Laminated windows for noise reduction

buddybenMay 11, 2005

Just saw on HGTV a segment about laminated windows which are for noise reduction. It is a plastic film laminated between two panes of glass. Does anyone know about this? I have neighbors 6 feet away from my bedroom across a concrete driveway. No fence. No trees. Nothing to block the sound. Would appreciate hearing anybody's experience with this type of window. Thanks!

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Try the company linked below. We installed one fixed window (It does not open) in a condo at the beach. The amount of sound blocked by that window is amazing.

Here is a link that might be useful: Soundproof windows

    Bookmark   May 11, 2005 at 8:43PM
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good morning,

Although I am not recommending a particular window, or a particular company, I will offer a few comments on soundproofing, or how to make a quieter window. Hopefully, these comments will help you a bit when researching the best possible solution for your noise issue.

Windows are rated as to their ability to deaden or attenuate sound based on something called an STC or Sound Transmission Class. Walls and other building components use the same system, but here we are considering windows.

STC is an average of an object's ability to attenuate sound across the entire sound frequency spectrum. STC does not provide specific frequency-deadening information which is really what is needed if you want to block a specific type of unwanted noise; for example traffic noise.

As humans we are born with the ability to hear from approximately 20 to 20,000 hertz. Hertz, or Hz, is how sound frequency is measured - like electricity is measured in volts, for example.
By the time we are teenagers, however, we have generally lost the ability to hear above about 13,000hz which as I remember is something mother always warned us about - going deaf - or was it stop or you'll go blind? I always get those confused.

Anyway, traffic noise is generally a low frequency sound, and unfortunately, low frequencies are much harder to attenuate (opposite of amplify) or block than are higher frequencies...consider how often you hear the base sounds from the neighborhood kid's car stereo and not the higher pitch tunes when he is coming down the street.

Loud neighbor's can be higher frequency or lower frequency depending on what sort of noises they are making. Loud voices are relatively easy to block. Noisy dogs are a bit more difficult. Lawn equipment or power tools become quite difficult. Loud music, refer back to the comment on the neighborhood kid driving down the street.

When considering windows, there are generally three options available for maximum possible sound attenuation.

First is laminated glass.
Second is a wider airspace between the lites.
Third is using two lites of different thickness in the IGU or Insulating Glass Unit.
Fourth would be a combination of all three.

Airport windows, for example, will generally have laminated glass on both sides of the IGU in an aluminum frame and with a "maximum" airspace between the lites. In an airport the primary concern is sound attenuation and energy efficiency is secondary. I mention this because the width of the airspace and the choice of window framing material affects both sound and energy efficiency.

Some folks will suggest triple pane glass for its sound deadening ability. And while triple pane is a slight improvement over standard double pane at lower frequencies due to the additional density of the extra lite, overall there is no difference in STC rating between triple and double pane provided that the overall airspace between the panes is constant between the two constructions. In other words, consider a triple pane with two 1/4" airspaces and a dual pane with a single 1/2" airspace...both using 1/8" glass...the STC will be identical if the IGU's are the same dimensions.

What I suspect you saw on HGTV was a product called Heat Mirror. The Heat Mirror folks have a suspended plastic sheet between two lites in an IGU and they claim that this suspended sheet of plastic makes their window superior to any other window on the market in just about everyway you can imagine, up to and including performing minor surgeries if needed. Are the claims true? Yes and no, the energy perfomance numbers for heat mirror are amazing, and the product does have some very nice sound perfomance numbers as well. But, the Heat Mirror product specifically recommended for sound attenuation also has a huge gap between the lites and the suspended film. When folks talk about how good this product is at blocking sound (I have also seen it discussed on HGTV, but I don't know if it was the same show or not that you sae, of course), they love to talk about that suspended piece of plastic. What they never mention (at least I have not seen) is that the real value is the width of the airspace combined with the make up of the unit.

Using one thicker (3/16") and one thinner (1/16") lite in an IG construction will also help deaden sound because each lite is "transparent" to a different frequency and each lite will then attenuate the frequency that the other lite "passed".

What a company like Soundproof Windows will do is build what is essentially a laminated glass storm window and install it over your existing window.
I have a few issues with some of the things they say on their website concerning energy performance improvements that they claim, and the amount of sound that they claim they will block. I also think that they charge a premium for their product, but if done correctly, then it will work quite well.

If you decide on installing a new window, then remember that, as always, the quality of the construction and especially the installation cannot be overstated! Based on the size of the unit, fixed (not an operator)is a definite advantage when attempting to stop noise from coming in your house.

