How to Deal with Construction Noise with Soundproofing
On an active construction site, noise is inevitable. Heavy equipment and power tools are noisy, but buildings simply can’t go up without them.
But, if you’re living or working across the street from an active building site, you may be wondering how to deal with construction noise—can you abate construction activity sounds, or do you just have to tolerate them?
If you’re a builder, on the other hand, you might be curious about how to block construction noise from permeating the surrounding areas.
Luckily, there are measures you can take—whether you’re a builder or a neighbor—to reduce construction noise. Let’s break down some of the options available to neighbors and construction companies and explore why acoustical awareness on construction sites is so important.
Soundproofing vs. Sound Absorption
Before we get into how to block construction noise, let’s clarify two terms people often use when talking about sound abatement—soundproofing and sound absorption.
- Soundproofing describes measures taken to reduce the amount of noise that leaks into (or escapes) a space—the things you do to prevent noise movement.
- Sound absorption describes measures to manage any regular or excessive noise from bouncing around inside of a space—dampening or muffling sounds or reducing echoes.
But before you head out to purchase soundproofing or sound absorption materials, remember to set realistic expectations. Creating a completely soundproof room takes time, effort, and resources (both material and financial)—whether you’re living next to a construction site or managing an active building project, eliminating all construction sounds is simply unrealistic.
Dealing with Construction Site Noise as a Neighbor
If you’re working or living next to an active construction site, there are steps you can take to reduce the noise level in your space. While none of them will eliminate the noise completely (unless you decouple all of your walls from the building’s foundation and create dead air spaces between every wall), they can help reduce any loud noise and muffle it once sound penetrates your space.
You can take some soundproofing measures to keep some construction noise from reaching your interior spaces. These tactics are relatively simple and low-cost:
- Sealing windows and doors – While you may not notice (or be bothered by) typical outdoor sounds that enter through unsealed areas around windows and doors, construction noise will certainly penetrate through any existing leaks. For door soundproofing and window soundproofing, consider adding foam weatherstrip to windows or adhesive sweeps to the bottom edges of doors. These measures may also improve your home’s energy efficiency by reducing drafts.1 Discover more about how to soundproof a door.
- Door Seal Kits – Our customizable door seal kits are durable, easy to install, and are extremely effective for soundproofing. With Acoustical Surfaces, you can select from regular or heavy-duty kits to align with your desired sound reduction levels, as well as a variety of colors to match your space.
- Acoustic Window Inserts – Consider installing acoustic window inserts to help keep noise out, increase thermal efficiency, and filter out any harmful UV light spectrum. Our team can customize your window inserts for easy installation and to match the color and aesthetic design of your space.
These are simple tactics for preventing construction noise from getting into your home. But, if you expect construction to take place outside of your home or business in the long term, you might need a more robust solution.
Consider installing sound absorbing and thermal insulation products (like cellulose panels or denim batts) to increase the thickness and density of your wall materials. These materials are not designed to block noise, but can help with sound reverberation and echo reduction. Insulating your attic can also help you control the penetration of the noisy work from outside.
Sound Absorption Tactics
If you’ve implemented the sealing tactics above but construction noise is still finding its way into your home or office, you might consider some absorption methods to muffle the sound that does manage to slip through the cracks.
For additional sound-absorbing support, you can:
- Use our Echo Eliminator panels made from bonded acoustical cotton to help optimize noise control
- Hang sound absorbing curtains in front of (sealed) windows
- Get some fluffy, soft furniture or accessories, like:
- Padded office or conference room chairs
- Stuffed sofas or armchairs
- Lay down rugs (with pads)
All of the above tools can help absorb the sound waves, giving them a soft place to land. This can help quiet sounds and prevent echoes––a particular concern for brick buildings. Learn more about how to soundproof brick walls to mitigate loud noise.
Additional Acoustical Tools
If your DIY soundproofing and sound-absorbing measures aren’t cutting the mustard, consider calling in reinforcements—specialty acoustical tools designed to abate noise.
Some particularly cost-effective or customizable options include:
While you may opt for acoustical foam or eggcrate panels, these materials are not as cost-effective. Rather, acoustical cotton and polyester are less expensive and last longer.
Overall, the tools above could be particularly useful if you’re trying to figure out how to deal with construction noise for projects that will last more than a few months—but they can serve short-term noise reduction purposes too.
Preventing Construction Noise as a Builder
If you’re running a construction site in a populated neighborhood or busy business district, consider learning how to block construction noise generated on-site.
Products like Acoustical Surfaces’ Echo Barriers, which are easy to install and provide increased industrial durability, and Acoustical Curtains, effective and durable sound absorbers, are a great place to start when you’re trying to reduce noise levels and respect those around you.
While you can’t completely eliminate building noise, you can employ a variety of measures to help ease the noise impacts in your community.
Common Courtesy Measures
Since you won’t be able to completely eradicate construction noise, you should take some common courtesy measures before the project starts:
- Inform nearby businesses, schools, residences, and places of worship that construction is soon to begin nearby. If you’re employing any sound abatement measures, share these with neighbors. And, if possible, provide them with a construction schedule so they’ll have a general idea of when to expect construction noise.
