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The Irish Times - Thursday - Property - - Advice -

We bought a ter­raced house in a de­vel­op­ment built in 2006 and it turns out the walls are pa­per thin. We can hear the neigh­bours talk­ing to each other and worse. How can we block out the sounds? Sound trans­fer be­tween houses is a com­mon prob­lem in prop­er­ties built dur­ing the rush of the Celtic Tiger. Lack of at­ten­tion to de­tail in many cases has re­sulted in poor-qual­ity con­struc­tion. The sound trans­fer oc­curs as a re­sult of air­borne noise (voices, mu­sic, etc). The air­borne sound wave strikes the wall and the pres­sure vari­a­tions cause the wall to vi­brate. This vi­bra­tional en­ergy is trans­ferred through the wall and ra­di­ated as air­borne sound on the other side.

The main is­sue is the qual­ity of the mor­tar bed and point­ing in the party wall dur­ing con­struc­tion stage. Most party walls are a 100mm (4in) solid block on the flat which is ad­e­quate if done cor­rectly and com­pli­ant with build­ing reg­u­la­tions.

A good block layer will trowel on an even bed of mor­tar of ap­prox­i­mately 10mm thick­ness with no voids or gaps. Once the block is laid he will then run the trowel along the fin­ished joint both hor­i­zon­tally and ver­ti­cally be­fore mov­ing on to the next layer of blocks. Alas this skill was lost for some time and, in the rush to build 250 blocks in a day, the trades­men slapped a daub of mor­tar on to the pre­vi­ous layer and pressed on with gaps and voids and no point­ing up of the mor­tar joints.

What can you do ret­ro­spec­tively? It is very dif­fi­cult to sound­proof an ex­ist­ing wall par­tic­u­larly around floors, ceil­ings and ad­join­ing par­ti­tions.

In all, there are three ways to sound­proof a con­crete block party wall and some com­bi­na­tion of all three may need to be con­sid­ered de­pend­ing on your house type and room lay­out, etc:

– Point­ing of the joints and ren­der­ing of the wall on both sides ide­ally to in­crease the mass of the wall struc­ture.

– Ap­ply­ing a layer of sound in­su­la­tion board di­rectly on to the party wall. This will mean a loss of at least 40mm to the room width; a small ac­cept­able loss, I would sug­gest.

– Cre­at­ing a new par­ti­tion wall with a cav­ity void to the party wall. This fur­ther re­duces the width of the room re­sult­ing with a loss of up to 100mm (4 in) off the room.

In an ideal world with full ac­cess to the party wall the walls should be re­pointed and ren­dered with a sand ce­ment ren­der of 12mm. The idea is to add mass to the wall to ab­sorb the sound. Al­ter­na­tively a sound in­su­la­tion board will as­sist but the tricky ar­eas are within the depth of the floors and ceil­ings and where par­ti­tions abut the party wall. The ad­join­ing plas­ter­board slab lin­ing to the ceil­ing and abut­ting par­ti­tions will have to be cut back to fa­cil­i­tate ac­cess to 100 per cent of the party wall sur­face.

In or­der to treat flank­ing noise, it may be nec­es­sary to lift floor­boards or cut open the ceil­ing un­der the floor along the party wall and fill with a lin­ing board and/or sand pug­ging to add mass to the floor and im­prove sound in­su­la­tion.

Fur­ther dif­fi­culty arises where a floor joist runs par­al­lel to the party wall with no space for ac­cess be­tween it and the wall. Some form of box­ing out may need to be con­sid­ered. If your prop­erty is of tim­ber frames con­struc­tion there are ad­di­tional is­sues to be con­sid­ered.

Retro-fit­ting to im­prove sound in­su­la­tion is dif­fi­cult to achieve and not al­ways 100 per cent suc­cess­ful. We rec­om­mend you have a sound test done be­tween dwellings be­fore em­bark­ing on ex­pen­sive in­su­la­tion works. This should in­clude both air­borne and im­pact sound tests to en­sure com­pli­ance with the 2014 Build­ing Reg­u­la­tions Tech­ni­cal Guid­ance Doc­u­ment E (Sound).

