Subscriber OnlyProperty Clinic

Noise from the plumbing in the apartment above me is very loud. What can I do?

Property Clinic: I can hear showers, dishwashers and so on, but no other noises from the apartment

Noises from running water: Is this par for the course or an issue worth pursuing with the management company? Photograph: iStock

I have purchased and just moved into a ground-floor apartment which was built in 2007. As I’ve rented/shared houses for a long time and have just been here a few weeks, this might seem like a silly question.

It is very noisy any time anything to do with water is used – showers, dishwashers and so on, and also upstairs noise when they are using their bathrooms. I can’t hear any other noise from other apartments or outside at all. I’m just wondering is this par for the course with an apartment, or an issue worth pursuing with the management company? Do I have any grounds to pursue?

The year 2007 is not regarded as being a vintage one for quality residential property construction. To this day, not every property is adequately inspected for building regulations compliance. Lacklustre oversight and a heated market in development output contributed to multiple failures during the Celtic Tiger era. Thin walls, floors and ceilings can assist in the transmission of even quite low-level sounds.

The ability to hear sound from outside your property is likely due to poor construction standards, and your owners’ management company (OMC) should investigate this with a suitably qualified person. Water facilities in apartment blocks drain from apartments into service shafts that run internally, whereas in houses they drain externally. This means activities in other properties can be more easily heard as water pipe services are located closer to inhabited spaces.

Paul Huberman: 'It is of course open to you to revert to your OMC to seek clarification on any matter relating to your development.'

Many service shafts remain as uniform hollow structures housing pipework running the height of a building. Unfortunately, it is not uncommon for some shafts housing pipework to be missing important compartmentation installations that prevent heat and smoke transfer in the event of fire. This compartmentation can also dampen sound, so this could be a telltale sign of more serious issues. That is why it is so important to get this checked by a qualified professional as advised above. Ensuring that the pipework is in compliance with building regulations and that your building is safe has to be the first priority.

We can hear the neighbours’ TV. How can we go about soundproofing?Opens in new window ]

It is of course open to you to revert to your OMC to seek clarification on any matter relating to your development.

One approach might be to use a sound level meter to measure water-related noise. There are also phone apps that will do the same. This information, if you wish to engage with the OMC or the apartment owner living above you, will assist you in addressing the issue and should give a good indication of whether the water-related sounds you are hearing are out of kilter with the norm.

House rules are drafted in a development to provide a rule book of sorts for occupancy which consists of simplified interpretations of the lease covenants binding the OMC and its members. House rules often require that there is no audible noise outside of a property from late at night to early morning.

You could pursue compliance of the lease and house rules with the OMC. The likely outcome would be a deterioration in the relationship between you, the OMC and your neighbour, as well as the associated costs for arguing your case, without even achieving a resolution.

The baby next door cries all night. How can we block out the noise?Opens in new window ]

The same time and costs might be better spent insulating your rooms that are worst affected by noise, resulting in a successful resolution to your concerns and a continued positive relationship with your OMC and neighbour.

Paul Huberman is a chartered property and facilities manager and a fellow of the Society of Chartered Surveyors Ireland

Do you have a query? Email

This column is a readers’ service. The content of the Property Clinic is provided for general information only. It is not intended as advice on which readers should rely. Professional or specialist advice should be obtained before persons take or refrain from any action on the basis of the content. The Irish Times and it contributors will not be liable for any loss or damage arising from reliance on any content