Sound dampening improves livability

Cellulose insulation recommended between floors

Q: We plan to replace our third-floor carpet and vinyl floor coverings with tile. The area is approximately 600 square feet and includes the living and dining rooms, and a kitchen, bedroom, hallway and bathroom.

This floor is above two bedrooms, a bathroom, a hallway and a laundry room. There is a sprinkler system between the second and third floors.

We have considered installing sound-deadening material between these two floors. We have acquired bids from two companies, both of which recommend drilling holes into the plywood subfloor and blowing in sound-deadening material.

Another proposal would entail removing the subfloor to lay in batts of insulation between the subfloor and the ceiling. One company recommends cellulose, the other recommends fiberglass.

Regarding sound deadening, which product is more effective? Which product is the least toxic? Which installation is more effective and which is more expensive? Will sound deadening increase the value of our home?

A: Installing sound dampening between floors of a multistory home is a great idea. It’s especially prudent if you are going to install a tile floor over living space. It should make your home much quieter and more livable and will return your investment in comfort, if not in dollars and cents.

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Between blown-in insulation or insulation batts, blown-in wins hands down.

Blown-in insulation usually is installed by drilling holes in the subfloor and blowing the material from a hopper through a pipe and into the cavity between the floor joists. If done correctly, all the gaps between the joists are filled with sound-dampening material, including voids created by pipes and wires.

Because you don’t have to remove the subfloor to install the insulation, the cost should be less than removing the subfloor, installing batts and then replacing the subfloor.

As far as cellulose and fiberglass, we’d lean toward cellulose. Based on research we’ve done, cellulose seems to have a higher Sound Transmission Class rating, indicating it is better for sound attenuation.

However, in making your decision, we recommend that you do a little research of your own.

Insulation manufacturer Owens-Corning publishes a “Noise Control Design Guide.” Information on cellulose is available from the Cellulose Insulation Manufacturers Association. Both sources probably can provide other useful information. Either fiberglass or cellulose is nontoxic unless the product is treated to control pests.

If you decide to go with the blown-in insulation, ask the contractor how the holes will be plugged when the job is done. Also be certain there is a sufficient number of holes to ensure that the insulation is blown uniformly into the cavities between the joists, so there are no voids.

As far as increasing the value of your home through this project alone, we don’t see it. Sound dampening is an intangible improvement, and if properly done is not apparent to a prospective buyer.

But do not despair. Sound dampening is the right thing to do. Consider it as phase one of a well-executed tile job, which will undoubtedly add visual appeal, comfort and ultimately, value to your home.

Bill and Kevin Burnett will attempt to answer your questions, although the volume of e-mail sometimes makes this impossible. Contact them at sweat-equity@comcast.net.

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