Reducing Traffic Noise in Home

Hi All,

I recently moved into a ground level unit which is about 40m away from a major road in Melbourne.
The home is brick veneer and built in the 70s with standard timber frame windows (with window winders to open).
One of the bedrooms is somewhat shielded from the road directly with the bedroom window being at the end of a "tunnel" between

The traffic noise is definitely getting to me and I am looking to explore options on how I can reduce the traffic noise getting into my house.
It feels as if most of the noise is being transmitted through the windows.

I am not keen on roller shutters.

Things i have read about with mixed reviews and claims are:

  • Double Glazing (apparently best for higher frequencies like voices)
  • Secondary Glazing (i have seen tons of different results and claims here)
  • Laminated Glass
  • Installing thicker glass

Are there any other solutions to this?
Can anyone provide some insight on your experiences or recommendations dealing with this?

Comments

  • +6

    The lady across the road from us has thicker glass and her place is much quieter than ours and closer to the road too.

    • I second thicker glass.

      We had an extra room built onto our house a few years ago (house was originally built in the 70's) and it had thicker glass than the older rooms. It makes a huge difference in reducing noise.

  • +3

    Are you renting or the owner?

    Didn’t you factor in traffic noise when you inspected the property?!

    • +20

      Owner.
      I inspected the property several times and whilst traffic was busy it was acceptable every time i was there (during day and evening).
      Cars passing by are not really an issue, it's trucks and morobikes that are loud.
      Perhaps I was just unlucky when inspecting as I never experienced any loud traffic.

      • +5

        Double glazed windows.

        • +1

          I have double glazed windows. However, they are not effective in reducing the noise. Can't figureout why.

          • +5

            @silentman: Most double glazing is designed for thermal performance rather than acoustic.

          • +1

            @silentman: On a windy day check if there are any gaps where the wind can come in, I find that if the wind can come in, the noise can come in (even if I leave the windows closed but not locked the sound can still come in, but with the lock on and the tension holding both sides of the windows together tight helps to reduce the noise from outside). In my newer place the double glazed windows and window frame is very well done, even with construction across the road and living right above a busy street I hear nothing when the windows are closed, but once I open the window its as loud as sitting in front of a busy intersection. Sometimes I'm still amaze at how good the sound insulation is. Its not just the glass, but the quality and fitment of the frames and felt/rubber seals.

            • @viper8548: Thanks @viper8548. I never felt the wind coming in and can hear the noise due to wind. As you suggested i will try with lock on and see if there is any reduction of noise. I will also check the rubber seal. TA!

              • +2

                @silentman: Do your windows have large architraves around them?

                • -1

                  @koalabargains: Windows doesn't have architraves

                  • +1

                    @silentman: That's really unusual. So the window frame goes right up to the plasterboard? There is no wood molding around the windows? Is this a house or an apartment?

                    If that's the case and there are no moldings then the issue is your walls are not properly insulated. Tap them to see if they're hollow, it could be that they forgot to put insulation. Or more likely that they've put r1.5 insulation or something like that. It is likely too expensive for you to consider but to solve the problem you'd probably have to gut those walls and properly insulate them with the highest r value you can get with a 90mm thickness, or if youre really serious, you can add studs so your walls are double thick, 180mm and insulate twice.

                    • @koalabargains: Mine is independent house. Window frame is fixed to the brickwall. There are usual weeping holes at the bottom of the brick wall. I believe builder would have put some thermalwool between brick wall and plasterboard. I will get that inspected by professional. Thanks for your advise

      • +3

        It's also the temperature. Colder air, you can hear noise from miles away.

        Double glazing my friend - if you can afford it, do it on every window.

        It's why tempered glass cases are even louder than mesh cases because of the sound resonance.

      • +1

        Earplugs work well for me.

      • Extra insulation will definitely help reduce the noise. Just bear in mind with Strata you might have difficulty getting approval if the double glazing will change the external appearance of the lot. I've been looking at products such as Magnetite that you can add to the inside of the lot with no approval requirements. From the look of it, it wont look too bad but I cant vouch for how good it really is, we're still busy evaluating options.

