It's construction season. Do soundproof windows actually block the noise?

By Virginia K. Smith  | May 14, 2014 - 9:59AM

While we're willing to bet that no one in the history of New York ever moved here for the peace and quiet, sometimes (OK, at least once a week), the racket can push you to a breaking point. Just a week after Louie aired its wonderfully on-point depiction of deafening early-morning garbage truck noise, Brooklyn Paper reports that residents near the Brooklyn Bridge are fed up after four years of ongoing construction clamor. You can't exactly blame them.

A years-long, neighborhood-consuming construction project is a nightmare scenario for buyers and renters alike--one that only becomes more likely in the spring and summertime, when construction goes into overdrive. So what to do?
Go long on earplugs, or close your windows--and get them soundproofed.
"While it's not possible to totally mute sounds like jackhammers, heavy equipment, backup beeps from the trucks and construction vehicles, it's enough to make a significant improvement," CityProof's Michael Damelin previously told us about window soundproofing efforts near the never-ending Second Avenue subway construction.
Traffic noise, on the other hand,  is easier to eliminate.  CitiQuiet (slogan: "Serenity Now!") adds an extra pane of heavy, laminated glass to windows, creating dead air space for intrusive sound waves. "It's like a brick. Sound just bounces off," says CitiQuiet's Marc Cohen.
There are limits, though, and high-pitched noises like car alarms and sirens can still penetrate even the thickest types of glass. "They're made to be heard," says Christopher Ulrich of CityProof. "Even windows that generally offer 90 percent noise reduction won't reduce 90 percent of the noise from a siren."
Soundproofed windows don't come cheap (unless maybe you're comparing them with a lifetime supply of earplugs).  Cohen says that even a small soundproofed window would likely run at least $1,000, and CityProof suggests getting a custom estimate. The cost comes down to how much you're willing to put into your apartment, and how high a premium you put on getting a good night's sleep. 
Unsurprisingly, both window soundproofing companies have long lists of clients in heavily trafficked and under-construction areas like DUMBO, anything along the BQE, and yes, the Second Avenue subway ("I put my kids through college thanks to the BQE," Cohen jokes).
If you're in this kind of area for the long haul, work from home, or own a place with tenants, it may be worth the investment. "We often have landlords putting soundproofed windows in their rental units to protect the apartment's value," notes Damelin. 
As for the folks near Brooklyn Bridge, the Department of Transportation says it's taking steps to help matters (they've bought smaller jackhammers, for instance, and scheduled as much work as possible for daytime weekday hours, a spokesperson told Brooklyn Paper), it's likely cold comfort for locals, as the project was just extended another 11 months through April 2015.
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