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Are we too idealistic for our own good?

I received a call a few months ago for a soundproofed booth in someone's house.

All well and good, we do them but normally they are for a voiceover booth within a soundproofed room.

The man who called was working from home and only required a 30 db sound reduction and only the booth. It was to be inside his house and he was a fair distance away from any neighbours so it was quite apparent he did not need mega suppression, not like we have to provide for drummers down the bottom of a short garden in central London.

So I asked him what he had now and he just had a really badly made DIY version, made with the wrong materials, (copious acoustic rockwool sandwiched between some plywood and then closed off with a standard internal wooden door).

Now that I know would have a sound suppression of diddly squat, so I told him what he needed to do to get it up to the low spec he required.

He asked me why was I being so open and doing myself out of a job.

Why, because he did not need a proper job I said. "You have done it so badly from what materials you have described, and the techniques employed, that very little has to be done in order to make it suitable for your purposes, as improving it is not a very onerous task as all, and this is what to do....."

He thanked me profusely for the information and we never heard from him again.

Now I know anyone else would have given him a quote for a soundproofed booth, and got on with it, however, his needs were so mild, I could not bring myself to do it, he just did not need a "proper job".


Another time I saw a drummer who wanted a very large 50db spec garden studio.

I went to do a survey and told him the price per sq metre for the different specs on a garden soundproofed room, and he really wanted the 50 db spec, this is normal anyway for drummers.

A year later he rang again and told us he wanted to go forward with it so he replied to our spec questions and details of design when asked and it worked out at over 90k plus vat.

I thought I had better check before I did too much work as often people sometimes never do a rough calculation, most do, but then are horrified at the price quoted, even though we are so upfront with the costs in advance, it is all there on the prices page.

But this guy was switched on and so when I called he said, that this was indeed the sort of price he was expecting.

So anyone else at this stage would have written back with the price of the quote as anticipated, 90 odd k plus vat and got on with it

Something did not feel right though. 

This potential customer lived in a huge house with a huge garden and his neighbours consisted of a commercial building 80 metres away and a neighbour with a house the same size as his, about 50 metres away, if not more.

50 db would be overkill I realised. The 40 db spec does not have the front wall including doors and windows, built twice, one behind the other, so the sound escape with a single thickness front wall, would be very predominantly through the front wall. Yet this faced his own house, as typically his studio was to be built at the bottom of the garden, so the person being in receipt of the worst of any escaping noise, would be himself, but he was the drummer making the noise!

So I rang back and had to tell him, he did not need 50 db in his circumstances, 40 db would be plenty. (Mind you, to be frank, I ought to have realised it from the outset but I think I was overawed with the size of this 50db job and cost at the time).

Now he was a little bit concerned that 40 db may not turn out to have been enough. I knew it would be enough, so I told him if it turned out after all, that if we did need to come back and upgrade it to a 50db retrospectively, we would just charge for the difference between the two specs.

To have done it this way would however have cost us a packet as all the plastering and finishing off of the first building would have to be scrapped and repeated, and so would a lot of other work as as this would be the largest one we had ever done, it was a biggie, our costs would be huge too.

Once I reassured him, he went for it. Why not anyway as it meant if I was right, he would save a tad over 20k plus vat, and if I was wrong, then he would only have to pay the price he was expecting to pay in the first place.

So we built it to the 40db spec as I had suggested.

We finished it and he paid up and all seemed ok.

After a few weeks. with baited breath, I rang him and asked how it was working out, he told me he was elated, and thanks so much he said for saving me that 20k, we just did not need 50 db here.

Good job and reason to be chuffed with myself I thought, but if it had gone wrong we would have lost a packet.

But are we not supposed to know what we are doing anyway? I think so.

Author: David Fowler

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