A fixed, non-operable, window will often show significant improvement over an operating window which is one reason why the soundproof folks do so well. They install a fixed "storm" and make sure that the original window is also does work.

A few numbers for comparison (glass only, not a specific window construction):

A 1/4" monolithic lite has an STC of 31.
A 1/4" laminated lite has an STC of 35.
A 1/2" (overall width - airspace width is 1/4") IGU has an STC of 28, lower than a single sheet of 1/4" glass. Surprised? If anyone is curious, I can explain the principle behind that one.

Increase the airspace in the IGU to 3/8" from 1/4" and the STC increases to 31, or the same as a monolithic 1/4" lite!
One disclaimer, generally speaking, in the real world few monolithic windows are made using 1/4" glass.

Replace one of the 1/8" monolithic lites in the IGU mentioned above with a 1/4" laminate, and the STC jumps to 35, which happens to be the same as the monolithic laminate alone. If anyone is wondering, it is that pesky, narrow airspace of 1/4" that is the problem. Again, I can talk more in depth about that if anyone is interested.

In the same laminated glass / IGU make up, that I just mentioned, if we increase the airspace to 1/2", then we jump the STC to 39.

And, finally, if we want to get really serious, increase the airspace to 4" and use laminated glass on both sides of the airspace and we get an STC of 53, or airport-style sound deadening. Now before anyone gets overly excited, the cost of such a construction is rather significant! ;-)

Hope this made at least some sense!
Wonder if anyone made it this far?

    Bookmark   May 12, 2005 at 7:05AM
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Holy cow! Your knowledge about sound is amazing! I will read your post again more thoroughly but for now I had time to only skim through it. The glass that I saw on HGTV did not have a name (like Heat Mirror) that they mentioned. They just called it laminated glass. They showed a cut away sample of it and it really was just plastic film between two panes of glass, no airspace between the glass. The guy even peeled the film off the surface of the glass. Thank you for all the info. In grad school I took several courses in audiology and hearing science, so the terms you used are not entirely unfamiliar to me. Thanks again!

    Bookmark   May 12, 2005 at 3:56PM
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Thanks, I do have some background in sound and sound propagation, so I really enjoy sound questions pertaining to glass and windows...

It does sound like the HGTV special was discussing simple laminated glass. Any chance you remember which show it was? I would really like to catch it if possible.

    Bookmark   May 12, 2005 at 8:42PM
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It was something like "I Want That!" It is about new products on the marketplace that when you hear about them, you just have to have them (according to the promotional ads for the show). I think it is an ongoing series.

    Bookmark   May 16, 2005 at 5:15PM
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Hi Oberon,

Do you have any suggestions for those of us with original single-pane windows? I have a 1904 2-story Victorian here in Texas, and all the windows are original, but with single pane, thin, and "wavy" to the sight glass. They are double-hungs, and traffic noise is awful in this poor house. If these are thin single-pane windows, then am I simply out of luck? It sounds as though most of the solutions mentioned assume 2-panes with which to work....

most of the windows in this house were painted shut, and I'm trying to go around and crack them all open so as to make them useable again, though I suppose that's only going to aggravate the sound issue. I'm hoping there's something I can do to the panes themselves to overcome that...


    Bookmark   May 25, 2005 at 5:52PM
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Good morning Brian,

The waviness you see in your windows are called "draw-lines". The glass in your windows was made by a process called "drawing" (thus the name - clever, eh?).
Anyway, I am very fond of older windows and to me the flaws in old window glass is simply character. Now that would not generally be acceptable in a newer house but in a house like yours they look great.

Doublehung windows pass a fair bit of noise - old or new - so that that is also part of the nostalgia of older doublehung windows, they are not going to be really quiet or particularly energy efficient. But in a house like yours, that is really not the major issue IMO.

First, make sure the windows are as tight as you can make them in the space. Adding weather stripping will help both energy and noise performance. Adding a tight, fixed, storm window will help for noise issues, but will no longer allow you to enjoy the outside air, unfortunately.

Unfortunately, there really isn't much that you can do other than what I mentioned. Tightening the windows in their frames will help but they will always pass a fair bit of outside sounds.

    Bookmark   May 29, 2005 at 11:05AM
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We have an old house with double hung, single pane windows, & quite a bit of traffic noise. Our solution was to buy glass storm windows, which adds a dead air space to the window, with the added feature of heat effiency as well. This option may work for you as well. I can send you a photo if you like.

