Simple ways to reduce noise pollution in your strata property

Strategies to minimise noise disruptions and foster serenity in your home

Chronic exposure to noise pollution – the ambient sounds from inside and outside your property ­– doesn’t have to be the bane of the strata living experience. Here’s how to reduce noise pollution in your home.

The constant whirring of appliances and air conditioners, conversations and music through walls, tooting of car horns, nearby construction and a continual flow of rubbish trucks are just some contributors to domestic noise pollution that can make you want to move to the quieter, more peaceful suburbs.

Yet urban living in big cities like Sydney, Brisbane, or Melbourne comes with lots of noise pollution. We offer up the quiet as a sacrifice for living in an exciting, bustling hub with a short commute to work and our friends and lifestyle at our doorstep.

However, living in a strata, body corporate or owners corporation managed property doesn’t mean you should put up with grating noise 24/7. Yes, shared living environments involve a degree of noise that’s out of your control. That’s the nature of sharing, after all. Strata, body corporates and owners corporations exist in part to minimise this where possible for example, by-laws around noise control). Still, there are also several things you can do to take matters into your own hands at home in your apartment.

Reduce others’ noise from the outside

As a resident in a strata property, you have a right to peace and tranquillity in your home.  If a neighbour has frequent parties and plays loud music at inappropriate times of the day (e.g. after 10 p.m.), your strata or body corporate manager can likely interject with relative ease.

Other, more ‘”acceptable’ forms of man-made noise in shared living environments are often overlooked in the noise pollution discussion.

The sound of a neighbour’s loud TV, or someone walking on wooden floors in shoes can be annoying. Instead of formally complaining to your strata or body corporate manager, your best first move may be to talk to your neighbour directly.

They probably don’t realise their noise is disturbing you. Politely expressing your concern may quickly solve the issue without causing any neighbourly tension.

Reduce others’ noise from the inside

More general ‘acceptable’ noise can be managed from within your apartment. Street noise, conversations, and other situational noises are expected in almost every apartment – they’re part of urban city life.

Hard-surfaced, non-carpeted floors are standard in Australian apartments because of the heat we experience, but this increases the reverberation of sound inside your apartment. Rugs, therefore, are a great way to absorb some of that noise. Similarly, oversized and heavy furniture placed against walls will also dampen noise. Think solid wooden bookshelves and couches.

Dense building materials like brick and stone are the best for reducing sound from the inside out. If your building doesn’t have them and you’re willing to renovate your apartment, there is one good option. Placing plasterboard layers lined on the interior with a sound-absorbing material (like foam) in the cavity is highly effective. Do note that you may need approval from your strata, body corporate or owners corporation for this under your by-laws.

Lastly, your windows are likely where most of your noise comes from. Double glazing is a terrific option, but it is expensive to retrofit. Heavy drapes (rather than blinds) are the only easy way around this. Any thick window dressing made of wool will absorb much more sound than wooden or metal blinds. Acoustic curtains – designed from flexible fabric systems that absorb sound effectively – also provide maximum soundproofing without double glazing. Certain specialist suppliers throughout Australia can tailor these to your apartment’s needs.

Can technology help reduce noise pollution in your apartment?

Need an even cheaper option, e.g., if you’re renting? White noise is your best friend. Get a smart speaker like Google Home or Amazon Alexa and ask it to play white noise – a type of sound produced by combining sounds of all different frequencies. White noise masks other sounds and is very effective at drowning out noise pollution because it hits all frequencies simultaneously. If white noise doesn’t do it for you, smart speakers have many other ambient sounds (ocean, rain, etc) that also work.

Why reduce noise pollution?

Why is reducing noise pollution in your apartment important? According to a New York Times blog post, a lot of the hearing loss we humans experience is owing to acclimating ourselves to noise pollution rather than doing anything about it. In effect, making ourselves deaf to the constant loud noises we experience daily may contribute to gradual deafness. There’s little you can do when you’re on the street, so it is essential to optimise your home to minimise any noise disruptions.

If you’d like to learn more about managing noise in your strata property, download our FREE Community Living guide on managing disputes. Or for a consultation to review your by-laws by our Kemps Petersons Legal teamclick here.