Liveaboards are surrounded by all the sounds of a normal household, plus noises unique to vessels. You can sail away from noisy neighbors, but the rest of the din goes with you: engines, the generator, kitchen appliances, the slap of water against the hull, the clatter of rain on a fiberglass overhead, kids squabbling in the cuddy cabin, a late-night party two slips away in the marina, plus pumps automatically kicking in at all hours.
Today’s styles make things even noisier. Decorators like wood flooring instead of thick carpeting, vinyl blinds instead of fabric curtains, open spaces where walls used to be. I went to Ryan Anderson, a specialist in noise control at Acoustical Surfaces, Inc. Here is what I learned.
Groene: How can houseboat liveaboards have a quieter environment?
Anderson: We work with major boat manufacturers during the construction stage, but let’s talk about noise solutions for an existing boat. First, you need products suitable for the marine environment. That means resistance to mold, mildew and fire. There is no regulating agency for acoustical materials, so consumers need to do their homework when it comes to specifications for noise suppression, size, weight, ease of application and durability.
Groene: Cost is a consideration and liveaboards also look for a livable decor. On a houseboat we’re also concerned about adding weight.
Anderson: We have a Sound Silencer material that weighs only 1.7 pounds per 2- by 4-foot inch-thick panel. Here’s where a complete consultation comes in. Send us pictures of the boat and we’ll give you choices. Primarily it’s important to treat the entire space, such as the generator compartment, engine room, wheelhouse, etc.
Groene: What about living areas such as the master cabin and heads?
Anderson: A one percent opening anywhere, such as a gap under a door, lets 33 percent of the sound escape. Simply closing that gap adds a lot of soundproofing. A lot can be done too with simple, inexpensive, absorptive materials such as acoustical caulk, butyl rubber damping sheets, vibration mounts, Acousti-Gasket Tape. For the decorator we have acoustical fabrics such as AcoustiSuede and a sound-absorbing Rattan.
Groene: What about replacing flooring?
Anderson: A whole new generation of underlayments is now available to go under wood and tile flooring. Look into sub-floorings such as Acoustik, Duracoustic S.T.O.P. and QuietFloor.
Groene: In the automotive marketplace I found a liquid that can be painted or sprayed to dampen noise and vibration. Is other soundproofing a DIY job?
Anderson: Absolutely. We sell the materials and everything needed for many installations. Our most exciting DIY product is as easy as hanging a picture. Our Noise S.T.O.P. Fabrisorb fabric-wrapped acoustical wall panels soak up noise. They’re custom made by size and color, and they can even be custom printed with the artwork of your choice.
Groene: We all remember those homely acoustical ceiling tiles from yesteryear. What about today’s tiles?
Anderson: Something called Silk Metal is a handsome, micro-perforated material used for ceiling tiles and wall panels. It’s installed on a grid and tiles are reversible. They can even be custom printed.
This opens an exciting new world of noise suppression for anyone who is building, re-fitting or retro-fitting a houseboat. Online, I even found a sound-absorbing curtain material that will make handsome drapes. For more information on acoustical problem-solving ashore and afloat, in the U.S. and internationally, see www.acousticalsurfaces.com or email Ryan at firstname.lastname@example.org.
About the Author
“Living Aboard” is a recurring column that focuses on living on your houseboat. Janet Groene’s newest book, The Survival Food Handbook, is a guide to provisioning and cooking with common supermarket ingredients to carry in your pantry. Janet posts new galley recipes weekly at www.BoatCook.blogspot.com.