Walls are often the only separation between you and your neighbors when you live in a densely populated area like Chicago, and privacy sometimes seems to go out the window. People hear their next-door neighbors talking, footsteps from above, or even music coming through the walls. Sound transmission between units is one of the biggest complaints among condo dwellers. Noise can also come from ceilings, doors and windows, so living in a condo or co-op could take some getting used to.
“Mostly it's from the noise from above the ceiling coming from the unit above them,” says David Snyder, owner of Chicagoland Renovations. “People walking around, floors squeaking, probably about 80% is from the ceiling, and the rest is from wall noises—from neighbors talking and such.”
Many buildings in Chicago are much older than the newer steel-and-concrete high rises, and because of that, the materials used in their construction aren't as effective in cancelling noise transmission. Even with newer buildings, effective soundproofing materials are often not used during construction, so noise leaks from one unit into another.
It's a significant difference when you're talking about decibels and sounds going through an open wood cavity as opposed to having it stop with a huge concrete floor. “Concrete stops more sound than an open air space would,” says Jeremy Feigen, owner of Accurate Construction in Mundelein.
While some noise in shared living spaces is normal, if you can clearly hear your neighbors’ conversations or TV through your walls or ceiling, you have a noise problem. However, if you’re willing to make the financial investment, there are innovative noise reduction solutions that can turn an older condo unit into a sanctuary of peace and quiet. ”Usually the biggest issue that people have is that despite the fact that they're in a condo situation, they want their privacy, and as soon as they can hear what's going on with their neighbors, they know their neighbors can hear them,” says Feigen.