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You can see, but not hear through these windows

In urban neighborhoods where noise can be a hassle, sound-proofed glass comes to the rescue for homeowners.

By JANET ZINK
© St. Petersburg Times
published June 21, 2002


TAMPA -- Brittany Rustman lives at the corner of Lois and Swann avenues, an intersection busy enough to warrant a traffic light.

Cars, trucks and buses speed past her house all hours of the day. Outside, it's loud enough to put a damper on conversation.

But from inside, looking out the windows of Rustman's living room, the traffic passes by silently, rendered mute by concrete block construction and, more importantly, insulated windows.

"You really can't notice it," Rustman says of the traffic. "When we have company, I always ask them if they notice it and they say no."

Rustman's home is one of four that Keystone Homes built two years ago at the South Tampa intersection. All four have insulated windows, as well as additional sound-deadening insulation in the walls of the bathrooms, laundry rooms and master bedrooms.

The interior wall sound-proofing feature is standard in all the homes Keystone builds in South Tampa, says sales director Paul Wiezerek. Insulated windows are installed on a case by case basis, depending on the location of the home.

But installation is often necessary. Keystone does much of its work in urban neighborhoods surrounded by busy streets.

"It does cut down on sound extremely well," Wiezerek says.

Three types of noise-reducing windows are available, says Stephen Jacobson, owner of Jacobson Window, one of Keystone's suppliers.

Keystone uses insulated, or double-paned, windows, which consist of two pieces of glass with a 1/4-inch to one-inch air space between them. The wider the air space and thicker the glass, the greater the noise reduction. Insulated glass also conserves energy.

Laminated glass is made like a car's windshield, with two pieces of glass fused together with a layer of plastic between them. Laminated windows also offer a safety advantage -- they're less likely to break.

"In addition to the laminated and the insulated, 3/16-inch thick glass also works as a sound inhibitor," Jacobson says. Standard windows are only 1/6-inch thick.

The effectiveness of a window's sound reduction capability is measured with a sound transmission class rating.

The higher the rating, the greater the level of noise reduction, says Bill Bellis, a sales representative for wholesaler Westshore Glass Corp.

The peace and quiet provided by laminated and insulated windows isn't cheap. A standard window costs about $100. Insulated windows are twice that much, and laminated windows can cost five times more, Jacobson says.

Insulated windows offer more noise reduction, Jacobson says, but building codes sometimes require laminated windows, to withstand Florida's strong winds.

Randy Prince, chief operating officer for Keystone Homes, had enough confidence in the sound-reduction abilities of his company's homes that he moved into one of the four homes Keystone built at Swann and Lois.

"When you're inside, you can't hear anything," he says. One night he was sitting inside watching television and walked out to discover that neighbors were having a party -- and a loud one at that.

"From inside," he recalls, without regret at having not been invited, "I had no idea."

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