Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Woulda, (Maybe) Coulda, Shoulda

     When we were in sales meetings for our Ravenna with Ryan Homes I wish I would have asked about noise. When someone turns on the fan in the first floor powder room I hear it louder in the master bedroom than if the fan is on in the master bathroom. My husband making calls in his office is also loud in the master bedroom. We paid for the highest pad upgrade we could for the carpets, and we put soundproofing insulation in the master bedroom wall which butts up to the bonus room. I am not sure what more we could have done, but I'm sure Ryan knows how to make a quieter house, even if they don't do it.

     Television on in the family room downstairs? The sound travels right up the stairs, over the half wall, and around the corner in to the master bedroom. Maybe, just maybe, if they didn't insist on cutting the doors with inches of clearance from the floor it wouldn't be so loud, but it is loud. My half wall is probably going to be turning into a closed off something in order to try to get some of the noise to stay out of the master bedroom. It's the same when someone makes any noise at all in the kitchen. Our house is usually pretty lively, so it's no big deal. Until the house isn't lively, and all you want to do is get some rest. The master bedroom is not the peaceful sanctuary I was counting on it to be. While the kitchen and family room noise travels up the stairs, the office and powder room noise travels through the walls and/or floors.

     And like The Ravenna Ranter said, the light switches seem like a nuisance during the planning stages. Or at least the did to me. I had seen people suggesting we decide where we want them, but I thought it was too much of a hassle. Now I tell you to get yourself to the model of your floor plan and check all the light switches in the house. Because I am convinced many of them are placed by mischief-makers. My living room lights are my least favorite. But I also wish the light switch in the garage was duplicated inside the house as well. And it could have been done so easily - so it is nonsensical that so many homeowners have to live with this frustration. I think it would be nice to have another switch way in the master bedroom, and many other people think there should be a single spot to kill all the master bath/closet/toilet lights. Basement lights? Don't even get me started. You have to go down the stairs and around corner to reach them. For heaven's sake, they need to install a light between the utilities (giant heating unit, water heater, humidifier, vac canister, etc and the stairs. Because that area is d-ark. And big. For storage. (Especially for us, because we have a guest suite where the big storage area is in the Ravenna). So this is where we have our food storage. Some light would be swell. But it is all blocked. It would probably be great to get a light in that area - or at least an outlet, for Pete's sake, so you could put in a corded light. But something, please, dear Lord, something. My cereal and canned beans are scared of the dark.

          While I am writing this post my husband comes upstairs and he's just rammed his foot into a television in the basement. Because it is so dark. Yep, folks, this is what I am talking about. Of course, had my sons not blocked all the light from the little window so they could have total darkness for the projector, it wouldn't be pitch black down there, but it would still be majorly dark.


  1. We asked our PM about the half-hots and he said that we couldn't pick which outlets would be switched. We were able to move the garage switches into the mudroom, but that was about the only electrical modification we were allowed. We asked about putting the basement lights on different switches since we added more finished area, but they will all be on one switch. I will have to head out to the model to find out what kind of headaches we will be facing.
    As for the noise, this is very disappointing. Our current home was done by a small, semi-custom builder but is not high-end by any means. However, it is relatively quiet. I'm thinking that you might be able to reduce some noise by replacing your doors with solid doors, but that shouldn't have to be done in a brand new house :(

  2. There is not some weird abnormal physics in a newer home causing louder noises than an older. It's materials.

    A heavier, solid core door could make a large difference. You can buy one (slab or 6 panel) at Home Depot for about $50-70.

    As for the fan, one brand can make different audible level fans. Ryan uses name brand stuff, but not always the HIGH end, name brand stuff. Check out Home Depot, there are bathroom fans (and garbage disposals) you won't hear when running.

    Some may say "yeah, but it's a new house, I shouldn't have to do that". My answer is that WE built a "cookie cutter" house that is designed and built for the masses. While you find the fan assaulting, I am not bothered and as such would not want to pay a higher price. So make some small upgrades to make the place "yours".

    As for the switch locations, I am still perplexed at the living room location. I would love for them to show you that location in other houses. I have never seen or heard them installing the LR switch where they did.

