The right acoustical solutions for your condo

Julie Leduc

Thursday, 26 October 2017

Are you tired of your old carpet in your condo? Is your spouse no longer liking the dark wood floor and wants to change it? Is your ceramic tile floor damaged and needs to be replaced? Do you already know the habits of your neighbours without having even met them? If you answered yes to any of these questions, renovations may be necessary. But before getting started, it is mandatory to refer to your condo board for approved procedures, requirements and authorized installations.

 In regards to replacing flooring, make sure the condo board has detailed bylaws so that you and your neighbours can continue enjoying acoustic comfort for years to come. When it comes time to renovate, it is preferable to follow recommendations than having to start the process all over again.

 An acoustic clause to follow

 The only way to ensure proper sound insulation in multi-storey buildings is to have a clear understanding of the regulations adopted by the condo board. Thus, a condo owner who wishes to change the floors must first comply with the regulations provided by the board. 

 As for the content of such chart, it will differ from one building to another. Some condo boards will require a specific acoustic efficiency (rating) while others will allow owners to choose from a list of pre-authorized acoustic products that can be used. Sometimes, the board will even go far as to only approve the use of a certain product or sets of products.  It is also common to see the mention "acoustic test required after the completion" to validate the efficiency of the assembly.

 Unfortunately, some buildings do not have any particular regulation regarding acoustics. Also, it is not uncommon to find that the chart of regulations contains inadequate, incomplete or simply incorrect information. It is, therefore, very important for council members to reach out to experts to get some guidance on drafting a new or updated acoustic clause. It is important to note that everything must be done in accordance with the structure of the building and the reasonable acoustic expectations for each building. Acoustics is a complex science and sadly, misguiding information makes its way to decision makers. It is important to understand the nature of each building and then identify the appropriate options for this particular building. Every building is different, every condo board is different. 

 What AcoustiTECH recommends to condo boards

 AcoustiTECH’s technical team can educate you about acoustic principles and offer customized solutions. Our team analyzes your structure, answers any technical question you may have and collaborates in writing or updating your regulation chart.  

AcoustiTECH can also refer acoustic consultants if on site tests are required or desired to validate the proposed solutions.  These tests can be scheduled during the next floor renovation. Thus, you will be able to find out the actual efficiency of your bare structure (without floor covering) and test the pre-selected products to determine which is best for your building.

 Once acoustic tests are performed you will be able to build your regulation chart. Using the data gathered from the tests, the chart will stipulate the appropriate membrane to install according to the floor covering chosen. Thus, owners will no longer have to research the best underlay and prove its effectiveness after installation. It costs much less to run the tests once in a unit and share the cost among all owners than requiring a test each time someone is changing the floor. Imagine a building of 250 units ... it's 250 tests instead of a dozen tests in one visit!

 Why not require the XYZ membrane advertising a rating of FIIC 68?

Warning! Some acoustic membranes available on the market advertise very high acoustic ratings. Some will truly deliver decent acoustic efficiency in your building although others will rate below your expectations and even the National Building Code (FIIC 55). The same membrane can perform at FIIC 70, 60 or even 42. Here's why the acoustic performance of a membrane can vary significantly.

 The building structure, quality of construction and installation methods, type of flooring to be installed overtop, room volume, etc. are all elements that play a significant role in the acoustic efficiency of the building. The membrane does not do all the work of attenuating the noise, it is actually a small contributor to the overall rating of an assembly. In addition, for a similar structure, such as an 8-inch concrete slab, there are differences of several points between two buildings with identical acoustic floor and membrane installation. According to a study done on 35 concrete slabs from 8 to 10 inches made by a Montreal acoustic consultant, the results ranged from FIIC 24 to FIIC 39, with an average index of 33. That being said, even if you choose a membrane that claims to achieve a FIIC 68 on an 8 inch concrete slab, it may be that in your building this membrane only achieves a FIIC 60 or even 57. To ask an owner to install a membrane that will achieve a certain rating without having tested the bare concrete is extremely tricky. It is essential to have tested the slab first to know the true potential overall. Let’s remember that only a floor/ceiling or wall/wall assembly can be associated to a rating, not a product. 

 Let the experts guide you

 Acoustics is complex and using the right solution at the right place is the key to achieving required acoustic efficiency.  Reach out to professionals who are here to guide you through this process.

 In addition, did you know that an online program was designed especially for condo boards and that over 550 buildings are already part of it? AcoustiCONDO is a program designed for you. Take a look and join the group, add your building to our data base. 

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