Reducing Noise Pollution

May 2020

Noise is a constant irritant in high-rise communities.  Internal noise arises from building equipment, maintenance and neighbours.  You may contribute to this if others can hear noise emanating from your unit.  Constant outdoor city noises include traffic, construction, pedestrians and outdoor activities.

Thin walls make it easier for noise to intrude on your home.

There are ways to eliminate or mitigate these intrusions.

Eliminate Sound

Soundproof windows can block up to 90 percent of noise.  These are typically thicker double pane windows with laminated glass and more air space between panes.  The remaining 10 percent includes garbage trucks and other sounds with lower frequencies that are more difficult to block.  Window replacement is typically not a viable option for individual suites.

Caulking and acoustic window inserts are more affordable options available to condo dwellers.  Acoustic window inserts can reduce noise by 70 percent for single pane windows and 50 percent for double pane windows.  Energy-efficient inserts, another option, can reduce outside noise while reducing drafts, saving energy and minimizing condensation.

Absorbing Sound

Absorbing sound can be more economical than its elimination and nearly as effective.

Concrete and cork flooring are great for sound absorption.  Floating hardwood, which leaves a gap between the subfloor and actual floor, also works well.  Rugs and carpets are effective when they include foam-rubber backing and sound-absorbing padding.

Drapes made of heavy material such as wool or velvet are effective sound absorbers and blockers.  The best drapes include a mass-loaded vinyl layer to improve sound absorption.

Most condo units contain sheetrock, one of the worst sound absorption materials.  It provides virtually no protection against external sound.  Adding acoustic wall panels, with a noise-reduction rating of 0.85 or higher, can have a big impact.  These are usually one-inch thick wall panels wrapped in sound reduction material.  They come in many colours and installation is comparable to hanging pictures.