We are experiencing alot of noise in our timber frame house and would like to build an extension without a timber frame

March 2014

Question

We have just bought and moved into a mid-terrace timber frame house. We are experiencing a lot of noise from the houses on either side; doors and windows being slammed early in the mornings and also the neighbours on one side have a newborn baby who we can hear crying. I am sure our neighbours can also hear our kids playing and our dog barking (occasionally). The situation is not ideal for anyone. We are considering building a small extension on to the back of our house and before we look into this properly, we are wondering if it is possible to build an extension that does not have a timber frame and that is very well isolated from noise?

Answer

It is clearly very disappointing to note the noise issue that you are experiencing and unfortunately this is the reality of modern housing today and in particular with timber-framed housing. Whilst I cannot be specific about any particular shortcomings with your house, the reality is that the building regulation standards/requirements in terms of sound insulation standards, are relatively low and the issues that you are describing are typical of what one might find in a house of this nature.

Whilst the building regulations have minimal requirements to meet, it is clearly possible and indeed prudent to build to a higher standard, and all for very little extra cost at the time of construction.

Whilst large-scale developers might not see the merit in this, clearly an individual will see the benefit of such an approach. There is absolutely no need/reason for the new extension to be of timber framed construction and there is nothing to stop you building the extension in blockwork or concrete, which purely based on mass/density alone, will give rise to a better sound insulation standard.

You can even go a step further and have the walls built thicker than normal at the start with only a limited increase in cost. This principle is applied when building say a sound studio or even just a board room within a commercial building. So with a little bit of careful planning and a clearly defined brief it is very possible to achieve what you want all for very little additional cost, and provided that this is all factored into the design at an early stage.

Val O’Brien sits on the building surveying professional group of the Society of Chartered Surveyors Ireland