Soundproofing a condo much harder after the fact

Soundproofing a condo much harder after the factHow can I stop sound transmission from coming down through the ceiling in my place? I’m living in a new condo and everything is wood construction. The most prevalent sounds come from people walking around in the unit above.
Your situation is quite common, unfortunate and not easy to fix. Based on the number of requests for soundproofing help I get from people living in new condos, town-homes and apartments, upgraded building code standards are definitely required. There’s no technical reason why effective soundproofing can’t be a common feature. Trouble is, few people get it.
Things are even more grim when you consider that there’s no cheap or easy way to boost the sound resistance of the ceiling between you and your neighbours at this stage.
By contrast, if an upgrade had been implemented during construction, it would have cost just hundreds of dollars and been very effective. Now costs will run into five figures and won’t work nearly as well.
The least troublesome option at your stage involves the installation of a new layer of drywall on all your ceilings, installed over a system of trough-shape metal strips called resilient channel.
These strips separate the new drywall from the old ceiling, creating a fairly effective sound barrier. You could also combine this strategy with a sheet of soundproofing fibreboard applied underneath the new drywall and resilient channel.
A more effective option includes the installation of sheets of rubber underlay beneath the finished floor of the unit above. Trouble is, who’s going to agree to have their new hardwood torn up and reinstalled so the people downstairs can sleep better? Like I said, it all would have been so much easier if code officials had required proper soundproofing be built during construction.
Is it normal for my sump pump to switch on every 10 or 15 minutes? The water drains just outside the basement and is creating a sloppy wintertime mess. I’m worried about what will happen to our finished basement during a power failure. Is there such a thing as a backup sump pump?
You’ve definitely got a couple of related issues that need to be dealt with. The first is the source of all that water. It could be that your house is built on a natural spring, in which case all you can do is install a good, reliable pumping system with the water directed far enough away to prevent a mess.
More likely, however, you’ve got some short cycling of your pumped water back into the basement. I’d start by adding enough pipe onto your present line to get the water as far away from your house as possible. Even if this is a temporary situation, it will tell you a lot. I expect you’ll have less water coming into your basement, though it probably won’t stop entirely.
Experiment with different pipe locations to see what works best without shifting the problem to a neighbour. Since your basement is finished and the sump pump is important to keep things dry, a backup pump is essential. One option I know of uses running municipal water to power a special pump. Another uses an electric sump pump that operates on a deep-cycle, 12-volt car battery that’s always being kept fully charged from a wall outlet between uses. A battery system like this can pump thousands of litres of water before the battery runs down.
To boost reliability even more, consider installing a completely separate drain pipe for your backup sump pump. This lets the pump continue working even if the first line freezes or clogs, while also boosting pumping capacity in the event you’ve got a big deluge of water coming in.
Steve Maxwell, syndicated home-improvement and woodworking columnist, has shared his DIY tips, how-to videos and product reviews since 1988.

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