Condo Strategies for dealing with Noise Complaints

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Noise disputes among condo owners can be one of the most troublesome problems for Board of Directors and Property Managers.  Not only can they be expensive to resolve, they cause unrest and bad feelings.  However, if the BOD’s acts quickly and assertively, it may be able to improve the current situation and keep the corporation out of court.

Noise issues often involve an owner’s complaint of noise coming from the unit above.  This is typically due to improperly installed flooring, or lack of a proper sound control product installed underneath the floor.  It’s typical to see the same set of facts repeatedly.  A new unit owner decides to replace the existing flooring and opted for installing hardwood or laminate flooring.  The typical complaints are owners can hear furniture moving, footsteps, kids running or objects dropping.  Once the manager is aware of the noise problem, is when a complaint is made by the owner of the unit below to the owner of the unit above.

Far to often, flooring contractors and owners will go out and purchase an inexpensive product claiming to have a rating of IIC 70 or higher.  Upon quick review its easily determined these products are in fact bogus and nowhere near the advertised sound rating.  Simply put, these products were all tested with a concrete slab along with a built ceiling assembly or suspended ceiling attached to it.

FACT:  99.9% of Condominiums in the GTA do not have suspended ceiling’s, they are typically built of 8” concrete slabs alone.  By adding a ceiling during testing (often filled with insulation) dramatically increases the impact sound rating of the product.  Realistically these products barely meet a rating of IIC 55, which is a far cry from the advertised IIC 70 considered to be virtually soundproof by todays standards.

Its estimated decision makers of properties approve over 20, 000,000 square feet of these bogus products every year.  Is there really any question to why noise complaints are skyrocketing?

“Listen, if you didn’t know you were being scammed, you’re too dumb to keep this job.  If you did know you were in on it.  Either way, you’re out!”
~ Sam (Ace) Rothstein, Casino

Here are a few provisions you may want to have added to your property’s provisions.

The first one prohibits hard-surface floors unless approved by the property manager and board of directors.  Any change must provide sound insulation of RHINO Sound Control FIIC 70(Field Tested over 8” Concrete Slab, without a ceiling assembly)

1. Floor Coverings
No change in the floor covering materials as originally installed in the units shall be permitted except with the consent of the property management and board of directors.  To reduce sound transmission between units, all units shall have a minimum sound control product installed under the wood or laminate floor RHINO Sound Control FIIC 70.

2. Sound Transmission
No unit shall be altered in any manner that would increase sound transmission to any adjoining or other Unit, including, but not limited to, the replacement or modification of any flooring or floor covering or the penetration of any wall, floor or ceiling that increases sound transmission to any other Unit.

3. Floors
All changes to floors separating Units (Hardwood, laminate, tile and stone) must provide FIIC 70 sound control properties for impact sound insulation.  In addition, the product’s floor/ ceiling assemblies must satisfy the sound control requirements as per the properties building structure. i.e. Only 8” concrete slab.

The impact sound insulation rating of the floor ceiling assemblies after insulation must be Field Impact Insulation Class RHINO Sound Control FIIC 70 or higher.

Setting conditions of approval of a flooring change.

The corporation through property management should impose conditions on this approval.  For example, it could require the owner replacing the floor covering provide evidence of RHINO Sound Control FIIC 70 by means of specification sheet and testing documents.  Furthermore, proof of purchase in the form of an invoice is often requested by the PM prior to final approval is provided.

Where the “standard” is met, but noise could still be objectionable, the board should reserve the right to require owners to use area rugs or runners to mitigate the sound transmission.

The fact is, noise issues are subjective and no two owners will perceive them alike.

Do you have a noise complaint story to share? Let us know in the comments below, and you could get 10% off your next RHINO Sound Control order!

20 thoughts on “Condo Strategies for dealing with Noise Complaints”

  1. My condominium corporation is insisting that I put Rhino FIIC70 underlayment below the laminate flooring. This is the only underlayment allowed. Do you guarantee that this indeed is the best underlayment available in Canada?

    1. The Floor Studio

      Thank you for reaching out to us about your condominium corporation’s requirements for underlayment for your laminate flooring. As acoustic specialists with 27 years of experience in the industry, we can confidently say that RHINO sound control underlayment is one of the best options available in Canada.

      RHINO sound control underlayment is a high-quality, acoustic underlayment that provides excellent soundproofing and noise reduction properties. This underlayment is specifically designed to reduce the transmission of impact noise, which is important for multi-family buildings like condominiums.

      Your situation is not unique to your building, in fact, RHINO sound control underlayment is mandated in over 2,500 condominiums. The results have been consistently positive, with 100% customer satisfaction and helps bring condominium communities together.

