Are Concrete Apartments Soundproof? (Answer Explained)


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Are concrete apartments soundproof? How soundproof is concrete?

Though there are various construction materials to choose from, concrete stands out as the best among them all. Apart from being popular, constructors label it as the standard building material. Concrete is hard and strong and can withstand a lot of pressure.

Besides this, it is a well-rounded building material because of its versatility—it is suited for many different environments and surroundings. Concrete is also cheap, which is why homeowners prefer it to wood and steel. Sadly, it lacks in the soundproof department.

While concrete is very durable and has a long-lasting quality, unfortunately, one of those properties it lacks is a total soundproof system. Most people think because concrete is a thick material, therefore it is an incredible sound barrier system. But this is not entirely the case. When noise travels through concrete, that noise is reflected by the concrete wall itself. But the wall absorbs some of the energy from the noise—that’s why you don’t get to hear the entire sound. Even so, concrete is not necessarily the best of the best when it comes to eliminating noise.

Installing a noise barrier, however, can provide full proof against sound. Most noise barriers used today are made of precast concrete or masonry blocks.

Are Concrete buildings quieter (than woodframe buildings?)

Yes, concrete buildings are quieter than wood frame buildings —in most cases though. But sharp sounds like those from a shoe’s heel can transmit to the floor below. However, under normal living conditions, concrete buildings absorb sounds better than wood frame buildings, even between floors.

Still, when picking out a concrete apartment of your choice, be sure to read the building’s strata minutes to be certain there is no history of noise complaints in the building. If the minutes are unavailable, ask people around, including your soon-to-be neighbours.

Is concrete construction better than wood construction?

While wood is widely cherished for its colour, luxury and warmth, a 2017 study found that homeowners preferred concrete as a construction material.

When researchers Dr Peter Vanderwerf and Nicholas Hadari of Boston College compared wood-frame construction methods with concrete construction methods for multi-family homes, they found these shocking revelations:

  • Residential homes built with concrete and/or masonry received fewer insurance quotes compared to those built with wood.
  • Homeowners saved between 22 to 72% for builder’s risk insurance quotes and 14 to 65% for commercial property insurance. According to many insurance agents, this jump in savings for concrete was because of the fire hazard associated with wood buildings.

In another report, Walter G. M. Schneider III, PhD, compared the cost of constructing residential buildings using conventional wood, light gauge steel, concrete (include concrete masonry) in three cities; namely: Towson, Maryland; Edgewater, New Jersey; and Dallas Texas.

The result of the report showed that constructors preferred concrete to wood and light steel because it was less expensive than the other building materials.

But that’s not all. There are more benefits of choosing concrete over wood and they include:

  • Concrete is non-combustible. That is, unlike wood, it is unaffected by the fire. This unique quality reduces issues related to fire hazards.
  • Unlike wood, concrete is resistant to mould growth and fungi attacks.
  • Concrete can’t be vandalised easily, plus, it suffers minimal damage in the event of a fire accident.
  • Concrete is more durable than wood, and unlike wood, it takes a longer time to degrade.

Do you need a soundproof concrete wall?

Concrete walls may be thick, however, they can’t remove noise completely. You’ll need to set up sound barriers against concrete walls to make sure they are soundproof.

3 Methods For Soundproofing Concrete

First, you need to put a couple of things in place before your concrete wall can be soundproof. Here are four practical ways of soundproofing concrete walls.

1. Add a layer of drywall

Increasing the density of your walls ensures it absorbs sounds better. You can do this by fitting a layer of drywall to it. Adding a layer of drywall increases the mass of the concrete, which in turn increases its density and boosts the concrete ability to absorb sound. Unfortunately, this method doesn’t guarantee complete proof against noise.

2. Decouple the walls

Concrete reflects sounds. Even though it absorbs some of the sound waves, some noise is transmitted anyway. Decoupling the walls can be a great way of drowning the rest of the sound.

Decoupling involves creating gaps between wall framings or studs in the house wall. The air between the walls breaks the sound waves so that when the sound is moving from one wall to the other, much of it is lost in the air before it gets to the other wall.

