06 Mar 2018

Aiming higher than the regulations: a guide for self-builders

Internal partitions are an essential component of your building fabric but they are often overlooked in the excitement of picking kitchens, bathrooms and decorative finishes. However, the decisions made now about these crucial construction elements will last a lifetime, so it’s worth choosing wisely. Here Sarah White, Residential Sector Manager from British Gypsum, shares some of the key ways you can raise the standard of your self-build project.


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Self-building offers the unique opportunity to create a custom-designed home that goes way beyond the ’norm’. The reasons for choosing to embark on a self-build are often complex and varied, but for most people it’s because they’re looking to build their forever home – a home that will grow and adapt with them and their family over time.

Improve acoustic performance by up to 15 dB

In some areas, such as acoustics, the requirements set out by the Building Regulations are fairly low and the minimum level you should be building to. In England and Wales, Approved Document Part E – Resistance to the Passage of Sound, governs the acoustic standards for sound transmission around the home, and the necessary 40 dB (decibels) of sound reduction is easily obtained by most standard constructions. The question, therefore, should not be whether the proposed plans satisfy the regulations but rather do they satisfy your own expectations in your dream home?

The beauty of self-building is that it allows you to design a home that’s tailored to your individual lifestyle – which includes turning the TV up to full volume if you want to or shutting out the rest of the world for some relaxation time. Taking this into consideration right at the initial design phase will allow you to create an enhanced acoustic design that meets your exact needs and exceeds Building Regulation requirements.

For example, unless you live on your own, chances are you will be disturbed by noisy feet in the rooms above at some point – particularly if you have boisterous children, whose rough and tumble play can be heard throughout the house. What’s more, noise from living rooms and kitchens can easily seep through to bedrooms on the next floor.

Upgrading the internal floors is the best way to minimise this disturbance and can be achieved easily, especially if it is specified at the design stage of the build. For timber floors, simply adding a resiliently mounted ceiling with acoustic plasterboards and acoustic insulation can result in a 15 dB improvement over the Building Regulations, which is a significant increase in performance levels. In order to help improve acoustics between adjacent rooms, you can upgrade the building fabric of internal walls. Some typical areas where this would be effective might be between an en-suite bathroom and adjacent bedroom or utility rooms that connect directly onto living spaces.

A simple way to enhance internal walls is to upgrade to a 70mm metal stud and use a double layer of acoustic SoundBloc plasterboards and acoustic insulation, which is worth considering in any of the situations above. It’s also important to consider the location and performance of doors, as well as flanking paths and electrical sockets, as these can all amplify sound transmission.

Stronger, tougher walls

Choosing the right plasterboard is a major decision that can have long-lasting consequences if not carefully considered right at the beginning of the project. No one wants damaged walls in their once-in-a-lifetime property and with the inevitable knocks and bumps that everyday life brings, it’s essential to choose durable products to keep your home looking fresh and new – particularly in busier areas such as the kitchen, hallways and the walls that accompany staircases.

Choose the right finish

Another important decision is which plaster to choose for the skim finish on the internal walls and ceilings. There are a number of high-performance products available that do a lot more than just provide a flat surface for your chosen paint or wallpaper, so it’s worth having a discussion with your contractor about the other options available.

When taking on the many challenges of self-building a property, it’s easy to understand why the specification of the walls, floors and ceilings can be lost among the never-ending list of things to do – but ultimately, these are crucial structural elements that should be given careful consideration to achieve the high-performance levels expected from a custom-designed home.

Choosing to take a fabric-first approach, by investing in materials that allow self-builders to achieve higher standards than the Building Regulations, is the best way to create a more durable forever home.

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