Reducing window noise
August 17, 2005 6:19 AM   Subscribe

How can I reduce highway noise from a window?

I just moved into an apartment and my bedroom window faces a highway. Therefore, I receive a large ammount of noise coming though the window. What are some ways, preferrably cost effective, to go about reducing this noise?
posted by sicem07 to Home & Garden (11 answers total)
Not to be glib but you will probably get used to it. My window faces a fairly busy street and I hardly ever notice the noise when I sleep now. How long have you been there? I've also lived near tracks and at first the train whistle would wake me up but eventually I would sleep through that.

A cheap fix might be a heavy blanket over the window. I can't think of anything that will cut down on noise but not light.
posted by 6550 at 6:41 AM on August 17, 2005

a) Make sure there are no gaps, cracks, etc. around the window -- those are unobstructed openings that will let through a lot of noise. Get out the caulk gun.
b) If you don't care about looks, an el cheapo approach would be to buy a piece of rigid foam insulation, available at lumber centers, and cut it to fit exactly within the window opening. Along with a heavy curtain, that would do wonders. If you want to look out of the window during the day you'd have to put some kind of handle on it to pull it out and stash it.
c) More expensive but just about as effective would be to install a double-glazed window inside the existing one, tightly caulked all around. I have seen this done in a hotel facing a highway where the insulating window has an inward-opening casement window so you can still open the window if desired, but if you don't need to open the window you could just put up a big double-paned piece. These can be ordered to size at home centers.
d) White noise generator? I heard an accoustician tell a story once about an office building where the air conditioning was designed to be ultra-quiet, with the result that the street noise drove everybody crazy. As a fix, they adjusted some baffles to create a little more whoosh in the system, which sufficiently masked the sound from outside.
posted by beagle at 6:46 AM on August 17, 2005

Depends. Do you want to retain the view? If yes, do you need to open the window on ocassion? If yes, consider a sheet of clear plexiglass, cut just a little smaller than the window opening and secured with mirror clips or other non-permanent attachments. I've used this before. It helps reduce street noise fairly well.

If you don't care about the view, a sheet of plywood cut smaller than the opening, covered with quilt batting, then decorative fabric will give you sound abatement and a not-ugly window. Coordinate the fabric with your window treatment, and it will look damn nice, too. Just make sure the street-side looks good. Upholstery tacks work well for this project.

I've found that most curtains that have either insulating or blackout linings work okay. I used a combination of curtains and plexiglass in my baby's room once. Bonus - reduces drafts and is an energy saver!
posted by Corky at 6:51 AM on August 17, 2005

I have had the same problem and after trying everything, eventually just bought a cheap fan. It works quite well, but unfortunately the residual affect is that I can't sleep anywhere without a fan. YMMV, though.
posted by Emperor Yamamoto's Eggs at 6:52 AM on August 17, 2005

My bedroom overlooks a main road too and have learnt to sleep in ear plugs. Disposable foam eagplugs are a lot cheaper than secondary glazing, and the underwater, womb-like sensation is very relaxing. Only problem is I tend to sleep through my alarm a lot!
posted by londonmark at 6:55 AM on August 17, 2005

I second Emperor Yamamoto's Eggs's whole post. Fan as white noise generator is like crack.
posted by smackfu at 7:13 AM on August 17, 2005

The noise is generated by the window vibrating like a drum head, thus transferring outdoor vibrations to the inside. If you damp the pane of glass, the sound should be reduced considerably. Seal the edges, not to reduce air flow but to reduce glass vibration. If you're the McGuiver type, I bet you could also rig something with, perhaps, a small rubber ball and a long rubber band that would hold the ball steadily against the center of the pane, like holding your thumb on the center of a drum head.

If you can get your landlord to pay for (or at least share) the cost of doing something about the window, you could get a professional design:

"Soundproof Windows are priced according to size and most will range from $350 to $900. Sliding glass doors are $1195 and up.

We ship to all fifty states and have dealers in many areas and can arrange for installation anywhere in the U.S. Shipping and installation are extra. [...]

It takes 30 minutes to an hour to install each window."
posted by pracowity at 8:02 AM on August 17, 2005

Pleated window shades help. Heavy curtains. Plants, too.
posted by Thorzdad at 8:04 AM on August 17, 2005

My bedroom window is about a block from the highway. I just think of I-5 as a big white noise generator. It rarely takes me more than 15 minutes to fall asleep these days. On really hot nights when I have to sleep with the window open, earplugs are an option. Fortunately the livingroom is on the other side, so my tv-watching and socializing are free from the noise.

Short answer, echoing 6550 - you may simply get used to it.
posted by matildaben at 8:04 AM on August 17, 2005

I think 6550 is on the money. You really do get used to it. It happens in reverse too.. I used to live in the city and moved to the country. It was so bizarre being so quiet! I missed the background noise.
posted by wackybrit at 10:29 AM on August 17, 2005

We did a lot of research about this when we were looking at buying a house close to a busy road. Lots of reports from environmental scientists about how many trees, or how much concrete, or how thick walls had to be to stop noise from a road with a business factor of x. Long story short, double-glazing is the way to go.
posted by obiwanwasabi at 4:59 PM on August 17, 2005

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