    You guys may not know, but you can make contact with (one of) the electric guys that work(ed) on your house. I have one of them saved in my phone. I yapped with him when he came (after we moved in) to install a light at the top of the stairs. I asked if he does side work, he said yes. He will be doing some light work in the basement "on the side". Just ask your PM for a phone number of one you can talk to.

  3. Hmm all that def. sounds annoying. Here are a few suggestions off of the top of my head:

    Im sure they put some budget Nutone fans in all the bathrooms, and those are cheap and noisy, you could change those to a higher grade and its a simple install.

    I have some background in technical audio applications and one thing you could do to create a sound baffle would be to purchase either some egg crate material or sound proofing panels from your local musicians store. Remove the grate at each air return/vent and glue/dbl sided tape/velcro/whatever a panel to the back wall of the duct work facing into the room, that will make any sound coming out reflect back into the room at different angles and hopefully produce something called diffusion which should lessen the sound traffic.

    For sound traveling up the stairs, those audio panels do look decorative and depending on your decor could be mounted on a ceiling or any wall, it will just give you a very art deco look.

    For the basement light switch problem post settlement, its actually very easy to have switches at the top of the basement stairs handle many things. It will require running some wire and drywall patchwork but should be an inexpensive fix for an electrician.

    My schematics are showing lights in the extra storage room, the HVAC area as well as one behind the proposed bathroom location in the basement. These would be denoted by a circle with the letter "K", I will verify.

  4. By the way, if you guys eat a lot of eggs, you should buy the 2.5 doz pack and use the piece that holds the eggs, that will work fine.

  5. Thanks everyone!

    We do eat a lot of those eggs in the 2.5 dozen packs from Sams! I'm going to have to put some of these suggestions to work for me.

  6. And you are right about where the lights are in the basement. In the utility room between the stairs and furnace is a dark zone for me. I would be the darkest part of that room, and for me it is even darker because I have shelving up along the stairs in that area for food storage.

  7. Then for the basement I would probably get one of those old style fluorescent circular fixtures, they used to be popular in kitchens in the 70s/80s, they're small but belt out a good amount of light

  8. I feel bad for you guys on the switches and sound. We insulated between the ceilings in certain areas for this very reason.

    I agree with the door issue. My doors are cut too short and we're meeting with our PM tomorrow to discuss this. Not sure what could be done but it's worth a shot.

    Because we built with Ryan before we knew we wanted to make sure we had switches where we wanted them.

    We had all outside lights and garage light switched inside the house (mudroom) and we had all outlets outside switched inside the house (front and back door). All living room light switches are where we wanted them as well. We also put a switch close to where the bed will be in the master bedroom.

    Anyone that hasn't been wired yet be there when the electrician is there and take a check book LOL.

  9. I'm not sure turning the half-wall into a full wall will help much. The issue in new houses is that sound tends to echo through the floors. In many cases, it can be intensified quite a bit. The gap between the floor and the bottom of your door is essential to keep your furnace running properly, this is how the cold air is transfered from closed off rooms into the cold-air return which is almost always located in the kitchen and upstairs hall. You don't want to mess with this gap as it will severly affect the heating/cooling of your house.

    You can consult an architect, or your PM, but I suggest the following:
    Ryan homes uses hollow masonite doors, you can purchase the same door with sound insulation from H.D. or Lowes, or your favorite home store. This will block a lot of what would travel through the door. As long as you have carpet, much of the sound is already being muted by the acoustic deadening quality of carpet.

    If this doesn't help, you will need to add fabrics into rooms (thick drapes, curtains, area rugs on hard surface floors and furniture) to absorb some of the excess sound.

    Keep in mind, this acoustic effect is really normal in all houses, it's just like a concert hall, hard surfaces create echo, fabric mutes the echo and creates a dead space.

    Good luck fixing things.

  10. One more thought, your bedroom and bathroom are directly above the kitchen, kitchens are live spaces, lots of echo. If you deaden the echo in the kitchen, you will mute the sound that travels into your sanctuary.