      Furthermore, RHINO sound control underlayment has been field tested over an 8″ concrete slab with no suspended ceiling and certified by the FloorScore® Indoor Air Quality Certification program, ensuring that it meets strict indoor air quality standards.

  2. Area rugs required by the board is not even a practical solution. How can you possibly tell someone to put area rugs in?

    That is a ridiculous suggestion.

    1. We could not agree more! Who would like to spend several thousand dollars on a beautiful floor only to cover 80% of it with area rugs, not us! However, we can assure you this “Not Withstanding Clause” or “Waiver” or “Limitations Clause” is found in tens of thousands of written HOA, Strata and Condo Rules. And its enforced! If you think area rugs are ridiculous, many of buildings will go as far to deny any conversion from carpet to hard surfaces. Seems excessive, but some properties are really tired of all the noise complaints and feel every owner has the right to peaceful enjoyment of their unit. (Its actually the Law in most States and Provinces)

  3. I have lived in my complex for over a year now. The first year I never heard a single noise from my upstairs neighbors. I mean nothing. New neighbors moved in and were allowed to tear out the carpets in the bedrooms and also installed hardwood laminate flooring. Now I can hear almost everything they do. I was hearing loud banging noises all the time. I couldn’t sleep. I couldn’t work. I was going crazy. I complained to the HOA and submitted a noise complaint which has helped, but I have a feeling something is incorrect about the floors.

    The HOA requires the following ratings:
    STC Classification: ASTM E90-04, 73 db
    IIC Classification: ASTM E492-04, 72 db

    By my understanding that should mean I should not be hearing anything. I have never lived in a louder place in my life and I’ve been living in apartments and condos for 16 years. I am experiencing this exact thing: The typical complaints are owners can hear furniture moving, footsteps, kids running or objects dropping.

    1. This is a very common scenario in buildings, especially wood construction. It’s one of the most difficult issues to rectify, even with the best acoustic underlayment’s. Check your HOA/ Condo documents as sometimes there will be a clause which often mentions the unit emitting noise must take steps to reduce the noise. That sometimes means installing underpad and area rugs in 60%-80% of the unit. Seems excessive, but thousands of buildings have this rule in place and they enforce it too.

      If you are aware of your buildings floor/ ceiling construction assembly and have the information on the acoustic underlayment and test report, we provide a review service for a nominal fee – $250 CAD . Feel free to reach out to us

      Next, Hiring an acoustic consultant might be the next best option. It would determine if the sound transmission is within State / Provincial laws.

  4. Can you please advise if there is a code for Condominium flooring underlay? Our condos only have wood between the floors, no concrete.
    Our neighbours recently put in laminate flooring and we can hear the dog walking, them walking etc.
    If there is codes, can I request to see the quality of underlay used. If it is not to code, do they have to replace it to bring it up to code.
    We are looking to do our floors, but as we are on the bottom floor, we have concrete base. What product would you recommend from your company? We are 1300 square feet.

    1. The Floor Studio

      Hello Dave, thank you for your question. Each condo corporation in Canada will have their own rules pertaining to acoustic membranes. We recommend getting in touch with your condo board or property management company to request the condo rules for your specific property.

  5. Hi …I live in 15 story condo complex built in the early 80 ‘s .Building is in excellent shape and well maintained .
    I have a person five floors down from me who is hearing a knocking sound like two pipes knocking .We have checked on the construction log and there are no pipes in that area .we have asked near by tenants if they have any explanation to ths noise and nothing positive .We have checked and can conclude the following :
    -noise is heard intermittance in the evening between 11 PM to 1:00AM .
    -noise is not caused by humans as none week end all of the surrounding condos were empty .
    We believe it is a mechanical and have been able to record the noise .
    Any idea where we can look for a solution .
    His condo was remodeled (kitchen) a while back .. but this noise has been bothering him for at least two years .
    Any idea where we can look next ?

    1. Hello, Although our focus is acoustic flooring underlayment’s, we do receive this type of noise issue regularly. Whether its pipes, mechanical equipment, elevators, garbage disposal, weights dropping or weird sounds of marbles in the walls or ceilings. A lot of factors come into play, for example, is the building wood or concrete construction? Are the floor/ ceiling walls insulated? Is the noise within the tolerance of the Building Code in your Province? And many many more……

      Perhaps its time to approach the condo (HOA) board to commission an independent acoustic review. In Ontario and Quebec we have several a reputable option that is typically 30% less than most consultants. Keep in mind reviews are a part of the process and do not necessarily resolve the matter immediately, these things can take time, but its a step in the right direction.

