Walls are the only separation between you and your neighbors when you live in a densely-populated area, and privacy sometimes goes out the window. People hear their next-door neighbors talking, footsteps from above or even music blaring through the walls. Sound transmission between units is one of the biggest complaints among condo dwellers. Noise can also come from ceilings, doors and windows, so living in a condo can take some getting used to.
“One of the major problems is people upstairs, which is footsteps. That is a major issue because these condos nowadays, there’s really nothing there to block any sounds,” says Joseph Drago, owner of New England Soundproofing located in Waltham, Massachusetts. “Even a few years ago, what they used to do is just put in some extra insulation. The problem with that is insulation only muffles airborne sound, but footsteps, subwoofers, it doesn’t get rid of the vibrations.”
Many newer buildings use concrete structures to incorporate more floors and units. Concrete may be more durable, but sound-wise, it can pose a challenge. “One of the biggest misconceptions is that if you have a condominium with a concrete slab then there won’t be any issues of sound transfer, and that’s completely untrue, it’s just a different type of sound,” says Steve Haas, president of SH Acoustics in Milford, Connecticut. “In a frame construction when you’re dealing with something not as stiff, the sound you’re going to hear is really a thud, the low frequency sound, especially heavy walkers can really be heard below. Whereas in a concrete, there is much less of that thud, and it’s more clickety-clack from heels and vibrations that’s just going to resonate through concrete.”
While some noise in shared living spaces is normal, if you can clearly hear your neighbors’ conversations or TV through your walls or ceiling, you have a noise problem. If you’re willing to make the financial investment, there are innovative noise reduction solutions that can turn an older condo unit into a sanctuary of peace and quiet.
“Condos are a major issue. Eighty percent of my phone calls are for condos. A lot of times now they have that open effect, open dining room, living room, kitchen. And what happens is the sound will travel; it just goes crazy echoing in that room and it puts more pressure on the floor, the ceiling and the walls, and people next door or downstairs can hear it,” says Drago.