    Bookmark   May 30, 2005 at 6:51PM
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I have 29 year old original Peachtree wooden frame, double pane sliding windows................ranch home. The wooden frames appear to be in good shape. Can I just replace the old glass with laminated glass to soundproof? There appears to be a 1/2" air space between the panes. Would I replace both panes with laminated glass or just one side? If a single laminate pane is sufficient, does it install facing the outside or inside of the house? Thank you.

    Bookmark   November 26, 2007 at 12:45PM
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I am looking for soundproof windows and received some specs from a local dealer. After reading that it is better to have Laminated windows for a higher STC, I was wondering if these specs from Anlin seem right. SPECS:

1.) 1/8 over 1/8 Standard windows w/STC rating of = 29-30
2.) 3/16 over 1/8 Sound package windows w/STC rating of = 34-35
3.) 7/32 over 1/8 Laminated glass windows w/STC rating of = 35-36

It seemed odd after reading (Laminated windows for noise reduction) that there Sound Package dose not have Lamination. The Air Space is 1/2" ~ does this look right? Also on one of the Direct Sun windows I was told to get SHGC is that about the same as Low-E?

Any help would be appreciated,

    Bookmark   March 16, 2010 at 5:35PM
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Replacing dried-out old glazing putty is also a great factor in quieting the soundscape. With dried or missing putty the glass will rattle in the sash. I have re-glazed all of my windows at the same time weatherstripping them; I retained the existing triple-track storm windows; The end result is much quieter than when I started. And the weatherstripping had the anticipated effect of keeping the cold out.
If you re-glaze, bed the glass in a layer of putty, so the glass isn't touching the bare frame. This helps on sound issues, but has the primary benefit of keeping condensation from getting under the putty, a precondition to failure.

    Bookmark   March 16, 2010 at 11:29PM
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Hi everyone,
Would anyone have any suggestions on how to best soundproof windows to block out loud bass music? Our neighbor who lives behind and below us (we live on a small hill, so her house/yard is located about 10 feet below our house) enjoys blasting music throughout her house, which then travels through her backyard, up a small slope, across our backyard, and then throughout our house...especially the master bedroom which faces our backyard =/ Anyone have any ideas on how to best block out this noise? Our windows are pretty standard 2 pane sliding windows from the 1980's. Ideally we'd like to be able to continue opening our master bedroom windows if at all possible, but any thoughts or suggestions would be very much appreciated! Thanks!

    Bookmark   December 21, 2010 at 7:25PM
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It's not an instant solution by any means, but planting a thick grove of trees between you and the noise source will help to damp some of the noise. Ten feet isn't much of a grove, though.

You might want to look into how recording studios are soundproofed. Generally they use isolation methods and barrier methods.

Isolation might entail double studwalls and/or double windows with air space between. With studio windows, I've seen sound absorbing material around the perimeter of the space between the windows. The thicker and denser the glass, the better it will block sound. It may help to calculate the glass's mass and resonant frequency to make sure it's well away from that of the noise you're trying to stop.

Barriers may be more practical for a homeowner. You might try an acoustic barrier you can put over the windows inside and/or outside, if that's where most of the noise is entering. Acoustic barriers are usually made of heavy, dense materials such as lead. I've never seen any that was transparent, but I'm far from an expert on these matters. A search engine should turn up a bit more information on this.

Adding good, sturdy storm windows should help, at least a little.

Almost any installable solution is going to cost you. However, it doesn't cost much to walk over there with a nice plate of freshly-baked cookies and have a conversation about being neighborly. :)

If being nice fails, you could investigate noise ordinances in your town (assuming you live in town). Many, especially college towns, require that the sound level not exceed some amount in decibels some specified distance from the house where the noise is being made.

Good luck!

    Bookmark   December 21, 2010 at 8:42PM
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Thanks davidr! I think our first (and one of the slightly cheaper) option is to look into installing storm windows over our existing windows (unless anyone has any other suggestions??).
The cheapest option of good neighborly talks unfortunately hasn't worked so well: our neighbor isn't so much malicious as much as extremely lacking in good common sense, and judging from the talks we and our association head (who, besides yelling at people, can't actually do anything legally) have had with her, she just seems pretty clueless overall.
If the windows don't work we'll probably start getting into noise curfew violations, but if at all possible we were hoping to find a relatively economical way to solve this before sending the police on a 30-some-year-old widow with a kid...but if we can't find a way to stop her bass from reverberating throughout our bedroom at night, we'll definitely run out of sympathy soon!

    Bookmark   December 23, 2010 at 1:46AM
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worthy said: Great info from Oberon.

Trouble is, it's pasted here from many other sites on the Net under many other names. Is the poster a paster or the real McCoy? Ditto the info.

