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Add wood and ivy to muffle noise

Posted: August 4, 2012 2:00 a.m.
Updated: August 4, 2012 2:00 a.m.


We have a block wall in our backyard that helps stop the noise coming from the street. It is still louder than what we would want at times.

Is there a problem with adding blocks to the top of the wall to help prevent some of the street noise?

I know I can’t prevent everything but I just want to make it as quiet as possible. I enjoy your column very much. Thank you,

Al P.

Hi Al,

That depends. If the wall is already at 11 courses or 11 rows of block, then it is approximately six feet tall.  

You can’t add any more courses to the wall without first increasing the size of the footing and adding more steel.  

Another option would be adding a wooden extension like a trellis to the top of the block.  

Decorative block/wood fences with ivy look good and help muffle traffic noise.

Hello Robert,

Our house is situated in such a way that one of our bedrooms is underground.  

When it rained we had a small amount of water that was leaking into the room.

We hired a contractor that dug down and told us that there was roofing emulsion, which is not a good waterproofer on the wall and we needed to apply a better waterproof coating.  

I just want to get the leak fixed as inexpensively as possible and so far it looks like this is going to cost a lot of money.  

We would first like your opinion if we are going about this the right way or if we are forgetting anything.  Sincerely,

Mel W.

Hi Mel,

     If you do have a roofing mastic being used for waterproofing, then the contractor is correct.  

This is the wrong application for this product but it’s something we see all of the time.  

It’s not clear in your question, but don’t let them put the new waterproofing on top of the existing mastic.  

All of the old waterproofing material has to be removed then you start fresh with the new waterproofing product.

Unfortunately, this type of project will not be cheap.

You’re looking at heavy labor costs with excavation, especially if it’s inaccessible for a backhoe and it has to be done by hand.  

You’ve also got to figure the time required to remove the roofing mastic.  

It will probably be best to use a sandblaster .  You’ve probably got a precision block wall and it has to be clean, take it down to the bare concrete before applying the new waterproofing material. I recommend bituthene.  

After it’s waterproofed it will all have to be backfilled.  

All of the steps — the excavation, the sandblasting and removal, new bituthene application and backfill — all takes time and money, but it’s cheaper in the long run to hire qualified contractors that know what they are doing.  

Many times people will try to cut corners only to need to have the job re-done, costing them more than if they would have done it right the first time.  

Do it once, do it right.

Mr. Lamoureux,

We read your column all of the time.  Thank you for all of the wonderful articles!!  

We bought a 40 foot RV and have been paying to park for about a year now.  Instead of paying the rental rates we’ve decided to take that money and pour a concrete pad on the side of our house and keep it close to home.  

It would also be fun for the grandchildren to spend the night out there from time to time.  

I think I remember a similar question not too long ago but I can’t recall how thick the concrete should be.

 If it matters, the RV may be fully loaded at any given time.  

Any help you could provide would be greatly appreciated. Thank you,

Marvin J.

Hi Marvin,

Thank you sir.

A 4-inch pad would crack out under the weight of an RV, so you’ll want to pour a pad 6 inches thick.  

You’ll also want to put in some steel, either mesh or a minimum of 1/2” rebar especially under where the wheels will sit, but if you’re in a position financially, I would run steel throughout.  

One you get it graded, put your dobies down.  These are small, square concrete blocks. You then lay the mesh or rebar on top of the dobies and tie the blocks down.

This will keep the steel suspended in the middle of the concrete when it dries and will make it much stronger.  

Another option for the more experienced would be do lay the mesh on the ground and use mesh hooks.  As you’re screeting, you can grab and pull the mesh up inside the wet concrete with the hooks.   

Hi Robert,

I am putting in wooden flooring in my condo. When they took out the carpeting, I saw that the concrete under was all cracked. They’re not big cracks but there’s a lot of them.  

The floor man said it didn’t look like an emergency, but I got the impression he just wanted to finish up and get paid.

I want to check and make sure everything is fine before we did anything.  

I’ve been living with stacks of wood in my unit now for a couple of days, but we are on the second floor and don’t want the floor collapsing.  

Ana P.

Hi Ana,

What you have is featherweight concrete which is probably about 2-inch thick.  

It’s used as an acoustic dampener to deaden sound, so as you walk it minimizes noise to your downstairs neighbor.  

One thing to keep in mind that there is a decibel rating that you cannot exceed from unit to unit.  

Your carpeting may have been rated a certain dB, but since you are replacing carpeting with wood, the excess noise generated may go beyond the allowable rating, especially if you have children or when it’s quieter in the evening.  

You may want to check with your management company or review your CC & R’s and make sure there is no stipulation preventing the installation of wooden floors on upper elevation units.

 As far as the cracking is concerned, if they are hairline cracks, there is nothing to worry about.  

If they are up to a 1/4”, they can be filled with rapid set.       

We have designed a custom, full-color The Signal/Your Home Improvements T-shirt we will give you if we answer your question. The T-shirt is available to be picked up at our office.

Robert Lamoureux has 25 years experience as a general contractor, with separate licenses in electrical and plumbing contacting. He owns IMS Construction Inc. in Valencia. His opinions are his own, and not necessarily those of The Signal. Opinions expressed in this column are not meant to replace the recommendations of a qualified contractor, after that contractor has made a thorough visual inspection. Send your questions to


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