Ask Sherry Anything: Where I talk about noise in a condo with a child
You can ask any question using the form here.
Hi Sherry, thanks so much for the opportunity to ask you anything!
You’re welcome. I love getting questions so ask away.
I love reading your money diaries for the insight into your life as a mom because I’m hoping to start a family of my own in a year or two, so it gives me an idea of what to expect.
It’s insane. I thought I would have 4 kids and just having one is really a handful – more than enough, for me I think.
I’m glad you’re enjoying the Week of Money posts though.. they are time-consuming but if they’re worthwhile, I will continue!
My partner and I currently live in a one bedroom condo in Toronto and I worry about the noise more than anything, even more than the space restrictions.
I hear that. Believe me. Both as a former childless renter, and now an owner with a child.
Did you raise Baby Bun in your condo?
Yes we did.
He was only temporarily in Toronto for a short period of time after he was born during the newborn stage (too fragile to move him so far away), but he was in our condo with neighbours ever since then.
One neighbour even remarked she had no idea we had a child until she saw him.
If so, were you concerned about his crying disturbing your neighbours? How did you handle this?
Oh man. What a loaded question.
Okay, so… the short answer is: We were concerned, VERY concerned. My partner especially is a stickler for not bothering other people and living in a communal area as a decent human being.
While all that is well and good, sometimes things happen.
WHEN I WAS CHILDLESS…
I remember when I was living in NYC and there was this baby that just would not stop crying or whining no matter what her mother did. I am only PARTLY ashamed to say that we complained about them, but it was also understood more than anything, than they had planned on living in a STUDIO apartment with 4 kids, and you can hear everything through paper thin walls.
So my advice to you is to at least not take anything smaller than a 1-bedroom apartment, and at least a 1-bedroom which you sacrifice to your child to contain the crying and the screaming (which we did, by closing the door, and trying to soothe him).
LOOK FOR CONCRETE CONSTRUCTION
I would also suggest making sure you are in a place that is built out of concrete, not a metal structure. You need to look for buildings that are more than 10 stories high (if I recall my partner correctly), because that kind of structure is GENERALLY not made out of metal and some drywall, but out of thick, sturdy concrete as it needs a very strong, solid base to support so much weight on top.
Concrete is not the best and only thing for sound (it does travel through even concrete), but it is damn better than some wood or metal frame. If you want to go really far, you can ask for sound studies on the apartment to see how sound travels through the vents, the way they structured it, through the concrete etc.
We didn’t do this because our building is as solidly built as they can come.
WITH CONCRETE, WE CAN BARELY HEAR THEM IF EVER
We have neighbours who have babies, and we can BARELY HEAR THEM, it just sounds like a light little mewing when they’re at full blast. Honestly, we can’t hear neighbours with babies or children at all UNLESS they are running around upstairs and stomping like elephants, jumping like kangaroos and being a real pain in the bum.
To mitigate this, now that Baby Bun is in a toddler kangaroo stage, is we basically have to scold him each time he runs or jumps. We do it for the sake of our neighbours below us, because we know when we can hear neighbours above us stomping and it would be hypocritical to let our kid be a Stompy McStomperson.
All I can say is that we try our best.
We don’t succeed 100% of the time, but we DO TRY and we think it is better than if we don’t try at all.
CONSIDER THE TIMES THEY’RE NOISY
Baby Bun wakes up early and goes down early, so we just really try to keep him quiet during the morning period, knowing that people are sleeping and/or on weekends, sleeping in. Since people don’t sleep at 8 p.m. like we do, so we’re safe on that front.
DOORS ARE FLIMSY FOR THE MOST PART
What we DO hear is through the doors because they tend not to be solidly built (flimsy really, not even metal, but some sort of plywood painted over) which allows noise like a little dog yapping and never stopping throughout the wee hours of the night.
Heck, I’ve even considered buying new doors for our apartment, full metal things…. but apparently that is very $$$.
THINK ABOUT THICK PADDING FOR THE INTERIM
Another thing to consider is to put down carpets or thick padding everywhere. As they are crawling and walking, if you happen to be in a plywood contraption where the walls and floors are NOT insulated with 1 foot thick concrete, you will hear every. single. little. bump.
We once lived in a building where the kids above us, would just run around like monkeys and you could hear EVERY SINGLE STEP and it was relentless with these kids. CONSTANT. Never stopped.
In that case, put down thick foam floors around the entire apartment to at least cushion the noise, or just teach them not to jump and run INSIDE (this is the approach we are taking).
SO TRY ALL OF THE ABOVE… BUT REMEMBER YOU ARE LIVING IN A COMMUNITY
There are steps you can take — finding a building with 1′ concrete all around and is as soundproof as you can get it, getting a sound study done on your apartment, putting down thick foam floors in their rooms, and teaching them NOT to run and jump inside because it is disrespectful to neighbours living here, but kids are kids. They are going to make noise, and cause trouble even just by existing.
I remember a neighbour who eventually sold their place because they said they were getting “nasty looks at the pool” when they let their toddler float around quietly in a floatie, because non-parents don’t know that there are things like swim diapers (they’re not perfect, but it isn’t like he was going bare-butt and the chlorine would kill any kind of pee germs anyway).
You’re going to run up against condo association members who think one way, etc, but that’s all part and parcel of living with other people, with or without children.
It just becomes more difficult with kids.
If you are unable to do / get any of the above, then consider a home, but in Toronto… yikes!!
The prices are so prohibitive you may need to, at the end of the day just say: Well that’s the way life is. They’ll have to suck it up. We’ll do our best, the kid(s) will eventually grow up and stop being terrible, and we just can’t afford what we want without putting our lives and our retirements in jeopardy. End of story.