I have recently received a call from a client looking for solution to her problem. She lives in a condo apartment and her neighbour is complaining about piano playing in her apartment. She already did some soundproofing, but complaints continue.
This situation with piano playing complaints is common, but not an easy one to solve. The problem is that the client’s neighbour is complaining and the Condo Board of Directors is obligated to deal with her complaints.
How is objectionable noise defined:
As per City of Toronto bylaw different types of noises are defined in a new Toronto Municipal Code Chapter 591 enacted in September 2019. The defined noise types have specific maximum level that are permitted under the bylaw. Piano playing is not one of the defined noise types, it may therefore fall under the paragraph of "unreasonable and persistent noise". This paragraph of the bylaw states "No person shall make, cause or permit noise, at any time, that is unreasonable noise and persistent noise".
As you can see, the bylaw covers any noise at any time (not only after 11 pm as some tenants assume). Furthermore “shall make, cause or permit noise” is very wide statement that covers almost anything a neighbour can hear. The onus is on the person that generates the noise to satisfy the complainant. No wonder that there is lot of litigation about noise between neighbours.
If you play piano, additional soundproofing in your apartment would be expensive and may not resolve the problem with piano playing complaints. Perfect soundproofing in a typical apartment is virtually impossible and the complaints may continue.
The piano playing condo owner asked me to test the soundproofing to show that it is adequate. However, testing is fairly expensive and not always useful. The test will probably find the transmission loss value to be in the range of STC 45 to 55. In buildings built prior to 2012 there is no requirement for STC level. In newer buildings, it is minimum STC 50. However, STC 50 does not guarantee that there will be no complaint. You may want to talk to Toronto bylaw officer about your situation, or get a legal advice before spending money on testing.
So if you play piano, what can you do?
You may experience small improvement in noise transfer to adjacent apartments, if you place vibration absorbing pads under your piano legs. You can get the pads for example in Home Depot. There are also specialized pads for piano available. However, it is unlikely to be sufficient to stop the complaints.
To eliminate the noise complaints, I suggest purchasing an electronic piano and use headphones for practice. For teacher and student situation, two headphones can be used. This will be significantly cheaper than soundproofing and guaranteed to be effective. Here is an example of a digital piano, but other piano models are available:
If you still feel that testing of sound transmission loss of your party wall would be useful, contact the author of this article.
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