Buying a Condo? Make Sure Peace and Quiet Are Included

Apr 10, 2007, 01:00 ET from Dudek

    ENCINITAS, Calif., April 10 /PRNewswire/ -- After months of looking,
 you have found the perfect condo. The price is right, the layout is
 spacious, and the commute to work is easy. What you see looks great. But
 what you hear -- or don't hear -- could make the difference after you move
     Getting an approximate idea of the noise -- or lack of it -- in a
 multi-family residence can be accomplished by looking for a few things and
 asking a few questions, said Mike Komula, an acoustician with Dudek, an
 Encinitas, Calif. environmental consulting firm that works with
     While Komula employs sophisticated instruments and techniques to
 measure and analyze noise for builders designing multi-family housing, he
 offered tips for the weekend condo shopper:
     * Have a companion go to the adjacent unit to run simple tests -- turn on
       a radio at various volumes; flush toilets; walk along the floors and
       turn on bath and sink taps.  Plumbing noise can be an issue when pipes
       are too small or transmit vibrations to the walls.
     * In multi-story complexes, see if compatible rooms are stacked above your
       rooms to minimize occasions for possible footfall or pipe noise.  For
       example, you want another bedroom above your bedroom rather than a
       kitchen or a bath.
     * Check the windows for single or dual panes.  Dual panes absorb more
       sound.  Thicker panes and wider air gap between the panes will increase
       sound reduction.
     * Expect to find hollow doors on the interior; swapping them out for
       solid-core doors will help reduce interior noise.
     "Some key issues won't be visible because they are between the walls
 and below the floor," Komula said. Komula said condo shoppers can ask the
 following questions if the builder is accessible:
     * Are the shared walls "double walls"?  Two rather than one 2 x 4 stud
       walls are used to absorb more noise by creating an air gap and
       separating the walls.
     * How many layers of drywall are on each side?  Two layers absorb more
     * Do the walls and ceilings use resilient metal channels?  These inserts
       act as shock absorbers to reduce sound and vibrations from passing
       through the wall or ceiling.
     * Does the floor have a lightweight concrete layer on top?  This adds more
       mass to the floor to reduce the transmission of airborne noise and
       impact noise of people walking, even on a carpeted floor.
     * What is the Sound Transmission Class (STC) rating for party walls and
       floor-ceiling construction?  California and the Uniform Building Code
       require a minimum rating of 50.  Komula said a 60 STC rating indicates
       the acoustical privacy between the units is considerably better than 50.
       A 65 STC rating indicates very high quality in terms of noise reduction,
       he said.
     "The builders we work with are increasingly aware that managing noise
 makes their multi-family projects much more attractive to buyers," Komula
     Dudek is an engineering and environmental consulting firm that works
 with land developers, builders and public agencies. The firm is
 headquartered in Encinitas with offices in Orange, Riverside, Los Angeles,
 Santa Barbara and Placer counties. For more information, e-mail
     Christine Clinton