5 min.
16.07.2018

Sound insulation in the bathroom: gentle rain shower or irritating downpour?

The water in the shower sprinkles down like a refreshing rain shower in the forest, and the bath fills with a murmur that is not unlike a waterfall or waves breaking on the shore. What gives rise to anticipation and lovely memories in one person, though, can be perceived as a nuisance and unwanted by the neighbours.
The water in the shower sprinkles down like a refreshing rain shower in the forest, and the bath fills with a murmur that is not unlike a waterfall or waves breaking on the shore. What gives rise to anticipation and lovely memories in one person, though, can be perceived as a nuisance and unwanted by the neighbours.

Photo: © Bette
In fact, the perception and evaluation of noise depends entirely on the awareness or mood of the person hearing it. We all know the scenario – when a dripping tap or a ticking clock have driven us almost to the point of madness. At only 20 decibels (dB), this level of noise isn’t high, but as soon as we acknowledge it, it starts to become extremely irritating and stressful. To compare: whispering is around 30 dB, birdsong 40 dB, a vacuum cleaner 75 dB and a rock concert 115 dB – and increasing the noise level by 10 dB is perceived as double the volume.

More privacy, please

We generally distinguish between three sources of noise in the bathroom. The first is operating noise, so for instance water running through pipes in the building. The second is noise peaks during operation, which could be turning taps on or off or changing over the water flow, for instance to flush to toilet. The third is noise caused by users and their activities, for instance splashing in the bath or the sound the water hitting the washbasin when rinsing your mouth. All three types of noise can be heard quite clearly in neighbouring apartments or rooms unless adequate measures are taken to provide sound insulation. So sound insulation is an extremely important criterion in the quality of an apartment.

Minimum sound insulation or maximum peace?

The main regulation for sound insulation of sanitary noise is DIN 4109 “Sound insulation in buildings”, also known as “Minimum sound insulation”. It states that in rooms requiring insulation such as bedrooms and living rooms, the noise level from operating noise (see above) must not exceed 30dB. So ideally, bathrooms should not be planned next to bedrooms or living rooms. If this is unavoidable, then the sanitary installations – i.e. bath, shower, washbasins and WC – should at least not be positioned against the walls of the quiet zones.

Photo: © Bette

If more sound insulation promising greater peace is required for more exclusive comfort standards, the noise level must not exceed 25 dB. In order to ensure this higher level of sound insulation is achieved in the building, then a separate private-law contract with the building contractor is a good idea because a smooth interplay between all the trades is essential in the installation. Starting from the construction stage, the sanitary installations and subsequent drywall works to the concluding tiling work and connection of the WC ceramic must be carried out to a consistently high standard of quality. This may be based on DIN 4109, supplement 2, or sound insulation levels II and III of VDI 4100.

Soundproofing in the bathroom

Various measures are required to dampen sound transmission routes in order to ensure effective sound insulation in the bathroom. With regard to the sound transmission routes, we differentiate between airborne sound, footfall sound and structure-borne or installation sound. Airborne sound is sound that is spread through the air; structure-borne sound spreads through a solid body such as brickwork, and footfall sound (a separate form of structure-borne sound) by people moving over the ground.

Photo: © Bette

If there is too much noise from sanitary installations, the level of structure-borne sound is usually too high. This is caused by noise when filling the bath or when water impacts the bath, shower or washbasin, or from filling noise (bath, washbasin, cistern), water draining away (from the bath, shower, washbasin or WC), and from activating the flush on the WC. The water stimulates the structure-borne sound; in other words, it causes the body of the sanitary object to oscillate, which is transmitted by the pipes and building structure, which in turn is then passed on to the other rooms in the form of audible airborne sound.

Photo: © Bette

An effective measure against these acoustic bridges is to soundproof the sanitary objects and connected pipes from the building structure. This is achieved by fitting sound insulation tapes between the sanitary object and the wall, floor or ceiling during construction. They are made, for instance, from foam rubber that largely prevents the transmission of the oscillation to the building structure, thereby dampening the sound. Measures that are aimed entirely at improving airborne sound insulation are usually pointless because the only thing that helps against airborne sound is as much mass as possible – such as thick walls.

Shower and bathe quietly

“No one wants to hear their neighbour’s daughter running a bath late at night, or another neighbour showering early in the morning after a night shift. That is why sound insulation is particularly important with showers and baths made of steel,” explains Sven Rensinghoff, Head of Marketing at the bathroom specialists Bette of Delbrück. The company specialises in the processing of glazed titanium steel into elegant baths, shower trays and washbasins, and has developed a number of solutions to guarantee soundproofed bathing pleasure.

For instance, in order to minimise the sound being transferred to the building structure, the legs of Bette’s baths and the installation frame of Bette’s shower trays are soundproofed, as are the bath anchors that are used to secure the bath or shower tray against the wall. Underpinning tapes and soundproofing tapes on the wall-side edges of the baths and the installation frame also reduce sound transmission. Furthermore, so-called noise suppression mats made of bitumen, which also have a soundproofing effect, can be attached to the body of the Bette bath or shower tray.

Photo: © Bette

If the soundproofing measures are carried out professionally and completely, Bette baths are soundproofed to DIN 4109/A1 as standard. If the manufacturer’s installation system Universal is used for the shower trays, then the noise level when using the shower is merely 20 dB, which complies with the requirements of DIN 4109/A1 and the higher requirements as per VDI 4100 SST III – which has also been confirmed in checks by DEKRA.

Showering can be even quieter with the Delbrück-based bathroom specialist’s ultra-flat shower trays and shower areas if its minimum tray support is used, which is simply glued onto the screed or wooden floor. The sound level in this instance is only 17 dB, which far exceeds even the strict requirements of sound insulation level 3 of VDI 4100. And provides more quiet and intimacy when showering in badly soundproofed buildings in particular.

Photo: © Bette

To sum up:

Surveys confirm that almost 90 percent of building contractors are not prepared to save money with their soundproofing when asked about potentials for saving money in their constructions. This is only exceeded by fire prevention. But it’s not really surprising, because noise is one of the most common causes of dissent amongst neighbours, especially when there are several families living in the same building or right beside each other.

If you want a low-noise bathroom, then specialist planning is without doubt the key to putting the focus on this topic for the long term. The bathroom is one of the most complex rooms in the buildings, and even tiny errors in planning and execution can cause unwanted acoustic problems. Manufacturers like Bette also have tried-and-tested solutions in their ranges that help to make peace and relaxation in and around the bathroom a matter of course.

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