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Slightly OT: Apartment sound issues
Old 6th May 2008
  #1
Gear Addict
 

Slightly OT: Apartment sound issues

I'm in the process of moving into a new apartment - nice place, great neighborhood, reasonable price - on the second floor of a two story building. Seems like everything is A-OK. I had visited several times before moving in or signing the lease and didn't see or hear any problems. So, of course, as soon as I've moved all my furniture in, I hear... my downstairs neighbor talking on the phone and watching TV. Not just a few muffled bass waves here and there. I can practically hear everything he is saying.

After talking with him and investigating further, it seems like even normal conversation levels on the first floor are quite audible on the second floor. I can't quite make out all the words, but the pitches are there, and it's female and child voices too, not just male. We (my girlfriend and I) have our floors covered about 70% with area rugs; they're not too thick, but we can't afford much, and the people downstairs have wall-to-wall carpeting. Unfortunately we were not allowed to install this type of carpeting ourselves.

As you might imagine, we are not happy, especially after signing a one year lease. The noise issues were really not apparent until we got there. We're hoping we will be able to convince the landlord to solve this problem by doing some sort of work to the ceiling of the apartment below so that noise - at least, normal conversation level - will be canceled. Otherwise, I'm sure we'll be spending some time with a lawyer to try to terminate the lease, as there is no way we can live in the place when we can really hear everything our downstairs neighbors are saying... not to mention, recording is impossible.

What are some possible solutions in terms of soundproofing the ceiling of the apartment below? I figure this would be the least-intrusive method of killing the sound that is reaching us, as we can't really tear up our floorboards now that we have rugs + furniture (plus, they were evidently just refinished, hardwood.) I spoke with a few companies and was told that "green glue" was the best, least-intrusive solution. Apparently, this would involve buying about 66 tubes of the stuff and putting it on the finished ceiling of the first floor apartment, then putting another layer of 5/8" drywall on it. The salesperson said this would eliminate 99.9% of the noise being transmitted.

Is there any truth in this? How expensive would this kind of process be, and how much time would it take (considering labor?) What is involved? I estimated roughly $850 for the green glue, then another $500-600 for the drywall, but this doesn't count labor. Is there some sort of even less-intrusive method? After all the work would not be done on OUR apartment but the neighbors', so we would want to ideally minimize time spent and make it as appealing as possible to the landlord. I don't mind if we can hear yelling or very loud noises, as this is to be expected, but normal TV and conversation volume being audible is unacceptable...

Thanks in advance.
Old 7th May 2008
  #2
JWL
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Green Glue and another layer of drywall will NOT remove 99.9% of the noise. But, it will help a lot, if there are no major "holes" in the existing construction.

Sound isolation REQUIRES mass and airtightness; good construction techniques (such as a 2 leaf double wall design with Green Glue incorporated into each leaf, and insulation between the leaves) will help even more.

If you are hearing pitches, then most likely there is an airpath between the offending apartment and the 2nd floor. Air ducts? Who knows....

The first thing I'd do is hunt down where the air and sound is coming from.

Next, I'd add insulation between your floor and their ceiling, if possible.

Once that's done, add more layers of mass (ie, sheetrock) and green glue to the existing construction.
Old 7th May 2008
  #3
Gear Addict
 

We cannot add anything to our floors, legally. We might not be able to add to their ceiling either, unless it is really not intrusive. The sound coming to us seems to be audible throughout the apartment. We can hear their voices in any room.

What methods would we use for finding air holes?
Old 7th May 2008
  #4
JWL
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The best way is to look for holes in the floor of your apt, or in the ceiling of their apt. Check air vents, water pipes, etc etc., anywhere something runs between the 2 apartments. If possible, have someone stand at the pipe from their apartment, and shine a light around where the pipe enters their ceiling. Turn the lights off upstairs, and look for the light coming through near the pipes.

Also, ask the neighbors to play some (relatively) loud music. Get down on your hands and knees and listen, see where the sound gets louder.
Old 7th May 2008
  #5
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OK. We'll see about doing that the next chance we get.

