Open-plan living spaces have many advantages for family life and entertaining, and they increase the opportunity to bring lots of natural light into your home. But they can end up being quite noisy. You may be surprised, however, at how easy it is to reduce sound travel with a few key additions to your furnishings. There are also structural changes you can make if you’re after a more robust fix.
1. Dress your windows.
Large areas of glass, such as big windows and glass doors, act as bouncing-off points for sound to travel in an open-plan room. Introducing curtains will help deaden the noise. A sheer fabric works especially well, as it won’t totally block the light or views.
For maximum muffling, curtains work better than blinds, simply because there’s so much more fabric involved.
Reduce Noise 1: Environ Communities Ltd, original photo on Houzz
2. Introduce rugs.
Another way to deaden sound is to cover hard floors with rugs. Here, the use of a rug in the living space both minimizes noise and helps define the seating area, making the room feel more intimate.
When it comes to rugs, the thicker the pile, the better the soundproofing, so a cut-pile rug will tend to work better than a flat-weave design.
Reduce Noise 2: HelsingHouse Fastighetsmaklare, original photo on Houzz
3. Break it up. If you can, try to break up your open-plan space to create zones. This will also help contain the noise. Here, the fireplace in a freestanding wall maintains a visual connection with the space beyond while breaking up the room to create a more defined living area.
If you want to incorporate a feature like this, bear in mind that you’ll need to position the fireplace so you can create a flue, which will need to go through the ceiling or an external wall.
Reduce Noise 3: Stuart Sampley Architect, original photo on Houzz
4. Add a storage wall. The wood-paneled wall in the middle of this large room works beautifully to separate the kitchen from the living area. This kind of feature can be a freestanding structure or a custom piece of furniture, making it a relatively easy and cost-effective solution to break up the space, since you won’t require any structural elements.
Reduce Noise 4: DTDA pty ltd, original photo on Houzz
5. Fit a feature screen. If you can’t bring yourself to divide the space with something permanent, a nice alternative is to introduce a screen as a buffer between zones. It won’t be as effective as a solid structure, but it will help diffuse the noise slightly. The louvered screen seen here allows a glimpse of the living space beyond.
Reduce Noise 5: Studio Revolution, original photo on Houzz
6. Panel your walls. Large, flat, hard surfaces can amplify sound, so adding texture will help reduce this effect. Lining one of your walls with wood not only creates an interesting feature, it does the sound-dampening job. It’s as simple as using flooring material on the walls instead. For a more traditional look, painted wood paneling works equally well.
Often, walls aren’t completely flat, so you’ll first need to add wood battens to the surface onto which you’ll attach your paneling. A good flooring contractor or woodworker can do this, or if you’re pretty confident at DIY, you could tackle it yourself.
Reduce Noise 6: Honka UK Ltd, original photo on Houzz
7. Bring texture to your ceiling. Just like walls, a large expanse of ceiling will encourage the spread of sound, so try adding a textured surface there too. In this example, the ceiling and walls have been paneled with wood boards painted white.
8. Fashion fabric panels. If wood isn’t your style, consider covering one of your walls with some form of acoustic material. These padded fabric panels are highly effective at deadening sound. You can also buy off-the-shelf acoustic panel systems, which can be fixed to your walls and are easy to install.
9. Go soft underfoot. Hard floor surfaces, such as tile, are less than ideal when it comes to controlling noise, so consider something like linoleum instead, which is a durable and practical finish in a kitchen. It’s also soft underfoot, meaning it will absorb the clunk and clatter of cooking.
There are a number of things that can trigger the decision to remodel or move to a new home. Perhaps you have outgrown your current space, you might be tired of struggling with ancient plumbing or wiring systems, or maybe your home just feels out of date. The question is: Should you stay or should you go? Choosing whether to remodel or move involves looking at a number of factors. Here are some things to consider when making your decision.
Five reasons to move:
1. Your current location just isn’t working.
Unruly neighbors, a miserable commute, or a less-than-desirable school district—these are factors you cannot change. If your current location is detracting from your overall quality of life, it’s time to consider moving. If you’re just ready for a change, that’s a good reason, too. Some people are simply tired of their old homes and want to move on.
2. Your home is already one of the nicest in the neighborhood.
Regardless of the improvements you might make, location largely limits the amount of money you can get for your home when you sell. A general rule of thumb for remodeling is to make sure that you don’t over-improve your home for the neighborhood. If your property is already the most valuable house on the block, additional upgrades usually won’t pay off in return on investment at selling time.
3. There is a good chance you will move soon anyway.
If your likelihood of moving in the next two years is high, remodeling probably isn’t your best choice. There’s no reason to go through the hassle and expense of remodeling and not be able to enjoy it. It may be better to move now to get the house you want.
4. You need to make too many improvements to meet your needs.
This is particularly an issue with growing families. What was cozy for a young couple may be totally inadequate when you add small children. Increasing the space to make your home workable may cost more than moving to another house. In addition, lot size, building codes, and neighborhood covenants may restrict what you can do. Once you’ve outlined the remodeling upgrades that you’d like, a real estate agent can help you determine what kind of home you could buy for the same investment.
5. You don’t like remodeling.
Remodeling is disruptive. It may be the inconvenience of losing the use of a bathroom for a week, or it can mean moving out altogether for a couple of months. Remodeling also requires making a lot of decisions. You have to be able to visualize new walls and floor plans, decide how large you want windows to be, and where to situate doors. Then there is choosing from hundreds of flooring, counter-top, and fixture options. Some people love this. If you’re not one of them, it is probably easier to buy a house that has the features you want already in place.
Five reasons to remodel:
1. You love your neighborhood.
You can walk to the park, you have lots of close friends nearby, and the guy at the espresso stand knows you by name. There are features of a neighborhood, whether it’s tree-lined streets or annual community celebrations, that you just can’t re-create somewhere else. If you love where you live, that’s a good reason to stay.
2. You like your current home’s floor plan.
The general layout of your home either works for you or it doesn’t. If you enjoy the configuration and overall feeling of your current home, there’s a good chance it can be turned into a dream home. The combination of special features you really value, such as morning sun or a special view, may be hard to replicate in a new home.
3. You’ve got a great yard.
Yards in older neighborhoods often have features you cannot find in newer developments, including large lots, mature trees, and established landscaping. Even if you find a new home with a large lot, it takes considerable time and expense to create a fully landscaped yard.
4. You can get exactly the home you want.
Remodeling allows you to create a home tailored exactly to your lifestyle. You have control over the look and feel of everything, from the color of the walls to the finish on the cabinets. Consider also that most people who buy a new home spend up to 30 percent of the value of their new house fixing it up the way they want.
5. It may make better financial sense.
In some cases, remodeling might be cheaper than selling. A contractor can give you an estimate of what it would cost to make the improvements you’re considering. A real estate agent can give you prices of comparable homes with those same features. But remember that while remodeling projects add to the value of your home, most don’t fully recover their costs when you sell.
Remodel or move checklist:
Here are some questions to ask when deciding whether to move or remodel.
1. How much money can you afford to spend?
2. How long do you plan to live in your current home?
3. How do you feel about your current location?
4. Do you like the general floor plan of your current house?
5. Will the remodeling you’re considering offer a good return on investment?
6. Can you get more house for the money in another location that you like?
7. Are you willing to live in your house during a remodeling project?
8. If not, do you have the resources to live elsewhere while you’re remodeling?