        • +2

          we had magnetite put in about 10 or so years ago

          helped with the noise a fair bit, and i think it looks fine (we have old house / stain glass windows etc, so hard to double glaze)

          if it was my house i was planning on living in for 3+ years, and i could get double/triple glazing, i'd probably do that, but if the windows don't allow it, magnetite wasn't a bad option (i would do it again)

          i'm also somewhat surprised/happy that they've lasted so well

          • @netpenthe: Same. Another magnetite customer. See my other post in this thread. Would get it again in a jiffy.

      • +2

        sorry about your mistake bro. Personally made the same mistake buying 300m from a motorway. Once the seed is in your head, its impossible to get out. Cut your losses and take the any opportunity to trade out of it. Even if that means paying stamp duty twice and some slimebag agent 20k to sell your home. We lasted 3 years in the house……

      • I'm a number of storeys up with relatively thick, double-glazed windows, and trucks and motorbikes (particularly the f***wits who sound like they've actually just completely cut their exhaust off) are still loud. Not to mention emergency vehicle sirens. I suggest you learn to live with it - I did. If you can't, consider it a lesson learned and look for another place.

  • +1

    Stayed overnight in an old 70's double brick apartment with secondary glazing, it definitely helped block out the train noise directly opposite the apartment.
    I would say it blocked out more than half the noise. The noise still travelled through the roof or any other gaps in the building (vent holes etc).

  • +16

    White noise generator for sleep time.

    Cheap and effective.

    • +13

      $12 fan from Kmart beside the bed.

    • +3

      There are heaps of apps that will do this.

      I use an old stereo system tuned to FM static. Have an app on my phone for when power goes out. I suffer from Tinnitus, and silence drives me bonkers.

      • Interesting. I thought the brain tunes it out somewhat after a number of years.

        • Sadly, no.

          It can present as many different types of noises. Mine is ringing, and it's constant. External noise masks it to some extent, and gives the sufferer something to focus on, which helps.

          • @photonbuddy: After (generally many) years, your brain perceives the noise a bit less as a 'threat' or something unnatural that needs to be eliminated. The volume isn't reduced as Photonbuddy noted, but the ability to focus on something else is improved. I've had it for more than 20 years, it's not just for the oldies, some people are genetically susceptible to it.

    • +1

      I lived in an old warehouse converted to an apartment in the city with terrible old slide windows. Similar to OP, it's the trucks and motorbikes at night that are really loud and go above and beyond a fan.

    • -1

      Let's replace an annoying noise with another annoying noise

      • +9

        That's exactly the science behind it.

  • +5

    double or triple glazing is the right solution.

  • Why so against rolled shutters?

    • They probably want to retain natural lighting

    • +8

      I don't find roller shutters do much to block noise anyway. My house has them (came with the house, we didn't install them) and whilst I love them as total blackout shutters (room is still pitch black in the morning even when the sun is up, also for watching movies in the day etc) and also for security, they do nothing to stop noise. But I'm not on a main road, but any car passing by they don't seem to reduce any noise from that I can tell.

      • +3

        Can also confirm roller shutters do nothing to stop noise. Had them on my last house which was on a main road.

      • Yep, we put one on a bedroom to try and reduce the noise from the frogs and roads. It did nothing for noise; perfect for nightshift workers though.

  • +6

    I was under the flight path in Tempe, Sydney (you can see the rivets on the planes taking off) and the rental had double glazed windows.

    Couldnt hear the planes with the windows shut. you could feel them, but not hear them at any appreciable volume.

    • +1

      After a while you don't even hear the planes go by.

      Maybe noise cancelling head phone might
      help.

    • +1

      How often does the train go by? So often you won’t even notice it 😎

      • I lived out the back of a 8 track train station once. You never get used to it!

  • +2

    Get a quote for all of the options and talk to a number of different window companies and ask them for advice, anyone decent will be honest.

    I was going to double glaze for insulation in winter but they warned me that the type of brick I had meant that the heat would just escape anyway, so they said it would help, but perhaps not as much as I had hoped.

    • +2

      Not true, the U values for brick are still well under glass, even double glazing. Most double glazing will reduce heat loss by round 50 percent relative to single glazing, but still twice that of brick. Have a look here, and whilst US based the general numbers are same here.

      https://www.combustionresearch.com/U-Values_for_common_mater...

      • Good to know - cheers! With the recent winter and wfh in Melbourne I’ve been considering it once again!

