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'Accidental Intimacy' and Other Sounds of Noisy Neighbors Top Complaints of Living in Condos, Apartments, Townhomes


Noise from next door is the No. 1 gripe of Americans living in condominiums, townhomes and apartments, and it's not just that cranked-up sound system they're hearing through the walls, according to a new survey of more than 1,500 adults nationwide.

More than six out of 10 surveyed listed hearing their neighbors through the walls as the thing they disliked most about living in a multi-unit residence. Although loud music was cited as the most annoying form of intruding noise, survey participants also complained they found out more about their neighbors' private lives than they cared to know by overhearing heated arguments and moments of passion.

"Reality TV notwithstanding, most Americans really do prefer to keep their private lives private," said David Drummond, director of marketing for National Gypsum, one of the world's leading producers of gypsum wallboard. "People shouldn't have to worry about unwanted moments of accidental intimacy with their neighbors because of the sound coming through the walls."

National Gypsum is showcasing the newest solution to the noisy-neighbor problem – its Gold Bond® BRAND SoundBreak™ Gypsum Board – at the national convention of the American Institute of Architects (AIA) in San Antonio this week. Laboratory testing has shown that SoundBreak, which installs and finishes just like traditional gypsum board, can achieve Sound Transmission Class (STC) ratings of 55 or above in most wall assemblies. SoundBreak defeats unwanted sound two ways – with increased mass and a "constrained-layer damping" effect provided by a middle layer of viscoelastic polymer.

The need for noise-reduction solutions in residential projects is increasing due to a variety of factors. High prices of single-family homes mean more Americans are living in condos, apartments and townhomes, and higher-density development is putting them in closer proximity to their neighbors. In San Diego, building permits for multifamily housing exceeded those for single-family homes in 2006 for the first time since 1990. Other factors, including federal patient privacy laws and competitive market forces, have increased the need for privacy and noise control in schools, healthcare facilities and hotels.

"With all of these trends converging, we think SoundBreak is the right product in the right place at the right time," Drummond said. "We believe architects will appreciate its advantages over existing sound-damping solutions like double and staggered stud walls and sound clips or channels, which can be difficult to install, require additional material and labor cost, and take away valuable floor space. SoundBreak is a simple, reliable and cost-effective way to achieve high-STC partition walls."

STC ratings indicate how well wall partitions resist airborne sound. An STC of 55 or higher is a realistic goal for acceptable sound insulation, according to the National Research Council of Canada, and many builders consider an STC rating of 60 an ideal target for high-end residential projects. The higher the STC rating, the more likely a partition will eliminate typical noise from an adjoining room, such as normal or loud conversation, a baby crying, dogs barking or sounds made by kitchen appliances.

Those are some of the sounds that made neighbor noise the top complaint of 61.6 percent of those polled in a recent survey conducted for National Gypsum by Alan Newman Research. Lack of personal garage space ran a distant second at 20.9 percent, followed by poorly maintained common areas (9.9 percent) and enduring neighbors' cooking odors and other smells (7.6 percent).

Those surveyed identified the following types of noise as most annoying to them:

  • Loud music – 55.4 percent
  • Neighbors arguing – 19.7 percent
  • Dogs barking – 12.8 percent
  • Neighbors having sex – 6.5 percent
  • Toilets flushing – 5.7 percent

More than one in three survey participants (37.8 percent) chose their own master bedrooms when asked which room they would like to make more private by reducing the level of sound escaping through the walls. Other rooms people said they would make more private with a product like SoundBreak include:
  • Living room – 24.3 percent
  • Den or media/entertainment room – 18.5 percent
  • Laundry room – 10 percent
  • Bathroom – 5.9 percent
  • Child's bedroom – 3.5 percent
SoundBreak Gypsum Board was developed combining technology from National Gypsum and from Quiet Solution, a division of Serious Materials.

About National Gypsum
Based in Charlotte, NC, National Gypsum Company is a fully integrated manufacturer and supplier of building and construction products worldwide. Our primary emphasis is on Gold Bond® BRAND gypsum board, ProForm® BRAND drywall finishing products and PermaBase® BRAND cement board, in addition to an XP® family of abuse, impact, mold and moisture-resistant products.

The national survey was commissioned by National Gypsum and fielded online by Alan Newman Research through its partnership with e-Rewards. The sample of 1,549 adult men and women has a maximum statistical error of + 2.5 percent at the 95 percent level of confidence.

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