Ask Alice: About sound-insulation, green roofs and conservatory planters

Do you have an interiors dilemma? Consult our resident specialist
Click to follow
The Independent Online

Q. I have recently moved into an old house (dating from 1710) and I find that everything upstairs can be heard downstairs. The floor/ceiling gap is about four inches and the ceiling is plastered hardboard infill between narrow crossbeams, so it's not very substantial. Do you have any suggestions for an effective but lightweight sound-insulation material that can be laid between the floorboards and the hardboard infill?
Julia Wassall, by e-mail

A. New soundproofing products, made from materials such as synthetic rubber, utilise fabulous things like nano-vacuum technology. This results in incredibly effective acoustic membranes little more than 1mm thick, which are easy to cut and suitable for tricky spaces. The most effective solution for your problem, in my opinion, would probably be an acoustic quilt - a layer of acoustic membrane sandwiched between two layers of mineral wool. This is available in 5m rolls, and costs about £25 per sqm. If lifting the floorboards is too daunting, though, consider laying a soundproof mat (£6 per sqm) below a layer of Quietfloor (£20 per sqm), and finish with a carpet above. This combination will deal with both impact and airborne noise and is available from Custom Audio Designs (, 01730 269572).

Q. I am about to undertake repairs to the roof of my large garden shed and am considering having a "green" roof. The roof currently slopes down from a central apex and measures 15 by 10 feet. Can you tell me whether this type of roof would be feasible and, if so, where should I go for more information and advice?
S Byam, East Dulwich.

A. Green roofs are a great idea; they were pioneered in Germany and have yet to take off significantly here. Evergreen Roof Gardens (; 01903 600122) can advise you on all aspects of establishing your project successfully and supply you with ready-planted mats of sedum, grass or moss and moisture-retention membranes for easy installation directly on to your roof. They can also help you with maintenance.

Q. I'm looking for a long, tall planter for lilies in my conservatory. My tastes are quite minimalist, so I don't want anything too fussy. Any suggestions?
Marcella Murphy, Kensal Green, London NW10

A. The Conran Shop has just brought out the witty Boot Planter, a quirky yet functional piece of pottery in simple white porcelain. It is shaped like a Wellington boot and will look suitably minimal in your conservatory. It was designed by Maxim Velcovsky and can be used as a vase, sculpture or a planter - and its tall shape makes it ideal to grow or display lilies. Bear in mind that the boot isn't frost-proof, so make sure it isn't left outdoors in winter (£99 at The Conran Shop;; 0207-589 7401).