Spray away apart­ment noise

Winnipeg Free Press - Section G - - HOMES - ARI MARANTZ

QUES­TION: I own a triplex in an older part of town that is di­vided into three apart­ments, one on each floor. The build­ing is a rock-solid 1950s-era wood frame con­struc­tion, with a brick ex­te­rior, and is in ex­cel­lent shape in al­most ev­ery as­pect. The prob­lem is there is some noise leak­age be­tween the main and sec­ond­floor apart­ments. Al­though not se­vere, the re­cent ten­ants have asked if some­thing could be done. The main-floor ten­ants don’t like the foot­steps above, while the top floor ten­ants don’t like hear­ing the muf­fled TV and voices be­low.

The floor con­sists of twoby-10 joists with three-quar­ter-inch ply­wood un­der­lay and hard­wood on the top floor with a sin­gle layer of dry­wall on the ceil­ing be­low. There is a lit­tle duct­work for the forced air fur­nace weav­ing its way be­tween a cou­ple of the joists. I am will­ing to do a ma­jor over­haul on the ceil­ing, in­clud­ing rip­ping the dry­wall out if nec­es­sary, but was won­der­ing if you had any sug­ges­tions on how best to sound­proof that space.

I was think­ing of first rip­ping out the dry­wall ceil­ings and then plac­ing batt-type sound in­su­la­tion be­tween all the joists, re­plac­ing the dry­wall and adding a sec­ond layer of dry­wall with one-by-three strap­ping as a spacer.

Don Christie, Ot­tawa

AN­SWER: Noise trans­fer­ring through floors of multi-fam­ily dwellings is a com­mon com­plaint of ten­ants or home­own­ers, par­tic­u­larly wood frame build­ings like your triplex. You may never be able to stop all noise trans­fer be­tween the suites, but you are on the right track with your idea of in­creas­ing the in­su­la­tion be­tween the floors to pre­vent sound trans­fer. I will com­ment on your sug­gested method of in­su­la­tion and pro­vide a few more sug­ges­tions for im­prov­ing the sit­u­a­tion.

There are two main items to keep in mind when at­tempt­ing to stop sound from trans­fer­ring be­tween the suites in your rental home. You have un­know­ingly iden­ti­fied both of these in your ques­tion.

First, you will have to try to use in­su­la­tion to re­duce noise trans­fer by de­flect­ing or ab­sorb­ing the sound waves, much in the same way air is trapped by the in­su­la­tion. Batt in­su­la­tion, whether fi­bre­glass or min­eral fi­bre, is usu­ally the most cost­ef­fec­tive type for this pur­pose, but may not be the most prac­ti­cal in your sit­u­a­tion.

If you fill the en­tire cav­i­ties be­tween the floor joists with these batts, there will be a con­sid­er­able amount of air space in this ma­te­rial to pre­vent much of the sound trans­fer from items like voices or elec­tronic equip­ment. Un­for­tu­nately, this may re­quire con­sid­er­able work in re­mov­ing the en­tire ceil­ing on the main floor, which may not be fully nec­es­sary.

The other item to con­sider is noise trans­fer through vi­bra­tion or solid ma­te­rial. This is likely the cause of most of the com­plaints from the ten­ants in the lower suite. The com­ment about foot­steps be­ing heard is due to vi­bra­tion or floor move­ment in the joists or other com­po­nents of the floor above. Since there is con­tin­u­ous solid ma­te­rial be­tween the top of the hard­wood floor through to the dry­wall be­low, sounds may trans­fer through this area be­tween the suites. In­su­lat­ing be­tween the joists may do lit­tle to pre­vent that type of sound trans­fer.

Be­cause of the pre­vi­ous con­cern, there may be an eas­ier way to stop the sound trans­fer be­tween dif­fer­ent floors with­out re­mov­ing all the ceil­ings. If you have suf­fi­cient height be­tween the floor and ceil­ing on the main level of your triplex, you may be able to drop the ex­ist­ing ceil­ing and in­stall sound­proof­ing ma­te­rial with­out dis­turb­ing the old ceil­ings. This may be ac­com­plished with metal T-bar ceil­ings, com­mon in base­ments and com­mer­cial build­ings.

This type of ceil­ing is nor­mally in­stalled sev­eral cen­time­tres be­low the joists above, which will al­low for in­stal­la­tion of con­tin­u­ous batt in­su­la­tion with­out di­rect ceil­ing con­nec­tion to the floor sys­tem above. Also, acous­ti­cal ceil­ing tiles may be pur­chased that are de­signed to fur­ther deaden the sound above and be­low this area.

If there is not suf­fi­cient height to in­stall a drop ceil­ing, se­cur­ing a thin layer of rigid in­su­la­tion over the ex­ist­ing dry­wall, fol­lowed by a new layer of dry­wall, may be con­sid­er­ably eas­ier than do­ing it your sug­gested way. This will also bridge the en­tire floor sys­tem, in­clud­ing the bot­tom of the joists, pre­vent­ing some vi­bra­tion noise as well as that trans­fer­ring through the hol­low floor sys­tem. This will only re­quire a loss of a few cen­time­tres of ceil­ing height.

Fi­nally, there may be an even eas­ier way to ap­proach this con­cern, but you may not be able to ac­com­plish this your­self. There are com­pa­nies that in­stall spe­cial­ized coat­ings to ceil­ings and walls, usu­ally sprayed on, that help im­prove the acous­ti­cal re­sis­tance of these ar­eas. While mostly used in com­mer­cial or in­dus­trial build­ings, these coat­ings may be a quick way to achieve your goal.

If your ten­ants are only ex­pe­ri­enc­ing mild dis­tur­bances, it may be ex­ces­sive to re­moval all the ceil­ing sheath­ing just to gain a bit of an im­prove­ment in soli­tude. Check the lo­cal list­ings and In­ter­net for contractors in your area that may be able to spray away your noise prob­lems, with­out the need for ma­jor ren­o­va­tions.

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