        • +3

          If Aluminum frames make sure they have a thermal break … otherwise you will loose a lot of the efficiency through the frame

    • +2

      What they might have meant is that there are a lot of things you can do to insulate you house before you get to windows. Roof, under floor, wall insulation then gap insulation/blocking, would all be more cost effective before you get to windows. Windows are probably second to last to do.

      • Possibly, though I doubt it as they would have known in an apartment there’s not really much else that can be done that will be either possible or allowed by strata. Hence why I went down the window route as it was the only thing I could really control.

  • When i asked about double glazing they came and said the entire frame and surrounding brickwork would need to be redone to allow for it, so turned into a major issue. I moved.

  • +11

    Step 1: don’t let the traffic noise get to you. Recognise it could be better but that millions learn to live with it. Letting it get to you when you can’t just break a lease is a recipe for it getting to you.

    Step 2: double/secondary glaze, heavy curtains.

    • +2

      my lounge room window is like 15 meters from a main road that only slows down from like 7pm-5am on weekdays and it is also the route trucks take so they go all night. when i first moved in i thought it was a massive mistake but it is astonishing how quickly you get used to it. now sometimes we even keep a window open for the breeze and it still doesnt bother us.

      obviously wouldnt want to live here forever but it is definitely liveable. when i do zoom calls with family and they hear loud something go past (motorbike) they are like "what is that???" but we dont even hear it. except when you first wake up and it is the loudest thing on earth but after 5 minutes you are used to it again

      • +1

        Agree, not that I live in a noisy area, but know plenty who have and found the same thing.

        Catch is, if you get stressed out/annoyed by it you keep hearing it. So if it’s a long term thing, you need to do your best to let it go.

  • I think I need this too, too many police sirens and helicopters every night.

    • Do you live in a gang neighbourhood?

      • +6

        Na, just Victoria

  • +1

    Double glazing. However due to the thickness of the DG units, you will most likely have to replace all the frames as well. If you are going to live there for a few years, it will be a good improvement, not only sound but thermal insulation.

    • +1

      Yep, it will eventually pay for itself with savings on heating and air-conditioning.

      I would also add heavy curtains, and if you have floorboards, get a carpet for the bedroom

  • +2

    I lived on a main road that had Aluminium double glazed french doors. The difference between them being opened and shut was massive.

  • +6

    Make sure the windows are completely sealed if they are old. Buy the rubber/foam window seals from bunnings to create a better seal/replace existing seal if eroded.
    Heavy curtains may help slightly.
    White noise.

    • +1

      The seals were actually a good suggestion.
      Though the difference wasnt substantial, i installed some of the weather/noise seals around the windows and it did make a small difference.
      I think I am erring towards double glazing as it seems to be the only true solution.

      • I did something similar in your situation, old converted warehouse with wind in windows. Put foam around the window. Helped a little but not enough. Moved up the road to an apartment with double glazing and it made a massive difference. Could sleep at night, no noise.

    • +1

      This. Any gaps, anywhere, will let noise it.

      Floorboards, around ducted heater vent in the floor too.

      You’ll need to deal every little gap, or add white noise to drown it out.

      That said, you’ll never get to a position where it will be like a quiet court in the burbs, so you really will need to learn to live with it.

  • I have this problem too now. It's fine with the windows closed but I'm used to fresh air.

    And anything that touches the floor of the neighbours above echoes terribly.

    • +4

      This is not really double glaze. Proper double glaze have void space in between the 2 glass.

  • +1

    I have been to an apartment on a very major road with double glazed windows and it was dead quiet despite all vehicles going by, so I'm gonna say double glazed would at the very least help.

    • Thanks. What material is the frame?
      Timber? Aluminium? PVC

      • +2

        If memory serves they were PVC.

      • Hey OP, look up Twinglaze , we used them to double glaze all our windows 2 years back and the thermal + acoustic insulation is amazing. Also they cost around 1/3 of complete window replacement costs.

  • +4

    Triple glazing with 3 different layers of glass. Been used in Europe for ages. Its noise reduction is unreal!

    • +1

      Triple glazing has little benefit over double glazing. I went through all of this when I replaced a window with double glazing.

      • Then your walls are substandard. I seen it in mum's apartment, train noise all but completely gone, all high and also low frequencies!

  • I wanted to also back the option of double walled glass everywhere you can put them. They are quite effective IME

  • Double glazing really helps but you will still hear motorbikes and ambulances.

  • +1

    Gopd luck when you find out how much double glazing will cost to install post build… I hope the discount you received on purchase price covers it!