- Explore the local requirements for construction scheduling, appropriate noise level, and minimum noise reduction measures. Some jurisdictions may only allow construction sites to operate at certain times (or on certain days), and others may require contractors to submit a plan for noise abatement when they apply for a building permit.2
Practical Noise Prevention
While you can use some specialty equipment to prevent sounds from escaping your site (which we’ll discuss in the next section), consider some more practical noise control measures too. These can both reduce the excessive noise that permeates the area and increase job site workers’ comfort.
Try out the following practical tactics:
- When you can, replace noisy tools and equipment with quieter models
- Retrofit tools to make them quieter; for an air compressor, for instance, you can:
- Install rubber grommets in the motor
- Install a muffler on the intake
- Build a quiet enclosure (as long as you ensure proper ventilation and intake)
- Turn off noisy equipment when it’s not in use
Sound Barrier Measures
In combination with the practical measures above, specialty sound abatement tools can maximize your noise reduction efforts on-site.
While noise reduction used to be costly and impractical, sound barrier fencing has been a game-changer in the construction industry. Sound barrier fencing is:
- Reusable and durable (so builders can use them on multiple job sites)
- Suitable for both outdoor and indoor applications
- Easily rolled up for simple storage
- Designed to fit a variety of sizes of temporary fencing
Instead of simply tolerating noise or DIYing sound abatement solutions, consider investing in sound barrier fencing—the neighbors will thank you.
The Importance of Blocking Construction Noise
So, why should contractors learn how to block construction noise? All of the above measures can increase worker comfort and reduce noise disturbances—but noise prevention is about so much more than preserving convenience.
Preventing Noise-Induced Hearing Loss (NIHL)
Noise can impact human health—extended exposure to high-volume sounds from construction work can cause irreversible Noise-Induced Hearing Loss (NIHL).3
Construction workers are at particularly high risk for NIHL and hazardous noise exposure in general. While the National Institute for Occupational Health and Safety (NIOSH) advises that workers’ average noise exposure is limited to 85 decibels (dBA) over an eight-hour shift, most basic construction equipment (like drills and saws) output around 90 to 120 dBA.
To help mitigate this risk, construction companies should make efforts to reduce workers’ exposure to unreasonable noise levels.
Reducing Impact of Noise on Animal Populations
Construction noise doesn’t just impact humans—it also impacts animals.
Animals rely on sound to:
- Communicate with one another
- Find food or stalk prey
- Detect predators
- Protect their young
When it’s louder than animal calls, construction noise can choke out the sounds that animals make for survival.
While the full extent of the impact of construction noise on animal populations is unclear, a study of zoo animals in New Zealand suggests that construction noises could lead to changes in animal behavior—changes that indicate stress or agitation, like restless movement and hiding.4
Construction noise can disrupt our everyday lives—but when we make attempts to abate hazardous noise levels, we can positively impact our communities and the ecosystem around us.
Noise Can Disrupt Everyday Life
Loud construction activity sounds can be hazardous to workers and animals, but it’s also simply disruptive:
- Construction noise can distract children in classrooms (could you pay attention with a loud drilling noise or hammering distraction going on outside?).
- Construction sites and noise can impact foot traffic to nearby businesses, whose regular customers might avoid the loud environment instead of stopping by.
- Sounds from building sites are disruptive to worship services and workplace productivity.
Simply put, trying to reduce the impacts and noise levels of construction work just makes sense. And, with a combination of DIY fixes and specialty products, construction site superintendents can do just that.
Manage Construction Noise with Help from Acoustical Surfaces
Whether you’re trying to learn how to deal with construction noise leaking into your home or block the noises generated on your job site, simple efforts or specialty acoustical tactics can help increase your comfort level and reduce disturbances to everyday life.
And, when you’re looking for solutions to any noise problem, you can count on Acoustical Surfaces for expert advice and top-quality noise abatement tools. We’ve been industry leaders for over 30 years, and while we specialize in soundproofing and acoustical materials, we’re also happy to help resolve issues related to unreasonable noise, amplified sound, and vibration control.
Whether you’re trying to keep construction noise from disrupting your business, improve noise clarity in your classroom, or master the sound quality during services in your place of worship, Acoustical Surfaces can help. No project is too big or too small—contact us today!
- Family Handyman. How to Stop Door Drafts Around Entry Doors. https://www.familyhandyman.com/project/how-to-stop-door-drafts-around-entry-doors/
- HUD Exchange. Noise Abatement and Control. https://www.hudexchange.info/programs/environmental-review/noise-abatement-and-control/
- American National Standards Institute. Reducing the Effects of Noise Pollution from Construction. https://blog.ansi.org/reducing-effects-noise-pollution-construction/
- National Library of Medicine. Potential Impact of Construction Noise on Selected Zoo Animals. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6721009/
- Family Handyman. Do Putty Pads Help with Soundproofing?. https://www.familyhandyman.com/article/do-putty-pads-help-with-soundproofing/