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Flat Chat

Timber floor tantrums

With so many people ripping up old carpet - it's so-o-o-o 20th century - and replacing its excellent insulation qualities with a layer of varnish, it's no wonder people downstairs are getting agitated. But need they?

QUESTION: Our apartment is all brick and concrete floor slabs and we would love to put in a 'floating' timber floor with a high quality rubber underlay between it and the concrete slab.

Unfortunately, I can't persuade the person below (who is on the Executive committee) that it will be as quiet as carpet. I know for a fact that using a good quality underlay plus the concrete slab, the noise transmission levels would be better than the minimums required by the Building Code of Australia.

I intend to ask for permission, but I am concerned that since they are very conservative and are unfamiliar with these floors, so they might knock me back, in which case I would seriously consider doing it anyway.

Can I change the carpet to a floating timber floor without getting their permission? And what is the worst they can do?

StrataNewbie, Eastern Suburbs

ANSWER: Your downstairs neighbours should be dancing on the ceiling to have such considerate residents as you living above them. Many people just go ahead and strip the floorboards, then stomp around until the people downstairs are driven mad and move out.

So apply for permission and bring proof that you are using a reputable firm whose work is of proven quality. If you are still refused permission, you can apply for a mediation (paying $63 to the Office of Fair Trading) or go ahead and do the work to a high enough standard that there can be no complaint.

By the way, concrete slabs transmit as much noise as they deflect so that rubber cushion is vital.

But remember, acting in your neighbours favour is the fact the floor covering is one of the specific areas in which a Consumer, Trades and Tenancies Tribunal adjudicator can issue an order without mediation or a hearing. So if you skimp on the insulation, the CTTT could have you re-laying carpet so fast it will make your head spin.

Not so simple

I was reading your article regarding timber flooring in multi-storey apartments.

Recently our new upstairs neighbour laid new timber floating floors. Unfortunately, we can hear their footsteps and constant thudding noises. They are a family with two young kids and a dog. I have let them know that the noises are disrupting and suggested that they put a rug down to dampen the noise or control his childrens' behaviour especially at night. The suggestion was not taken on board as he stated that one of his children suffers from psoriasis (the cause for this condition is unknown) and believed dust may aggravate his condition. Hence the laying of new flooring. He has also mentioned that he had use a premium brand in flooring.

It does not appear that he will do much in terms of dampening the noise and he suggested that we call them if there were disturbing noises in the future.

Please note the neighbours had sought Strata Committee "approval" on the installation and had conducted an acoustic assessment. The acoustic has passed the minimum standards of the Building Code but it certainly had not helped with the noise problem.

Could you please suggest ways to resolve this issue? I'm afraid if the noise persists, we would have no choice to take the case to the Tribunal to resolve the issues.

Your advice would be really appreciated.


Basic building standards in Australia are a joke and , in any case, it doesn't matter what your neighbour or the floor installer SAYS they have done, it's the end result that counts.

If I were you I'd pay my $63 to get an adjudication from the OFT and get the ball rolling. Proper noise tests need to be carried out and an independent assessment made.

First published SMH March 2007