Taming noise complaints in Toronto condominiums

Condominium noise complaints

New condominiums are sprouting all over Toronto like giant mushrooms. With “intensification” of residences, more and more people live in close proximity to each other, in many cases literally on top of each other. This creates many noise issues and conflicts among neighbors.

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These problems are eloquently described in a recent Toronto Life article in October 2016 issue.

Condominium noise complaints

In this blog I will touch on problems with noise and noise complaints. Quoting from the Toronto Life article written by Maryam Sanati:

“To make matters worse, it’s extremely difficult for architects and builders to ensure quiet. Impact sounds from heavy footsteps and the thud-thud of a basketball transfer through the partitions between units. Airborne sounds—voices or music or barking dogs—are more reverberant in spaces made of concrete and glass. Both types of sound can result in flanking noise, which transmits through the fabric of a building, over and in between spaces like electrical sockets, vents and floor gaps."

"In my building, with its concrete partitions and high-quality finishes, I never hear noise from other units. Not every condo follows such exacting standards. I spoke to one Toronto architect who told me that the minimum requirements of the Ontario Building Code have not been high enough to keep noise from spilling from one unit into the next (although both the federal and provincial codes are in the process of updating their sound transmission regulations). Much of the flanking noise that people hear in condo buildings comes from “built-up assembly”—barriers that are made of infill components, like steel studs, drywall and insulation. “These materials meet the building code,” he says. “But the way they’re put together can easily let noise through.” If the walls aren’t sealed properly, sound will always find the path of least resistance.”

Condominium noise complaints and building code

National Building Code prior to 2010 did not have any requirements for soundproofing. Many buildings designed prior to that year are particularly prone to noise. Even the sound attenuation requirements between residencies imposed in the new National Building Code are not particularly stringent and are not adequate in many situations. More about this issue is covered in my other blog article.

More noise complaints and increased awareness about condominium noise among condo owners drive demand for soundproofing consulting services. Despite generally held misconception, most builders and renovation contractors are not equipped to deal adequately with prevention or remediation of noise problems. Even relatively basic problem, like soundproofing a wall, requires an insight into physics of noise propagation in buildings, and knowledge of adequate remediation techniques.

A New York Times article from Dec 2015 describes some difficult noise issues that are being addressed by soundproofing experts, often at very substantial cost to condo owners. I highly recommend that any condominium owner that is bothered by noise read this article before hiring anyone to deal with his situation.

I briefly describe some of the cases that I was asked to investigate recently.

Noise through party wall in a bedroom

This noise issue was resolved by building another wall parallel to the existing partition, using specialized soundproofing assembly. There was an air duct running along the top of the partition, it also had to be adequately treated.

Banging building entrance door

Noisy door slams shut every time someone enters, leading to noise complaints. Banging is heard in an adjacent apartment. It is not feasible to resolve this problem by soundproofing an individual apartment. Condo management had to repair the door closer and reinstall the door in a custom designed resilient frame.

Traffic noise through windows

This owner's condo is located on second floor, right above a busy downtown intersection. The traffic noise heard in the apartment was unbearable. The noise issue was resolved by installing custom build glazing pane on the inside of the existing floor to ceiling windows and balcony door. The improvement in noise reduction was remarkable

Mechanical noise

A condo owner purchased a spacious condo unit that is located right over the building’s mechanical room. He can hear constant hum and vibration in his apartment. Most effective way of addressing this problem is to reduce the noise at source, in the mechanical room. Based on consultant’s recommendations, the owner is forcing the condominium board to resolve the problem.

As you can see, there is a variety of condominium noise issues that need to be specifically addressed. There is no cookie cutter solution to any individual problem.

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About the Author Ivan Koval

The author is the publisher of the Soundproofing.Expert website. He is a soundproofing and building acoustics consultant working in Toronto and GTA, Ontario, Canada. Telephone (416) 471-2130

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