Are newer apartments quieter? Not necessarily. It depends on the specific sound control measures in place. In fact, many older apartment buildings are much quieter than their newer counterparts because they were built when construction costs were lower.
While the apartment building may be new and have newer materials, you can think of ‘sound control’ like an add-on feature, similar to when you go buy a car which can be expensive. Many builders in new construction opt out of sound control in an effort to keep the build as cost-effective as possible. While there is usually a minimum sound control rating (STC rating) required by code, beyond that, it is up to the builder.
Due to the rising cost of construction, there are many new apartments that do not have good sound control in place, and you can actually hear your neighbors quite a bit.
Questions to Ask
So what questions should you ask before renting an apartment?
- What kind of building is it? You can observe this one on your own. Generally speaking, all things being equal, new high-rise construction is less likely to have noise control problems between floors than a low rise. This is because a high rise is built with concrete and steel which has relatively good sound control features. Having said that, you can still hear your neighbors next to you in a high rise if the walls between units aren’t built with good sound control measures.
- Is the building constructed with wood framing or concrete? If it is a high rise, it is almost certainly built with concrete. If it is a mid-rise it might be. If it is a low rise, it is likely a wood frame, but find out. Generally, concrete floors, walls, and ceilings are going to lead to a quieter apartment. This is just a rule of thumb. A wood frame building can be built with very high STC ratings as well if proper sound control measures are in place.
- What kind of sound control is in between apartment units? The way the walls are assembled (thickness of walls, special gaps or channels, and materials used) has a direct correlation with sound control. While the leasing agent likely won’t know the exact wall assembly, they should be able to tell you if measures were taken and what kind of measures were taken. This is important. You can also check reviews for common ‘noise complaints’.
- What windows are installed? Multiple layers of glass separated by vacuum spaced or “thicker” windows are generally better for sound control, but they cost more money. Find out what type of windows are used (single pane, double pane, triple pane). You will want windows constructed of at least two glass layers “double pane”. Triple pane windows are rare due to their cost.
- What type of internal doors does the apartment have? Do the doors have big gaps under them that let sound pass through more easily? Are the doors solid core (i.e. solid wood) or are they hollow allowing noise to more easily travel through.
- Has anything been done to the floor system to make it more soundproof? For example, special layers or materials are added to better control sound.
- What kind of surface flooring is on the unit above me? Different materials have different sound control measures. For example, all things being equal, tile is the loudest material and carpet is the quietest. If the apartment home above you has tile, that could be very noisy for you when your neighbors are moving chairs around or on high heels.
- Are the apartments spread out to intentionally help with noise control? Sometimes architects will design the building to have units spread out with features like greenery in between to help with noise control or at the very least not have living rooms from one apartment up against the bedroom of another, after all, you wouldn’t want your neighbor watching Star Wars at 12:00am to keep you up at night. You should ask this question.
- Is all the construction done? Especially if you are renting in a new apartment building, you want to know if all the construction is complete. If not, that could be some very noisy nights
- Are there any particularly noisy external sources? You can ask this and observe yourself. Do you see busy roads, airports, train tracks, nearby concerts or bars? No matter what sound control measures are in place, this can cause a noisy apartment.
How to Make an Apartment Quieter Without Affecting your Lease?
Irrespective of whether you decide to rent a new or old apartment based on the noise levels, you can do a few things to make your apartment quieter too –
- Soundproof curtains or window treatments can block out outdoor noise more effectively. Make sure you can do this with your lease.
- Introduce rugs because they add another layer to quiet down an apartment
- Any cracks in your walls and ceilings should be repaired quickly to reduce sound transfer. Ask your landlord to fix this.
- Fill the gaps under all doors with draft stoppers to reduce external and internal sounds. Ask your landlord to fix this.
- Add a bookshelf or similar to a noisy wall to effectively muffle sounds from next-door apartments
You don’t have to make any big changes to get a little peace and quiet by reducing noise levels in your apartment. New apartments aren’t necessarily quieter than old ones without the right soundproofing features. Be sure to do your own checks beforehand to help you make the right decision.