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Reducing noise in your rental apartment


Reducing noise in your rental apartment

Category Rental Rights

Noise control in apartment buildings has a significant bearing on your privacy and well-being.

Apartment noise results from three sources:

  • Neighbours: telephones, music, voices, activities and appliance.
  • Building services: refuse chutes, elevators, plumbing, mechanical and electrical.
  • Exterior noises: traffic and construction activity.


Complaints about loud music and voices, telephone and television noise, doors slamming, garage openers clattering, water pipes banging and ventilation fans humming, are common in multi-unit residential buildings. The sound of aircraft, traffic, construction, tree pruning and lawn cutting can be an annoyance in almost any place we call home. Humans have learned to accept a certain amount of noise as an inevitable consequence of urban living. Yet, there are limits to the noise you should tolerate, and ways to improve the acoustic privacy in your apartment.

Acceptable levels of noise depend on several factors: how well the building was constructed, the loudness of the sound, your tolerance for noise and the time of day. For example, some noise from your neighbours may be tolerable while you are watching television, but would be objectionable at bedtime. Your perception is influenced by the sound frequency.

A low-pitched sound is harder to control in a building than a high-pitched sound. This is why the thumping bass sound from a neighbour’s stereo can be annoying. The impact noise of a dropped object, slammed door or footsteps on a stair can also be irritating, and is a common cause for complaint in multi-unit residential buildings.

This article provides basic information about the behaviour of sound and noise, and suggests ways to improve the peace and tranquillity in your apartment. It includes a discussion of improvements you can make yourself and others that can be made with the help of your building management.

Reducing noise from apartment rental building services

Mechanical devices, such as elevators, refuse chutes, garage door openers and air conditioning units are sources of noise and vibrations, and should be maintained and operated in a proper manner. Your building management may consider the following strategies to reduce noise from the high-frequency whine of motors and fans, the low frequency hum of transformers, the rumble of moving equipment and the banging of objects dropping down chutes:

•  Improve the methods used to isolate mechanical devices from the building structure. Ensure that motors, such as garage door systems, compressors and fans are mounted on springs or resilient pads to reduce the transfer of vibrations through the building.
•  Locate annoying noise sources away from building occupants. Air conditioning compressors may be placed on flat roofs or on the ground, away from operable windows.
•  If it is impractical to eliminate an annoying source of noise, it may be possible to install a timer that shuts off the machine during sensitive periods of the day.
•   Restrict the hours during the day or week that garbage chutes, compactors, freight elevators and generators may be used.
•  Upgrade bathroom and kitchen fans to quieter models.
•  Consult an acoustic expert to prepare a comprehensive plan for noise management.

A common way for airborne sound to come into your living area is through openings and gaps, such as the holes around electrical outlets and pipes. Consider the following actions to reduce sound entry:

•  Place gaskets behind electrical outlet cover plates. These are sold in hardware stores to protect against drafts on exterior walls.
•  Electrical switches and outlets in common walls should be installed offset from those on the other side of the partition to reduce sound transmission. If this isn’t the case, your building management may agree to have some outlets and switches moved, or installed in sealed electrical boxes. Electrical work should be performed by a licensed electrician.

Noise may also move freely through rigid materials, such as plumbing, as well as wall and floor framing that extend between apartments. Your building management may undertake the following repairs:

•  Install toilets on resilient gaskets to reduce the transmission of structure-borne noise.
•  Ensure that piping is isolated from solid framing with flexible sleeves and cushions.
•  Install pressure-relief piping to eliminate water hammer.

Exterior noise

If noise from outside the building happens on a regular basis, consider the following:
•  Municipal bylaws limit the type of noise and restrict the times of day when certain activities can take place. Avoid confrontation and, if necessary, contact bylaw officers who can advise you on noise regulations.
•  Traffic noise can be reduced if the municipality agrees to create a reduced speed zone or to install speed bumps on offending roads.
•  Physical changes to the site can discourage loitering. For example, lighting and security patrolling can discourage after-hours activities that generate noise.
Minor changes may improve sound performance:
 •  Furnishings and upholstery: Heavy upholstery and draperies absorb sound, which explains why furnished rooms are quieter and less likely to echo than empty rooms. Adding more and heavier fabrics and upholstery may lead to some noise reduction.
•  Wall-floor junctions may have gaps that allow sound to move through the floor and wall.

Careful caulking of the joint under the baseboard may reduce airborne sound transmission.
Noise control can be simple when occupants are willing to work together to implement a solution. When good-will is lacking, regulations may be needed to ensure that neighbours make less noise. You may reduce the noise in your apartment by implementing some of the measures in this article.

Common sense, concern and co-operation can go a long way towards improving acoustic privacy in multi-family dwellings.

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Published 09 Dec 2014 / Views -
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