The Property Manager’s Guide to Noise Pollution: 4 Tips for Quieter Units

There are a few ways that property managers can help to mitigate the problem of noise pollution in an apartment.

By Lauren Pezzullo

LaurenPHeadshotIn many multifamily buildings, noise is a significant and bothersome issue for both renters and property managers. Cars, buses, trains and other noise from city streets outside the building—as well as noise from other properties—can create less-than-ideal living situations that are frustrating for everyone involved. Thankfully, there are a few ways that property managers can help to mitigate the problem of noise pollution in an apartment. Here are four of our top soundproofing tips, from large-scale renovation projects to simple fixes, to help make your units quieter.

Install New Windows

If the noise in a unit is coming from outside the building, the best way to increase the soundproofing inside is by checking out the windows. Most newer properties come with double-glazed windows as standard—meaning they have two panes of glass separated by soundproofing and insulating gas—and will go some way towards decreasing external noise. If the area is very noisy, an upgrade to triple-paned windows will further increase the soundproofing qualities in your unit. As an added bonus, triple-paned windows can achieve an energy efficiency increase of between 20-30 percent.

If new windows aren’t an option, there are other ways to dampen the sound from outside the unit. Plastic secondary glazing is a do-it-yourself alternative to new windows that is cheaper and requires no demolition or professional window installation. Thick curtains or draperies are better than blinds alone and can also significantly decrease the amount of noise that enters the unit. Finally, check that existing windows are properly sealed and caulked and that no frames or panes are cracked or broken.

Change Your Landscaping

For units in urban areas and buildings close to busy streets, people and vehicles outside the home are some of the largest contributors to noise pollution in the home. Clever landscaping can block some of this noise and make homes feel quieter. Hedges, banks, trees and fencing will act as a barrier against busy roads and create the feeling of seclusion and protection from the outside world.

As a property manager, you know that these kinds of solutions will take time and foresight to complete. If none of these changes can be made in your current property or properties, consider these factors with your next property management position and predict how your residents may react to noise pollution. Having other mechanisms in place to minimize noise pollution will help ease renters’ minds and make your job easier in the long run.

Reconsider Room Layouts

Before renting out your multifamily unit, taking into consideration the layout of each room will help you keep noise pollution to a minimum. If your unit is being built from scratch, the best placement for bedrooms and living areas is away from main roads, noisy outdoor areas and rail lines. Unless you are involved with the building process (or have a very adaptable unit), however, choosing your own unit layout is usually not possible.

Creatively rearranging existing spaces to minimize noise is another way to get the most out of your property. Place your furniture against shared walls rather than external walls to increase the distance between the noise and your tenants. In multifamily buildings such as apartment complexes and condominiums, it is also advisable to keep furniture away from walls that back up against other units if you want to avoid bothersome noise from neighbors.

Soundproof Your Interior

Perhaps the most realistic option for tackling noise pollution in your units is taking steps to soundproof your interior. If your property is due a large scale remodel or energy efficient upgrade, consider adding or replacing an existing cavity wall or attic insulation. The primary result of a well-insulated home is warmth, but insulation also helps to decrease external noise. Likewise, making sure doors are sealed will further improve the soundproofing in your unit. If you can afford a splurge here, experts at Forbes say that solid-wood-core doors–costing on average around $200 apiece–are by far the best option for quieter units.

Smaller budgets and quicker turnaround times require immediate solutions for soundproofing, so install carpeting with padding or foam-rubber backing throughout your unit to minimize noise levels to neighboring units below. If your unit has hardwood, tile, or linoleum floors, an upgrade to cork flooring or inexpensive area rugs will dampen some noise created by your residents. Finally, acoustic panels (not unlike those seen in recording studios) can drastically decrease the amount of noise pollution from both inside and outside your unit. These kinds of panels come in a wide variety of colors and sizes and can be easily installed on walls, ceilings, or both to increase sound absorption and make your unit as quiet as possible.

Lauren Pezzullo is a writer, editor and musicophile who’s passionate about vegetarianism and sustainable eating. As an editor for Modernize, she writes about energy-efficient living in the home. She’s currently writing her debut novel.