HOME IMPROVEMENT : Great Rooms--Once You Reduce Noise Level

From Associated Press

More remodelers are combining kitchens, breakfast rooms and family areas into one open space, called great rooms. Such open family living is here to stay, according to Better Homes and Gardens Remodeling Ideas magazine.

While open plans enable families to spend more time together and provide ample room for entertaining, many designs overlook acoustics. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, the kitchen is the noisiest room in the house.

Humming appliances, clanging dishware, exhaust fans and running water are just a few of the sounds frequently reverberating from the kitchen. When the kitchen is combined with other living spaces, these noises can make even a well-designed floor plan inhospitable.

Reduce the noise level in the home by choosing appliances, cabinets, floor materials, ceilings and even furniture with their noise levels and sound reduction factors in mind.


Before purchasing an appliance, ask to hear it running. Some kitchen equipment--such as exhaust fans--have a sone rating. The lower the number, the quieter the blower.

Noise from major appliances can also be minimized by installing them with some foresight: Wrap built-in dishwashers in fiberglass to reduce noise. Trash compactors and disposals should be installed with a perimeter strip-type gasket or with rubber spacers to isolate vibrations. Flexible plastic and rubber hoses also minimize the transfer of vibrations to walls.

Mount exhaust fans outside the house and secure the ductwork by boxing it in tightly with plywood. Use rubber mounts to install the fan to reduce noise generated from vibrations.

Large, heavy appliances--such as refrigerators, washing machines, and dryers--transfer their vibrations to the supporting floor, creating additional noise. These vibrations can be isolated from the floor by placing pads of rubber underneath the appliance’s legs or corners.

To prevent wall vibrations, allow at least two inches of space between the appliance and the wall. The noise of countertop appliances, such as a food processor or a blender, can be quieted by rubber or cloth pads placed beneath them.

Hard cabinet surfaces, such as plastic laminate, metal and wood, all reflect kitchen sounds. Minimize the noise of clanging dishware by installing rubber or cork tile on the shelves and back faces of cabinets.

Soft rubber bumpers on the inside edges of doors make the closing of cabinet doors quieter.

If the kitchen is open to an adjacent room, select sound-absorbing furnishings to help quiet kitchen noise--padded furniture and carpet instead of spare chairs and hardwood floors.


To prevent sound from traveling from room to room, a special wood fiber wallboard (such as Homosote’s Sound-A-Sote or Georgia Pacific’s Sound Deadening Board) can be installed behind drywall. These boards can also be used to deaden sound in ceilings and floors.