How to Soundproof Your Windows

Quiet the din to create your own personal sanctuary.

Quiet the din to create your own personal sanctuary, noisy neighbors, neighborhood birds, and loud lawnmowers be damned.

Q: My daughter just bought her first apartment in a co-op. The one problem is that she’s on a busy street and there’s constant noise. What are the soundproofing options? — J.C., New Rochelle

A: Nearly all noise comes in through windows, or possibly gaps in the window frame. The simplest first step is to make sure the weather stripping is in good condition and that the windows close tightly.

Blackout curtains made of velvet or Microsuede with thermal backing will reduce noise by about 40 percent, providing they’re voluminous enough and fit snugly on the sides. Synthetic fabrics block sound more efficiently than natural fabrics. Quilted roman shades with energy-efficient batting will also muffle noise. Of course, both also block the light, so unless your daughter wants to live in a place that resembles a bat cave, curtains won’t solve the problem of noise during the day.

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Tony Mongelli of Westchester Window in Thornwood has been a window expert for three decades, and recently installed sound-blocking windows at a new development near the county’s airport. He says replacing the windows would be the ideal fix, if you’ve got lots of lovely money and the co-op board will let you do it. You’d no doubt have to match the building’s style, although Mongelli says casement windows (that close like a door) are the best sound-blockers, because they have a multi-point locking system that maintains consistent pressure between the sash and the frame on all four sides. “Seal is the key,” he explains.

Most windows are double-glazed for insulation; they’re typically two sheets of glass about an eighth of an inch thick, with space in between. “Replacement thermal windows muffle sound surprisingly well,” says Mongelli, but even more efficient are windows with panes made of double-strength glass, which is literally twice as thick. An alternative, which he considers superior, is laminated glass for the exterior pane, and regular glass on the interior. (Laminated is the shatterproof type made with a layer of resin or plastic sandwiched between two sheets of glass.) Although replacement windows will require that lovely money mentioned earlier, there may be a government tax credit for energy efficiency.

A much easier and less-expensive option would be to get custom-made panels to mount inside, Mongelli says. If they’re a tight fit, with laminated glass, you’ll block virtually all the street sounds. Of course, you can’t open and close them. For that luxury, you might consider custom soundproof interior windows. They can be fabricated to match any window style and are supposedly easily installed by DIY dads, or anyone with a screwdriver. The aptly named Soundproof Windows, Inc. is one manufacturer.

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