  6. I have been a director of 2 condominiums for 35 years going back to 1979. Recently I reached out to Steve Vasconcelos to draft a report for our condominium, stating which were suitable products and which were unsuitable products for placing under new hardwood floors, so that the residents of the unit below would not be subjected to a lot of new and perhaps unbearable noise. This problem of course is relatively new in the last 20 years or so, because before that time most flooring in condos was covered by carpeting. I have dealt with many experts over the years. No one was better to work with than Steve. He was incredibly co-operative and produced an excellent report for our services. Without hesitation, I would recommend anyone else using him.

    Donald G. McLean Q.C.

  7. Stan, Board President

    Recently TSCC 1663 had the opportunity and pleasure to work with The Floor Studio at our property.
    The Floor Studio not only provided us with a variety of options, they also took the time to listen to our concerns and provided us with a more durable flooring system that would benefit the Corporation and residents much more compared to what was previously installed.

    The Floor Studio looked after this entire process from start to finish. I am pleased to say that The Floor Studio surpassed all our expectation.s They delivered more than what they promised and guaranteed.

    I am more then happy to recommend The Floor Studio for any flooring needs you may have.

    Stan, Board President

    1. The Floor Studio

      Thank you very much for the generous review. It was a pleasure to meet, discuss and find a solution for your noise complaint issue’s.

      The Floor Studio Team

  8. Christian Property Manager

    One of my concerns as a condominium manager is the soundproofing for various flooring options. Approximately 10 years ago, I had the chance of meeting Steve from the floor studio who has educated me on various soundproofing products in the market today. In fact, we has presented at our manager meeting (approximately 160) on sound proofing products.

    One of the best, if not the best product currently available for condominium owners is the RHINO with an FIIC 70. According to my experience and knowledge , many condominiums have adopted this product as their benchmark for sound control. The floor studio has always been helpful and has provided excellent customer service and professionalism to our condominium owners.

    It is without hesitaton that I would vouch for Steve as an honest and dedicated entrepreneur.

    1. The Floor Studio

      Thank you for that great review. It takes individuals and decision makers like yourself to lend an ear to the systemic problem facing managers and their board’s when it comes to noise complaints arising from people walking, moving furniture or dropping items.

      It’s a fact the vast majority (99%) of underlays, are just that, underlays! They offer virtually no sound attenuation properties and are usually well below the recommended building code of IIC 55 when it comes to impact sound transfer.

      Thank you for giving me the opportunity

  9. We are proactive about noise complaints and sound management, we know if we don’t recommend a good product noise complaints will increase. When we reached out to the The Floor Studio Inc., they recommended RHINO Sound Control FIIC 69, we took a huge leap forward knowing it has been field tested by an accredited independent organization without a suspended ceiling.

    In total, since we started our RHINO program in 2016, over 50,000 square feet has been installed in our property with zero noise complaints.

    Susan, Property Manager, RCM
    Toronto, Ontario

    1. The Floor Studio

      Hi Susan, It’s great to hear you are having a positive experience with RHINO Sound Control. In addition to its sound control properties RHINO Sound Control also boasts the following features and benefits;
      • Greatly reduces impact sound
      • Guaranteed to work with radiant heated floors
      • Does not collapse over time therefore retains its acoustical value
      • Conceals minor subfloor irregularities
      • Resists mold, mildew and fungus growth
      • Enhances underfoot comfort
      • Lays flat and does not move during installation

  10. Thanks for the great information, very helpful. I have been installing underlay products claiming to be IIC 70 – 78 in all of my condo projects. I am dealing with 3 noise complaint problems 1 year after we completed the project’s and now the management, board of directors and lawyers are involved. We provided a sample of the underlay to the management office prior to installation and they approved it. The building requires a rating of IIC 72 to be installed under flooring. Until now, I was not aware these products were tested with ceiling assemblies, because in the buildings we installed flooring, they do not have ceiling assemblies, but only 8″ concrete slabs. What should I do and where does that leave me?

    1. Hi Rui, Thanks for your comment and you are not alone in this predicament. I can not speak to the particulars of your case, but we have seen an unprecedented increase in noise complaints and lawsuits for the same reason over and over again. These bogus products are the route cause in conjunction with a lack of education from contractors, property managers and board of directors. Moving forward I would recommend staying away from products claiming IIC 70 or higher that were tested with ceiling assemblies for your condo projects. They are OK for basement flooring projects in a home, used as underlays, but should not be considered sound attenuation products in condo’s – they offer virtually no sound control whatsoever.
      We do sell a variety of sound attenuation products, feel free to contact us for your next project

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