Walls are the only separation between you and your neighbors when you live in a densely-populated area like Manhattan, and sometimes, it feels like privacy goes out the window. People hear their next-door neighbors talking, footsteps from above, or even music blaring through the walls. Sound transmission between units is one of the biggest complaints among co-op and condo dwellers. Noise can also come from ceilings, doors and windows, so living in a multifamily building can take some getting used to.
“The biggest complaint is the footfall, and that comes from up above. The second complaint is noise from neighbors, which is lateral through the walls, and next would be entryways,” says Mason Wyatt, owner of City Soundproofing. “Occasionally, an elevator can make noise that is heard through the apartment, whether it’s the noise of the elevator itself or the ambient hallway noise of people waiting.”
It’s no secret that many of the co-ops and condos in New York City are old, and because of that, the building materials used to construct them are much less advanced than what people expect today. Even with newer buildings, effective soundproofing materials are often not used at all during construction, so noise streams from one unit into another.
“If it’s a solid concrete slab, it’s less of a problem, but if you get these six-story buildings with wood joists, there’s not too much to prevent the sound from below to go upstairs, especially those with exposed wood elements,” says Devin O’Brien, owner of Brooklyn Insulation and Soundproofing. “When we do renovations, we insist to the board that they add insulation to the ceiling and soundproofing is added to the floors before any flooring is done.”
While some noise in shared living spaces is normal, if you can clearly hear your neighbors’ conversations or TV through your walls or ceiling, you have a noise problem. If you’re willing to make the financial investment, there are innovative noise reduction solutions that can turn an older condo unit into a sanctuary of peace and quiet.