3. Damping

Sound dampening in walls is reducing certain tones, such as echo, reverb or ambient noise. You can do this in two ways:

Increase the wall’s mass: Remember more wall mass means more density. More density means it will be difficult for sound to vibrate through walls.

For an improved result, when adding an extra layer of wall, insulate the spaces within the walls (if there are spaces in them). You can do this using injecting foam or loose-filling brown-in cellulose in the walls. While doing this, make sure to allow enough room for air within the walls.

Use soundproof materials: You can add a set of acoustic sound panels or sound-absorbing tiles. These materials have sound-absorbing properties that help insulate the space around you and deaden any unwanted sound. Sound panels are easy to install, cost-effective, and are effective on hard surfaces.

Other ways of soundproofing concrete walls and ceilings

  1. Sound travels faster and is louder when moving through cracked walls. If your walls have any cracks, consider investing in an acoustic sound sealant. Covering up cracked walls with sealants reduces the amount of noise that passes through the wall.
  2. Sometimes the noise you hear may not be from your walls but the ceiling. If this is the case, install acoustic panels. These panels are cost-effective and are effective in reducing noise that comes from both concrete ceilings and walls.

Tips on finding a quiet apartment

If it isn’t the sounds that we like, it’s noise to our ears — and nobody likes noise. Not even if it’s coming from the apartment of a friendly neighbour.

One of the reasons why people rent an apartment is for privacy. You don’t just want a secure apartment but also one that’s in a quiet environment—and of course with less lousy neighbours.

Studies have shown that constant noise can make you mentally sick. Sadly, nowadays, it’s quite difficult to find a quiet apartment. If you’re not careful, you could end up in a lousy place—yeah! That place you’re trying to avoid.

We have some tips that can help you find a quiet apartment. Follow these tips carefully and very soon you will find a quiet place to live in.

  1. If there’s an apartment you already have eyes for, ask about how soundproof the walls are. If you’re still unconvinced about the replies, hire an expert to inspect the walls for you. As for the windows, check if they’ve multiple panes—the more panes there are, the less noise will travel through the window.
  2. Is the apartment close to a busy road? Or a school? The environment where your soon-to-be apartment is, matters. If it’s close to a noisy area like a church or an airport, there isn’t much you can do to keep sound out. The only thing you can do is look elsewhere.
  3. Is the apartment pet-free? Pets make a lot of noise, especially dogs. If there are strangers in a building and there is a guard dog nearby, it won’t stop barking. Worse, if this happens at night, you’ll have a hard time sleeping. So, if you want a quiet apartment, you will need to settle for one without pets like dogs.
  4. Check out old apartments. Apartments built before the world wars have plaster walls. These walls significantly reduce the noise travelling from one room to another. They are much more effective than the walls of today, which are made of concrete and steel. If you’re not worried about a building’s age, consider living in an old apartment.
  5. Speak to the tenants in the building about the noise. Ask them if the building walls are soundproof. If you ask your soon-to-be landlord or leasing agent about the building’s soundproof system, they may lie to you and say it’s okay—when it isn’t! To be sure they’re saying the truth, ask the tenants living in the building instead. Ask them without the landlord or agent present.

 

SOURCES / REFERENCES

https://blog.echobarrier.com/blog/sound-barrier-materials-which-are-most-effective

https://apartmentnotes.com/find-quiet-apartment/

https://donurquhart.com/blog/concrete-vs-wood/

https://www.soundproofcow.com/soundproof-concrete-walls/

https://fizzano.com/blog/new-studies-reveal-that-concrete-based-construction-is-less-expensive-than-wood/#:~:text=Concrete%20is%20also%20far%20more,when%20compared%20to%20wood%20framing.

Joe Taylor

Over 2 decades of remodeling experience, Joe is an expert in home improvement. He is now the Managing Editor of PlumbJoe where he writes guides for homeowners. His hobbies include climbing, running and playing the piano.

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