The kitchen is the heart of the home, asked to perform multiple functions. It’s where your day begins. Where you cook, eat, wash up, work, relax and connect with your loved ones – the social hub of the family. Unfortunately, kitchens are often filled with appliances that, if not carefully selected, can fill the room with excessive noise. So, how can you create a space that’s pleasant to use and free from unwanted distractions?
Some of the main noise sources that can impact enjoyment of your kitchen and surrounding rooms include kettles reaching boiling point, spin cycles on washing machines and extractors that won’t let you hear yourself speak. Spending time specifying the best and quietest appliances can make all the difference when trying to hush your kitchen.
When thinking about sound, a useful benchmark is normal conversation, which is around 60 decibels A (dBA). Raised speech is around 65 dBA. A freestanding washing machine on a spin cycle can be as loud as 86 dBA, which is the equivalent of a gas-powered lawn mower running through your kitchen. So, when the washing machine’s on, many of us tend to leave the room and take the conversation elsewhere. But what if you don’t have to?
Above: Many of us aspire to an openplan kitchen; but noise will travel in these spaces.
Head the issue off at source by building in acoustic measures and specifying lownoise appliances (these models are all from Bosch)
Build It and Quiet Mark understand how unwanted noise can deeply impact on your enjoyment of your new home. So, we’re working in partnership to create a series of guides to help you achieve quiet, comfortable living (find out more at www.self-build.co.uk/quiet-homes). Here’s our checklist for a truly quiet kitchen:
Your kitchen’s layout plays an important role not only in shaping its aesthetics, but also its acoustics. Open-plan kitchen and living spaces are great for social interaction,
but sound can travel in these zones.
So, think carefully about where to place appliances. Try to avoid siting them near your living area; ideally, they’ll be in a separate utility room or cupboard. It can be surprisingly difficult to relax when your dishwasher is churning away in the background. Turning the layout round a corner can be particularly effective, with sources of noise all together in one section, and dining or living zones in the other.
It’s also important to consider the rooms adjacent and above/below spaces where you have noise-generating appliances. Try to avoid placing bedrooms directly above kitchens – instead, prioritise this part of the floorplan for less sensitive areas, such as bathrooms.
If you want to keep your kitchen open, with minimal walls and floors, consider creating quiet areas by separating the space from noisy zones (such as where the extractor
fan, washing machine and/or dishwasher are) with room dividers or corners that break the direct path of sound.
Island units, peninsulas and half-height walls can all help to zone a space, too. Or you might use freestanding folding screens, which are particularly good at absorbing high-frequency tones. You could also consider a brokenplan design, perhaps using acoustic glass doors in order to provide screening between kitchen and living areas while retaining a sense of openness.
Practising due diligence is vital when shopping for kitchen appliances. In fact, Quiet Mark’s 2023 National Noise report found 82% of Brits think it matters how loud an appliance is when they’re purchasing one for their home. But how do you know what’s quiet and what’s not?
Fortunately, Quiet Mark takes on the science so you don’t have to, including analysing the details you can’t easily check when browsing online shopping sites or admiring the latest models on the showroom floor. “When we test or verify kitchen appliances, we consider a variety of factors – including the product’s sound quality,” says Poppy Szkiler, Quiet Mark’s CEO and co-founder. “Two appliances could have the same decibel level, but one could have an annoying beeping sound, for instance – in which case, we’d exclude it.”
Opting for a Quiet Mark-certified appliance gives you confidence you’re making smart choices. You can easily check a product’s quiet before you buy it via the free-to-use online directory. This features a wide range of categories, including refrigeration, dishwashers, extractors and washing machines available from leading UK retailers like Argos, Currys and John Lewis. See the box (right) for more.
Finishes such as hard floors and large expanses of painted plasterboard will cause noise to reverberate. Acoustic flooring like luxury vinyl tiles (LVT) provides slightly better sound absorption than traditional tiles or wooden floors. It’s also more comfortable on the feet and reduces footfall sounds, as well as being washable and hardwearing.
Freestanding appliances are a practical choice, particularly if you think you might want to update the look of your kitchen in future, as they can be manoeuvred around as required. They are fully exposed, however, which means freestanding appliances will emit the most amount of sound.
Built-in versions tend to be quieter, as they enclose the main noise-generating components. They also provide a sleek and tidy finish, slotting away into kitchen cupboards or under worktops. Opt for soft-closing hinges on doors to avoid introducing other forms of noise into your kitchen.
Even the quietest kitchen appliances will produce a little noise. This will become more of a problem if the noise disrupts or travels through to other rooms within your home. The construction details you choose for your self build, renovation or home extension can help to mitigate this by controlling sound transmission.
You could incorporate extra layers of plasterboard and mineral wool insulation within internal walls around your kitchen or utility, for instance. Using acoustic studs, which are specifically designed to minimise noise transfer, will deliver best performance. If your house features an upsidedown layout with the kitchen upstairs, or you live in a flat, beefing up the floor’s acoustic performance is a great way to prevent sound transmission into the rooms below.
Build It understands how noise at home can increase stress levels, disturb sleep, reduce productivity and ultimately deeply impact how you enjoy your living environment. So, they have partnered with Quiet Mark, the international certification programme associated with the UK Noise Abatement Society charitable foundation, to create a series of guides to serene, low-noise living.
Through a combination of scientific testing, expert acoustic assessment and continuous data analysis, Quiet Mark is leading the way in making acoustics more accessible, certifying the quietest products and building materials available in the UK to help improve homeowners’ quality of life.