Tuning Your Home
By Shanuka Kadupitiyage
When you hear the word ‘tuning’ it wouldn’t be a surprise if your thoughts immediately bring up the image of tuning your car engine, or a musical instrument. Amongst all the things around you, would you imagine tuning your home?
A home at its best is a personal escape, your own little pocket of space in the vast universe that’s for yourself and the people you love. It’s the place you return to after a tiring day of running around, getting things done. It’s a place where you can be yourself, and not have to worry about what another might think about you and your wonderful quirks.
In order for you to create that perfect living space, having the right lighting is important, but some serious attention towards acoustic comfort is important as well to bring that perfect ambiance into your living spaces.
What is acoustic comfort?
Imagine after a long, hard day of work you go home. You switch the lights on and are welcome to a perfect interior. You take a relaxing shower and plop onto the sofa, ready to unwind to a nice book or magazine, when suddenly you hear your neighbour’s television set blaring, the sound leaking into your home. Another neighbour’s dog starts barking as well, reacting to the noise. Needless to say, such an instance would easily kill the evening’s mood.
Preventing noises of your home from leaking outside, and preventing noises from leaking in is one of the basic principles for acoustic comfort. There’s also how sound operates inside the home and what an effect it has inside each room.
The basic gist of it is that sound has a character of its own within a living space, and using that to your benefit can drastically improve the ambiance and comfort of your home. The mood of a room with acoustic dampening is significantly different from one that does not.
Think about your needs
Each room of the home comes with its unique sounds. Plan the layout of your home with these in mind, according to your needs. Placing a home library or study next to the laundry room with a noisy washing machine wouldn’t make any sense, so consider your needs and plan the layout of your home accordingly. Consider things like, which areas of the house would you want the sound to be dampened, which would you rather not.
Going back to a small school science lesson, sound travels in waves through the air. Just like the waves in the ocean, they can reflect and bounce around when hitting hard surfaces.
While it won’t cause that much of an issue outside or in a very open space, things are very different when considering an environment boxed in on all six sides (including the ceiling and floor).
Sound travels fast and will bounce against walls, the floor, and the ceiling multiple times before reaching your ears. This causes the sound to become muddled and lose its life. If you want to play some music on your stereo or watch a movie, most likely your audio experience wouldn’t be anything more than lackluster.
The only way to prevent sounds from bouncing throughout your rooms or home is to provide either acoustic dampening or diffusing. While you can buy special panels that are specifically made for this purpose, simple choices in decor can easily create a similar effect.
For example, using heavy drapes or curtains are an effective way of dampening and diffusing sound waves, as is using soft-touch furnishings and even a carpet or rug. These soft surfaces absorb the sound waves, reducing the reverb and the murky sounds.
Also, if you’re placing electronic appliances that make noise next to a wall or solid surface, make sure that there is enough distance between the appliance and the wall because the noise could easily bleed through the wall to the adjacent room.
Protecting yourself from the sound coming in and not letting sound escape from your living space is important to protect your peace of mind as well as your personal privacy. Sound can easily escape from a house or room that doesn't have proper sound isolation in place.
A good rule of thumb is the greater the openings are to the outside world, the more sound is going to travel between the indoors and outdoors. Yes, those big french windows (even when closed) aren’t helping you in isolating sound.
One of the best ways to do that is to once again, use dampers and reduce the number of waves travelling between the two spaces. You might even want to consider adding extra seals to your windows so when they are shut, minimal sound bleeds through.
The right furniture
You could even use the furniture to help diffuse reverberating sound waves. Furniture such as bookcases break the smooth surface of the wall and break down the sound waves which would have reflected off otherwise, further increasing the dampening effect.
Strike a balance
Even so, don’t overdo the acoustic dampening, which could be detrimental to the indoor space as well. It’s important to figure out a balance, to create an acoustic tone that is just right within the indoor space. Finding that perfect balance is exactly what it takes to tune your homes (or living space’s) acoustic characteristics.