Like most things in the window business stc rated windows or sound transmission class windows are often misunderstood or misrepresented by salespeople. We’ve heard all sorts of stories and explanations regarding sound control windows. The truth rarely gets out there, but here we will cut through the fluff to explain how the various options will work for you. We’ll look at what these ratings mean, where you will get the best bang for your buck and common mistakes people make when trying to keep their home quiet.
There are standard stc rated windows that can increase the efficiency of your home with specific options and then there are specially designed stc rated windows that are designed for very high noise applications around airports, railroad tracks, or busy city centers.
We’ll start with typical replacement windows.
It is very common to hear a salesperson tell a customer that triple pane windows are a great way to reduce sound transmission. That seems plausible as 3 panes of glass would likely be better than 2, but in fact it is not the case. Triple pane windows have smaller air chambers than double pane windows and they sometimes use thinner glass as well to reduce the weight. As a result, triple pane windows will sometimes be worse than a typical double pane unit and will almost never be better.
An easy way to get a better stc rated window is to add dissimilar glass. This means one pane of glass is thicker than the other. A common way to accomplish this is to use laminated glass. Laminated glass is like the windshield of your car. It’s actually 2 pieces of glass with a piece of plastic in the middle. In a double pane window like this, one of the panes will be thick because it’s laminated and the other pane will be thinner because it’s not.
This is typically the best way to take a regular residential replacement window and make it a better stc rated window. The rating will increase by up to 20% using this method.
So what do these ratings mean?
It’s always hard for folks to get their head around what does a rating of 27 mean or if another product has a rating of 33 how much better is that? One way to visualize this is to consider that a typical exterior wall with siding on the outside drywall on the inside will have a rating around 34. A wall with brick instead of siding will be a bit better.
Imagine being in a room with no windows, say a closet in your bedroom. If a firetruck pulled up outside with it’s sirens blaring you’d still hear it. Double pane windows are better than single pane windows, and double pane windows with laminated glass will be better than that, but none of these options are sound proof.
Are there better options?
Yes, there are better stc rated windows, but when you go too extreme the windows start to look a little unusual. This isn’t really an issue if you like on the side of the highway or the approach path to O’Hare, but if you’re just trying to block out the noise of those pesky kids next door you might want to weigh your options. The Quiet Line from Milgard. It uses 2 sashes to provide an extra layer of sound insulation.
What are the common mistakes people make when trying to keep their home quiet?
The number one mistake we see folks make is to install fancy new triple pane windows in an effort to reduce the sound transmission. As discussed above that is typically a waste of money.
The other common mistake is to think that after installing new windows their home will be completely silent. The fact is that’s just not the case. New stc rated windows can make a substantial improvement in the efficiency of the home, but sound is getting in through your walls, your ceiling and your floor. Depending on how your home is built, there may not be an easy way to completely block out those pesky kids next door after all.
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If you’re already a member of Angie’s List or if you’re just not going to join (despite my ringing endorsement), you can find our suggestions for the best companies in your area right here.