The basics of building party walls and separating floors to pass sound insulation testing.
This blog focuses on the basics of soundproofing building party walls and separating floors in order to pass Sound Insulation & Sound Testing for Part E of the Building Regulations.
Soundproofing to ensure your development meets the requirements of Part E of the Building Regulations should not be seen as a worrying task. Achieving good soundproofing on house party-walls and flat separating floors is essential to ensure that future residents are not adversely affected by noise from neighbours. After all, nobody wants to pay for a new property or move into a new rental only to hear their neighbours through a poorly soundproofed wall or suffer the impact of chair scrapes, high heels, or vibrations from washing machines from the flat above. Unfortunately, poor sound insulation is an issue that plagues many attached houses both small and large. This has been made worse in recent years due to high powered television sound bars, speakers, gaming stations and drum kits.
When undertaking new build development or conversion to residential, it is important to be aware of the sound insulation requirements of Part E of the Building Regulations and what is needed in order to show compliance with the regulations. To comply with Part E of the Building Regulations, soundproofing measures should not be designed merely to ‘pass’, because if a development just passes’, or is certified as only a ‘marginal pass’, then this means that the properties party-wall or separating floor has acceptable, but not great soundproofing. Consequently, this might have an impact on the future occupier’s renting the property for a short, rather than a long-period; or the property purchaser feeling that they have been overcharged given the quality of the property.
Advice from expert acoustic consultants
At HA Acoustics, we work on a daily basis with construction companies, architects, builders, property developers, planning agents and building control officers. Consequently, we’re well placed to understand the challenges that sound proofing party-walls or separating floors poses. Therefore, we thought we’d produce a blog to assist those responsible for designing or constructing party-walls or separating floors. Here we pass on our knowledge for those suffering from a noise issue or designing or engineering a solution to a noise issue.
Arguably, the common cause of failure we see on site, is insufficient mass to party-walls or floors. Particularly, when considering timber frame party-walls or floors. One of the best ways to improve the sound insulation of a party floor or wall is to ensure there is adequate mass, this can be done by using a high mass mineral wool product, brick and block walls or such plasterboard linings as SoundBloc.
A second method of improving the likelihood of building party walls or separating floors to pass Part E of the building regulations is through decoupling the party-wall or separating floor. One of the best ways to reduce the sound of people walking on a floor above, is to decouple the ceiling structure from the floor joists. This is typically done through using a resilient bar system, a suspended MF Ceiling or even an entirely independent ceiling, so as to decouple the SoundBloc plasterboard linings from the joists above. Instead of installing 12.5mm plasterboard, we almost always also recommend two layers of 15mm plasterboard SoundBloc ceilings, due to the additional mass.
Minimise sound transference downwards with floating floors
In addition when you create a floating floor, you are creating a suspension in the floor, which decouples the cosmetic floor finish e.g. carpet or floor tiles, from the sub floor and minimises impact sound transference downwards.
You can take the same approach with walls. Typically, we recommend that plasterboard walls are installed by either creating a staggered or double stud wall. You could also use resilient bars. Staggered walls, double stud walls and walls formed with resilient bars are three construction methods which minimise the spread of sound waves, and dampen vibrations, through the partition wall. Ideally, two layers of studwork should be installed with high quality and high density acoustic mineral wool, used as an insulation layer between the studs, to limit sound transmission further.
Between the partition floor or party-wall studwork or joists, mineral wool must be used. This should be installed tightly fitted between the framework to ensure a ‘snug’ fit, so as to minimise gaps or voids, but should not be packed into the wall. An airgap should remain between the mineral wool and the plasterboard on one side. This enables the soundwave to pass through a number of different mediums, thus helping to break it down.
Finally, it’s worth remembering that sound is like water and exploits any weakness in gaps. Therefore, an air-tight seal is important, so filling gaps is important.
For further advice on Sound Insulation Testing across the UK, contact HA Acoustics. Call our expert acoustic consultants today on 0203 371 9801 for friendly advice about building party walls, sound insulation testing or any other acoustic issue you may require advice about. HA Acoustics are able to provide verbal telephone advice, quote to undertake acoustic design review of your architect’s drawings to help determine the likelihood of passing building regulations or quote to attend site to undertake a sound insulation test of your building development, either part-way through the build or for a test for building regulation sign-off.