Soundproof Window Shutter
Keep the world at bay with this simple but effective DIY design.
Control room windows and floating floors are all very well in a commercial studio, but they are not always entirely practical at home, especially if the rest of the family doesn't share your enthusiasm for recording.
However, a removable window shutter might be an answer to keeping the outside world out and the inside world in.
When recording at home, you will probably have noticed that most noise gets in and out of a room via the door and the window. The chances are that the door leads to another part of the house so the soundproofing qualities necessary in this area will depend on how noisy the rest of the household are or how well they tolerate your artistic endeavours. Sound transmission through a door can be reduced a little by ensuring that it fits tightly or by installing a good draught excluder system, but the window presents a more difficult problem.
Traffic noise can penetrate through even double glazing, and though this may not be too serious when recording drum machines and synths, it can ruin microphone recordings. Noise travels both ways however, and if you record drum kits or monitor at high levels, the chances are that your neighbours will relive every duff take with you and will eventually crack.
My own solution to this problem was to build an easily removable shutter to fit tightly over the window opening, the only drawback being that it cuts out all natural light. This won't upset many recording fanatics however as the majority of them are used to working in an environment where day and night have no meaning whatsoever.
The underlying idea was to build something and then discover how well it performed. As it worked out better than I ever thought it could, I'll find a theory to justify the design rather than vice versa. You'd be surprised at how many scientists invent something in a day and then spend the next five years trying to adapt the laws of physics to fit their result.
It is fairly widely known that two sheets of glass with an air gap in between form a far more effective barrier to sound than one double thickness sheet on its own. The same applies to other materials, so I used two sheets of fibreboard mounted within a softwood frame and spaced apart by lengths of one inch batten fixed to the inside of the frame. Figure 1 shows the construction in more detail and, including the window glass, there are three layers and two air spaces to impede sound transmission.
The side of the shutter nearest the window is covered by a layer of carpet for extra sound deadening whilst the inside surface, in the case of my house, is covered by cork tiles to blend in with the rest of the studio decor. In order to ensure a reasonably airtight fit, a good quality draught excluder strip should be fixed to the edge of the shutter where it meets with the window frame and, if the shutter is held in place with screw type casement fasteners, it can be fitted and removed both quickly and easily.
After measuring up the window frame, the shutter frame should be glued and screwed together and the one inch batten then fixed to the inside using PVA glue and pins.
Next the fibreboard should be glued and pinned to the batten and the frame is then ready for painting. The cork tiles are then fixed in place with Thixofix whilst the carpet may be either glued or tacked down. To fit the casement fasteners, the shutter should be held in position whilst the screw holes are marked out and then the two halves of each fastener are screwed into place.
This is a simple system and can be built in a couple of hours by anyone who can use a saw. In conjunction with a double glazed window, the degree of insulation is sufficient to contain the effects of a live band and only a slight reduction in efficiency will result if your windows are single glazed.
If you're suffering from sound leakage problems, try this solution first and leave floating floors to the QE2.
Feature by Paul White
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