Noise transmission problems come mainly from the floor/ceiling assemblies (complete structure between floor and ceiling of the unit above) and through the party walls, that is to say between adjacent units. The noise problems associated with these assemblies come mainly from the transmission of airborne or impact noises. Airborne noises are caused by televisions, voice and music, while impact noises are caused by moving furniture or walking occupants. These are all noises that, when the unit is poorly soundproofed, disrupt the comfort of occupants. But will you hear your neighbor with a FIIC 60?
While there is no actual requirement in the National Building Code of Canada for impact noise, some recommendations are suggested. It states that a FIIC (Field Impact Insulation Class) of more than 55 is desirable for hard floor coverings such as wood, laminate and vinyl floorings, and a minimum of 50 for ceramic flooring. Compliance with these recommendations would tend to provide an acceptable level of comfort for occupants.
The noise tolerance is different for everyone. If you are used to living in multi-housing, an acoustic efficiency of FIIC 60 will result for you by a very appreciable superior sound insulation. Also, if your upstairs neighbor lives alone and wears slippers, you are unlikely to hear him. However, if this same neighbor changes his lifestyle and now welcomes a roommate or receives more regular friends in the evening, you may hear upstairs noises. Another situation, if you have lived in a single-family house for a long time and move in into a multi-housing, your tolerance for noise may be less good and the slightest noise coming from your upstairs neighbor will annoy you, even if the acoustic efficiency of your unit is FIIC 60.
Unfortunately, many residential units face noise problems that could easily have been avoided if more attention had been paid to building acoustics during the design and construction process. In addition, we must take into consideration the tolerance of each one and their auditory acuity. So, yes it is normal to hear some noises, depending on the sound insulation quality of the building. On the other hand, when living in multi-housing, we live in a micro society in which one must learn to cohabit with the others in the respect of each other.