Retrofitting soundproofing - is it worth it?

Should you go down the path of retrofitting soundproofing to your strata complex?

At one time or other during our property journeys, most of us have lived underneath a floor-board owning, high-heel wearing professional, adjacent to a kid learning the trumpet or directly above the party-house from hell. Without good soundproofing, these can make living very uncomfortable.

Older apartment blocks often have ‘paper-thin’ walls and little to keep the noise out between floors. According to news.com.au, noise is one of the top ten factors which devalues an apartment. It can be off-putting for buyers and reduce can reduce the amount a property is worth.

If the amount of noise drifting around the complex you manage is too much, retrofitting soundproofing is an option.

Retrofitting soundproofing options

Modern apartment blocks are developed with in-built insulation across windows, doors, walls, floors and ceilings. This reduces the amount neighbours can hear going on next door.

Retrofitting soundproofing is definitely possible. It includes the following options:

Floors: Add carpet to highly trafficked areas (not kitchen, bathroom or laundry) to muffle footsteps.

Windows: Switch to double-glazed glass and reduce up to 70 percent of noise coming from outside the building. Options include retrofitting double glazed windows or adding acoustic window seal kits, which are attachable panels designed to reduce noise coming through windows.

Walls: Instead of adding insulation between walls, which is expensive, time consuming and extremely disruptive, products exist which can be fixed to the outside of walls. Known as ‘barrier panels’, these claim to reduce noise levels by as much as 75 percent, while only reducing room size by around 30mm.

Ceilings: To successfully soundproof a ceiling, you need to add density and sound absorbing materials, and ensure all gaps are sealed for an air tight finish. This can be done by adding a ‘false’ ceiling and placing insulation between it and the original ceiling.

Doors: Doors can be less labour-intensive way to upgrade for better sound resistance as they are designed to be easily removed. Options for your apartment block include acoustic-quality doors with multi-blade seals, acoustic reduction aluminium sliding doors and acoustically sealed timber doors.

While US website homeadvisor.com puts the cost of soundproofing at around US$1500 per room, the cost of retrofitting soundproofing around an apartment block will vary depending on size and requirements.

In most cases, it is a good idea to identify where in a block most sound problems are coming from. If it is passing traffic, adding double glazing may be the right solution. For hallway noise, soundproof doors are the best option. Then there is the question of who should pay. In common areas the strata is responsible, however individual apartments may be responsible for covering their own costs.

Is retrofitting soundproofing worth it?

If noise is an issue in the strata buildings you manage, the Owner’s Corporation may want to consider doing something about it. To make the decision, it will be necessary to examine your options and get some comprehensive quotes.

It can be difficult to quantify exactly how much a soundproof apartment is worth in comparison to one which is free from noisy interruptions. To get a figure, it may be worthwhile to contact a local selling agent and discuss how much the noise factor is restricting the value of your apartments. This will give you an idea of whether retrofitting soundproofing will provide return on investment.

There is the issue of disruption as well. The Owner’s Corporation may be happier with some solutions over others as they will result in shorter interruption periods for residents.

Should the Owner’s Corporation vote against spending money on soundproofing, you can always compile a list of noise limiting recommendations for residents which do not require construction work. For example, thick window coverings, bookshelves against common walls and floor rugs can make a small difference, as can draft guards and door seals.

As with all major building changes, retrofitting soundproofing depends on the strata committee, its budget and how much the representatives desire improvements to be made. However, given noise is a huge factor in the value of a property, it is definitely an idea worth raising to the committee.


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