, The sound machine I use is from HoMedics, and it works great. It has six different sound settings, from waterfalls, to spring rains, to white noise. I just found them on ebay for as little as $16; normally I think they're about $35. The really nice ones from Hammacher and Schlemmer are around $65, but only have white noise. Good luck and Happy Sleeping! Chris
I have one from Target that was only about $10 and is great. It shuts off automatically if you want and has about 6 sounds (including ocean, rain and crickets) and uses very little battery power. It's also small. It puts my toddler (and the rest of us) fast asleep in no time. I think it is Target's own brand and came in a small red box. I had one from Sharper Image that was expensive ($50+), sucked batteries dry weekly and broke in a matter of months. The sound quality was better than Target but it wasn't worth the extra $$. Nic
They have very nice ones at the Sharper Image called ''Sound Soother''. I think they run about $100 though. You could probably try e-bay for a used one. Star
One in-home child care provider used a fan, plain and simple. The kids always slept really well. I don't know what a white noise machine is exactly, but a fan is useful in hot weather too. mom of light sleeper
I have one I've used for myself for years. It has a variety of sounds (I prefer ''summer nights'' with chirping crickets)and has never broken. Conair is the manufacturer and I purchased it at Walgreens. anon
We bought a white noise machine (the Homedics Sound Spa) for our baby at Target about a year ago and now none of us can sleep without it! It cost about $15 and has about 6 different sound options (summer night, white noise, river, etc). Check homedics.com Sound Sleeper
I bought a white noise machine at Rockridge Kids. I don't remember the brand name, but it was the only one that they carried at the time, which was maybe two years ago. It has ocean wave sounds as well as several others, but we only ever use that one. It helps drown out other noise very well.
The Sharper Image sells these (they run around $100) in their store--they are called ''sound soothers''. They have a web-site if you can't make it into a retail outlet: http://www.sharperimage.com. Sarah
Also recommended: Air Filters & Purifiers (1)

Blocking noise so baby can sleep

Nov 2005

Has anyone tried any of the white noise machines on the market? What were the pros and cons? What's a good one and where can it be purchased? Right now the baby uses a loud ceiling fan. However, as it gets cooler we're not going to want that air blowing around. thanks! karlyn


We never did go in for one of the machines, but what worked pretty well for us was to put a radio in the baby's room and set it on a non-station (i.e., static), at pretty high volume. There are also white-noise CDs you can buy. ssshhhhhh ....
I did not actually buy it, but I remember seeing one at Target. It had several different ''noises'' (ocean, rain, white noise) and it was under $20. They also have a similar CD there if you have a CD player. anon
We've been using our Sleepmate white noise machine in our son's room for the past 3 years. It's great. http://www.marpac.com/soundscreen.asp Debbie
We have a '' HoMedics - EnviraScape Sound Spa, Model # SS-200. It works wonders. Our daughter loves the sound of water and we used to run water to sooth her (not a good idea). This machine has six different sounds: heartbeat, mountain streams. ocean waves, white noise, summer nights and spring rain. “Mountain streams” does the trick for her. It can be plugged or battery operated. It has volume control and a timer. We got it at target. I cannot remember the price exactly but it is between $15 and $20. Julie
We've ordered two from Hammacher Schlemmer (www.hammacher.com) and they've worked for many years. Our daughter has dropped one of them a few times and it still works no prob. http://www.hammacher.com/publish/60586.asp?promo=homepage
Jan. 2003

I am looking for some type of product that will create ''white noise'' in my baby's room in hopes to block out noise and help her sleep. We bought a warm mist humidifier; it makes a humming noise and that works great, but I don't like to leave it on throughout the night for safety reasons. I was thinking about buying an air purifier for this purpose. Would appreciate any ideas of what you use.


