Protecting Your Multi-Unit Investment & Tenants From Noise, Water & Odors

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Purchasing a large house to transform into a multi-unit dwelling can be a good investment, but there are many ways it can become a nightmare instead. Of course, you'll need to make sure your building is fireproof in compliance with the local fire code, but there are several other ways to 'proof' your building. When multiple families are living under the same roof, problems with noise and water damage in one unit can affect one or more of the other units. Here are several things to consider when transforming a house into a multi-unit apartment building. 


One thing that is a problem in multi-unit dwellings is noise. Hearing footsteps in an apartment overhead or conversations taking place in the apartment next door can be annoying to tenants at times, which may lead to a faster turn-over rate than you would like. To cut down on tenants complaining about too much noise in the dwelling, install soundproofing in the walls and underneath the flooring. 

Fiberglass insulation in the walls can act as a soundproofing barrier, but you'll also want to use acoustical sealants to seal any cracks in walls and drywall. Install soundproof floors with acoustical subflooring to minimize noise. Typically, soundproofing is not a requirement of municipal building code enforcement agencies, but you may want to check your local regulations first to find out if there are any requirements to be on the safe side.


Plumbing accidents happen, and sometimes they can be disastrous. A plumbing leak in one unit can cause water spots on the ceiling of the unit below or, worse, cause the ceiling to collapse and water to rain down and damage the personal property of the tenant below as well as cause structural damage. Reduce the risks of having a plumbing disaster in one rental unit affect other units by installing waterproof flooring. Waterproof flooring can also protect your real estate investment from tenants who may carelessly or unknowingly cause spills and don't clean the spills up in a timely manner. 

There are several options when it comes to waterproof flooring, including laminate, hardwood, and carpeting. The subflooring can also be waterproofed to add an additional layer of protection, which is particularly important for underneath kitchen and bathroom sinks, as well as bathtubs and showers where flooring is typically not installed. Speak with a flooring contractor at a company like Brothers  Floor Covering for more information about waterproof flooring that also gives the ability to reduce noise infiltration. 


When sharing an apartment building with other families, noise and water damage aren't the only things that can get shared. Odor from one unit can taint the air of the neighboring units or even the entire structure. Of course, secondhand smoke can be a serious health hazard to tenants, so you may want to consider establishing your multi-unit structure as smoke-free. Regardless, other odors can be problematic or annoying to other tenants in the building, such as odors from cooking, from using household chemical cleaners, or from not cleaning at all. 

Odors can linger through electrical outlets, heating and ventilation ducts, and plumbing shafts. Seal off any spaces and cracks with air-sealing gaskets and caulk. You can check the permeability of odors by asking a home inspector to conduct a blower door test. This type of test will help you determine the airflow between the units and pinpoint the trouble spots that need to be properly sealed to prevent odor transfer. This test should be done after the soundproofing and waterproofing materials are in place and the units are close to being completed for tenancy.