Traffic noise reduction from Condo.
December 13, 2010 11:46 PM   Subscribe

Any way to reduce audible traffic noise from my high rise condo?

I bought a condo pre construction, and it literally faces a busy road where there are constantly cars driving by. *Chicago, and Lake Shore Drive*. I had no idea the noise level would be this audible, and it's very constant. I'm not used to this noise as I have resorted to wearing earplugs to sleep. Obviously most noise comes from windows, so I was wondering if anyone has any tips to maybe hire someone to install some sort of buffer in the existing windows to maybe absorb the noise? What I dont understand is that the lobby which is lower than my unit and other commons rooms there is no noise at all. Did the developer use high quality windows or is there a better more insulated seal? Also I dont really need advice in terms of "buy some plants, install curtains," etc my focus here are the existing windows themselves, I don't know who to contact in terms of hiring someone who would know how to deal with this and perhaps could install something or work with my existing windows. Thanks in advance to any replies.
posted by HonestAsian to Home & Garden (12 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
I know you said you don't want "install curtains" advice. But you do have curtains, right? And other nice thick sound-absorbing textiles around your home. Right?

(For what it's worth, the difference in the sound between your apartment and the lobby has to do with acoustics and other sciencey stuff I'm sure someone else will be along to explain any minute now. I don't think it has anything to do with the way your windows were installed.)
posted by Sara C. at 12:14 AM on December 14, 2010

I live on a busy road too, and in my room I have double-glazed windows. This works to keep a lot of the noise out. Could you look at doing that maybe? I'm not sure if you can retro-fit as these were installed when my place was built.
posted by thelizardqueen at 12:19 AM on December 14, 2010

My apartment has retrofitted aluminium frames with glass in them on the inside of the original windows, as described in the link from thelizardqueen above. In one bedroom these are floor to ceiling and wall to wall panels as they need to cover a whole wall of glass, with an opening window and door. The panels slide, to allow access to the door and window. The other bedroom has windows that take up the top half of one wall and these are similarly covered. They do reduce the noise, but are not as good as proper double glazing - no idea how they compare to other options, though I imagine they are on the cheap side.
posted by AnnaRat at 3:00 AM on December 14, 2010

It is entirely possible to completely replace your windows with double glazed windows... Although, I'd be surprised if you don't already have them... Expect to pay over 300, sometimes up to 1,000 for a high quality window, plus the cost to remove the old one and install the new one. This work can affect everything from the exterior trim (definitely) to the interior trim (sometimes) which can then turn into an interior paint job as well...
posted by Glendale at 3:51 AM on December 14, 2010

I'm sure others will come up with great suggestions, but I promise that if you remove your earplugs you'll be sleeping like a baby within a few weeks.

I live *very* close to train tracks. The first week was awful. Eventually, I got used to them and I don't even hear them anymore when I'm sleeping. I guarantee it's louder than any street traffic.
posted by zug at 5:02 AM on December 14, 2010 [4 favorites]

AnnaRat provides the only real solution to your question about installing some sort of buffer. I've seen it done also, and it works. One other thing to try first is to introduce a little white noise inside your apartment.
posted by beagle at 5:13 AM on December 14, 2010

I know more or less just where you live - around the corner from Northwestern, and near the MCA. That's a noisy area.

I'm sorry to break it to you, but it's unlikely that you are going to be able to replace your windows. You live in a new construction building, and in Chicago, that likely means that your windows are not your windows, per se. They belong to the building itself. Take your problem to the association. It's possible that if you offer to pay for it, they may approve the construction, but I'd say it's unlikely.

Either way, in terms of installing a buffer, your association will have lots to say about this too: namely, that in order to start any kind of installation or construction, you'll need to get it approved by the board. The theme here is that when you buy into a condo, it's not always your call anymore like it is in a single family home or townhome. Especially in the Gold Coast, associations are still run by developers - whose stake in the building is that they built the darned thing.

You may not like the drapery idea, but that's your solution. Different types of window dressings can block or absorb noise to varying degrees, but there are also more snake-oil peddlers for this kind of thing, especially when they see your zip code, then the real thing.
posted by juniperesque at 5:52 AM on December 14, 2010 [1 favorite]

Serious Materials makes a product line called Serious Windows. Within that product line are super efficient windows as well as noise blocking windows. Since you're in a high rise, my guess would be that it was built with commercial grade components, which I'm not sure SM offers a sound blocking feature for.

Though not impossible, you're also up against the mechanics of changing something major through the HOA. You'd probably have to get a significant number of owners who have an issue with the noise to make something happen.

In the meantime, white noise is indeed your friend.
posted by yoga at 6:27 AM on December 14, 2010

Getting your windows replaced will likely cost tens of thousands of dollars, assuming the board even contemplates allowing it -- for one, they're going to absolutely demand that the replacement windows be PRECISELY the same color & reflectance as the existing windows. In fact, they may demand that any replacement be fabricated by the original supplier regardless of the cost to you -- they want to absolutely ensure that from the street your windows are not identifiably different in any way.

So, go the AnnaRat route -- as the alteration will be entirely inside your unit, you may not need to notify anyone of anything (pursuant to your particular condo agreement, of course). You should make sure you have provisions in place to completely clean both sets of windows, of course (ie., if you simply wall in your windows with a second layer of glass, the board will likely be rather pissed if they find out, as then the outer original windows will be inaccessible and thus cannot be repaired or cleaned).
posted by aramaic at 7:21 AM on December 14, 2010

If you do decide to replace your windows, you should -- at the same time -- verify that the insulation in your walls in top notch. If it's not, I would tear out the wall board and install the best insulation I could find. You could also blow in additional insulation (rather than replacing the walls) which is less destructive and perhaps less money (I'm not sure, since I do all this type of work myself.)
posted by coolguymichael at 10:04 AM on December 14, 2010

I lived on a busy street for about a year and what totally saved me was sleeping with a white noise machine on. $20 on Amazon.

Maybe you can do that until you get new windows installed?
posted by bikergirl at 3:58 PM on December 14, 2010

I know very little about this, but before you go about spending a lot of money fixing the problem, are you sure that your condo meets the specification that you signed off on? Sound insulation is quantifiable and with the help of an acoustician, you should make sure you got what you paid for. I find it surprising that a brand new condo would have such crappy insulation.
posted by spaghettification at 3:59 PM on December 14, 2010

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