    Bookmark   December 23, 2010 at 10:36AM
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Hello Everyone,was wondering if anyone could help!!!

I am located very close to a highway and the noise from the highway is coming in through the windows. I cannot change the windows.
Is there anything I can do in order for this noise to STOP!!

    Bookmark   January 7, 2011 at 12:08AM
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Try installing internal storm windows. Use the heaviest GLASS panels you can get.

    Bookmark   January 9, 2011 at 2:17AM
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hi we have single pane sliding windows in our front room, our neighbour has exacly the same size windows and sliding style, the only difference is that they have secondry glazing. My question is when I play my music at high voliums in the front room when i go outside of the house you can here the music very clearly all high tones bass and trebble, Now me and my neighbour have exacly the same hi-fi and speakers, but when my neighbour plays their music at high levels all you can here from outside the front of the house is their bass tumping through their windows and no high tones I understand that high tones will be blocked to a certen degree, but it sounds as if the bass is bouncing backwards and forwards between the pains of glass and amlifing the low fecz outside the fornt of the house. Is this posible that the sound can amplifie its self between the glass pannals. the gap between the secondry glazing is about 2 iches wide. I just cant work out why theirs sounds so powerfull and bassy outside and mine doesnt.

    Bookmark   April 7, 2011 at 11:07PM
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"worthy said: Great info from Oberon.
Trouble is, it's pasted here from many other sites on the Net under many other names. Is the poster a paster or the real McCoy? Ditto the info."

I accidentally wandered across this older thread this morning and was rereading when I came across the question about my post...

I am the original poster, I wrote it from scratch. I have reposted variations of this and other posts that I have written on other sites simply because it is a lot easier than writing it from scratch every single time. The questions are often repeated and the answers are often the same...

Anyway, like you, I have also seen versions of my reply here(and a few others of my posts) on different sites under names that have nothing to do with me.

I have never plagerized anyone else's posts and I have never copy/pasted other peoples information without identifying the source of the information.

Heck I have seen stuff that I have written in blogs and even on a couple of web sites without a comment as to where the information came from.

Welcome to the internet! lol

    Bookmark   April 12, 2011 at 9:40AM
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Oberon, thanks for the lengthy post and for you being you. :-) I did read it all and it was exactly the information I was looking for in plain English. This window stuff is beyond my pay grade. A little time has passed, will you consider naming names of laminated windows brands that pass muster for you?

    Bookmark   April 2, 2013 at 2:45PM
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Yep, Oberon is the read deal.
good unbiased knows what he is talking about posts.

but, as he works in the industry, I doubt he will name names.

    Bookmark   April 4, 2013 at 7:40PM
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And at least sometimes after upgrading the windows, you find out their are numerous other paths that still allow the sound in.

After spending years and thousands of dollar trying to stop traffic noise, I had one guy that hired me to just add some white noise generators.

Your brain learns to tune out the gentle constant sound of the white noise and then misses the annoying noise.

When you cannot stop it, mask it.

This post was edited by brickeyee on Sat, Apr 6, 13 at 10:52

    Bookmark   April 5, 2013 at 5:59PM
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Can someone clarify what constitute "airspace" as described by Oberon? I know that a vacuum will be very effective at preventing noise to go through, but will the airspace filled with normal, ambient air help or not at all? A vacuum is very difficult to create, while ambient air trapped will suffer from water vapour fogging up the window, unless there is a space that can allow that to dissipate, I suppose. Thoughts?

    Bookmark   April 6, 2014 at 7:51AM
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Sure, no problem.

The airspace, as described, is simply the enclosed space between the two layers of glass.

You are corrent that a vacuum is even better and you are also correct that a vacuum is difficult to create at present.

Realistically you aren't likely to find a window with a vacuum between the lites because current technology (and cost) isn't really quite there yet. Doable - yes, practical - probably not so much, yet.

Ambient air trapped between the lites of a modern insulating glass unit (fancy way of saying dual pane glass) isn't going to fog unless either it gets REALLY cold between the lites, or else there is seal damage that allows moisture into the space.

Modern IGU's include a desiccant in their construction that keeps the airspace very dry so that the dew point is very low and any visible moisture between the lites is almost always going to indicate seal failure.

Will the airspace help for noise reduction? Yes it will, and the wider the airspace the better for noise reduction. However, although as the airspace gets wider energy performance of the glass package will go down slightly.

The best airspace width for quiet may not be the best airspace width for energy performance.

    Bookmark   April 8, 2014 at 4:21PM
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