Do you hear every single step your upstairs neighbors take? Does the noise sound like they are wearing cement-soled shoes? Are they keeping you up at night? Before going ballistic on them, take a deep breath – it might not be their fault.

Poorly installed flooring, or bad flooring materials, are the primary reason for noise complaints about the upstairs neighbors. Both can amplify every footfall and make it miserable for the people living below. That’s why it’s important to craft the right soundproofing policy, determining what kinds of flooring are allowed in your high-rise building and the approval process for new flooring installations. The right flooring policy can help maintain peace – and quiet – in your high-rise building.

Follow our guidelines to create a successful flooring policy to achieve greater high-rise harmony:  

1. Check your governing documents

Always 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. Get expert advice

Flooring 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. Make sure every project is properly approved

DIY is the hot thing now. But even the most skilled homeowner with a hammer isn’t likely to be an acoustical or soundproofing expert. Most noise nuisances come from a combination of poor materials, faulty work and bad approval processes. Your policy should require homeowners to submit plans for review well in advance of beginning any work. Those plans should be reviewed by the Board, but also by some of the experts mentioned above. You may even require homeowners to supply a 2”x4” sample of the soundproofing material when they file for an Architectural Modification. An acoustical technician and a flooring products expert can look at a plan and tell you what impact the proposal will have on your building’s acoustics.

The credentials of the contractor hired to do the work should also be reviewed. That contractor should submit references, any required licenses and proof of appropriate insurance and/or bonding to the Board before being permitted to work on the property. It’s always a good idea to check the Better Business Bureau and websites like Yelp or Angie’s List for customer feedback too.

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 association may choose to have their management company take photos at various points during the installation process to ensure compliance with the policy.

4. Give residents a voice if needed

Even if a new flooring installation has been thoroughly reviewed and approved by experts, there still could be unhappy neighbors in the building. It’s important to make sure they have a voice by establishing a complaint procedure.

5. Ask for attorney review

Always 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. It’s not always easy to balance the needs of homeowners who want to upgrade or remodel their units with the needs of those who may be affected by those upgrades. Creating a good flooring policy is the best way to achieve that balance and look out for the needs of everyone in your high-rise.

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, Georgia’s leading property management company. 

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Wednesday March 01, 2017