It is worth not­ing that your neigh­bour may be ex­pe­ri­enc­ing sim­i­lar is­sues and work­ing on both sides of the wall is more ef­fec­tive in im­prov­ing sound in­su­la­tion. Pat McGovern is a char­tered build­ing sur­veyor and mem­ber of the So­ci­ety of Char­tered Sur­vey­ors Ire­land.

QI have rented out my home for a few weeks a year over the past three years. I have paid tax on the rental in­come but want to know if I would have to pay cap­i­tal gains tax (CGT) if I ever sell my home? In those weeks, it has al­ways re­mained as my prin­ci­pal home while I trav­elled. If I stop rent­ing out the prop­erty for the next few years, will that make any dif­fer­ence?

AA gain aris­ing on the dis­posal of an as­set is charge­able to Cap­i­tal Gains Tax (CGT). Prin­ci­pal Pri­vate Res­i­dence (PPR) re­lief ap­plies to the sale of an in­di­vid­ual’s only or main res­i­dence and land of up to one acre. It is cal­cu­lated on a pro rata ba­sis on a com­par­i­son of the pe­riod of oc­cu­pa­tion of the premises as a PPR and the to­tal pe­riod of own­er­ship. An in­di­vid­ual’s PPR is ex­empt from CGT if the in­di­vid­ual has

Send your queries to prop­er­tyques­tions@irish­times.com

or to Prop­erty Clinic, The Ir­ish Times, 24-28 Tara Street, Dublin 2. This col­umn is a read­ers’ ser­vice. The con­tent of the Prop­erty Clinic is pro­vided for gen­eral in­for­ma­tion only. It is not in­tended as ad­vice on which read­ers should rely. Pro­fes­sional or spe­cial­ist ad­vice should be ob­tained be­fore per­sons take or re­frain from any ac­tion on the ba­sis of the con­tent.The Ir­ish Times and its con­trib­u­tors will not be li­able for any loss or dam­age aris­ing from re­liance on any con­tent. used the house as their PPR through­out the pe­riod of own­er­ship.

There are pe­ri­ods in which own­ers will be deemed to have oc­cu­pied their prop­erty while not re­sid­ing in the house. These pe­ri­ods in­clude time spent work­ing abroad and em­ployer-re­quired ab­sences in Ire- land. The fol­low­ing con­di­tions ap­ply:

– The in­di­vid­ual must have lived in the PPR both be­fore and after the pe­riod of ab­sence;

– The in­di­vid­ual had no other house that qual­i­fied as a PPR dur­ing that pe­riod;

– In the case of em­ployer-re­quired ab­sences within Ire­land, the pe­riod of non-oc­cu­pa­tion can­not ex­ceed in ag­gre­gate four years;

– In the case of em­ployer-re­quired ab­sences within Ire­land, the pe­riod of non-oc­cu­pa­tion was due to the lo­ca­tion of his/her work or con­di­tions im­posed by the in­di­vid­ual’s em­ployer.

The fi­nal 12 months of own­er­ship are also deemed pe­ri­ods of oc­cu­pa­tion for the pur­poses of the PPR ex­emp­tion.

As you have not oc­cu­pied the prop­erty as your PPR for a few weeks a year over the past three years, part of the gain will al­ways be charge­able to CGT, un­less the sce­nar­ios out­lined above ap­ply to you. If you stop rent­ing the prop­erty for the next few years, it will not change this po­si­tion.

You should also be en­ti­tled to the an­nual ex­emp­tion of ¤1,270.

w‘ It is orth not­ing that your neigh­bour may be ex­pe­ri­enc­ing sim­i­lar is­sues and work­ing on both sides of the wall is more ef­fec­tive

Ni­amh Hor­gan, is a tax man­ager, RSM Ire­land, rsm.global/ire­land

It is very dif­fi­cult to sound­proof an ex­ist­ing wall par­tic­u­larly around floors, ceil­ings and ad­join­ing par­ti­tions

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