Tenants stay longer in apartments in which they are happy. As more and more people find themselves living in multi-family dwellings, a peaceful and quiet environment goes a long way towards making these tenants happy. Having happy tenants is just one reason to learn how to soundproof an apartment if you’re a building owner or landlord, and for apartment renters and owners themselves, less noise generally means a higher quality of life…
Noise issues in apartment buildings can be from unit to unit, from the outside, or from the building itself due to the process of functioning. Preemptive treatment of noise is an investment that will return repeatedly by reducing time-consuming noise-related complaints and cutting down tenant turnover.
Here’s how to soundproof an apartment, including several product recommendations depending on the type of apartment and noise issue:
Flooring underlays such as the Dura-Son for floors goes directly under a laminate or engineered hardwood flooring surface and significantly reduces floor-to-floor noise while also having the added aesthetic benefit of reducing minor floor imperfections. We also carry other flooring underlayments designed for all types of floors, from tile to to carpet to gypcrete, we have a solution for everything!
Underlayments only help with impact sound transfer (foot steps) for the most part, but if you want to soundproof your floor for airborne sounds (talking, TV, music, etc.) you will need a product called mass loaded vinyl (MLV). MLV can be added on top of any of our floor underlayments, or directly on your sub floor, if you are only concerned about airborne sounds. Doing a combination of a floor underlayment and MLV will help ensure your downstairs neighbours don’t hear anything at all!
A great option for reducing noise between shared walls and from outside walls is mass loaded vinyl or MLV. MLV can easily be attached to any wall with screws, staples or adhesive. For best performance, we always recommend using screws and only attach the MLV across the top of the wall and let it hang free for better sound blocking. You can either then finish the wall with another layer of drywall (5/8″ thick is recommended) or use our specialty MLV with different patterns printed on the face of the product – Think soundproof wallpaper! If you are more concerned with lower frequencies of sound, from say like a subwoofer or home theatre setup, we recommend going with our Green Glue soundproofing compound between the existing drywall and a new layer of drywall (5/8″ thick is recommended). Stay away from those pre-fabricated “soundproof drywalls” as they are quite expensive and won’t provide the results of Green Glue. These two sound treatments provide a 30-50% reduction of sound transmission through a wall.
If you require more than 50% soundproofing to a wall, you will need to do a minor renovation to the wall – where you remove the existing drywall, add in Rockwool Safe’n’Sound Insulation, install our sound isolation clips and a furring channel to the studs of the wall, then install 2 layers of drywall (5/8″ is recommended) with our Green Glue soundproofing compound (or MLV) between them. Always ensure you leave a 1/4″ gap around the perimeter of the wall to ensure the drywall is decoupled from the ceiling, adjacent walls and floor. Then you fill in that gap with our Green Glue soundproofing sealant. This will help ensure you reduce what we call “flanking noise” from going through, around, above or below that wall.
Sometimes there is a quick-fix for reducing noises between apartments that can work for building owners and tenants alike. A lack of effective caulking at the floor line behind the baseboards is one of the most common causes of sound transmission from one space to another and is easily checked by listening close to the baseboard. To see if this is the case, listen to see if noise is louder than at other parts of the wall. If it is, the easy and cheap solution is to simply remove the baseboard and seal the space between the gypsum board and the flooring with our Green Glue sealant.
For soundproofing your ceiling, see above for “walls” as all of these same soundproofing techniques apply for ceilings as well. Instead of soundproofing for electrical outlets and light switches (walls) we recommend ensuring all penetrations in your ceiling are soundproofed too. Such as pot lights, in ceiling speakers, smoke detectors, etc.
99 times out of 100, if you are hearing sounds from the outside of your condo or apartment, such as traffic, airplanes, general street noise, etc.it is your window(s) that is the culprit! Exterior walls are usually very soundproofed already and are 8-12″ thick, and very rarely require any soundproofing at all. We carry soundproof window inserts that use an acoustic laminated glass to provide a 75-90% reduction of outside sounds. The best part with these soundproof window inserts is that you don’t have to replace your existing window and ANYONE who knows how to operate a drill can install these windows. They can even be manufactured for sliding glass doors, such as ones for patios and decks.
Soundproof window inserts are not the most inexpensive product but they work and you don’t lose your line of sight. However if you are looking for a less expensive option, and don’t mind losing your view out your windows; we also have two other solutions for soundproofing windows as well. The first is what is called a “window plug” easily installed into a window sill to block out sound. Manufactured at our warehouse in Calgary. Made with acoustical fiberboard (PET), lined with mass loaded vinyl in 9 to 12 mm thickness. These are available in a variety of colours and styles to suite you decor. The other option is our soundproof curtains, which are easy to install as well – just make sure you use a curtain rod that can handle the weight!
One of the most common calls and emails we get at Hush City for condo and apartment dwellers is that they can hear people in the hallways outside of their unit. Typically the main door that leads to the hallway in a condo or apartment is a solid core door and it isn’t the door that is the issue. The first thing I learned when I got into the soundproofing industry is; you can soundproof a room with 100 layers of drywall and seal it all off properly, however if you leave that 1/4″ gap under the door, 60% of sound will still enter/leave that room! So we have automatic door sweeps made of neoprene rubber for that. Given that the sweep is automatic, it wont ruin your floor by rubbing it and it wont ruin the sweep either! The rubber seal pops down when the door is closed and pops up when the door gets opened.
The other potential issue with condo and apartment doors may be that the door jamb doesn’t have a good seal or may not have a seal at all. We offer neoprene rubber door jamb seals to remedy this issue, and once installed on a solid core door, along with a automatic door sweep, you will have your self a very sound controlled door. If you still feel your door itself could use more soundproofing, combination door panels are easy to install onto the face of the door to provide further soundproofing to the door itself! These are made of a combination of acoustic absorber and mass loaded vinyl to provide a combination of sound absorbing and sound blocking.
If you are wondering how to soundproof an apartment from its own mechanical noises, using pipe and duct lag will provide sound absorption and thermal insulation around all pipes and ductwork. Another option is to spray or brush on liquid damping paste onto pipes and ducts (or any metal surface you hear vibrations from) which can also make your building more energy efficient by cutting down on heat loss and/or gain. If you can hear your neighbours talking or music through the pipes or ducts, we have in-line duct silencers for that!
You may be experiencing a noisy elevator, garbage chute or underground parking garage door opener as well. We have solutions for all of these, but these are best left to the condo board or owner(s) of the condo or apartment building to deal with. In these situations you can always have your condo board or building owner contact Hush City Soundproofing for the resolutions.
These are just a few of the many ways we at Hush City Soundproofing can help you reduce noise issues in an apartment building. Look through our many blogs for more helpful articles and be sure to either check out our blog entitled “Soundproofing Myths – Do’s & Don’ts for DIY Soundproofing” or contact Hush City Soundproofing before you start your own soundproofing project.