  • +2

    Not only double or triple glazing as stated, but does the unit have wall insulation? Being relatively old it may have little or none. It will be little point doing the windows if the walls also aren't insulated. Edit: On my last trip to UK I stayed in a hotel at Heathrow Airport. We were watching planes land just outside our window, a very short distance away. It was perfectly silent in the room, couldn't hear a thing.

    • +5

      I second this. On my last trip to Europe we stayed at a Hotel near Schipol Airport. The window was about 2 metres from a freeway with six lanes of traffic. We could not hear a thing. It was almost eerily quiet.

      This was common across Europe, where the majority of houses have double glazing, and new builds now use triple glazing.

      Europeans (in the north at least) have a greater incentive to install them because they also prevent any heat escaping during their long freezing winters.

      I wish they were more common here, for sound-proofing and keeping in air conditioned air. The only place I have encountered them in Australia is in CBD office buildings.

      • +6

        Yep - insulation here (or lack of) is terrible…

        Moving from the UK 20 yrs ago now is still shocks us how many locals just think being cold in Winter is normal.

      • +1

        The window was about 2 metres from a freeway with six lanes of traffic.

        Are people exaggerating or just terrible at estimating distances?

        If this was true, you could've been killed by a car crash whilst you slept. I get that people like double glazing, but it won't stop a car going through your window.

        • You can see for yourself how close it was, here on Google Maps
          As you can see it was probably closer to 10m, but still only a stones throw and it doesn't change my point about the double glazing for traffic noise.

  • +3

    Maybe try blocking the window with something like foam etc temporarily to see how much difference the window makes?

    • that doesn't really help with the noise unfortunately. i did that using a pretty thick foamboard that also had a decently high r rating. it did block the sun though, which i helped me save on a/c bills.

      the only real solution is double glazing. a curtain won't do much, and sound machines can only help to a certain extent. not everyone gets used to noise from roads, and those pesky gunshot exhausts make things impossible.

  • +1

    If there’s room outside, add a water feature. Water is really good at absorbing road noise and having a white noise effect too.

  • I think you'll have to replace the frames and windows. You really need no gaps at all and good seals built into the glazing system.
    I lived in an apartment that backed onto a freeway. It had really good windows, but they weren't double glazed - I think it was just thicker glass. It was quite amazing what a difference even just gapping the window a millimetre did - 1mm noise, 0mm none.
    Of course, if you're going to replace the windows and frames, you may as well go double glazing to get the environmental and energy consumption benefits.

  • +9

    OK, long-ish post coming up with a few ideas from personal experience. I lived right on a busy road for 3 years and I hated it. My buying experience was similar in that noise was acceptable during inspections. Constant noise is fine but the really loud vehicles were terrible.

    Ideas / Options:

    1. Wait, especially until the end of Spring. You've only recently moved. Give it 12 months. After that time you will either adjust or hate it. Spring is the worst time for motorbikes. It's warmed up so everyone is out on their bikes. Motorbikes make the most invasive noise to your home. The bike noise will reduce after Spring.

    2. Structural changes: triple glazing, block all gaps, brick fence, insulation. I had an old box cooler that faced the road - it was like having an open window. Outside summer, I packed it with high density foam.
      All these options are expensive. Each window was around $1,000.
      Triple glazing is great insulation too.

    3. Inside options: plants, carpet/rugs, well placed bookshelves

    4. Distraction: If the only noise you have is traffic noise, that's all you hear. I found other audio stimuli VERY effective, simply having podcasts playing on a bluetooth speaker focused my attention there rather than road noise. For TV, get a good sound bar.

    5. Isolation: Quality closed back headphones for music and TV

    6. Decision: Decide to stay or go. If you plan to leave, don't over capitalise, but mitigate with the cheaper options until you move. Focus on a timeframe for this.

    I really hope this helps. I found the road noise intensely bothersome but other neighbours didn't hear it after a while. I'm now somewhere quiet.

    • +1

      Thank you, these are some great suggestions.
      I will give some of the cheaper options a shot first.
      I just found some accoustic curtains/blinds which claim to damped noise by 5-10db which is pretty decent.

      • +1

        Get a can of that expanding foam with the long nozzle. Anywhere there's a gap that there doesn't need to be, fill it with foam (and cut off any excess with a knife once it's set). It's amazing how much noise can come through small gaps.