I'm not sure if Costco still has it, but a few months ago they were selling a ''nature sounds'' clock radio, about $70. Or how about just tuning a radio to some static? J12
In regards to the white noise rec.: You can create a white-noise generator using a radio set to static. My husband and I live on a busy street, and found this to work better than any commercial sound machines. Ideally, use a radio with tone controls, and turn the treble down and the bass up. Set the radio to static; we tune to the bottom of the FM dial. The low frequency white noise is great for masking traffic and other engine type noise (lawnmowers, etc). jessica
I know you can buy white noise makers that imitate noise in the womb (just do an online search) but what I have found to work is putting on the radio, and turning the dial all the way to the left and letting the static be the white noise. I suppose you don't have to turn the dial all the way to the left, but I have found that static to be more consistent (!). Hilary
When this was an issue for us, we always used an electric fan, the large kind that fits in a window. You can get them cheaply at places like Longs Drugs. You can get white noise machines, very expensive, at places like the Leading Edge, but the one I tried out wasn't loud enough to block out much. You can also get white noise CDs -- I got a really good one (''Gentle Breeze'') by ordering from this site: http://www.xlhelp.com/SleepCD/SleepCD.htm. Hannah
Hi there, Try the white noise sounds and soother from Sharper Image. It was given to me by a friend at a baby shower and was truly the best gift I was ever given! I do think it is rather pricey though, but I feel it would be worth the money. We have used it since birth for our daughter and she is now 13 months old and we continue to use it. It has various settings such as heartbeat ( for newborns )and our favorite is the brook .or rain setting. It lulls her to sleep and drowns out any outside noise as is our house is rather small. It is also portable and we bring it on any trips we have and it provides a somewhat familiar atmosphere for our daughter when we are in a foreign setting......... Good luck! Julie
Instead of buying ''products'' I think it's much easier just to buy CDs with the kind of sounds you're looking for. Get a small, portable (and cheap) cd/casset player for your kid's room and it will much more useful as you can play fun sing-a-long music during the day, stories, etc. and then soothing sounds at night such as rain and ocean sound recordings. I think I've even seen them at Target at one of those displays where you can hear selections before you buy the CD. I was also just reading about a CD called ''For Crying Out Loud.'' It has recordings of blow dryers, vacum cleaners, rain, and other noises that work to soothe babies. Someone told me you might be able to get it at Toys R Us or Rockridge Kids. A mother in my Mom's group said her husband burned a CD of the blow dryer that they play over and over for their baby. When we want to have something going for longer than the length of the CD (you mention having something go all night) we turn on the radio and find some static, which also does the trick. anon
We bought one of those things that has a selection of sounds - white noise, ocean, brook, rain forest, etc. - even a heartbeat sound. I think we got it at Sharper Image, so it probably wasn't cheap, but it was great! We used it every night and for naps. You can play it continuously or on a timer. Our daughter was very colicky and we went through hell trying to get her (and us) to sleep. I can't swear that this was the answer, but we believe it helped - and it was relaxing for us to hear as well. We also took it with us when we went away, and think it helped when she had to sleep in a strange place. Now that she's older, we play familiar lullabyes for the same purpose instead of the white noise, but we haven't gotten rid of it, because younever know when you may want to listen to the sounds of the waves! A cheaper answer: Tape record the sound of a hairdryer or vaccuum. Stephanie
Instead of a humidifier or air purifier, you may want to consider a product designed specifically to create white noise. There are several such commercial products (Sharper Image, Brookstone...) and even some specifically for babies (I think it's Fisher Price that makes an aquarium white noise machine for cribs). We got ours cheap by buying it on Ebay. As an alternative, I've heard of people making their own audiotapes of things like vacuum cleaners, fans, refrigerators, etc. and playing them at bedtime. anon
For my daughter, who is now three, we use this wave sounds cd, which we found at target. There is no synthesizing or other weird sounds, just waves - it's actually quite pleasant, but prepare yourself for possible dependancy on this technique. My daughter can't really sleep through the night with out her waves going, but, it does work like a charm. The only one we've found that's just pure waves is at target in their little life sounds section. good luck! jen
In desperation one night I used our popcorn popper (the hot air variety). It worked like a charm!!
We bought a white noise machine from earplugstore.com. It works very well. It just makes a whooshing sound which you can adjust. Debbie
A recording of ocean waves (mine has gulls in the background as well) makes for very soothing white noise. Melanie
Also recommended: Air Filters & Purifiers (3)
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