Comprehensive Flooring Policy: How to Deal with Noisy Neighbors
Does it sometimes sound like your upstairs neighbors are bowling in their living room? Do you hear every footfall and dropped item? Noises from above can be disruptive, especially when you’re trying to sleep…. But it might not be entirely your neighbor’s fault.
Bad flooring construction may be at fault. Flooring is the primary conduit of noise in a high-rise building and can sometimes magnify every little sound. Crafting the right soundproofing policy, determining what kinds of flooring is permitted and having the right approval process in place can help maintain peace – and quiet – in your high-rise community.
Here are some tips to create a successful flooring policy to achieve greater high-rise harmony:
1. Start with your governing documentsAlways begin creating new policy by checking your governing documents. There may be policy in place that defines what kind of flooring is allowed in the building, how units should be soundproofed and if an amendment is needed to allow any other kinds of flooring. Your association should have a concise, clear process in place for residents who would like to install new flooring in any case. That process will keep the Board informed of what work will be done, when, which contractors are doing it and that proper soundproofing specifications will be followed.
2. Decide who should be involved in creating flooring policiesFlooring policies are frequently written by developers, Board members, volunteers and attorneys who don’t consult with experts like architects, floor product specialists and acoustical engineers. To make sure that your flooring policy is structurally sound, sensible and won’t lead to other problems down the road, ask these experts for input and review of your policy ideas.For example, your governing documents may require that new flooring must achieve the same sound rating as the original floors, but that’s not always possible or even logical. This is when an acoustician can be a great help, because they will know if that requirement can apply to a given remodeling plan, based on the materials that are slated to be used for it. They will also be able to look at the building plans and have a good idea if the plan will work; the construction of the building itself can be a huge factor in determining how much sound can be muted. A good architect or acoustical engineer will be able to look at the ceiling and floor assembly, including the insulation, subfloors and any wallboard used, to know if a certain type of flooring will be disruptive to residents below. These are not things the average Board member or attorney can do, so it’s a good idea to bring in the right expert for the job. Your property management company may know professionals who can help.
3. Develop a process for construction approvalThere are a lot of do-it-yourself homeowners out there, and many are great builders, but most of them are not experts. Faulty work, poor materials, and bad processes could wind up adding a noise nuisance to the building. Require homeowners to submit their plans in advance – not just to the Board, but to the experts themselves. You may even require homeowners to supply a 2”x4” sample of the soundproofing material when they file for an Architectural Modification. Make sure a sound technician or floor products expert has reviewed the plan and samples provided. With the knowledge from a flooring expert, the Board could easily come to a decision regarding this construction project and feel certain the work will have minimal or no impact on the building acoustics. Another important matter is the credentials of the contractor hired to do the work. Investigate the person and company’s history, ask for references, licenses, and review a Better Business Bureau profile to see what other customers are saying about their work.
Keep in mind that some city codes require that permits be pulled prior to installation. Inspections at various times during the installation process may also be required to verify compliance with code. When a city permit and/or city inspections are not required, some associations may choose to have their management company take photos at various points during the installation process to ensure compliance with the policy.
4. Have your policy approved and publishedAlways have your association attorney review policy before going through the process to amend your governing documents. Once a thorough review is completed by the attorney, as well as the Board and managing agent, it is important to ensure that this policy is published in as many community locations as possible – starting with the association website (even posting it on social media outlets), to specific e-mail messages that can be mass distributed to each resident. You should also consider holding owner meetings to further discuss or elaborate upon the newly implemented policy, or host special seminars to educate the community on this particular topic. This way, the community association Board has done its due diligence in effectively communicating the rules and regulations, and time and money is saved for everyone involved.
5. Establish complaint proceduresEven if the work has been thoroughly vetted and materials approved, there still could be unhappy neighbors. A complaint procedure should be established for other residents to follow so that their concerns will be addressed.Board members have a tough job: balancing the intentions and needs of homeowners who want to upgrade or remodel their units with the needs of those who may be unintentionally affected by those upgrades. Having solid policy in place is the best way to achieve that balance and look out for the needs of everyone in the community.
For more information on working with a professional property management company that can help with crafting good policies for your high-rise community, contact FirstService Residential, Florida’s leading property management company.