Your Home Office:  Stop the Noise and Enhance Productivity
Brian Ravnaas

Sound is a very real challenge for those
working from home and is often
an overlooked consideration when
setting up a home office.  

Household and neighborhood sounds can pour into a home office and disrupt work.   
Sounds of a midnight conference call to far off time zones can escape from an office,
waking family members and even neighbors.

Many find out only after renovating a home space into an office that all of the
advantages of working from home are negated by challenges presented by noise.

Fortunately, soundproofing a home office is a simple and relatively inexpensive way
of fixing these problems. And, contrary to common mis
-perceptions, this solution is
right for anyone
-- not just Hollywood moguls and wealthy recording artists.  

New technology has allowed soundproofing to be possible for contractors and DIYers
on modest budgets.

Soundproofing Your Home Office is Easier than it Sounds

Reducing noise entering and leaving a home office has gotten easier as new
technologies have entered the market.   The evolution of soundproofing technologies
can be generally traced from very bulky, material-heavy solutions that required a
complete renovation of a space to more advanced lighter materials that require little or
no deconstruction to an existing structure.  What path you take depends on budget
and whether or not you are dealing with new construction, heavy renovation or light

Sound-absorbing material, for example, can be stuffed between joists and studs and
then walled over. Many materials are available for this purpose, including cotton batts,
mineral fiber batts, and low-cost commodity fiberglass insulation batts, which work as
well as the others  (to make sure it points back to the other absorbing materials) at a
very low cost.  

This is one of the rare cases where pinching pennies won’t put the pinch on your
results!  These materials provide a very basic level of soundproofing that dampens
many sounds but tend to be less effective for lower bass tones.  In addition, their use
depends on access to wall cavities, which exists only during new construction or
extensive renovations.  

On the other end of the spectrum,
viscoelastic compounds used in and between
drywall are one of the most effective means to eliminate the full spectrum of sound
frequencies, from high frequency sounds to low bass sounds that are normally
resistant to other forms of soundproofing.

Viscoelastic compounds dissipate vibrations in room structures by converting them
into tiny amounts of heat. The material comes in tubes that can be dispensed easily
and applied with a second layer of drywall right over existing finishes and textures..  

Decoupling clips are another method of reducing how vibrations pass through a wall.  
These clips separate two sides of the wall to reduce sound transmission by allowing
one side to vibrate independently from the other.

Use of staggered studs, double studs, resilient channels or sound clips can isolate
sound and reduce noise transmission.  They work very well in tandem with
viscoelastic compound.  In fact, using both methods can reduce 95 percent more noise
compared to conventional construction techniques alone.

Sealing any cracks or gaps between floors and ceilings using a special soundproofing
sealant will further reduce noise transference between floors.   Small cracks and gaps
may seem insignificant, but can be major contributors to noise transmission.

Finally, finishing touches such as curtains and shades as well as carpeting or rugs can
further reduce noise from entering and leaving a room.  These are simple steps that
can maximize your investment in soundproofing.

Choosing What’s Right When Soundproofing Your Home Office

Depending on the stage of renovation you are in, you can make informed choices
about installing soundproofing. For example, if you are completely gutting a room

(i.e., removing the walls to the bare studs) you may want to consider using all of the
elements listed above.  Gutting a room provides easy and inexpensive access to most,
if not all, soundproofing components from batting to viscoelastic compound.  

Take advantage of this opportunity to do everything you can to soundproof the office
if you're starting from scratch.  Adding elements now will be easier than down the
road when walls will have to be torn down to achieve the same results.

If you're not planning on gutting a room or building a new home, you may want to
consider using viscoelastic compound alone.  This compound can easily be applied to
drywall and then affixed to existing drywall.  This step, plus adding carpeting can
significantly reduce noise entering and leaving a room for minimal time and money.

Is Soundproofing Worth if for a Home Office?

Whether you are self-employed or working for a company that allows or even requires
a home office, investing in that environment certainly pays off in productivity and
flexibility.  Soundproofing a room can be completed by a home owner or contractor in
a weekend with minimal skill level and budget.

These changes can ensure that the space is isolated from the rest of the family and
neighbors.  In addition, most renovations to home offices are tax deductible.  Check
with an accountant, but soundproofing an office is a business expense that is 100
percent deductible while it also improves the rest of your home and lifestyle.  Finally,
soundproofing adds value to not just business, but also to your home.  A
soundproofed office could be viewed by potential buyers not only as a workspace but
as an ideal home theater or nursery.  Whatever the case it is a unique selling point.

For a relatively low level of time and money, soundproofing a home office offers
improved quality of life, greater productivity and a higher home value.  That is an
ideal combination that many do not consider when setting up shop from home.

About the author:
Brian Ravnaas is the co-founder and Technical Innovation Manager of The
Green Glue Company
. The company was founded as a developer and manufacturer of advanced
acoustical isolation solutions for home theaters and other residential and commercial applications
by Brian and his brother, Brent, in 2004.  

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