Are Older Houses More Soundproof?

There has been an ongoing debate in real estate forums about whether older houses are more soundproof than modern houses. Is there any credibility to this claim?

Older houses are not necessarily more soundproof than newer apartments. While older houses were built when construction costs were low, they had thin windows and doors and were not subject to STC ratings. Whether these apartments are soundproof depends on the soundproofing measures in place. 

Older Houses More Soundproof

This article will discuss critical questions related to this topic, including whether or not older houses were more soundproof than newer houses and how to make your home more soundproof.

Also read: Are Plaster Walls Soundproof? 4 Things To Know

Are Older Houses More Soundproof?

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Older buildings are not necessarily more soundproof than newer houses. Older houses were not designed to be soundproof, despite the difference in construction material. It is essential first to determine whether the building—old or new—you are moving to has soundproofing features. 

Soundproofing depends on whether a building has the proper sound control measures in place and not necessarily on the age of the building. However, there is a case to be made for either side—older houses and newer houses. Lets us discuss these aspects below:

Why Older Houses May Be Quieter Than Newer Houses

One of the main reasons some older buildings may be slightly quieter is the construction materials. Compared to the present day, construction costs in the days of old were much lower, and so were the labor costs associated with erecting a building.

However, with the cost of materials skyrocketing over the recent past and construction companies and contractors looking to keep labor costs down, modern buildings feature lightweight, cheaper materials. 

On the same breadth, due to the high cost of materials and construction, most builders do not incorporate soundproofing measures.

These newer houses tend to be less soundproof when juxtaposed to older buildings with thicker walls, thick carpeting and curtains, upholstered furniture, and wooden floors.

Why New Houses May Be More Soundproof Than Older Houses

Several things have changed in the construction industry over the last decades, and some of them have been conducive to more soundproof houses.

Thin Windows

Older houses also differ from newer houses in terms of construction design. Buildings with thinner walls and windows tend to let more noise get through them. This determines whether you can hear things happening outside your home. 

Unfortunately, this is an issue for most older homes, depending on materials and the budget.

The windows experts at American Window Products, Inc. explain that the level of noise in your home depends on the type of windows installed. According to this source, older houses typically had windows made from thin pieces of glass. 

Soundproofing experts at Residential Acoustics back up the above and explain that older houses are notorious for having thin windows with low STC ratings. 

Consequently, such houses will tend to let in more noise, especially if they are located in noisy neighborhoods. Most newer houses have improved window design, featuring double-pane windows. This limits the amount of sound that gets through. 

On the same breadth, most windows in older houses featured wooden frames, which are prone to wear and tear over time.

As a result, these windows tended to form gaps over time, which allowed noise to come in. In comparison, windows in modern houses feature frames made of vinyl, which is less prone to wear and tear. 

Thin Doors and Wider Openings

Older houses are also notorious for having thin doors when compared to modern housing. These houses were also built to have larger spaces under the door and around it. Because of this, older houses typically feature a high degree of noise transfer within the house. 

Newer Houses Follow STC Building Requirements

The building code in the United States requires commercial apartments and condos to meet specific STC requirements.

These requirements apply to different aspects of buildings, including the exterior walls, windows, and doors. This requirement goes up for buildings near train tracks and highways. 

STC, an acronym for sound transmission rating, is a rating of the degree of sound isolation a building can have.

These ratings do not require buildings to be completely soundproof—a level of sound transmission is expected. However, they make these units theoretically quieter than older houses. 

Older houses did not follow these STC requirements. For instance, STC requirements can be traced back to the 1970s in California. They are relatively a newer phenomenon, and thus older houses did not have to follow these guidelines during construction. 

How You Can Soundproof Your House

Whether you decide to move to a new apartment complex or opt for an old building, you may still need to soundproof your house to keep the noise level down. 

Even with the existing STC ratings, you can still hear noise from within and outside your home, especially if you live in a busy, noisy neighborhood. However, you can take some simple steps to make your home more soundproof.

  • Seal gaps under and around your doors. You can easily reduce sound transfer by covering all the spaces under your doors. You can use draft stoppers to seal these spaces. This will significantly reduce internal as well as external sounds. 
  • Install soundproof curtains or treat your windows. Windows are a major entry point for noise. You can keep noise levels down by installing soundproof curtains to muffle the noise or window treatments to limit sound transfer from outside. Make sure that your windows are double-paned. 
  • Install thick rugs on your floors. Open floors facilitate noise transfer. You can soundproof your home by introducing thick rugs on your flooring.
  • Fill in any cracks in your home. Cracks in your ceiling and/or walls are notorious for facilitating sound transfer from outside and within. By sealing these gaps, you can reduce the amount of sound transfer across rooms and from outside. 
  • Upholster your furniture. Upholstered furniture is useful when it comes to dampening sounds. You can upholster your furniture, such as chairs and sofas, with fabrics such as microfiber, corduroy, chenille, or suede. 

Conclusion

In closing, the aspect of soundproofing comes down to what you pay for. Suffice to say, there is no shortage of newer or old expensive houses in the United States with noise mitigation features in place, greater insulation, costlier floors, and so on. 

Soundproofing is therefore mediated by the fact that modern houses, together with their construction materials, are an answer to what the market needs. Turning to an older house as a more silent alternative does not guarantee soundproofing either.

However, you can follow the provided tips to keep noise levels in your home in check.

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