If you're shopping around for a new home, you're likely in the midst of checking out school ratings and crime reports, or seeing if the neighborhood seems quiet or noisy. But you should also check out the noise insulation within the house itself. Many new homes are built to strict standards, but others have seen more than a few cost-cutting measures that make the interior of the home rather noisy when even the quietest people are living there. Here are a few steps you can take to check out the homes you see.
Research Boom and Bust History
Find out the year that the house was built. Not all "new" homes are actually newly built; that new home could have been sitting around for a couple of years, uninhabited. If the year the house was built in was during a slow housing cycle, when not much else was built, that may indicate the house has slightly better construction because crews wouldn't have been as rushed. If the house was built during an intense housing boom, the construction might have taken a few shortcuts so that the developer could get the house ready for sale as soon as possible. An intense construction boom can also increase the risk of material shortages, leading builders to use less-than-optimal substitutions.
This isn't a guarantee that the house is well- or poorly built. However, it can increase the chances of the house being built with a certain amount of attention (or lack thereof).
Don't Go Alone
When you see the house, bring at least one other person with you, and try to look at different parts of the house separately. If you think the real estate agent won't let one of you wander off without supervision—and there's a good chance of this, given that real estate agents need to prevent thefts and damage to homes they're showing—let the agent know ahead of time that you wish to bring someone else to check out sound transmission between rooms.
Good agents will work this out somehow, either by having an assistant around or getting permission from the developer to let someone wander into other rooms unsupervised. Be wary if the agent and developer refuse to let you bring someone else along or refuse to let you check out whether sound travels in the house.
Turn on a Faucet
If water service has already been turned on at the home in the name of the developer, have your companion go into a bathroom or the kitchen and turn on a faucet or flush a toilet while you stay in an adjacent room. Many homes now have plastic piping that does nothing to lessen the sound of water rushing into pipes, which can be very loud. If you don't hear anything, the home may have cast-iron pipes, which are more expensive but much quieter. If you truly like the home despite the plastic pipes, you can have a contractor wrap the pipes in special foam.
If the water hasn't been turned on, look under sinks and around the water heater at the pipes as they enter the walls. This, unfortunately, does not guarantee that the pipes in the walls are made of the same material, so running water is really the best way to tell what types of pipes you have. But a visual inspection is better than nothing.
If you'd like more information on ensuring you're moving into a quiet place, talk to your real estate agent and developers in the area to see what they do to give a home better noise insulation. Be sure to work in the costs of potentially adding more noise insulation to the home when you calculate whether the home is in your budget range.