Is there any way to predict how effective green glue would be, if applied as I described? Three tubes per slab of 5/8" drywall (32 sq ft) added to the ceiling of the apartment downstairs. Again, the salesperson said it would nullify speech we were hearing. But some sort of numbers would be helpful. It is very hard to find reviews of this product online.
Old 7th May 2008
  #6
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Just one simple opinion - I wouldn't invest in any treatment, much rather on finding a legal termination on your one-year lease. As mentioned with great expertise by jwl, you seem to have both structural AND aerial noise transmission, and a satisfactory treatment would mean a serious investment, moneywise and in terms of labor.

If anything and since you are concerned about costs, plus considering you probably won't stay there for the rest of your life, I believe treating your floors would be a LOT easier, cheaper and probably as effcient - however jwl's advice would be precious here. One way could be to lay a wall to wall layer of styrofoam, on top of which you'd put 2x2ft concrete "tiles" (dunno the proper term in english, but the kind you put in a garden, see?), than carpets. The good side is it is a non-invasive method (no holes to drill, no damage on your floors, nothing permanent) and it is relatively cheap. The downside is you got to make sure the structure of your building will take the extra weight (it should).

Compared to the ceiling treatment, you don't have the air gap, which is very important in soundproofing. But you have much more mass than with drywall on your neighbor's ceiling. Somebody qualified on this thread could probably help evaluating if the benefit of mass vs air gap would be worthy.

Of course still, the first thing to do is to look for airpath, as mentioned above. Once again, being able to discern the pitch of voices is not common for structural transmission, unless you have cardboard walls.

HTH. Good luck!
Old 8th May 2008
  #7
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Again the issue is that we cannot legally do anything to our floors. They are hardwood and it would require moving all of our furniture out and tearing them up - a massive process that would surely be extremely expensive, even if we were to do it. However, the landlord is willing to work with us (or at least consider it) if we are simply adding to the ceiling of the tenants downstairs.
Old 8th May 2008
  #8
Gear Guru
Hire an Acoustician

Hi Zirconst, I am sorry to hear of your plight.
With respect I don't think the concrete garden slabs will work. The gaps between them will let the sound through. I am sure your LandLord has had this problem before, or if a new unit, will have it constantly in the future. Since you have little money, you have to get the LandLord to agree to doing the work. Lawyers won't be able to silence what appears to be normal life downstairs! If the Landlord agrees, hire an expert. OR go to the website of a Plasterboard (Drywall) manufacturer. They all have detailed construction plans for high performance ceilings. Here's one. Floor & Ceilings - Welcome to Gypsum Industries.
Make sure you get every little detail exactly right. If a builder is doing the work you will have to oversee it.
Good Luck, Dan FitzGerald AMIOA
SoundSound - Homepage

Last edited by DanDan; 8th May 2008 at 03:11 PM.. Reason: Added Detail
Old 11th May 2008
  #9
Gear Addict
 

Thanks again for the input everyone. DanDan, I'm not sure what you mean by concrete garden slabs - was this in response to my suggestion or Washington's? Again the simplest thing that I've seen appears to be the green glue + drywall assembly on the ceiling of the downstairs apartment.

My girlfriend's old roommate brought up an interesting point. Doesn't any given municipality have some kind of ordinance for noise in the building code? Where would we find that info, assuming it would be relevant to our situation? Just to give an idea of how extreme the lack of sound isolation is, if we are in the bedroom with two laptops running, we can actually hear someone snoring in the bedroom below us, and their snore appears to be at a rather average volume; not massively loud. Additionally, when playing on our Yamaha keyboard which is set on a floor stand, even with NO volume, the sound of the keys being pushed up and down actually reverberates through the floors fairly audibly, which I might add ARE 70-75% covered in rugs!
Old 11th May 2008
  #10
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You may want to explore the concept of "warrant of habitability." Here in NYC, withholding partial rent on that basis is a major airhorn against lackadaisical landlords.

3rd&4thT
Old 11th May 2008
  #11
Gear Guru
GG

Hi Zirc, sounds like you are all getting to know each other real well :-)
Yes, I reckon Washington was suggesting slabs. Sounds like you really want to use Green Glue and would like approval. GG and a layer of Gyp will help. A layer of Gyp hanging on RC with an insulation filled gap will do a lot more. In your situation I would be going for 'more'. Look up those DryWall manuals.
Best Regards, DD
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