        • Good idea. The glazer who replaced my window likened noise to water in that it will continue through any gaps it finds.

  • +6

    I recently moved from rural acreage into central CBD apartment. I fully investigated noise redution options, including direct consultation with experienced acoustic engineers involved in buidling design and construction. The key points are to identify all potential sources of noise instrusion and deal with all of those you can. If windows are the primary site of noise intrusion, "acoustic" double-glazing is effective: this requires a minimum of 150mm gap between two glass layers that are of different density and thickness, set within an air-tight frame (i.e., sound will travel where the air does). With this system, you can hope for a 50 - 70% reduction in noise intrusion. This does not guarantee thermal insulation unless supplied as single unit (most thermal double glazing has low acoustic reduction).
    After a "trial" of one of the nationally available magnetic systems (i.e. installed but failed due to intrinsic structural limitations), I finally used a secondary double-glazing solution involving a team of aluminium frame fabrication and glazing experts (and quite a financial investement).
    The final result is a dramatic transformation of the soundscape in our apartment that makes it very livable. There is minimal effect on subwoofer noise, but this is a known limit of acoustic solutions.
    Happy to answer any questions about this practical experience.

    • Interested in hearing about the costs involved in this?

      • Hard to give a more general idea about likely cost for others, as our apartment windows are larger than average (3.2m height), and we elected to have a non-standard sliding door arrangement, but our project cost about $50,000 for 17m width, including crane hire.

  • I have double glazing and our house is extremely quiet.Also has benefit of keeping heat in during winter and heat out during summer. If you have the option that would be No1.
    I would say that, you will get used to the noise.

    Our last house was old brick veneer on a main road, after a while you didn't notice noise.
    The brain is an amazing thing

  • +1

    Thick glass makes a huge difference, especially with low-flying jets, heavy rain and thunderstorms.

  • -3

    Roller shutters on windows

  • I recently moved to Bondi Junction - 2 floors above Oxford Street from a very quiet place. Lots of buses & Illegally, I'm sure, too-loud motorbikes. The building is about 3-4 years old, and the sliding doors, being def. double glazed etc., cut it to about 30% - very tolerable. We really did get used to it quite quickly - say 3 months - but that may not work for you. If you can get approval, planting trees at the front - preferably reasonably well-established -will help a lot too. Even big ones/hedges in pots. ANY barrier the strata lets you put between your place and the road will obviously help. I managed replacement windows in 2019 for a unit block I lived in. It is a very BIG job, and you'd surely need quite a few unit owners to want to do it too. It worked really well. Maybe, even at your own expense, get in an acoustic engineer in. Someone must pay for them though, as otherwise it's just some salesperson pushing their products. They're likely to test and recommend the best solution.

  • +1

    As I said in a post above, I replaced one window with double glazing. Both panes were 10mm thick! PVC frame. It really does work except, you'll find bass sound noise will annoy you after a while. Best thing is, never live on a main road.

  • +1

    A friend of mine used this and was very happy with the results. Essentially removable double glazing.

    https://www.magnetite.com.au/

    • +1

      I was just going to mention this. It's a cheap form of double glazing. Basically they fix a plastic angle frame around the inside of the window frame and a 10mm thick acrylic panel fixes to the frame with a magnetic strip (kind of like your fridge door).

      We have a heritage item (federation house) on a busy road under a flightpath (sounds like paradise…no I dont have a greyhound out the back called Coco) and double glazing would have meant changing all the front facing windows (nightmare & $$).

      No regrets. Would get it again in a jiffy. Dont have numbers but it feels it blocks all noise, we just have some traffic noise coming from front door area which we cant seal well.

      Pros;
      - Wayyyy cheaper than double glazing.
      - Good insulation (traps layer of air like glazing, no drafts)
      - Blocks noise well (good enough for us) but not sure how it compares to double glazing.
      - Can be installed in 1 - 2 days.
      - Can remove them to open the windows.
      - I made a cheap flyscreen for one of my windows that fixes to the magnetite frame. Because of the age of house (heritage item) and sash windows, this wasnt possible to install on outside.

      Cons;
      - Panels can be heavy if the window pane is big. The big panels can be difficult to stand aside / store but they dont come off that often.
      - They can look…out of place? when you point them out. Most visitors we have tho dont even know they're installed.